HL Deb 27 July 1959 vol 218 cc585-631

5.1 p.m.

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH rose to draw attention to the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for an Advisory Commission on the Federal Constitution of Rhodesia and Nyasaland as reported to Parliament on July 21, 1959; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper. We are to consider to-night the proposals of the Government with regard to the appointment of a Commission to inquire into and report on the situation with regard to Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia and the Central African Federation. The proposed terms of reference, which were contained in a statement made by the noble Earl, Lord Home, in your Lordships' House, on July 21, were [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 218 (No. 104), col. 310): In the light of the information provided by the Committee of Officials and of any additional information the Commission may require, to advise the five Governments in preparation for the 1960 Review, on the constitutional programme and framework best suited to the achievement of the objects contained in the Constitution of 1953, including the preamble. The words at the end of the terms of reference, "including the preamble", are vastly important because of the commitments which lie on Her Majesty's Government for the remaining Protectorates in this Federation, which must be carefully considered before any final steps are taken in the review which may take place in 1960 or in the later part of the period laid down in the original Act.

Since the Government announced the setting up of this Commission, other things have transpired. It is difficult for those of us who have read the Devlin Commission's Report to keep the information we have gained from that Report entirely out of our minds when discussing purely the issue of this Commission. I want to do so, so far as possible, because we are coming to debate the Devlin Report on a Government Motion which has already appeared on the Order Paper, but the story that has been unfolded to us of the position in Nyasaland, and to some extent also in Northern Rhodesia, and its general implications with regard to the Federation, can hardly be absent from our minds altogether when discussing the question of this Commission.

I would, first of all, ask a question of the noble Earl. If there is; to be a Commission, is this the right type of Commission? The noble Earl will remember that on July 21 I said that it was not the kind of inquiry the Opposition would have liked. But much of the fact-finding work of the type of Commission we should have preferred may have been covered by the Devlin Commission. Having regard to the knowledge which is open to us now in the Devlin Report and to what is left to be done in the matter, is this the right type of Commission now? I do not know whether on July 21 the Government had had time to consider in any sense at all the Devlin Report. Its printing date is July 16 and the statement made about this Commission in both Houses was made on July 21. I should hardly think it likely that Her Majesty's Ministers would make a pronouncement with regard to this Commission without any reference at all to having read the Report of the Devlin Commission.

In the light of the general situation as we have it revealed to us in that Commission's Report, is this the type of Commission we want? What is left for it to do? The real object was stated in the terms of reference as advising the five Governments "in preparation for the 1960 Review". I should have thought that a large part of the political history and facts needed for that inquiry are embodied in the Devlin Report. What else remains to be done? A review of the kind foreshadowed by the Statute for 1960 is a matter of conference between the five Governments. As I read it, that was what I have always thought would happen. I thought that in the light of the experience of the Federation since 1953, of the general state of development, political, economic and social, and of the possibilities for the future, the conference would make some review plan for the future of the Federation.

I hope that it will be completely understood, in what I say on this question, that we are not against the principle of federation—not at all. No one who has made any study, even a passing study, of the situation can afford to overlook the economic factors between the three States and what can be accomplished by their working together cooperatively. I think that that is likely to be of special value to Nyasaland. On the other hand, we made it perfectly plain that whilst, as a Government, in 1950 and 1951 we were considering most sympathetically the question of federation, when it became clear in 1951 and 1952 that a large portion of African opinion was dead against it, we urged the Government in 1952 that it would be wiser not to proceed with the proposal until there had been much more consultation with the African population to try to get a better start to any Federation than was possible then. That was our position, and it is our position now.

In the light of all that, is this type of Commission really what is wanted? Look at the proposed size of the Commission—twenty-six members and an independent chairman; thirteen of the members to be proposed by the Federal Government and by the constituent Governments. It seems to me that at an inquiry said to be preparatory to the conference in 1960, the representatives of the Governments ought not to be members of the Commission, but witnesses to be examined by the Commission. Those are the people who ought to be under examination, to get the real basic situation of policy in their minds to be considered by the Commission and the inquiry, if there is to be one.


My Lords, just in case there should be any misunderstanding, may I point out that the individuals will not be parliamentarians or officials of the Governments; they will be individuals.


I take the point at once; but there is no doubt as to who is appointing them. I have put my position, and I do not think it is altered at all by the intervention of the noble Earl, at which I do not take any offence at all. The position is, therefore, in our view, that such a Commission is not suitable for the task which is before it. If you read the terms of reference care fully, and take into account that it includes the question of the preamble, then it seems to me that it may well be expected, because of its constitution now, to be doing the real work of the governmental conference which under Statute must be held in 1960 or later. This is not a preparatory Commission. This is something which is supposed to prepare practically the basis of any changed Constitution of the Federation for the future. That is an entirely different thing.

Then I would ask this. Is such a Commission advisable at the present time, in view of the circumstances of the last five months? I was very much struck by one phrase used in the reply of the Secretary of State, Mr. Lennox-Boyd, in another place to the debate held last week on this very matter. He had been dealing with the attitude of the Africans to federation, and he said that it all arose from fear—and he went on to say something about the Africans and fear. Of course, fear is the most disturbing of all emotions. But fear is not confined in this matter of politics in Central Africa to the Africans; the fear is also to be found in the other side. Apparently the great attempt on the part of the European section is so to arrange things for the future that they will never be in any subservient position in an African State. That is how I read their attitude. When you come to consider the actual, basic population facts and the political rights facts of the present situation, and if that is the attitude of the European population—fear of what their future may be—you can understand the genuine fears of the Africans. Those fears have been seen in the last few months to be widespread, not only in Nyasaland itself but also in some parts of the native population of Northern Rhodesia; and there is the fact also that in Southern Rhodesia action had to be taken in regard to the population there. This is widespread evidence of the fear.

What has led to the development of this fear? We say that in 1952 the fear of the Africans was known. They feared that if they went into a Federation their own political progress to independence would be checked and delayed and possibly never fully achieved. Some of them feared that their possession of land would be endangered. They feared that if they went into federation in their present political circumstances, with lack of voting power and representation, they would gradually become in the same position as they claim the Africans in Southern Rhodesia are—Regarded completely and definitely as being of a lower social strata in the future of that State. That is what they feared; and, for all those reasons, they had a very genuine fear. If you look at the figures given in another place (I do not need to go into them in detail) you find that there are 70,000 Europeans in Northern Rhodesia compared to 2¼ million Africans, and in Nyasaland little more than 8,000 Europeans compared to 2¾ million Africans. When you see the complete paucity of the political rights and representation of those Africans, then it seems to me that their fear of what was going on was not without foundation.

In the light of what has been happening in these most regrettable events of the last few months, is this the moment to proceed with the appointment of this Commission on this very doubtful basis and with the sort of function which we think is not right at the present time? It seems to be very doubtful indeed. I hope that it may be possible, when we discuss the Devlin Commission's Report on Wednesday, to go into more detail about that aspect. But I myself am persuaded that it would be an exceedingly good thing if the Government thought again about this Commission: whether they have the right composition; whether they have the right terms of reference; whether this is the right time to do it; and above all, from a general, political and human point of view, whether it would be at all politic to send such a Commission out there at the present time, or within months to come, until there have been changes in the Constitution out there.

You cannot hide from yourself the fact that Dr. Banda is still in durance vile. But if anybody has read, as I hope most of your Lordships have, the Devlin Report from cover to cover, there can be no doubt—at least, there is no doubt in my mind—that Dr. Banda ought to be free already, and that the time is overdue for him to be free. There are many questions that will have to be raised on the Devlin Commission's Report, but in such circumstances I am bound to ask: is this the time to go on with a Commission of this type? The noble Earl the Leader of the House may well say: "What the Leader of the Opposition is arguing is that all this should be put off indefinitely." But I am not doing that. I am trying to bring home to your Lordships' House the fact that you will never get rid of the Africans' fear, nor will you remove any of the grounds for their doubt and suspicion, unless political advancement is given to the African in Nyasaland and in Northern Rhodesia before you proceed to consolidate the Federation.

