HL Deb 05 February 1957 vol 201 cc457-71

4.52 p.m.

House again in Committee.

LORD OGMORE moved to delete Clause 3. The noble Lord said: I do not intend to delay your Lordships for any length of time on this Amendment, because many of the points have already come out on the previous Amendment, but there are one or two things I should like to say. My first point is that this clause is not necessary at al. Your Lordships will remember that on Thursday last, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, interrupted me, as of course, he had a perfect right to do, and asked an important question of the Minister of State. The noble Earl said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 201 (No. 27), Col. 3.49]: I think it is rather important to get this point clear in our minds. If no provision were put into this Bill (and I do not say that this clause applies to it), if the law is left as it stands to-day, could or could not any money from the Colonial Development Fund be applied to full self-governing territory? And the noble Earl, Lord Home, replied: My Lords, if I may intervene, the answer is that it could not.


My Lords, I am afraid that I misled the noble Earl on that occasion. I was referring only to the Statute of Westminster. I thought he had put his question in a different way and misunderstood him. I am extremely sorry.


I explained this matter in my remarks on the previous Amendment.


I have been somewhat confused, because the noble and learned Viscount was obviously dealing with the position under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act and I could not understand when he said the same position arose under that Act as under the Overseas Resources Development Act—in other words, if no Amendment was made in this Bill then monies under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act could be applied to Ghana. I take it that that is right.


I do not want to weary your Lordships, but my noble friend will remember how the difficulty arose. The 1940 Act originally contained an exception for territories with responsible government. That Act was repealed in 1950. What has made the position more difficult, I think, is that the third Act comes in between, in 1948; but that is the sequence and that is what I tried to explain to-day.


I understood the noble and learned Viscount, but I could not relate what he said to what the Secretary of State said.


My noble friend was referring to the Statute of Westminster.


I misinterpreted the noble Earl's question, I am afraid.


We now know where we stand. Unless this clause is in the Bill, then money can be applied under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. That makes the argument under my first head no longer apposite. Apparently it is necessary; therefore, I fall back on this consideration: if it is necessary, is it desirable? That is the ground upon which we shall now fight our battle.

I suggest that this clause is highly undesirable on two grounds: first of all, because the wording is churlish in the extreme. We owe a great deal to colonial territories like Malaya and the Gold Coast, who helped us during the war and again after the war, with our economic and other difficulties. We have had invaluable assistance from them with regard to foreign currency and with raw materials for our economy. Realising all that, as I am sure your Lordships will, I would ask the Committee to consider the wording of this clause and the sort of language that is used. Subsection (1) says No scheme shall be made on or after the appointed day under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, 1944) to 1955, wholly or partly for the benefit of Ghana. That is a blunt slash in the face, as it were. The clause goes on to say: Any scheme in force under the said Acts immediately before the appointed day which was made solely for the benefit of Ghana or any part thereof shall cease to have effect on that day without prejudice to the making of payments in pursuance of that scheme on or after that day in respect of any period falling before that day; and, so far as practicable, no part of any sums paid out of moneys provided by Parliament for the purposes of any other scheme made under those Acts before that day shall be employed in respect of any period falling on or after that day for the benefit of Ghana. The next subsection says that where there are one or more territories enjoying assistance in a joint scheme, it applies to Ghana only …in a case where Ghana has undertaken to bear a reasonable share of the cost of the scheme. In my opinion, this is the sort of language used to a defaulting debtor, not the sort of language to use to a country which is embarking on independence with all our good wishes. I do not think that any noble Lord who looked at this matter from an objective point of view could regard that sort of language as the language we should wish to see in a Bill of this kind.

I know that the Government do not wish to insult Ghana—I do not suggest for one moment that they would. We know perfectly well that they do not wish to do so; but it is strong language for them to use. Why use this churlish language? Why not take this clause back and look at it again, even at this late stage, and bring it back with wording which is more to the point and which would not give the people of Ghana, and the people of West Africa, the impression that we regard them as defaulting debtors. I expect that soon we shall have other Bills dealing with other emergent territories. Is this the sort of language which is going to be used in all of them, because if it is, I cannot feel that we are going to retain their interest and their affection. If I were a citizen of Ghana or Malaya, and I saw this sort of language used towards me. I should feel most hurt and bitter. In this case, too—although I am not quite so certain about these earlier subsections as I was about subsection (4)—I believe that they were not put to the Government of Ghana, and that the first indication the Ministers there had was when they saw the Bill printed.

