HL Deb 01 August 1951 vol 173 cc170-94

3.17 p.m.

VISCOUNT SWINTON rose to call attention to the Report of the Conference on Closer Association of Central African Territories, and to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can give the House any further information about the visit to these Territories of the Secretaries of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it is agreeable on the "last day of term," so to speak, that we should debate a subject on which I think there is a wide measure of agreement. It is always desirable that in Imperial affairs there should be, if possible, agreement and continuity of policy. Imperial problems should transcend Party political issues, just as in their development and solution they outlast the lives of individual Governments. If Imperial problems can be treated in that way, solutions are likely to be sound and successful. I hope and believe that the closer association of Central African Territories can be so treated. There is certainly a large measure of agreement in what is needed and in the way the matter has been handled.

As the Secretary of State for the Colonies said in another place in June, the Central African Council, which is a purely advisory body, has proved inadequate to its purpose. He went on to say this: There is an increasing need for some form of closer association between the three Territories in the interests of their economic development and of the prosperity and well-being of their inhabitants. With both statements I think that we shall all find ourselves in agreement. Recognising the need and the increasing urgency of the problem, the Government here, and the Governments of Southern and Northern Rhodesia and of Nyasaland, took the wise step of convening a Conference of senior officials of the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Colonial Office and the three African Governments to see whether they could formulate concrete proposals for submission to their respective Governments. I think that was a very wise step. Governments and Governors come and go, but the permanent officials go on for ever—or at any rate they have a corporate existence or succession. They have peculiar qualifications for giving sound and practical advice. They are unprejudiced; they have long-accumulated experience; they know how the machine of government works, or fails to work; and they are the people who have to make it work; and, what is perhaps even more important, they know a great deal about the Africans and their true interests, moral and material. Native opinion is often hard to ascertain—if, indeed the mass of Africans have any definite opinions. The most vocal opinion is not always the most representative or the best informed.

We must never forget that we are trustees, trustees for all, and particularly for the person to-day usually described as the "common man." That is where the opinion of these experienced officials who met in conference is particularly valuable, because their single-minded purpose is the discharge of this trust. Now we have their full and exhaustive Report, with the accompanying surveys on native policy and economics. The remarkable thing is that, on a subject where there has hitherto been much difference of opinion, all are unanimous, and that is a tremendous advance. I shall not deal with the Report in detail. All your Lordships have studied it, and other noble Lords who will speak after me have great knowledge of these Territories and their problems. But there are some aspects to which I should like to draw particular attention.

I would begin by citing a passage from Paragraph 32 of the Report, because it goes to the root of the whole matter. After emphasising the urgency of the problem, the Report—and remember that this is a unanimous Report—reads thus: We believe strongly that economic and political partnership between Europeans and Africans is the only policy which can succeed in the conditions of Central Africa; this is fully recognised by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom,"— and, I may add, by His Majesty's Opposition as well— and by all three Central African Governments. Closer association between the three Territories, by the economic and political strength which it would bring with it, would in our view provide a surer foundation than exists at present for developing and extending the policy of racial co-operation and partnership, on which all three Territories are agreed, without the fear of influences from outside the borders of British Central Africa. In this connection, your Lordships will have noted that interesting and very comprehensive annex, Annex II, which the Report gives on "Native policy in the three Territories." It begins with these words: The conclusion to be drawn from the Comparative Survey of Native Policy is that the ultimate aim of policy in each Territory is to advance the African to the stage where he is in all respects a full partner, exercising all the rights and accepting all the responsibilities of citizenship. I quote another passage from the Report. Paragraph 18 says this: The most striking conclusion which we draw from our examination of the survey"— that is, this Comparative Survey of Native Policyis the degree of similarity between the policy and practice of the three Governments rather than the degree of difference. After mentioning the differences, the Report goes on: But we believe that these differences, although important, relate largely to method and timing and that the ultimate objective of all three Governments is broadly the same, namely, the economic, social and political advancement of the Africans in partnership with the Europeans These wise men come back again and again to this identity of aim, and they conclude thus: We do not believe that the differences in native policy which still exist can now be regarded as a valid argument against closer association, provided that a suitable scheme can be devised. On the contrary, we think that there would be positive advantages in closer association from the point of view of native policy. When we consider this careful review and conclusion by experienced and unprejudiced officials, whose sole object is to find out what is true and right, it really is nauseating to read some of the false, malicious and bilious propaganda issued by persons who had not taken the trouble even to read the proposals, and whose sole object appears to be to stir up racial hatred. M. Clemenceau once gave this advice to a young politician who afterwards became a great public servant: My son, only two things really matter: to love and to be loved; and to be intellectually honest. Those are principles which these propagandists might take to heart, if that organ is not too diseased to be receptive.