Their fears have been increased by what has been revealed to us in the last few days. We did not know all the details: the promises made to the delegation from Nyasaland which saw the Secretary of State for the Colonies in June of last year. He was unable at the time to make any final answer to them, but said that a statement would be made by the Governor on his return to Nyasaland from leave the following August, when he would be able to tell them what was going to be done. And what happened? Nothing was done—nothing at all. Not the slightest promise; not the slightest endeavour to show that some political advancement would be permitted to the Nyasas. How do you expect to overcome their fear? How do you expect them ever to accept the finding of a Commission like this, in which they have neither part nor lot on a regular basis of human rights and human representation? That is the situation.

I could make a very much longer speech if I wished. But I think I have said enough to open the debate on this particular issue. We shall have a lot more to say about it on Wednesday, but I do beg the Government to think again. I suggest that they have a great margin of time left to them for reconsideration of the fulfilment of the Statute. Some of the natives cannot understand why the Government should have rushed, at the earliest possible date under the Statute, to have this review of the Federal issue before political advancement is given to Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. Under the Statute, the Government have until the end of 1962, if they so desire, to have the Federal Review. They might change the whole atmosphere of the native future:, and the possible future of Central Africa, if they would now get about the business of seeing that the Africans have a greater amount of political advancement within the next twelve to eighteen months and can be represented on a proper basis in the ultimate process of looking to the review under the Statute. I do beg the Government to consider the question from that point of view, and I shall welcome it very much this evening if the noble Earl, with all his intimate knowledge of this matter as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, could say that this matter is worthy of reconsideration, and that there should be no dubiety in the mind of the African as to what are his chances of being met on the road to real and immediate progress and towards being treated as a human being with equal status and equal rights.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just addressed the House has pointed cut the difficulties—perhaps I should say the temptations—in straying over the narrow path which the Motion places before us, and going into more wide aspects of all the difficulties in Central Africa. In fact, if I may say so in a very good-natured way to the noble Viscount, I think perhaps he was not entirely innocent of straying into the pros and cons of Central African federation. I hope that I shall not be tempted to stray too much from the narrow Motion, and that noble Lords following me will agree that we are dealing only with the proposals of Her Majesty's Government.

The details have been gone into considerably by the noble Viscount, and we shall hear more of them, so I propose to be very brief and address myself only to one general observation, subject to one or two minor points. First of all, the Labour Party are disappointed that this is not a Parliamentary inquiry. I go halfway with them. I am not quite sure that the present set-up is as good as it might be, but I am not entirely satisfied that a Parliamentary inquiry is the only answer. My second criticism is that it is unclear from the words of this Paper whether the minority of the coloured representatives will really have a fair say, and how they are to be chosen. I put that point rather crudely because it is a broad and pertinent straight question in the formation of this Commission. Thirdly, I would ask: does the set-up really allow for the renunciation of federation if this Commission should come to such a conclusion as that renunciation was perhaps in the end desirable?

Apart from those points, I should like to give a much more general one, and that is the vertical axis off political thought in the free world, particularly in the world of the emergent nations, though not, of course, of those nations behind the Iron Curtain. This vertical axis is, quite obviously, always moving slightly to the Left. I suggest that Her Majesty's present Government, being a Conservative Government, are quite naturally not placed on the Left of that axis, but are certainly placed slightly to the Right. The Paper refers to the five countries who are going to be a party to this arrangement; and we start, of course, with Great Britain, with its Conservative Government. I need hardly remind your Lordships that any Government, whether it be Conservative or Labour (I will not go further than that), must realise that even in this country it does not command the majority of the votes of the people. We know that at the last General Election more people voted against the Conservative Party than for them; yet they are in power. And the reverse may happen. The Government, of course, as they well know, are responsible for the views of those who do not always subscribe to their political programme

Of those five countries, first comes Great Britain, with its enormous influence; and she is well represented on this Commission. Second in importance, I take it, is the Federation; and nobody listening to, or reading, the remarks of those in charge of the Federation of Central Africa would think they are at the Left of the axis of political opinion. Thirdly, we come to Southern Rhodesia; and I think, from what we know of them and the things that have been said, even if your Lordships read speeches in support of the Southern Rhodesian aspect of affairs in this House, you will find they are well to the Right in this vertical axis. Therefore we rely on the two junior partners, the Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland Protectorates, who look to this country for their welfare, who are in a very minor position. I wonder whether, in the set-up of this Commission, with its rather large number of people taking part (all appointed, I am quite sure, with complete integrity and with no will in the world to weight the thing one way or the other) the two smaller countries of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are really given a fair share.

I will say no more, except to ask Her Majesty's Government to remember their grave responsibilities to those who stand to the Left of this vertical political axis as well as to the Right, and perhaps to look into this matter again to see whether they cannot appease some of the unease that I think is felt in this country, that the Commission, as at present proposed, does not basically engender all the confidence we should like.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I think I can best respond to the thoughtful speech of the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition by describing in quite unequivocal terms the objects of the United Kingdom Colonial policy in that part of Africa which is known as the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. First, it is to create a multi-racial society in which the three races who claim to live there as of right—namely, the African, the European and the Asian—should be able to do so in complete confidence in each other, and in complete security as equal partners. Secondly, if one takes the political structure of the whole, that there should be three self- governing units, within a whole. We believe that socially, economically and politically there are advantages that they should co-operate in federation and, at the proper time—and I emphasise the words, "at the proper time"—should become eligible for full membership of the Commonwealth.

The noble Viscount says he trusts that our view is that before federation is consolidated there will be a substantial political advancement in Nyasaland and Rhodesia. If by that he means before there is full independence for the Federation, then we are on common ground, because it is our desire to see a substantial political advancement in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. To that conception of independence for the Federation I will return in a moment. As the noble Viscount indicated, I do not think there is any quarrel about the conception of federation itself. I do not see how there could be. We have federal systems in the Commonwealth, and they are quite consistent with our evolution within the Commonwealth from a Colonial Empire to a family of free and independent countries with full Commonwealth status. But where the difference has emerged is not in the difference of principle but in the method of advance, or what was feared was likely to be the method of advance, towards Federation. These fears exist to some extent among the Africans, and I think it is clear that there is apprehension among the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament here.

For the purposes of our debate I think it is well to remind ourselves that there are two hard and fast elements, and it is well to start with them and be realistic. There is a Federation in Central Africa which has in fact been working for six years and has a lot to its credit. Secondly, Parliament is charged with a review to start in 1960 or, at most, two years later; that is the maximum amount of time that was visualised in the Act. So this is not virgin ground on which we stand to-day, and this is not a new problem which Parliament is debating. Whether you like it or not, there is a great social and political experiment in this part of Africa which is already under way, and if there were to be a fundamental change in the conception—and on the one hand amalgamation has been advocated, and on the other secession of one of the units—then any change of that magnitude would mean that a great deal had to be undone, with the widest implications and consequences for the peoples of all races in that part of Africa, and very probably, in my view, the end of the multi-racial hopes for that part of that continent.

In 1960 the whole Constitution comes under review, and the question which the noble Viscount and his colleagues have raised in their Motion to-day is what should the preparations for 1960 be, in particular in the light of the misgivings that have been raised in Africa, and what should Parliament do. I take it there will be no difference of opinion that what we want to do is to re-create confidence between the races and confidence that partnership can be demonstrated to be real. On the broad objective, too, between now and 1960 I believe we can probably concur. That is that we should try to facilitate, here in this country and there in Africa, an understanding of the meaning and the purpose of federation, and secondly, in the words of the Prime Minister in another place, that we should try to creat a "common mind", the greatest area of common consent, on the next stage of constitutional advance for these territories. I have been in all these: territories, and in the Federation, several times in the last few years; and from my contacts there and my experience here I can say without doubt that there is very little understanding, and there has never been that cool and balanced appraisal of the purposes of the Federation which is essential if policies are to be firmly based. But what do I conclude? That there has been plenty of emotion, plenty of prejudice, plenty of propaganda and not enough knowledge. That is one of the reasons, indeed, why I believe that between now and 1960 we must have some commission and preparatory machinery.