The second ground upon which I base the Amendment is this. Even if, as we have now heard from the Lord Chancellor, Ghana would be entitled to benefit from assistance under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts if this clause were not included, why should we not give Ghana the benefit of any assistance they may get under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts for the remainder of their period? Remember that, when the last Colonial Development and Welfare Act was passed—in fact, when all those Acts were passed—Ghana was a colonial territory and, therefore, was entitled to benefits from them. Why cut off the benefit now? Why not allow Ghana to have the benefit which, under those Acts, she was entitled to, and which our Government and the Government opposite intended her to have? I cannot see any immorality in that, and I cannot see that there should be any financial or other difficulties.

Here is a colonial territory which comes within the scope and purview of the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. Certain sums were granted to Ghana for her purposes. Why not allow her to enjoy them, and to have any benefit that there may be from the Acts that we have in force until new legislation is passed? That will not be possible under this Bill as it stands, because it says that from the appointed day (which is March 6): No scheme shall be made…wholly or partly for the benefit of Ghana, even though it was contemplated, when the last Colonial Development and Welfare Act was passed, that Ghana (then the Gold Coast) would be entitled to benefit under the Act. I would say that if we did that we should be truly throwing our bread on the waters, and we should get back one hundredfold from Ghana what we give her. We all know that the West Africans are delightful and generous-hearted people. They have their faults, as we all have, but lack of generosity is not one of them. They are a generous people, and West Africans, of all people, are most inclined to respond to a generous gesture. I suggest that we should leave this clause out of the Bill and allow schemes to be made for Ghana under the Act and allow them to have the benefit of that Act. I would say, also, that that should apply to other emergent territories for which legislation will be coming before the House when they achieve independence.

I think that the Bill as it stands represents a narrow-minded attitude—a "Treasury" attitude. I cannot believe that the Colonial Office or the noble Earl, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, really agrees with this attitude. As I say, it is a narrow-minded, "Treasury" attitude which will yield nothing but brambles and thistles. The Treasury have taken the point of view of a small-time bookkeeper, and this attitude is a dangerous one when we are dealing with Commonwealth relations. I think the inability of Ministers on the other side to put the matter in its proper perspective is blameworthy, and we shall certainly press the Amendment to a Division unless we get a satisfactory answer. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 3.—(Lord Ogmore.)


I should like to speak in favour of this Amendment and to say how deeply disappointed I have been at failing to understand any reason why the Government have seen fit to insert this clause in the Bill. I have listened to the debates, and I have heard certain points made which have seemed to me utterly unconvincing. We have been reminded that Ghana is about to achieve independence and that nothing must be done in any way to infringe that independence. But we do not need to go beyond these shores in imagination to think of a sovereign nation which is not ashamed to receive economic assistance from another sovereign nation. It has never been suggested that our receiving economic assistance from overseas has been in any way to our shame. I fail to see why there should be any kind of argument to the effect that Ghana, because she is about to receive political independence, must not be offered economic assistance.


Perhaps I might make this point. Nobody said that Ghana should not receive assistance at the proper time, in the proper way.


I realise that what the noble Earl says is true. Nevertheless, it is a fact that Clause 3 of this Bill excludes the Colonial Development Corporation from giving economic assistance in Ghana, and it is to that that I take exception. The fact that words have or have not been spoken seems to me of little moment compared with the fact that is to follow the implementation of this clause.

Another suggestion that has been made—not by Ministers of the Crown, I am glad to say—is that the British taxpayer has had many burdens to bear, and it is hard that he should have to continue to bear burdens for a child that is about to become adult. We all know that the services of the Colonial Development Corporation are not the "doling out" of money. We also know—but I think perhaps it needs to be said—that the operations of the Colonial Development Corporation, as it is at present administered, are of advantage not only to overseas territories but to this country itself. Therefore, I shall feel bound to go into the Division Lobby with noble Lords opposite, and, I hope with noble Lords on this side: first, because it seems to me to be to the advantage of the Gold Coast and of this courtly that the operations of the Colonial Development Corporation should continue in that country; and secondly, because I believe that, as this recurring problem of how to assist emergent territories comes up, we must make quite sure that the Colonial Development Corporation is able, by the maintenance and expansion of its services overseas, to attract and to keep highly-skilled staff, men of great and varied technical abilities, men of close knowledge of the countries in which they operate. It seems to me that this clause is to the detriment, not only of Ghana, but also of this country and, indeed, all other countries in the Commonwealth.

5.10 p.m.