The Report makes out an overwhelming case on economic grounds for closer union. The Territories will not merely be economically stronger if they work and plan together: they are essentially inter-dependent. Common services, such as communications and posts and telegraphs are essential. As the Report points out, the longer the view we take, the more important this closer association is seen to be. At present, all three Territories are prosperous, but their present prosperity owes a great deal to present prices and current demand. A slump in prices or a serious falling off in the demand for particular commodities might have a disastrous effect on the Territories if they were working as isolated economic units. As the Report says: Clearly, an economic crisis could be faced more confidently if the units were closely integrated into an area having a widely based economy. After dealing with the vital need for closer association on the economic side, the Report wisely points out that this association must react favourably on the moral and social welfare of all the population. Your Lordships will find this statement in Paragraph 31: Closer association would bring in its train a quickening expansion of the economy of the area as a whole and, therefore, greater prosperity; this would, in turn, lead to an expansion of Government finance and, consequently, even though a particular department might not be brought within any scheme for closer association, to the provision of better facilities for education (including community education), better health services (both curative and preventive), improved water supplies, housing and agricultural services, and improved social standards generally. The need for these improvments is felt by all communities, and in particular by the Africans, who form the great bulk of the population. The moral and social advancement of Africans will march with the economic development of their countries and in our view the pace of such development will be slower if continued on the present basis than if closer association is brought about. Having proved conclusively the urgent need for closer association, the Conference submit the means by which it should be accomplished. Their proposals are a Federal Constitution, the Federal Government and Parliament being responsible for common services. In so far as native affairs fall within the purview of the Federal Government and Parliament, it is proposed that there should be an African Affairs Board, whose Chairman would be Minister for African Interests. The proposed powers of the Minister and Board are fully dealt with in the Report.

I know that it would be easy to criticise these proposals. I could criticise the tentative division of functions between Federal and Territorial; and it might well be wiser to define the Territorial functions and make the rest Federal. I have never known a Constitution or a draft Constitution which was not open to criticism. Of course, the proposals are a compromise. But, my Lords, compromise is not the least of the British virtues. The better is often the enemy of the good. Moreover, this plan is the only agreed constructive proposal that has been put forward. The experienced officials who have drawn up the plan believe that it will work; and if it is adopted, they will have a large share of the responsibility for seeing that it does work. Nor are Constitutions eternal or immutable—indeed, some, perhaps, change too often. Constitutions evolve in the light of practical experience. Do not let us suppose that if this attempt fails we can just set to work and try again. It is not merely that the architects of closer union will be discouraged. The clock will have been set back, and an opportunity which may not easily recur will have been missed, and missed to the great detriment of all the peoples of these lands. The Secretaries of State will soon start on their journey to these Territories. They will carry with them on their mission all our good will, and we sincerely trust that they will return bringing their sheaves with them. I beg to move for Papers.

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, I must start by thanking the noble Viscount for the very friendly tone of his speech and for letting us know that the proposals, such as they are, have, broadly speaking, the good will of the Opposition. From the careful phrasing of his speech, it is obvious that he realises that this is a matter of some delicacy. These proposals have the most far-reaching possibilities for this part of Africa. They have been put before the public and before Parliament, and therefore it would not be appropriate for me to go further into them or to discuss the merits or the details of the proposals at the present time.

If I may recall to your Lordships the history of the case, it was on June 13 that your Lordships were informed by my noble friend, Lord Ogmore, that neither His Majesty's Government nor the other Governments concerned are at this stage committing themselves to acceptance of any of the particular proposals in the Report, which is published as a basis for consideration and discussion. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, for their part, are giving most careful consideration to the proposals in the Report, as are the other Governments concerned. This consideration cannot, however, be completed until the views of those communities immediately concerned have been ascertained and discussed with them. In these circumstances, the House will appreciate that I am not in a position to-day to do more than repeat what my noble friend said: that the proposals appear to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to embody a constructive approach to the problem which deserves the careful consideration of all the peoples and the Governments concerned. In that same Statement it was announced that my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Secretary of State for the Colonies were to visit Central Africa during the coming Recess. I am glad to be able to confirm that that visit will take place, and I can give your Lordships some details of the programme. The arrangements are being made in consultation with the Central African Governments, but I cannot give the detailed timing of the programme other than this: that it is proposed that the Secretary of State for the Colonies should leave this country by air, arriving in Nyasaland on August 26. He will leave Nyasaland for Northern Rhodesia on September 3, and he will remain in Northern Rhodesia until September 15. During his stay in the two Territories he will have discussions with the unofficial members of the Legislative Councils, visit all the important centres, and meet for discussions representatives of all sections of the communities, including delegations from such bodies as the chambers of commerce, the African Provincial and Representative Councils, and the Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia African Congresses.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations hopes to leave by air about September 10 for discussions in Southern Rhodesia. My right honourable friend is in communication with the Southern Rhodesian Government, who are aware of his wish to meet representative people of all sections in the Colony. In the light of these discussions, the two Secretaries of State will attend a conference with Southern Rhodesian Ministers and representatives of the Governments and European and African communities of the two Northern Territories. This conference will provide the opportunity for a full exchange of views between all concerned and will be of great value in assisting the Governments at a later date to reach conclusions in regard to the proposals in the Report. The place of the Conference has not been finally fixed, but it is probable that the place chosen will be Victoria Falls.