I am going to give the noble Viscount, if I may, three illustrations, because they were brought to my mind by his speech, of the need for this education and knowledge; and in particular I am going to draw the illustrations from the context of African fears; I remember that they were mentioned by the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York when he was last speaking in this Chamber on this subject: he said there was no doubt that the fears were there, and he asked whether some way could be found of removing them. The three illustrations I wish to give to the noble Viscount are these. He talked of the African's land, the fear of the Africans that by some means the Federal Government or the Southern Rhodesian Government would, as the result of federation, grab their land. Your Lordships know, I believe, that to an African his land is everything. It is impossible under the Constitution that the Federal Government could grab the Africans' land, and nobody would ever suggest it now or in any future review. Perhaps it is no use Sir Roy Welensky saying that, or the noble Viscount or indeed me, because we are thought to have rigid positions in this matter; but an impartial and objective body could say so and might very well carry conviction and remove that fear.

Let me take another example. There is the fear of the African that the powers, when they are shed by the United Kingdom in respect of the two Northern Territories, would be assumed by Salisbury (and therefore the word "domination" is in common currency in Nyasaland), and that the units would be dominated by the centre. We hear that fear time and again. But that is not the conception. The conception is that as power is transferred from the United Kingdom in respect of the two Northern Territories it will be transferred not to the Federal Government but to the Governments of the two Northern Territories, which will progressively become more and more representative of Africans until they have African majorities.

The third illustration I would give arises from the fear that British protection would be prematurely withdrawn. Sir Roy Welensky has made it clear beyond doubt—and he has repeated it in the last few weeks—that protection by the United Kingdom Government for the two Territories of the North will continue as long as the people want it and as long as the United Kingdom consider it to be necessary. On this aspect of the constitutional structure in the Federation some very clear thinking and analysis has to be done, because I think it can be shown that in this question of the powers which are to be exercised, and this question of British protection, the fears of the African have no basis.

I will put it in this way. There are two types of independence so far as the Federal Government is concerned. There is independence for the Federal Government within the sphere of those subjects which are allocated to it by the Constitution. That is one thing. And the Federal Government practically enjoys that independence already. The only other substantial power that might be given to the Federal Government would be to be represented, in its own right, in foreign capitals, for what that is worth. That is one type of independence, the independence within those subjects allocated by the Constitution.

Then there is another type of independence, the one of which the noble Viscount has spoken and which the Africans have in their minds—namely, independence for the whole Federation. Independence for the Federation within its own sphere of government may be much nearer. Independence for the whole Federation within the Commonwealth, is obviously further off, because that immediately brings into play as the noble Viscount will have noticed, the terms of the preamble and the consent of the peoples concerned. So it is clear to me, and I think it will be clear to your Lordships, that both here and in Africa there are the most widespread misconceptions, and that the process of public education is essential to enable people to have confidence in the action of Governments when the time for the review comes in 1960.

If only these three fears could be removed by an impartial Commission, the whole relationship between Africans and Europeans might be changed, and the whole Federal scene might be altered. So I conclude that we should send a Commission. When the noble Viscount says to me that the Devlin Report has shown that there are universal fears of federation in Nyasaland, and particularly on these subjects which I have mentioned, then I conclude that it is all the more necessary to send a Commission which is comprehensive and, so far as we can make it, objective.


My Lords, I am not quite sure what the noble Earl is saying. As regards that fear being removed, the real position is that, after six years of federal experiment, no progress at all has been made in the political advancement of the Nyasaland population—none at all. They have no confidence and no faith at all. How long is it going to be before they are in a position to have a representative voice for themselves, of their own equal status and humanity, all-in on their part? They are getting nothing in that direction at all. If we could have some assurance on that point then we should be getting somewhere.


My Lords, the Colonial Secretary could have gone ahead with considerable constitutional advances had it not been for the most unlucky intervention of the riots and the troubles. Again in another place the other day he announced certain advances. But I have said without doubt (I do not think there is any difference between us) that our idea is that there should be the most substantial political advance. A good start has already taken place in Northern Rhodesia. I do not want to make this in any sense a Party speech—I am appealing for a bipartisan approach to these matters if we can get it. But I must point out that if records are to be compared there was not a single protected person in the two Northern Territories with even a vote when the noble Viscount and his friends were in command of the Government of this country. Now there are twelve Africans in the Federal Assembly; there are eight elected Africans out of twenty-two elected members in the Northern Rhodesian Assembly, and two Ministers there. Indeed, the same kind of political advance will be open to Nyasaland when things settle down.

I am not going to describe again to the House the form of the Commission to which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, referred when he asked some particular questions about African representation, to which I shall come. But I shall bring to the notice of the House two significant characteristics of it. The noble Viscount and his colleagues would like a Parliamentary Commission. Well, within this Commission the only Parliamentary element is the United Kingdom Parliamentary element, and so the authority and influence of the United Kingdom are recognised. We hope to get two or three people of independent, objective outlook from the United Kingdom, and two or three from the Commonwealth.

But it is said that there are too few Africans on the Commission, and that five out of twenty-six is too little. I really think that the right comparison, if comparisons are to be made, is between five Africans from the Federation and eight Europeans. It is a difficult balance to achieve, and difficult to get this absolutely fair and right in terms of life in the Federation at the present time. It is perfectly true that the Africans have the numbers. But let us remember, too, that the Europeans are responsible for the wealth of the country, and that at the present time all the development is in European hands and indeed the future prosperity of the country depends upon them. It also depends on the Africans and Europeans working together, because each is indispensable to the other.

I would say that, taking the country as a whole, it would be difficult to find a Commission which was more representative and more fair. I was indeed glad that the noble Viscount did not reject the Commission out of hand, because I hope that he will be willing to consider the replies that I make to his criticisms. Would a United Kingdom Commission, drawn only from the United Kingdom Parliament, be better, with no one from the Federation at all? The noble Viscount says that the Government are going to select the members Who else could do it? But should it be a United Kingdom Parliamentary delegation only?

I want to ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, what they would say to the people of the three territories when they come and say this, "These matters concern our daily lives and our existence, and we believe that Europeans and Africans, sitting round a table together, could help to dispel the fears and to create a common mind. We do not ask for Parliamentary representation; the United Kingdom Parliament has the supreme position, and therefore it is quite right that you should have a Parliamentary element. We do not want that; but we do want fair-minded, sensible people to help you to understand and to help the Commission to understand, round the table, the facts of life in Africa." How do you reject that plea? Could there be a more reasonable view? The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, will remember the Round Table Commission, the Simon Commission on India—


So do I!


And the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, with his acute, long, almost Irish memory, will certainly remember it, too. But I seem to remember also the strong plea of the Indians to be associated with it. That plea was rejected, and as a result a good deal of trouble was caused which might easily have been avoided.


My Lords, would the noble Earl forgive me for interrupting his most interesting and powerful speech? I was going to make an intervention solely for the purpose of making what I hope to be a moderate contribution. But in regard to the Indian Round Table Conference, what the noble Earl has forgotten is that the mistake made by Mr. Baldwin was to appoint an all-British Commission, and that the situation was saved by our introducing a Congress element.


But is that not what I am saying? I am saying that this Commission should not be entirely all-British, and that we should have both a European and an African element. I am not quite sure whether the noble Viscount had better not tear up his notes and make up another speech, otherwise I am afraid that he might find himself agreeing with me—and he has never done that before. Therefore, the Government have thought that, although a United Kingdom Parliamentary delegation is always a most useful thing, in this case it would be too narrow, and that we should go for something more ambitious, more creative and more constructive, to try to arrive at a common mind.

I am glad that we have heard no more to-day of Africans not being of the right type and not gaining the respect and confidence of their own people. I have myself met dozens of Africans in this part of Africa, and I find it very difficult to be patient, listening to that kind of argument, because many of them are fitted by every qualification of mind and judgment for public service of this kind. The noble Viscount certainly did not make this kind of suggestion, but it has been made before. Certainly we shall find Africans who can command, confidence——


I do hope that you may, by a little private persuasion of Sir Roy Welensky, do something for the African Minister now in the Federal Government who has to leave the European section of Salisbury because he cannot, by law, live with his wife and family there—a Minister of the Crown in the Federal Government.