May I add just two or three words? I myself greatly regret the decision of the Government, both about subsection (4) of Clause 3 and about Clause 3 as a whole. I think the Government would have been wise to drop the whole clause. I am not going to argue that question, on which I have spoken before, but I should like to say this: I did not vote in the last Division, and I do not propose to vote in this Division—for this reason. I hoped that those who thought as I did would do their utmost to persuade the Government on whom the main responsibility rests. We have failed. Had we succeeded, I do not think there would have been a real timetable difficulty. Things would have gone through quickly, with the co-operation announced last time by the Opposition, which I am sure would have been followed by a similar co-operation in another place. But, as the Government have taken this line, I feel that in the circumstances, if your Lordships were to pass the Amendment against the Government, a real timetable difficulty would arise. It is for that reason that I am taking a course which I very much dislike to take, and which may be said to be illogical, that of having first tried to persuade the Government what I think would be the wise course but, having failed to persuade them, refraining from voting against them in the Division Lobby.


I do not wish to weary the House at this stage by repeating what I have already said more than once in the various stages of this debate. Nevertheless, I think it desirable to declare that I personally, while holding the same views as the noble Lord, Lord Salter, do not carry them to the same extent; nor do I feel any moral impulse not to record my vote, if there is a Division, in the Lobby. I feel so strongly against the inclusion of this clause, and I am so completely unconvinced by everything I have heard from the Government, that I consider it a moral duty to use what experience I have and to express my feeling that they are pursuing a wrong policy.


Before the noble Earl, Lord Perth, replies, I should like to say a word or two. I have listened to this debate with an open mind, because I could not believe that the Government had not a good reason for putting in Clause 3. The noble Earl has said on a number of occasions that it is not the intention of the Government to withhold financial assistance from Ghana, and so I am completely at a loss to understand why Clause 3 is put in. If the noble Earl would help me in my own personal dilemma, I should be greatly obliged. There must be some reason other than those which have been put forward hitherto. It is not the legal reasons. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor would be the first to admit that there is no legal reason that would compel a Government to put in Clause 3. What are the true reasons for putting in a clause which the noble Earl has said on more than one occasion does not really mean what it says? As it stands, it says that no help will be given. That is the ordinary, common, plain meaning of those words. He then says that it does not mean that help will not be given. Will he please explain then what is the purpose of Clause 3?

5.15 p.m.


We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, the intention to move for the deletion of Clause 3, not because it is not necessary but on the ground that it is not desirable. The noble Lord then gave us, as I understand it, two main reasons. One was the wording, and on that he asked us whether there would not be time perhaps to undertake some redrafting. I think the idea of redrafting must be ruled out. There is just not time. But when he asks us whether, when other similar Bills come before your Lordships' House, we will take care to have a look at the wording of any clause that would cover the same points as are covered in this, my answer is that we will certainly look at the drafting.


I am very much obliged for what the noble Earl has said. I take it that the noble Earl agrees that these are most inappropriate and churlish words.


I was just coming to that point. Many noble Lords have criticised the wording as chilly—and, indeed, as worse than that, although I do not remember many of the epithets that have been used. I would make one or two observations, which I hope may put things in a somewhat warmer light. I think that it is a question of how one reads the first subsection.

It is quite true that you can start off by saying. "No scheme shall be made wholly or partly for the benefit of Ghana "; and that sounds very shocking. But if you read the words of subsection (1): No scheme shall be made on or after the appointed day under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts…wholly or partly for the benefit of Ghana"— and that is the right emphasis—then I think it is somewhat different—in fact I am quite sure it is. It is in that use of the words and that emphasis that it has been understood by the people in Ghana—namely, that once they have left the status of the Colony, once they have become an independent nation, then it is both natural and right that the Colonial Development Fund should not be available for them.

At the same time, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made an appeal as to whether we should not make available to them whatever might be due to them from the past from Colonial Development and Welfare Funds. There are two points to make there. The first is that since 1955 the Gold Coast has not been a party to these Funds, in the sense that they have had no allocations. On the other hand, there is one scheme, a very important scheme, the development of Kumasi Technical College, for which no less than £350,000 was allocated. There we do exercise—I will not call it generosity, but we have clone the natural thing which one would expect under those conditions; namely, that, while they have been debarred from receiving out of the Colonial Development and Welfare Funds, they will have the money allocated from another source; so that what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked me is, in fact, being done.