My Lords, I have said that I cannot elaborate on the statements that have already been made. I can only thank the noble Viscount for his contribution and for his good wishes; and, like him, I commend the proposals as a constructive approach to the problem.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, many of us, I think, would have wished that the statement just made by the noble Earl, speaking for the Government, could have been a little more precise. But we understand the difficulties of the Govern- ment in the situation. We completely appreciate the importance of leaving conclusions open until the visits of the respective Secretaries of State. All I can do is to join my noble friend who moved this Motion in congratulating the Government on having convened this Conference of officials, and in trusting that they will find it possible to proceed with the recommendations which the officials have unanimously made.

For my part, like my noble friend I think these proposals offer a chance of establishing the principle of racial partnership in a vital quarter of Africa as no other proposals that have been laid before us or thought of for a long time could have done. As all your Lordships know, there has for long been a conflict between two different schools of thought upon the future of Africa, a conflict which is now becoming a clash of fanatical ideologies, a clash which threatens the peace of Africa throughout its breadth and length. At one extreme there is the nationalism which has been developed in West Africa and at the other pole there is the nationalism which has become so intense and so fanatical in the Union of South Africa, based on the doctrine of absolute separation between the White and the Black races. As I said what I felt about that doctrine, in a Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, last year, I do not propose to say any more now, except to repeat that I think it would be a disaster if that ideology were to be allowed to spread further North. As your Lordships know, this clash is at present causing a ferment throughout Africa, and that ferment has reached a critical, if not a dangerous, stage. The Report we are discussing is closely connected with that ferment. Every page and almost every paragraph of the Report stresses the necessity of partnership between the races if conflict is to be avoided.

This danger was already running high thirty years ago, when Southern Rhodesia received responsible government. I would ask your Lordships for just a minute to cast your minds back to that period, because the decision then taken and the results which flowed from it have an intimate bearing on the issue confronting us to-day. Indeed, I think that the bearing will be considered decisive by all who justly appreciate and understand it.

By 1920 the Chartered Company—the British South Africa Company; Cecil Rhodes' Company—had ruled for thirty-one years. On the whole, it was a fine achievement, although it had its "ups and downs." When it was initiated, my noble friend Lord Salisbury's grandfather said that he thought the responsibility which was being placed on the Chartered Company was greater than any such company should be asked to bear; but, since he saw no other chance of introducing civilisation into that part of Africa, or of persuading Parliament to bear the expenditure, he thought that the Chartered Company should have the opportunity for which it asked. It took the opportunity and discharged its responsibility very well. There was a clause in the Charter providing for its revocation if ever any Government in this country found it necessary to complain about the administration of the Company. But no suggestion of revocation was ever made by either the, Conservative or the Liberal Governments which held power during that time. In these days, when private enterprise is widely distrusted and condemned, it is perhaps worth suggesting that your Lordships should salute the achievement, unsurpassed in that age in any part of Africa, of shareholders who were content to put their capital into a great undertaking without receiving any interest—indeed, continuing to invest without prospect of interest for a great many years.

By the end of the First World War the time had come for an end to Chartered Company rule. There was, for instance, in the Act of Union of South Africa a provision for the adhesion as Provinces of both Rhodesias to the Union of South Africa, on the presentation of an Address from both Houses of the Union Parliament. That was a provision in the Act which could not be ignored. On the other hand, the settlers were getting restless under Company rule, and at that time were also extremely suspicious of South African nationalism, which, as your Lordships may remember, had caused the rebellion in the First World War; and on that account the majority of settlers at that time were demanding responsible government.

In 1921, a Committee was appointed here in Whitehall. Largely it was an official Committee, very much on the lines of the Conference which has just been convened. The Committee was under the Chairmanship of Lord Buxton who had been Governor-General of the Union of South Africa. I was a member of that Committee and I remember its proceedings very vividly, because Lord Buxton was good enough to entrust me with a good deal of the sifting of the arguments and evidence and with the drafting of conclusions on them.

Early in 1922 that Committee recommended that the population of Southern Rhodesia should be given a free choice by plebiscite between entering the Union of South Africa as a Province or attempting responsible government under their own resources, and with the small European population which it had then of 33,000. A delegation was invited home to consider the Constitution under self-government, and on its way it had a long discussion with General Smuts, who did his utmost to persuade the delegation and those it represented to enter the Union. Afterwards they came here and discussed the Constitution with the authorities in Whitehall. In October, 1922, a plebiscite was held, which resulted in a decisive vote for responsible government and against incorporation in the Union. Self-government was inaugurated a year later, in October, 1923. My Lords, thus was established a great self-governing country, bearing Rhodes' name, dedicated to his great principle of "equal rights for every civilised man," inaugurated as a second step in the realisation of his great dream.