That is a quite irrelevant interjection at this time. The idea of this Commission is that we should not invite to sit on it people who are committed. The Commission can hear all views of anybody in the Federation. The members should therefore be people who would take a balanced and objective point of view. I can give an assurance for Sir Roy Welensky and Sir Edgar Whitehead that they, too, have it in mind to appoint fair-minded people to this Commission who will make a real contribution to it. But the noble Viscount criticised this as pre-judging 1960. I do not think that, on reflection, he will think it is a very valid criticism. Governments are entitled to seek advice. Advice does not commit but it is often a useful and welcome guide.

Lastly, the terms of reference. They have been drafted, as the noble Viscount will see, so that the Commission can collect all the information it wants. He said something to the effect that, after Devlin what else was there to say, and what information to find? Well, my Lords, he may remember that a C.P.A. delegation went out to the Rhodesias not long ago and came to the conclusion that the case for federation on the economic side was overwhelming. The future of this part of Africa is going to lie in this, as Africans know. We are talking in terms of safeguarding the rights of Africans; in no time we shall be talking of safeguarding the rights of Europeans and Asians. Therefore there is a great field to be explored by a Commission of this kind. For instance, what kind of machinery should be set up to safeguard the rights of races and minorities in a truly multi-racial community? We have drafted the terms of reference so that all information will be available to the Commission—information collected by officials or any additional information they may need to get on the spot. We have put the terms of reference in the framework of the existing Constitution, and again I believe that, on reflection, that will be seen to be right; because if there are questions of a very fundamental kind, which in fact would alter the Federation out of recognition, they must surely be reserved for the 1960 Review.

Naturally in a problem so complex as this there must be different ideas as to how the approaches to 1960 can best be handled. That is what we are discussing today. There are two broad objectives: first, how to enable the people here and in Africa to understand all the issues at stake in the Federation and in Africa; secondly, to create, both in the United Kingdom and Africa, the widest area of common consent on the nature of the road ahead. The Devlin Report makes it more urgent that this should be judged by fair and impartial people.

I should like to tell the noble Viscount that I have no thought whatever, and neither have the Government, of political advantage. As for the design of the Commission, I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Rea, who was talking about the political poles and the political bias of different Parties, that the Commission has only three Conservatives out of twenty-six. That is the most it can have. We have designed it sincerely with the desire that this House and another place should get guidance before the 1960 Review on the best way to achieve what I believe is our main desire, a multi-racial society in Africa. I beg the noble Viscount and his friends not to be precipitate and not to turn down this idea out of hand. There is at stake here the future of race relations in a continent, and should we succeed in the experiment we are making of building a multi-racial nation, then we shall have set not only an example to the Continent of Africa but an example in racial harmony which will have the deepest significance for all mankind outside.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, when, a few weeks ago, I was preparing to address your Lordships for the first time on matters relating to the Central African Federation, I was given two very sound pieces of advice: first, that I should confine my maiden speech to a quarter of an hour, and secondly, that I should be non-controversial. This afternoon my noble Leader has made it quite easy for me to keep within the time limit by his masterly exposition of the Government's case. But it may not be so easy for me to remain non-controversial on this occasion. I hope, therefore, that you will bear with me for a very short time if I make some remarks on the proposed Commission, and if they are tinged with some flavour of federal outlook.

Having spent practically all my working life within the Federation and having seen these territories grow from countries administered by chartered administration to one self-governing Colony, and the others to progressive communities under the Colonial Office, I feel I have some authority to speak with knowledge of local conditions. I could have wished that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition, had left out of his speech any reference to the Devlin Commission. I personally had thought whether I should say something about it, but I felt that the Commission was appointed as an ad hoc body to deal with a certain state of affairs and we should not allow ourselves, in considering broader issues of the future of the Federation, to have the issue clouded by a local and, we hope, temporary issue. So I do not propose to say anything about it at all.

The ground of the Federal position has been covered very thoroughly in the Press and in both Houses of Parliament and by conversations with the Prime Minister of the Federation, who has had the opportunity of consultations and of addressing Members of both Houses. I am glad to find that it is common ground that the principle of federation is accepted by all Parties. That certainly is a great advance, and it would have been a very serious disappointment to me if, having spent all those years in the Federation and in those countries. I had found that what we had attempted to build up over the past thirty-five years was going to be thrown away or so materially altered as not to be of any use. To postpone the Commission would be the greatest possible mistake. It would create in those countries a feeling that their brethren in Great Britain were not sufficiently interested to tackle the immediate problems with which they are being faced and that we felt that with a General Election and other local issues before us we were prepared to put off consideration of Colonial matters.

Preparatory work to the larger Commission to be held over for 1960 or later must be done. It cannot be done in a hurry and we know full well that in the Federation there is a tremendous amount of work to be done, a tremendous amount of information to be gathered, to put before any body that meets after 1960 to consider the future of those countries. The constitution of this Commission has been announced. Its size, twenty-six in number, and its composition are such as to make it fully representative, and my only feeling is that it is perhaps unduly large. But then, I know that to cover every type of person who is entitled to express his views there must be a fairly large number. I hesitate to think what the roads to the hotels of the territories in Africa are going to be like when this Commission, with all its secretaries and other ancillary persons, finds itself travelling around throughout the three territories. It cannot be fewer than 50 or 60 bodies in all, and probably a good many more. However, that is a thing we have to put up with and provide for.

It must be the hope of everyone who has the welfare of the people in the Central African territories at heart that all Parties in Great Britain will cooperate in this Commission. I think it would be considered by people out there as an extremely bad gesture if any Party in Great Britain withheld their assistance from a Commission which, after all, is out to get the truth and to provide the material for the 1960 conference to do their work. So, I hope that the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition will be able to tell us later to-day that his Party, at least, will take part in this Commission. Furthermore, perhaps I am going to say something that will not be very popular in your Lordships' House, but I hope that the Chairman of this Commission will not be purely a lawyer or a politician, but that he will be a man of wide experience, administrative and human, who will be able to contribute something to the human problems that have to be considered and will not base his conclusions merely on legal or on political grounds.

The main difficulty I see, which has been mentioned by several of your Lordships, is the difficulty of getting responsible Africans to serve on this Commission. That is certainly a problem. But there are responsible Africans, and I have no doubt they will come forward when the time comes and offer themselves to assist in what is, after all, as much their problem as it is the Europeans'. I very strongly resent—and it is resented in every part of the Federation—the title of "stooges" that has been put upon those Africans who are ready to come forward and assist both in government and in other public affairs.



If that sort of language is going to be used when this Commission is set up, it will create the worst possible impression and probably do untold damage. It has been suggested that on the Commission there should be representative members of the African National Congress. The African National Congress is at present an illegal body. I do not suppose that any of your Lordships would suggest for a moment that the instigators of violence and lawlessness should, even if they are leaders of the African Congress, be allowed to serve on the Commission. By all means let them come forward as witnesses. There will be dozens of other witnesses, European, Indian and African. Let those men be brought forward. Who minds if Dr. Banda gives evidence? But to suggest that they should be put on the Commission seems to me to show great lack of realisation of the facts.

As I see it, the Commission's duty will be to record basic facts and to educate the ignorant public in the United Kingdom on the facts of the Central African Federation, and if it does that it will certainly accomplish a great deal. It must consider at the same time the progress which has been made in all three territories of Central Africa—and I put the items in what I consider to be the order of importance. First, economic: there is the increase in wages, both for African and European, and the amount of savings in banks, building societies and other forms of investment. Secondly, social: there is the fact that Africans are now accepted in the civil service and can get to any grade to which their qualifications entitle them. The standard of living of the African has increased since the war by nearly 100 per cent. Housing has now been taken up as one of the principal causes throughout all three territories, and particularly in Northern Rhodesia; and the colour bar is now being relaxed in many ways. For example, in both Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia there are now hotels where the African is received on exactly the same footing as the European.


Not Ministers. I wish they would treat the African Minister in the Federal Government on equality with the whites.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Viscount repeated what he said previously. The Minister concerned is housed in a Government house which is built in a special suburb of Salisbury which is provided for African Members of Parliament. I think at present you have done a great disservice in trying to point out that this was; in some way an insult to the Minister concerned. It is nothing of the sort. The African now has his own trade union, and in Northern Rhodesia the principle is soon going to be established that he will have a trade union which will be of mixed European and African composition.