The noble Lord, Lord Hemingford, said that he felt there was nothing shameful in getting help from other Governments. I am not going to argue that aspect, but surely we all feel much happier if we do not get gifts or other aid from our friends, but can rather stand on our own feet. The noble Lord also asked—and here I would also take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—just what we are going to do. He said that at one moment we say we cannot help the people of Ghana, and that the next moment we say we will help them if need arises. The answer is that we have said in these clauses that we will not help them under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. Whether we can and will help them, whether they have the need of such help in the next few months, remains to be seen; but we have said once—and we repeat it—that those questions can be looked atad hoc; at that time we can decide what may be the best method of help, if help is indeed needed.

In my view, to suggest or to assume that Ghana is in great need of help is not doing Ghana any service. She is at the moment about to launch out on her own. She has great wealth. She has cocoa, which, if I may so put it, is an international currency. I think that her credit will surely be found to be such that, if she wants any assistance for capital schemes, she will be able to get it. Our feeling, as has been expressed so many times, is that this clause must stand, but that, if people draw from it the inference that we do not wish Ghana well, or that we want to do her some harm, that is the wrong inference. We want to do all we can in every way possible to help Ghana.

5.21 p.m.


There is one comment I should like to make. I am quite sure that the Government want to help Ghana—we have never denied that. What we say is that they are appearing to the people of Ghana, and to the world outside, as if they do not want to help them; that they are trying to do everything they can not to help them. We are better friends of the Government than they realise, and we want them to show a better face to the world than they are doing. What we have heard makes this Amendment all the more desirable. This is really anAlice in Wonderland situation which has been deployed by the Government. Not since Alice drank from the bottle has there been anything so extraordinary as this.

The Government say that it is essential to have this clause because, if we do riot, we might be able to help Ghana under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. There is only one allocation to Ghana under the most recent Act, and that is the sum of £350,000. Then want Ghana to have the £350,000, and they put in this clause to make sure that Ghana cannot have the £350.000 under the Act where it was voted. Yet they are going to give them the £350,000 from another fund or in some other way. Really! that seems to me to be absolutely childish. It appears to be standing ourselves, the Bill and everything else, on our heads. Here we are, putting into this Bill what we on this side—and many noble Lords on the other side, too, judging by the speeches that have been made—regard as a most maladroit clause, in most inappropriate and harmful language. The net result of this clause can be only that £350,000 which might have gone to Ghana under this clause is not going under this clause but is going under something else. It is the only reason for this clause. I suggest to your Lordships that there is every reason why we should vote for this Amendment and not allow the Government to make the fools of themselves that they are now proposing to make.

Remaining clauses and Schedules agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendment.

Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been dispensed with:


Although what the noble Lord says is accurate, I do not think he quite appreciates the position. I am sure noble Lords would like to understand the real position. The £350,000 that we are to give for this very desirable scheme in Ghana would come from the Commonwealth Relations Office Vote in exactly the same way as it would come in respect of any other independent Commonwealth country. The reason it comes from the Commonwealth Relations Office Vote in this country is that, before the appointed day, Ghana has been a Colony. Now that she is going to be a completely independent Commonwealth country, we must deal with her as such.

On Question: Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents. 25; Not-Contents, 53.

Albemarle, E. Ashton of Hyde, L. Mathers, L.
Attlee, E. Burden, L. [Teller.] Milverton, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Crook, L. Moyne, L.
Listowel, E. Faringdon, L. Ogmore, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Greenhill, L. Raglan, L.
Hemingford, L. Reith, L.
Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Latham, L. Silkin, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Strabolgi, L.
Archibald, L. Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L. Wise, L.
Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) Furness, V. Ellenborough, L.
Goschen, V. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Salisbury, M. (L. President.) Hailsham, V. Gridley, L.
Runciman of Doxford, V. Hampton, L.
Cholmondeley, M. Soulbury, V. Howard of Glossop, L.
Reading, M. Stonehaven, V. Hylton, L.
Fortescue, E. [Teller.] Jessel, L.
Gosford, E. Aberdare, L. Mancroft, L.
Home, E. Ailwyn, L. Merrivale, L.
Morley, E. Amulree, L. Merthyr, L.
Onslow, E [Teller] Balfour of Inchrye, L. Moynihan, L.
Perth, E. Cawley, L. Newall, L
St. Aldwyn, E. Chesham, L. Remnant, L.
Selkirk, E. Clitheroe, L. Rockley, L.
Shaftesbury, E. Coleraine, L. Strathclyde, L.
Swinton, E. Congleton, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Digby, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Dormer, L. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Falmouth, V. Ebbisham, L. Waleran, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.