Believe me, the doubts expressed at home in regard to the wisdom of granting self-government at that time were as great as the doubts expressed in many quarters now. As I have said, the Europeans in Southern Rhodesia numbered only 33,000. Could they produce the political quality and the leadership required? Of necessity they were all compelled to earn their own living. Could they make the sacrifice of time necessary to take a responsible part in public work and the business of government? Even Lord Milner was uncertain on that point. I remember his saying what a strain it might prove. But, in the sequel, all doubts have been triumphantly dispelled. That is what I think we ought to remember at the present time. We made then an act of faith which I believe was justified. We are called upon to make an act of faith now, and I believe it will be justified again.

Southern Rhodesia under responsible government achieved a sound and economic administration. It paid its own way and great economic development took place. As a sign of that, the European population has practically quadrupled in eighteen years. It also rendered great service in the two World Wars. More that half the adult male population underwent military service in the First World War, and in the Second World War, as all your Lordships remember. Rhodesia was an essential base in Allied measures for for the defence of Africa.

There are many who say, "All that is true. The settlers have shown that they can look after themselves. But what about the Africans?" No one who has been to Southern Rhodesia can doubt that the Africans are happy. On that matter, I can quote the testimony of Ministers representing the Government who have been there quite recently. There is no doubt that the African population of Southern Rhodesia are a happy population. They have had not only their reserves of land secured to them on a very large scale—it is about one-third of the area of the Colony—but they have also had further land on a large scale appropriated to them for individual purchase, of which only a small part has been taken up by them so far. They are beginning a system of local government, although there it is not so far advanced as in Northern Rhodesia. But, if I may quote the Report upon Southern Rhodesia's record in this matter, I think your Lordships will find this paragraph impressive. It is on page 30 of the Report of the conference; and it runs: The Southern Rhodesian Government spends considerably more per head of the African population on such African services as health, education, irrigation and soil conservation than do the Northern Governments … I think that is worth remembering, when the question is raised whether the European system of self-government has done justice to the African population in Southern Rhodesia or not. Above all, they have adhered to Rhodes' principle of equal rights for every civilised man and no political colour bar. There are people in this country who doubt the sincerity with which that principle is being applied. But what is the value of such criticism, coming from students, itinerant professors and politicians of various kinds, as compared with the solid testimony of impartial civil servants, whose main interest, after all, is to see that the population of the country as a whole, and more particularly the least vocal part of the population, the African population, is justly attended to? I could quote from the Report many passages to show how highly they esteem the Government of Southern Rhodesia in that respect, and how, despite some differences, they regarded the principle adopted in the Crown Colonies as being exactly the same as the principle pursued in the self-governing Colony of Southern Rhodesia. I do not believe that any better showing is to be found for European leadership in Africa since Europeans first went to that continent.

It is therefore, I think, meet and right that we should pay tribute here to-day to the men responsible for that achievement, and more particularly to the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Godfrey Huggins. He was not trained to public work. He was, by profession, a doctor, who had his initial training at St. Thomas's Hospital across the river, and afterwards worked at the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. He emigrated to Rhodesia in 1911, and he served in the First World War very gallantly. He entered Parliament, on pressure by his neighbours, when self-government was first given in 1923. He became Prime Minister in 1933, being then of the same age as, I think, was Cromwell when he entered public affairs in this country. This goes to show that political capacity may be developed unexpectedly and very late. He is, as all who know him will agree, compact of sound principle and profound political sense, and he understands, above all, that progress must be tentative and gradual if justice is to be done to all in a society such as that to be found in Southern Rhodesia.

I should like to pay a tribute also—and I am sure your Lordships will join with me in this—to the Legislature, the Administration and the electorate of Southern Rhodesia. We know that democratic electorates are not always wise in the selection of the leaders to whom to entrust their affairs. I say that without Party prejudice of any kind. But the electorate have certainly been wise in Southern Rhodesia, and their choice reflects great credit not only on Sir Godfrey Huggins but on the electors themselves. I think that these things prove to the hilt that if you give responsibility to British stock in any part of the world, they will show the mettle of their pasture and do honour to the Island from which they spring. Your Lordships will, I think, agree that this record of a great trust which we gave, and which has been justified, has an intimate bearing upon the issue to-day, now that we are called upon to face another decision of even greater scope and weight.