My Lords, am I to understand that having a set of houses built in segregation for African Members of Parliament is a sort of lightening of the colour bar, or is that maintaining it?


My Lords, if the noble Viscount pursues that point I am afraid I shall waste a good deal of time. It is not a question of the colour bar. It is a question of finding under existing legislation a suburb of Salisbury where houses could be built for African Members of Parliament. That is where this Minister is accommodated.

Under educational facilities, we have the establishment of the university college, which is a completely multiracial institution. We have the secondary schools, which are now for Africans as well as Europeans and Indians; and I am sure that in due course they will be extended to Nyasaland. Finally, we have the political advancement which is shown by the membership of the various Legislatures. As my noble leader has pointed out, in Nyasaland there are proposals to increase the number of African representatives to the Legislative Council. I feel quite certain that once the state of emergency has ceased those matters will be carried out. I put the political advancement last. We do not want in the Federation or in its territories to create an electorate that merely votes for candidates designated as lions, or ostriches or even snakes. We want people who will know what and whom they are voting for. I would remind your Lordships that all that takes time; and once again say that since 1924, since these territories became more self-governing, tremendous advance has been made.

I once more plead, as I did in my speech on the previous occasion, that this Commission should take into consideration and record the extent to which the brains, the influence, the money, and the experience of the white population have contributed to the benefit of the Africans. What I plead for on behalf of my fellow Central Africans, white or black, is patience and understanding on the part of the Press and the politicians in this country. We do not resent criticism if it is fair; we welcome advice if it has knowledge behind it. My Lords, if the Commission that is to be appointed can proceed with those ideas in their mind, it will do nothing but good.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, this, as has been said, is a difficult debate to keep within the terms of the Motion. We are discussing this proposal to have an Advisory Commission. It is very difficult to discuss that proposal without talking of the terms of reference, of what that Commission should do, which envisage the future of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland; and it is very difficult to talk about the future and completely to ignore the past. But I will do my best to keep off the subject which is obviously going to be the occasion for a great "free-for-all" next Wednesday. When considering this problem, I think it should remain in the back of our minds that Africa has an unhappy history. The relation between the African and the white man has not been, in most parts, a happy one. I do not want to raise that matter now, but we must remember that as a context when we come to consider the problem. The harvest which was sown is now being reaped—and not always very happily. But, as I say, I do not want to dwell on that subject; I want to come straight to the big problem which we are discussing, and that is the question of this Commission and of Federation.

The whole crux of this problem is that there are two big factors. One, which has been emphasised by the noble Lord who has just spoken, is the economic one; and I must confess that I agree with the Government on this point. I think that the economic interests of that part of Africa are overwhelmingly in favour of federation. There is no question of the advantages to Nyasaland and to the other countries, or of the advantages to Southern Rhodesia from the wealth of the copper belt, purely from the economic view, in joining up and running this big area as one. But there are other factors which come in and which are, I would suggest, equally important. There is not only the economic, but the political and, one might say, the human factor. It is the question of money to provide schools, roads, doctors, sanitation, agricultural advice—all the things which a country of that kind need—as against the very real desire of the African to be treated as a human being; to have the rights and the privileges not of a second-class citizen, but of a first-class citizen. The ideal, of course, would be to combine both. Can we do that?

The real problem—and I think we ought to face it—is the attitude of mind of the settler in Southern Rhodesia. I do not want to make an attack, because I think we should remember that the settlers are energetic, hard-working white men who have gone to Africa and who have very often made a great success of a very difficult proposition. For that we should respect them. But, my Lords, their point of view in regard to the African is, in the consideration of this side of the House, absolutely deplorable. The point of view of the more reactionary settlers is that the African is hardly human. He ranks above the cattle, below the dogs. I am not exaggerating that.

Of course, there are many more enlightened settlers, and I think enlightenment is coming; but if you talk to the extreme, to the right-wing, the point of view which is emphasised in the rules and regulations and laws is, to my mind, devastating—the laws which will not allow the African to ride on a tram, or to go into a hotel, or to sit in a cinema, or to be anywhere in contact with the herrenvolk, the super race. I think that all that is absolutely deplorable. And that, my Lords, is the basis of the whole trouble. The African in Nyasaland—and it will take a lot to persuade him otherwise—believes that if once federation becomes a permanent, established fact, he will be under that white domination and his status will be for ever that of the South Rhodesian African native now. If you can persuade him otherwise, you will have taken a very big step forward.


My Lords, I take it that the noble Earl is willing to persuade him otherwise if he is himself convinced that the fears can be removed.


I am afraid I did not quite catch that.


The noble Earl does not seem to me to be trying to remove the African's fears. I think it is perfectly clear that the three big fears which I mentioned in my speech can be removed, because there is not any foundation for them; and I hope the noble Earl will help in removing them.


I am coming to that, if I may, later on, with what I hope is a constructive proposal; but I felt it right to set out what is the big stumbling block—and it is no good denying it, or trying to gloss over it. It exists in the African's mind, at any rate. But even where there are benevolent ideas and plans—and one must give credit for these—there is often a misunderstanding of the African mind. This is shown in the housing, which has been going forward now at a tremendous rate. Whereas the African naturally likes his little wooden, thatched house, separate from the others, where the air flows through it, he is now often housed in a compound, clustered together with his neighbours—much better built houses, but not what he wants. That is a small example; and you find lots of similar misunderstandings which undoubtedly could be cleared away but which have not yet been approached properly. I should have thought that the three big factors that influence African thought, and the three big desires of the African—I do not know anything of the West African, but I imagine it is the same throughout the continent—would be hunger for land, hunger for meat, and hunger for education. There is a tremendous desire to try to get education, which, up to now, has been bitterly frustrated. The chances of the African getting higher education, except in a few missions and so on, are practically at zero.

Now, as we say, that is the fear. What can be done to remove it? I do not want to make a critical, obstructionist speech. This is a terribly difficult problem. Anyone who has ever come into contact, as many noble Lords have, with the Africans knows how exasperating they can be. They have not yet advanced to that stage of democratic knowledge that we know in this country; it is no good thinking or pretending that they have. But it is a very different thing to stop their advancement and treat them as they often are treated. But what can be done?

I would seriously suggest this to Her Majesty's Government, because I think it is really very important. I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that if they want to find a solution of this problem, the great thing is to do nothing. The crux of the solution is delay, is not to have this 1960 Conference, at which decisions would have to be taken; and not only should it be put off until 1962 but if there is any way of doing it, by another Act of Parliament, perhaps, it should be delayed even longer. I will explain my reasons for saying this. In practice, as the noble Earl has pointed out, federation has been going on for some time. It has had its ups and downs, but it has been going and has had certain advantages. For instance, some £3 million has been granted to Nyasaland, which is of considerable benefit. If we can postpone any ultimate decision and let things run as they are, we shall not frighten the Africans in Nyasaland. They will agree to go on.

But there is a much more important advantage in delay. Recently the Southern Rhodesians have been making great advances. They have been trying to prevent the colour bar from being so extreme. They have been making important steps in housing and education, and some firms, particularly some English firms, have begun to give very good conditions to their workers. Of course, the opponents of federation say that when federation has been established, and particularly if a large measure of independence is coming to the Federation, that improvement may stop. But I think that they are wrong. I think that if there is no federation, that improvement will go on. If there is a demand for federation—and I think that the Southern Rhodesians want it badly—they must see in time that the only way to get it is by persuading the Africans in Nyasaland that it will not be a disaster for them. And only time can do that. I think it is inconceivable that we can force federation on the unwilling population of Nyasaland. We cannot do it, and if we try to do it I believe that the disturbances we have already had will be nothing to those that we shall have. Let the matter lie, and little by little the present trend will become an atmosphere wherein constructive proposals may be made. That is my plea to your Lordships. Do nothing and put off.