My Lords, we have now come to the final stage of the Ghana Independence Bill, after most extensive debates in another place and in your Lordships' House, and I hope that the people of Ghana, as a result of these debates, will know how seriously concerned is the United Kingdom Parliament with their future and with their prosperity. Legal draftsmanship sometimes leads us into strange language, but I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, recognised that the Government's one concern is that Ghana should prosper and that we should be closely associated with Ghana in her future. And, indeed, our only desire is to place Ghana in the same position as ourselves and the other free members of this great Commonwealth association of nations. So, my Lords, in moving the Third Reading of this Bill, I know there is in your Lordships' House no controversy whatever about the purpose of the Bill, which is to give to Ghana independence so that we may enjoy partnership with her within the Commonwealth. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Home.)


My Lords, as it was impossible for me to be here on the Second Reading of the Bill, I should like briefly to add my good wishes to the people of Ghana in achieving her independence. I particularly wish to do that because in the past. I dealt with the Gold Coast as Secretary of State for the Colonies and as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, and I had my headquarters in the Gold Coast itself as Minister Resident in West Africa during two critical years of the war. There is no doubt that this Bill will carry with it to Ghana the good wishes and the good will of everybody in this country. Of that the new Prime Minister will be assured. I think his most important task will be to ensure that he achieves the same measure of confidence and good will among all the people of Ghana, and particularly the people in the Northern Territories and in Ashanti.

The people of Ashanti have a long history of which they are proud, and loyalties to which they are devoted. The Ashanti Stool, which many people have wrongly thought of as a sort of coronation throne, is nothing of the sort; no one ever sits upon it. That golden stool represents in a symbolic way the soul of the Ashanti people. I remember when I was Colonial Secretary, I think it was in 1932 or 1933, giving back to Ashanti their Confederation. The chiefs in Ashanti had never met since the deposition of Prempeh, I believe at the end of the nineteenth century. At any rate it was a very long time before. And yet, when the great assembly took place and all those chiefs and sub-chiefs in Ashanti, led by the Asantehene, entered their great open place of meeting, every single chief and sub-chief knew his place. They are very proud of that and there is great loyalty.

I remember the first time I met the Asantehene in the war he said to me, "You will always be remembered in this country because you gave us back our Confederation." I said to him, "Has that made the Ashanti a united people?", and he said, "To-clay, not yet; tomorrow, quite." I think it is tremendously important that that great loyalty of the Ashanti people to their own traditions, to their own history and to their own chiefs, should merge itself, as in this great Empire so many lesser loyalties have merged, in the greatest loyalty of all: in a common loyalty to this new community of Ghana. I am very glad that the Secretary of State has had the opportunity in the last few days of consulting on the spot with the Ministry in the Gold Coast and with the leaders in Ashanti. He will have been able to judge better than any of us what is practicable.

I wonder myself whether it might not be possible, whether it might not perhaps be the best solution, that a Second Chamber should be introduced, although I know it is not always easy to man completely in these new territories a single Chamber. I know, too, from the days when I was in the Government, that the Report of Mr. Justice Coussey's commission was against a Second Chamber. I asked Mr. Justice Coussey, one of the wisest Africans I have ever known, why he was against a Second Chamber, and he said this: "It is because I think the chiefs have got to play an essential part, and if they are to play that part it is much more important that they should play that part in the House of Commons, as it were—in the Chamber where policy and action are originated." It may therefore well be that something in the nature of a Second Chamber would be the solution. But, whatever it is, forms do not matter half as much as the spirit; and if the new Government of the Gold Coast goes to all its people with sincerity and courage, and showing clearly that they are not the Government of a section or a Party, but at the start they seek to represent the whole of this new State, then they will have the things that eternally belong unto their peace.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, we on this side have fought hard on Clause 3 and we do not retract anything we have said on the Amendments. But, of course, we are fully in sympathy with the broad object of the Bill—namely, to make provision for, and in connection with, the attainment by the Gold Coast of fully responsible status within the British Commonwealth of Nations. We wish Ghana well, and we wish also that her future may be a happy and prosperous one. Of course, she has many problems to solve, but we trust that both the Government and the Opposition will deal with these problems in the spirit of good fellowship and of good will, remembering that upon their own shoulders now, whether they are in Government or in Opposition, will rest the future of their country. We speed this Bill on its way, and we trust that this day, March 6, the appointed day, may indeed be a red-letter one, always, for Ghana.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.