The Report of the Conference, as my noble friend said, emphasises and reiterates not only the necessity but the urgency of closer union between these three Territories in the interests of the Territories themselves, and in the interests of all the races contained therein. That was evident to the Bledisloe Commission which went to Rhodesia before the war, and it has certainly been proved by the experience of the Central Africa Council, a purely advisory body which was established during the war. That Council was fully represented at this Conference, and, therefore, joins in the unanimous advice which the Conference has given. Of course, as my noble friend has said, the Federation scheme is imperfect. What scheme is not? For my part, I feel particularly anxious about the weight and expense of the apparatus of government proposed. I will not go into details, but for a population of 6,000,000 it appears to be a very heavy and complex machine for government and administration, with governors, legislatures, and all. And I think it may be well worth while, when the time comes to study these matters in detail, to consider whether, in the interests of all races, some simplification and some economy, both in money and men, are not possible. Of course, that is only one example. There is an immense amount of detail to be worked out. These proposals are largely headlines, and everyone knows how much work must be done to give them constitutional shape. Details apart, however, I for my part wholeheartedly endorse the general framework which is proposed, and I trust that there will be complete agreement between the Parties upon endorsement of that scheme when the Secretaries of State have been out there and consulted opinion upon the spot.

The economic arguments used in the Report are, as my noble friend said, compelling, but they are less important than taking the right course with regard to the most critical of all questions in Africa to-day—human and racial relationships. That is the vital thing. I spoke of the two ideologies which are in conflict now in the African Continent. Both are extremes. Both are counsels of despair, because, under either, racial conflict must be inevitable. With either of those extremes one race or the other goes under, and, naturally, both races will struggle to survive. As I say, I regard both extremes, both ideologies, as counsels of despair. Central Africa stands between these two ideologies, a bastion of sound policy, upholding the principle of racial partnership. But consolidation of Central Africa, that is, of the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland, which is so closely intertwined in its interests with the Rhodesias, is imperative if that bastion is to resist the waves of fanaticism which are going to beat upon it from every side. Remember that the population of Northern Rhodesia is now greater than the population was in Southern Rhodesia when we gave self-government to that country eighteen years ago. The population of Southern Rhodesia then was 33,000 Europeans as against nearly 1,000,000 Africans. The population of Northern Rhodesia now is 35,000 or more. Already that European population has an unofficial majority, and it has been fortunate in finding a remarkable leader in Mr. Welensky, who first proved his capacity as a trade union leader and then showed his powers of leadership in the political field. He is not only the leader of the unofficial majority in the Legislative Council; he is also a member of the Governor's Executive Council. I am sure that many of your Lordships who have followed his speeches, as I have, will agree that they show a grasp of principle on this question of racial relations in which we are entitled to confide.

The issue is crystal clear. Either we trust our own people in Africa or our people in Africa will cease to trust us. And if they cease to trust us, where will they go, where can they go, for support, except to the great Union to the south? If that occurs, Central Africa will have been relegated by our blindness to the hopeless conflict of extremes which seems to be developing elsewhere. As my noble friend said, in this matter there must be compromise. What is needed now is that in some respects we should trust the European population and in other respects the European population should trust us. If only a compromise on these lines can be secured, if only their good will and confidence in us can be maintained, if we make the same act of faith which we made in 1923, then I believe that we shall have created a fabric of racial partnership which will never be overthrown.

4.2 p.m.


My Lorls, probably the general feeling of your Lordships is that those who follow the noble Viscount should speak as shortly as possible because, looking at the following items on the Order Paper, I think (if I may so phrase it) the hearts of many of your Lordships are in the Highlands and not in the Rhodesias. Therefore, I shall do little more than to follow the President of the United States and the preacher who, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, recalled a few days ago, when discussing the nature of sin, confined themselves to saying whether or not they thought well of it. I join the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in admiration at the unanimity of the officials who have dealt with this project. I think that unanimity has been remarkable, and it is very significant. But as we has been reminded by letters in the Press and elsewhere, it is one thing to secure the unanimity of officials who have represented the various units concerned and another thing to secure the good will of Europeans and Africans to this project.

I do not wish to deal with the Report in any detail. I wish to be perfectly realistic about this scheme, and I fear that the unanimity of officials on one point was a little misplaced. I do not agree with them that the differences in native policy between Southern Rhodesia and the two Northern Territories are largely those of method and timing. It may be true that the ultimate objective of all the Governments concerned is the same—namely, the economic, social and political advancement of the Africans in partnership with the Europeans. But if we are to secure the good will of the Africans to this project—and it is not the good will of the Africans in Southern Rhodesia that concerns us so much as the good will of the Africans in the two Northern Territories—we must try to view the native policy of Southern Rhodesia through their eyes. They do not look at the objective; they look at certain concrete and tangible facts. They say that in the policy of native administration they are far more advanced than Southern Rhodesia.

I should like to say how heartily I agree with all that has been said about Sir Godfrey Huggins and the good will of the European community towards Africans, and, on the whole, the general contentment of Africans in Southern Rhodesia. But so far, for example, the Africans in Southern Rhodesia have not been trusted with the trial of criminal cases—I take that as a typical point. All that has been done in regard to the development of the native treasury system is far behind what has been done in the Northern Territories. It is points of this nature that the Africans of the Northern Territories will consider when they are asked for their opinion of any form of union with Southern Rhodesia. They are, again, well aware of what has been done under the industrial Conciliation Act, which amounts to something like a complete colour bar in labour; they are well aware of what has been done by some of the trade unions. And I am afraid that their judgment is likely to be swayed a great deal by the knowledge of these facts.