Perhaps it is a good thing to have this Commission of Inquiry, but it must be made up of people who command respect all round. And I would say, though this may sound a little cynical perhaps, that the Commission should be instructed to take a long time in their deliberations. The longer they can take and the longer they postpone taking any drastic decision, the more hope we have of working out a constructive plan. Above all, let the Commission have very wide terms of reference. Let them discuss the whole problem of federation and even the question of federation with Tanganyika. If we can act in that way, I believe that, however black the picture may look, ultimately we may bring some sort of constructive peace to this large and important part of the world.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, I am not going to follow the noble Lords, Lord Huntingdon and Lord Robins, either in extolling the virtues of the Europeans in the Federation or in pinpointing their failings. A vast number of facts and figures can be adduced in evidence on either side, and reading the OFFICIAL REPORTS of another place over the years, I never cease to be astonished at the different and strange conclusions that are sometimes drawn from these facts and figures. Surely that is properly what this Commission was designed to do: to inquire into and report upon the facts so that everybody will get an objective and factual picture of the situation.

Like other noble Lords, I am going to stray from the narrow path and go beyond the immediate consideration of the Commission, because it was evident that the whole field was covered in the debate in another place and one or two points emerged which may be commented upon without breaking the rules of procedure in your Lordships' House. As your Lordships know, for the three years during which I have been in your Lordships' House I have never failed to take any opportunity of appealing for a non-partisan approach to this problem of Central Africa. Therefore, your Lordships will neither expect, nor get, a partisan speech from me. I cannot help remembering that more than eighteen months ago, when I made such an appeal, the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, who followed me, said that he was shocked that the two main political Parties in this country should be regarded by the people in Central Africa as supporting the Africans and the Europeans respectively—the Labour Party supporting the Africans and the Conservative Party the Europeans. Unfortunately, this is now a fairly well known feature of the situation.

The noble Lord added that his Party would gladly co-operate in this matter, provided (and there are always provisos), that it was along democratic lines. I noticed last week that when the noble Earl the Leader of the House made a statement, which the Prime Minister had made in another place, about the appointment of this Commission, the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition said that they were very willing to do all they could to make things go well in Central Africa, provided (again the proviso) that essential principles were observed—or words to that effect. In listening to members of the other Party over the years, not only in Parliament but outside, it has been my impression that what they mean when they refer to these "essential principles" and "democratic lines" is universal adult franchise—or, bluntly stated, as Mr. Gaitskell himself did, one man one vote. I think that this summing up was made perfectly clear in the speech of the right honourable gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in another place last week. But, then, the Opposition always qualify it. They say, "Not now"—but they do not say when. Nor does the Conservative Party say when.

I am bringing this point up because I do not think that we can shirk this difference. So long as we shirk it, there are going to be reasons for people in Central Africa accusing us of playing at Party politics. I do not believe that there is so much difference between us on this point. I want to deal with it in two phases. First of all, I think that we have to consider other countries and not confine ourselves to considering one small part of the world. I am not arguing that universal adult franchise has caused unfortunate events in various parts of the world, but I would put it to your Lordships as a question: has it guaranteed Parliamentary democracy or individual liberty and justice to all in Russia, in Germany, in Italy, in Spain, in South America or, to come closer to parts of (he world with which we have had dealings and for which we have had responsibility, the Sudan? That is not now a member of the Commonwealth, but it reverted to a military form of Government. So did Pakistan. I am not sure how Parliamentary democracy is working in Ceylon; I believe it is at a rather difficult stage. And I think we have 1o admit that the Parliamentary form of government existing in Ghana is not what would be tolerated here in Westminster. There are reasons for it, and I do not criticise; that is not the reason for my speech. But we have to face the facts. I merely say that one man, one vote, does not guarantee Parliamentary government or representative government, which is surely what we are aiming at in Central Africa.

I come now to the second part of this argument. It really comes down to the time factor. As Mr. Gaitskell said, one man, one vote, must be the ultimate objective. I think the Conservative Party agree with that; I do not think they have ever denied it. But it is a question of when. My impression is that some of the members of the Party opposite are thinking in terms of five years; and most of them are probably thinking in terms of not longer than ten years. Sir Roy Welensky said: "Not in my lifetime." Well, his political lifetime may be as much as thirty years, but more likely twenty years. Is there no ground between the Parties for coming out into the open on this subject and making it quite clear, without saying, "You shall have universal adult franchise in ten, fifteen or twenty years", that that is the objective?—because it can be calculated fairly accurately, based on the figures of education and the number of technicians and civil servants required to run the country. You can work out reasonably well how long it will take to get to the stage when Africans can be governing in the majority; and, looking ahead, I do not suppose that there are many people who would deny that that will occur in due course.

I think I should in this context quote from Sir John Moffat, because he is greatly respected by the Party opposite and was quoted with evident approval by their Leader in another place last week. This is a speech which I have referred to before, made on July 1, 1958, on" Co-operation between peoples of the Federation". It is full of interesting matter, and I hope that noble Lords interested will read the whole speech. He says: Once established, a democratic government is faced with this cardinal difficulty of democracies, and that is of granting democratic powers to undemocratic elements in its society which will be perfectly willing to use those democratic rights to acquire power, and when they have acquired it will use that power to destroy the democracy. That has happened times without number. He goes on, in referring to the situation in Central Africa and to the time, which he says is ascertainable, even on the present basis of franchise—that is interesting—to say: Now, it is possible that when that situation has been reached, the African majority may be ardent and devoted democrats. It is possible, Mr. Speaker, but I do not believe it. It is possible, but the only evidence which I have available to me on which to base any judgment at present confirms my doubts in this matter. Until our African people cease to demonstrate that they are wholly subject to the extremist elements within their own society, any swing of power would be in effect a transfer of power to these extremist elements. As I have already indicated, that would mean the immediate death of democracy. I am sure that the Party opposite do not want to see that happen in the Federation. Therefore I think we have somehow to get together on this question of the universal adult franchise and see whether we cannot agree, because until we do I do not see how we are going to approach the subject in a manner which will be really helpful to the Federation and which will gain the confidence of all its peoples.


My Lords, I should like to study in more detail the speech by Sir John Moffat to which the noble Lord has referred. But it stands on record that many years before, as quoted by my right honourable friend in another place, in 1952, we showed that they were likely to make a great mistake in forcing through in Central Africa, with only a European majority, something which would decide how racial questions in the future might have to be settled. There is the difficulty.


If I were to pursue that thought it would take me back to the Moffat resolutions and Northern Rhodesia, and one would go talking on the whole subject, which again can well be reviewed by this Commission, if it goes out. That is what I wanted to say on that part, because I think it is tremendously important, and I believe there is the possibility of the two Parties being able to agree on this matter. I would simply appeal to the Party opposite to consider that in the terms in which I have put it. Of course, it does affect the question of representative Africans which is brought up time and time again. Who is a representative African? One gets the impression from the Labour Party that the only really representative ones are the members of the African National Congress. But I think they would do well to bear in mind what I have quoted from Sir John Moffat. That is all I want to say on that matter.

I now turn to the Commission and to its constitution. Certain criticisms have been made of the half whose 13 members are coming from outside the Federation; but it has been made evident by our noble Leader and by the Prime Minister in another place that their minds are still fairly open on this subject. In regard to Commonwealth representatives, I must say that I should very much like to see them extended from 2 to 4. I think you need the Canadian and the Australian who can look back on the difficulties of federation, how they were overcome, and perhaps how trivial they seem in retro- spect. On the other hand, it will be useful to have a West Indian and a Malayan, not only because they would represent black and Asian respectively but because they are at present coping with the difficulties of a new Federation, and I think they may have something to contribute. I think it would make for better balance to have all four of them.

When it comes to the Parliamentary members, I rather wonder whether 6 is enough, because 3 have been promised to the Opposition, and I am wondering how your Lordships' House is going to come out of this arrangement. I think there ought to be one from each side. The other place is not going to accept fewer than 3 on each side, I think. So it seems there might be a case for 8 instead of 6. These are details that might well be considered. When it comes to the other half, you have this difficulty of appointing the Africans. I am certain that my noble Leader was right in saying that the proportion is 5 out of 13 from the Federation and not 5 out of 26; and in view of the present situation there, it is difficult to see how you can appoint more. Everything will depend on the people who are appointed.