As for the Europeans, there has been for many years, since Lord Bledisloe's Commission reported, a considerable diversity of feeling on the subject of amalgamation or union. I am well aware that the project that we are now to consider is not amalgamation and that the arguments which apply to amalgamation cannot properly be applied to a scheme of federation, but I am afraid that when the Secretaries of State go out there, they are likely to hear the project attacked from two different points of view. First, I think it will be attacked from the point of view of the Europeans, many of whom feel that federation is a poor substitute for amalgamation, because it does not secure what many Europeans in Southern Rhodesia demand—namely, something like the permanent supremacy of the White population. They are also liable to be attacked on the point referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and the noble Earl, Lord Altrincham—that is, the difficulties in detail likely to occur. For instance, there may be difficulty about the appointment of a Minister in charge of African interests, presumably responsible to a Governor-General, and not to the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia or the local Legislatures; and difficulties may also occur because both federal and local Legislatures have power to impose income tax. They will be able to say that it looks as if in future we shall see a continuing period of tension between local Legislatures and Downing Street and, indeed, between one Department and another of the British Government.

I have already indicated that the scheme is liable to be attacked by Africans from another point of view which particularly appeals to them, partly on account of old prejudices against union with Southern Rhodesia, and partly on account of the difficulties inherent in the present scheme itself. Nevertheless, I am certainly one of those who hope that the scheme will be given its best chance, both here and in Africa. I am convinced that closer association in some form or another is essential. I am not so much swayed by the fear that, if there is no form of union or closer association between these Territories, they may fall within the orbit of the Union. I see more positive grounds for closer union. It is certainly the fact that all these Territories have now arrived at a stage of economic progress when some form of union is necessary between them. I would say equally that they have arrived at a stage when some form of union is necessary which will enable a greater development of the possibilities of co-operation between the White population and the Africans. Most of all, I am swayed by the fact that the history of the British Commonwealth shows that none of the great units of the Commonwealth has attained its present stature save under some form of federation. If ever these large areas of Africa are to take an honoured and useful place in the Commonwealth, then it must be by some form of co-operation between what have been hitherto dispersed, ill-equipped and immature units. It is in that faith that I myself would commend this project, not only to all classes of thinkers here but to those who are concerned for the best interests of the African population.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord who has just spoken ended as he did, because in the earlier part of his speech I thought he tended unduly to emphasise what a large number of people are saying—namely, that there has been great diversity of native policy in Africa between Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia. Having often been to those countries, I have not seen that. As a matter of fact, in many respects, I have been more impressed with the progress made in Southern Rhodesia compared with that in either Nyasaland or Northern Rhodesia. I agree that that is when one goes reasonably off the beaten track into the native reserves and into the native areas. I know that suspicion against Southern Rhodesia can be used by interested parties who are trying to wreck this idea of federation. I devoutly hope that federation will come about, in the interests of all the three territories, in the interests of resisting the spread of Malanite ideas from South Africa, and in the interests of the whole future destiny of the British relations with East Africa and, indeed, of Africa as a whole.

Whoever was dealing with native affairs in Southern Rhodesia had a very different task in front of him compared with that, say, in Nyasaland. In Southern Rhodesia there remained only the scattered remnants of the Mashona Tribe, after the invasions on one side by the Matabele, who slaughtered them in their thousands, and by the Shona on the other The tribal system of the Shona, which was always very primitive, had never been effectively built up, and they were in fragments. In Nyasaland, however, there were intact, coming down through long ages, some of the most advanced, progressive and indigenous tribal organisations in the whole of Africa. For a long time it was the Nyasaland natives who provided the leading Africans in East Africa, right down to the Cape. Thanks to the Scottish and then the Roman Catholic missions, they have produced many outstanding Africans—and, after all, they are far more numerous in little Nyasaland than in the two Rhodesias combined. It is, of course, vital to any federation or union between the two Rhodesias that Nyasaland should come in: they are dependent on the same thought, and and absolutely interlocked in every way for the purposes of defence and economic development. I am convinced that it is in the major interests of each party that that should be so. After all, the native leaders in Nyasaland know that an ever-increasing number of their people (and remember that they are an overpopulated country, with over fifty people to the square mile, as against three to the square mile of native population in Northern Rhodesia) are going to Northern Rhodesia and to Southern Rhodesia, where, incidentally, I may say they are getting all the best jobs.

I visited these countries first exactly forty years ago, and again in 1924 as chairman of the first Labour Government's mission on closer union between East and Central Africa. I have often been there again since, and I was in all three Territories last year. I believe that it is most important that Sir Godfrey Huggins should not hide his light under a bushel. He has always kept very dark about what he has done on the quiet. I remember one instance, when one of the European municipalities was doing pretty bad native housing in the location. He was very cross about it. The situation was very difficult: it was a European municipality, and he did not want a row about the matter. However, he resumed for a short time, as Prime Minister, the Ministry of Native Affairs, and then went back again. Then he found himself in possession of the Native Land Trust Fund, the basis of which is that any money derived from alienated native land goes into the Trust to buy other native land for natives. He bought up the land alongside the municipal location for the Native Land Trust, and proceeded to show them how to build a native township. I went over it soon after it was finished, and it was among the best native housing that I have seen. I had this surprise however. I said to the manager and the leading native who came down with me: "Who are these people who are occupying these charming places? Look at that nice garden and look at those curtains there. Are they Shona or are they Matabele? "His reply was: "Neither; they are practically all from Nyasaland."

Sir Godfrey Huggins has rendered outstanding medical assistance right away from the European areas. I have been to many of these native clinics deep into the country. I suppose that he has violated every tenet of every British Medical Association branch in the world. Every kind of native who has had some training performs every kind of operation, if it is in the interests of saving life, long before he is qualified. They are rudely and roughly equipped, but extremely well equipped, and they saved untold lives in Southern Rhodesia only last year. There is a low-lying valley of the Sabi, which some day, under irrigation, may be developed. It is very low-lying, and it is not European country. If anybody is going to make good on that it will be the Africans. Already, on Sir Godfrey Huggins' own initiative, Africans are being trained to grow crops under perennial irrigation. The work is tucked away where people do not see it, and it is all done by one white officer in charge, the rest of the workers being Africans. I felt that I must say that, in view of the kind of doubts which the noble Lord, Lord Hailey raised in his speech this afternoon. I deeply regret that he felt called upon to stress them as he did. I know that this scheme, and probably any scheme, wily be full of anomalies: it will satisfy no theoretical Constitution-monger, and may even cost some more money. But I am passionately anxious that the federation of the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland shall go through, and go through now, in some form.

In Southern Rhodesia there has been a new influx since the last war of at least 50,000 new Europeans from this country, and not from South Africa. Periodically, there is the threat of an infiltration by Afrikanders from the Union with, of course, their un-British ideas. I see ever-increasing racial tension in the Union—Boer versus Briton and Briton versus Boer—the whole of the coloured community thrown into the arms of the Africans and the Indians. As a result of the present dogmas at Pretoria I see nothing but racial clashes there. I profoundly regret that, because I love South Africa. Do let us show the Europeans in South Africa, before it is too late, that on British lines and British traditions we can have a strong federal State, where the English tradition of the relations between the British from this Island and the native races of the Empire is once again shown to be liberal, decent and on a really Christian basis.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, so much has already been said in such an excellent manner that it is hard to think of much which is different to say. I cannot help feeling that it is a great privilege to be able to join in a debate which may well be a landmark in African history and possibly Imperial history. It is not that we think anything is going to be actually decided on these Reports to-day—because, after all, we are really having a debate on the Reports which are before us—but they may well be the foundation of a great new African State. As has been said already, we, are discussing a very old subject but we are doing so from a new and a fresh angle—the angle provided by this body of servants from the three great African Colonies of Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia, and our own Colonial Office.

Every speaker but the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, has stressed what the Reports themselves stressed—namely, that the great barrier which has always seemed to stand between these three Territories has, in fact, been much exaggerated. The noble Lord who has just sat down stressed the fundamental similarity, in spite of the many differences, between the policies of these different Territories. The noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, went further and drew our attention to what is perhaps one of the most important pronouncements in the Report on this question of native affairs, where it says on page 30 that Southern Rhodesia spends considerably more per head on African services than do either Nyasaland or Northern Rhodesia. With deference to what the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, said—and we all listen to every word he says to us on these great Imperial questions—the gentlemen who drew up this Report are in even closer touch than he is with what is in fact happening in Africa at the moment. As the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, told us at the beginning, these are men who are nurtured in the principles of trusteeship and of partnership. They are men from the Colonial service and also those from our own Colonial Office who are the very achitects of the West Coast scheme of self-government.

What is the real significance of the problem before us to-day? Surely it is this. We are going to have a chance of seeing what African self-government means in West Africa. We are having the opportunity of watching the development of pure White separation and supremacy in the Union of South Africa. But what Central Africa can offer us is a conception of partnership between two races. And that, as the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, said, is essentially the British contribution: the partnership between Black and White, which is by far the greatest hope of African progress—greater than either of the other two extremes.