I had some sympathy with the speech of the Leader of the Liberal Party in another place, when he put forward many of these difficulties and even suggested that it might be better, if they could not be overcome to everybody's satisfaction, not to have a Commission at all; and I think that that is the feeling of some of the noble Lords of the Labour Party. Nevertheless, I rather agree that something must be done so that we can get a balanced, objective and factual Report, which will put an end to the mud-slinging which, unfortunately, has been going on not only between our own Parties here but between the two countries. Therefore, I would support the sending of a Commission, with possibly some modifications.

I would say that I do not think a Parliamentary Commission—which was originally proposed in all good faith and sincerity, I realise, by the Party opposite—would in fact serve its purpose. I do not agree that it would have the maximum confidence of the people in the Federation, simply because we have quarrelled too much about it—let us face it—and both our Parties are branded with being prejudiced in favour of one side or the other. You can get agreement in a Parliamentary delegation which goes out on a goodwill tour and is not expected to investigate deeply. It produces a report of impressions. I have been on one, and it is difficult to agree, even then; but we managed to produce a report, as did the delegation to Central Africa. But a Parliamentary Commission going out and looking into these essential facts, and then drawing conclusions and producing a report, would never get an agreed report. It would merely produce two quite different reports, I am sure. Therefore, I think it is better to bury our Parliamentary Commission, so to speak, in the middle of a larger Commission. I think that that is the best thing, and I hope the Labour Party will come round to that conclusion.

To finish, I will go back again to Sir John Moffat. This is something which might come within the purview of the Commission when it goes out. I will read it, because I think it administers a necessary corrective to our own thinking in this matter. It is at the end of his speech, and Sir John is putting forward views for the future. He said: I believe that a democratically-elected Parliament must be free to govern without interference in its function of governing, but that under the existing situation which confronts us here it is necessary that its capacity to use that power for purposes other than governing, in other words for racial purposes, should be strictly curtailed. He goes on to suggest a special body, and I will read this because I think it makes quite good reading, if your Lordships will forgive me. He suggests a sort of constitutional court, and he goes on: This body I have in mind would carry out on a wider field the functions of the African Affairs Board and would get its powers from the present reserve powers of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. I am not contemplating a Senate; we know how a Senate can be packed for political purposes; nor am I considering a titleless House of Lords with powers only to delay; I am not considering any association of venerable old gentlemen armed with nothing more lethal than artificial dentures. I am considering a body with genuine teeth and a capacity to use them. Later, he goes on: The reason is that the House of Commons measures up to none of the essential requirements of the type of arbiter I have in mind. It lacks knowledge, it lacks experience, it lacks countless other things; but its main disadvantage, to my mind, is that if we are to progress towards nationhood here we have got to start by realising as early as possible that we inside this Federation, by mutual discussion, concession and agreement, must work out our own destiny.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I am bound to say that I regret that the terms of reference of the proposed Commission are that it should be an advisory body and not a purely fact-finding body which would be charged not only with the duty of discovering and presenting the existing state of affairs in these territories, but also of including, hearing and presenting the present-day opinion expressed by anyone in these territories who chose to come forward and give his opinions and views to the Commission, but stopping short at that and not proceeding to advise the five Governments on whom the ultimate responsibility rests.

The existing estate of affairs or atmosphere in Central Africa is, I understand, one of a somewhat uneasy calm. I believe that it cannot be put higher than that. Now it is vitally important that the utmost calm should prevail throughout the time—and I imagine that it may be quite a long time—during which this Commission is going to be in Central Africa doing its work. I cannot help feeling that when it becomes known among Africans that this Commission is going to advise the five Governments, they are going to feel disquieted. The noble Earl the Leader of the House has said that advice does not commit. We in this House can readily appreciate that, and I believe that the British public can easily appreciate that. But I do not feel quite so certain that the average intelligent African in Central Africa can so readily appreciate that. I cannot help feeling that if the African of to-day has a fault—and I say this in all friendliness—it is that he is perhaps rather too ready to leap to conclusions which may or may not be correct. I cannot help feeling that when he discovers that a Commission is coming out not only to discover the facts but to advise upon what is to be the political future of his country, he may get rather excited and start vehemently to present his opinions to the Commission; and equally vehemently, perhaps, he may be tempted to decry the opinions of others with which he does not happen to agree.

If any excitement of this kind is aroused, I should like to see this Commission able to proclaim from the housetops, "We are not here to decide your future; nothing that we decide is going to seal your fate. We are here merely to discover the state of affairs and to hear what opinions; you have out here as to what should be your political future." I feel not only that it is the duty of the five Governments to decide this question when the time arises at the 1960 Review, but that it should also be made manifestly plain that the five Governments, and nobody else, are, in fact, deciding it. I think it would be the greatest pity if anyone could come forward and suggest that the Governments were undecided, uncertain or ignorant, and were leaning upon the advice that had been given to them by a non-Parliamentary Commission.

I hope I am wrong in this view that the Africans may become unduly excited about the Commission being advisory. But even if I am wrong about that, undoubtedly the advice presented by the Commission, when it is published, will arouse a number of hopes or fears among a great many people in these territories; and I can see a most unhappy and uneasy interregnum between the time the Commission's Report is published and the holding of the 1960 Review; a period of mounting excitement and impatience, everybody wondering whether his particular hope or fear is going to be realised. And here again I cannot help but feel that a great strain is going to be placed upon this rather uneasy calm which prevails in these territories.

Suppose that at the 1960 Review the Governments decide, for one reason or another, that the Commission's advice is not acceptable and is not to be adopted. It seems to me that would present a somewhat embarrassing situation, although it may be a not unfamiliar one, in which it might be said, "You went to all this trouble; we had all this excitement; this Commission was appointed, and now you fly in the face of the advice of your appointed representatives". That, of course, holds good only provided that the Government represented at the 1960 Review is the same Government as appoints the Commission. But we have to face that that may not be the case; and one has then the further rather unhappy prospect, possibly, of a Colonial Secretary from the United Kingdom attending the Review feeling bound to pay some attention to the advice of a Commission about which he may or may not have been happy when it was appointed, a Commission with whose members he may not be in agreement, members whom he might well not have appointed, or recommended to be appointed, if he had been in office at the time of the appointment of the Commission.

Supposing the Commission does not have an advisory function, does not its composition become all the easier? Because, whereas I do not suggest that fact-finding is by any means always easy, nevertheless it is very much easier than propounding the solution to the problem when the facts have been established. I do not think any judge would dissent from that view. It seems to me that, so long as the Commission was to be a purely fact-finding body, it would not be difficult to find persons to serve upon it who would command everybody's respect; fair-minded, competent and impartial persons who could well be relied upon to discover the facts and present them to the five Governments. But directly you import an element that the Commission is to be advisory you are liable to get a tremendous amount of discussion and anxiety about the personalities who are to form the membership of the Commission.

I agree, if I may say so, with the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Robins, both of whom said they thought this Commission looked like being a great deal too large. I think this was possibly the only point on which those two noble Lords were in agreement. They thought it looked too large—twenty-six members with their attendant staff. The Commission will, it appears, present quite a problem in logistics for whoever has to look after the members during their time in Central Africa; and it may well be that they will be a good deal less mobile than they would have liked.

To conclude on a happier note, I do most heartily welcome the proposal to appoint upon this Commission two members of Commonwealth countries, and in particular the hint made by the Prime Minister recently that the two representatives would in all probability be drawn from the newer Commonwealth countries. They happen to be the countries with the darker skins, and they happen to be the countries which have themselves recently faced—indeed, some of them are at this moment having to face—just the sort of problems that Central Africa will very shortly have to face. I feel sure that two such representatives will receive a very special welcome as members of the Commission upon their arrival in Central Africa, and I believe that their sympathetic understanding of this problem will be of very great value to their fellow members of the Commission.

6 57 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to Lord De la Warr, because he has allowed me to go in ahead of him. I do not intend to speak very long, but my speech has got longer and longer the more I have listened to the debate. It took me back thirty years, when all these things were discussed in almost the same terms in regard to the Indian Commission. It was said, "You must have wise men go out and advise on all the facts." One of the most brilliant members of the Commission is here to-day. But it was all beside (he mark; it was not facts you wanted; you had to get hold of human sympathies. I was quite inexperienced when I was pushed into the India Office. My Under-Secretary said, "First of all you must have men of experience, trustworthy men". I said, "What about the Indian element?". He said, "We shall have to find trustworthy co-operative Indians." I think if you look through the biographical book of the members of the Indian Conference you will find a list of some of the most brilliant Indians and servants of their country you could wish to meet. It gave me a circle of friendship at that time which was incredibly rich. But they were not the people who were competent to speak for the Indian mind, and that is exactly what is the matter with all the talk going on to-day.