Let us not discuss this scheme under any sense of illusion. Let us face the fact that the position is not entirely in our own hands. It is in our power to discourage this scheme to the extent that it is postponed, if not actually destroyed. It is not in our power to prevent what some feel to be the inevitable result of taking that action. I do not want to discuss the merits of whether it is a good or a bad thing that Southern Rhodesia should more and more look in a southerly direction. But I feel that it is almost inevitable that that should be so if this scheme is discouraged and turned down, and that this would be of the most profound economic, political, and strategic significance. If that happened, the whole hope of creating this great Central African Territory would vanish. I use the word "Central" not only geographically but in terms of native policy. Moreover, if we do postpone this scheme we shall lose the opportunity of starting the scheme under the leadership of a proved Empire statesman, a man who has also proved himself fundamentally liberal in the finest sense of the word. I know there is a certain amount of disquiet in the minds of some people overseas about the British power of veto over native policy. But it is not only to Our credit here that the veto of the British Parliament has never been applied; it is also to the credit of Sir Godfrey Huggins and his colleagues that it has never been necessary.

There is one thing that I would say to those who are leading African opinion and to those over here who feel that they are defending the African. Are they quite sure that they are taking the best possible steps for the African? If they drive Southern Rhodesia to look more and more to the Union of South Africa—I will not mention Northern Rhodesia, for we cannot see very far as yet in that direction—let them ask themselves whether they are helping the native cause. After all, the same gentlemen, if His Majesty's Government were to propose handing over Bechuanaland and Swaziland to the Union Government, would fight the proposal to the last ditch. Why, then, themselves take action that may well land Southern Rhodesia in that position? I cannot help wishing that some of those persons who were referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and others (there was in The Times this morning an important letter—important in the sense of the harm it could do—signed by one of your Lordships) could have been with me in June when I was in Rhodesia. That was at the time of the publication of the Report. I believe they could not have failed to be most deeply impressed by the sense of responsibility with which that Report was received. After all, this is a very old subject. It has been in the minds of many over there for a long period of years; and yet the Report was received with the greatest calm and quietness. There was some criticism of its limitations—and there are certainly very great limitations—but the Report was received in a spirit of sober responsibility and deep thought. I believe that anybody who had been with me when I was there would have returned with a firm belief that these are essentially a people to be trusted.

And that word "trust" reminds me of the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, to confidence. I believe that confidence by us in the Rhodesians and their confidence in us is absolutely fundamental to a successful solution of this whole problem, especially in regard to native affairs. That is why I am particularly glad that the Secretary of State paid his visit to Kenya. I think it had a tremendous effect in restoring confidence out there. It created a completely different state of mind in the average settler. The confident man can be generous and liberal; the frightened man becomes defensive and illiberal. If a man has dug up his roots from his own country and taken root in the soil of a far country; if he has put his all into it and taken his family and spent his life there, then he is completely committed to it; and then, if some politician makes him feel that the whole basis of his life is going to be destroyed, it is not surprising if the man does or at least says some silly things. It is for these reasons that I am sure that Mr. Griffiths' visit to Kenya did immense good, and that his visit to Central Africa should also do good.

I should like to say a word or two to some of my Rhodesian friends. I speak with a feeling of immense diffidence. It is only recently that I have begun going out, and I visit the country at most only twice a year. My only excuse is that I have learnt to love it deeply. While I was out there I read a letter in the paper by an ex-Minister of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Ernest Guest. In many ways it was a well argued and well conceived letter, but there was one thing in it that seemed to me to be based on a complete fallacy. It was in the last paragraph, where he warned the Rhodesians to beware of accepting a scheme with so many limitations and so many faults; that this scheme would be from now onwards permanently round their necks, and that it could never be amended. I should like anybody in this House or anywhere in the British Empire to put his finger on any British Constitution in any part of the world that in fact has remained static. We all know that there are things in every compromise that we do not like. I think there are some things in this Report that it would be hard for a Rhodesian Prime Minister to stomach—such as having a Minister in his Cabinet not appointed by himself and not responsible to him. There is also the question of expensive and heavy overheads referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham. But, for heavens sake, do not let us fix our minds on details which can always be discussed and dealt with at a later stage, but let us concentrate our minds on getting the big scheme going. The principles of federation must be accepted. Get in train the greater confidence of race relations that can grow out of that scheme, and then I am convinced that many of the native fears will be discounted. Let us realise that there are genuine native fears, even though some of us may believe that a great number of them are bogies. But we shall never prove that they are bogies until we have the scheme actually in operation.

The big conception is that the future of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland depends on the putting into operation of a scheme of closer union. The future of a great and immense experiment in relations in Africa depends upon it. There is only one real danger, which is that without a lead from His Majesty's Government things may be allowed to drift and we may lose our opportunity. Or else we may allow ourselves to be confused by a chorus of opinions about details. But there is here a chance of great Imperial statesmanship awaiting the two Secretaries of State on their return from their visit to Africa. Statesmanship will be needed, I believe, on both sides. I close by joining with other noble Lords in wishing the Secretaries of State well in the task that they have undertaken, and in hoping that they will in fact avail themselves of this immense opportunity.


My Lords, it may be convenient if we now take the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, which must be returned to another place before the Royal Commission is held.