You say, "We will have Africans". But you do not want just Africans; you want the confidence of Africans, and that you have not got. I will not mention the Devlin Report because this is intended to be a brief and constructive speech. The noble Earl made a very powerful survey of the whole subject, but the one part which was relevant was blank; he never told us how he was going to fill in the African part which is the vital part of the whole plan. What happened in the Indian case? The same thing. We had our Commission; it produced the Simon Report, the most complete survey of Indian affairs at that time and which was, as you could imagine, a mine of information. We had our Conference; we had the Indian princes—they were supposed to be on our side for all time. We had the Indian representatives; we had labour. I remember it all in the Royal Gallery, the brilliant scene addressed by His Majesty. But we did not get what was the vital element: that was, the confidence of the Indian people. The whole of that first Conference really was feeling about to find how we could get representatives of the Congress. We begged them to come. We begged Mr. Gandhi to send representatives. He would not come or send representatives. He sent observers. He sent Mr. Ramaswami Ayar, a lawyer from Madras; he sent the distinguished Indian poetess Sarojini Naidu; but they were not co-operating; they were there as observers. The co-operation was done by all the competent persons of standing that Sir Arthur Hertzl had assured me must go on the list. It was all no good. We had not captured the Indian mind.

I will tell your Lordships how the thing finished, if it is not boring your Lordships. We had our Conferences, we had our Committees and we had our discussions. Certainly we got a great deal of information on the basis of the Report prepared by Lord Attlee and Sir John Simon and the members of the Commission. But we did not get the representation of the Congress. That was the important point—we had not got them. What did we do? We had a wonderful ending. The cinemas were not doing much in those days, but I had arranged for a film to be taken of the finale. We had the Guards band to play in a room nearby, all set out in a brilliant scene—the last scene. But it was nothing, except for one thing which happened at the end of the Conference. In a little room downstairs, Room B. Lord Sankey, Mr. J. H. Thomas and I with three non-Congress Indians, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Mr. Sastri and Mr. Jayakar, who was a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, got together and composed a letter. The letter was not from me; it was not from any Britisher at all, but was a letter from them to someone in India.

After an hour or two the letter was written. It said: "We are confident that the British mean to play fair in this matter." The letter was sent by me as Secretary of State. It was sent not as an official letter, but it was sent with all speed to a gaol where Mr. Gandhi was and it had this effect. It was followed by the interview with Lord Irwin which roused such a fury in the heart of Mr. Churchill. But that was the beginning of the understanding. I am convinced that if you wish to come to terms with Africa you must tread the same road. Unless you have a representative of the African National Congress it is nothing at all.

I venture, therefore, to lay this thought before your Lordships. It is a very long road. Gandhi was invited and Gandhi came. What actually happened was that he was in Simla. Sir Cowasji Jehangir told me that the old man was there in Simla and was told, "You have got this invitation to go to London, to the Conference." That was the vital element in building up what is now our glorious Indian Republic. He was in Simla and he said, "I do not know." He was told that the train was on the plain, and they said, "You must go and you must get there quickly." Private people were not allowed to have a motorcar in Simla, and Gandhi had a moral human objection to riding in a rickshaw. So he flung his cloak over his shoulder and bolted down the hill, jumped into a third-class carriage and came to London. That was the beginning of the understanding with India. I plead with the Government to remember that. I shall not: discuss the Devlin Report now, but it shows one thing: that the confidence of the Africans is with their own Congress. Somehow or another you must bring in the African National Congress. There is no other way to secure the confidence of the African people themselves.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, has, as usual, made a most interesting speech. I am quite sure that he has said a number of things that we all feel that we shall have to consider very carefully. Obviously, the tremendous problem ahead of us is to gain the confidence of the Africans. The trouble is that at the moment it is extremely difficult to find Africans whom we can really consider to be spokesmen for the masses. What are the masses? What do they really feel? At the moment everything is going so quickly that only a few leaders have been produced. I think one can say that the finding of constructive leaders for the Africans is not going to be helped by a potential Prime Minister describing those who are prepared to co-operate in responsible posts in Government as "stooges" or "quislings".

Nor are we going to be helped by speeches such as that which the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, delivered. It was quite clear at the end of his speech that he was obviously favourable to federation and wished to help make it a success. But I just cannot understand the mentality of those who preface these speeches on Colonial and Commonwealth problems by phrases such as "The harvest that was sown by the white man is now being reaped." What did we find there 65 years ago? We found slavery, the essential link in that slavery being the selling of Africans to Africans. We found ritual murders, poverty, disease, soil deterioration and ignorance. The seed that we sowed was education, hospitals, well-cultivated fields, roads, bridges, factories and other developments. The harvest that we are reaping to-day is that of the education that we took to Africa. It is quite true that we have created our own troubles, but that was because we quite rightly took education there, and we have created a number of educated men who want to advance. That is the problem. It is a difficult and serious problem, but one I think that none of us regrets.

All that I really wished to do was to say a few words of welcome to this Commission. My first thought was that there have been quite enough Parliamentary and other Commissions in regard to East and Central Africa during the last few years. But I was particularly impressed, and converted to the idea, by the words of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, who stressed the desirability of building up greater knowledge on our part here of Rhodesian conditions, of the tremendous progress that has been made during the last two years. I do wish that all of us, on both sides of the House, would realise that sometimes the way to make greater progress is to express satisfaction at what has been done, rather than to pick on some of those problems that remain and keep harping on them. I think greater knowledge of what is happening in Rhodesia is important. That is why I welcome the presence of Rhodesians on the Commission. We need greater knowledge on their part of the feelings of people in this country as to our traditions and our treaty and other obligations. I am quite sure that ignorance is the root of a great deal of our problem at the present moment.

I think that Sir Roy Welensky should be congratulated on the courage he has shown in accepting this Commission. There is an all-too-popular idea here that there is only one sort of nationalism to-day—black nationalism. There is a white nationalism, too. There is a tremendous pride in the Rhodesias as to the social, material and political progress that has been made there during the last few years. They are a proud people, and they have every right to be proud of their achievements. That is another reason for welcoming the presence of Rhodesians on the Commission as a recognition of those achievements: a reason, too, for congratulating Sir Roy Welensky on accepting this Commission, in spite of certain obvious political difficulties with which he is faced there.

Finally, I should like to add my voice to that of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, in welcoming the presence of other members of the Commonwealth on this Commission. This is a really historical step that is being taken. Great work has been done in building up relationships between this country and other members of the Commonwealth. But it is of vital importance more and more throughout the Commonwealth that the Commonwealth countries should build up their relationships with one another and increase their understanding of each other's problems. I close by adding my appeal to the appeal of other noble Lords to the noble Lords opposite not to reject the idea of this Commission. There may be features of it which they do not like, but I think the Prime Minister in another place made it clear that there were details still open to discussion. But in these issues do let us do all we can to ensure that, somehow or other, we fight our way through to greater understanding, and, in that way, to solutions of the problems of this Federation which we are discussing to-day.

7.13 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want to go into the wider aspects of federation. I want to confine myself strictly to this device of a Commission being sent out. I have very little knowledge of the Rhodesias: I have been there only for a short time, and I have not been to Nyasaland. But I think one wants to be very clear what is wanted. The original conception was that Parliament should send out some people to get information. That was quite a good idea. But it has been changed: it is now a business of making recommendations. That is in anticipation of something that is going to happen later on. And as soon as that is done it raises all kinds of difficulties.

I also have recollections in regard to India. We were appointed, seven of us, representing the British Parliament, and we were sent out. We were boycotted by the Nationalists, the Congress Party. We endeavoured to overcome this opposition—because we realised that a mistake had been made—by trying to get people to co-operate with us. They were excellent people. The only trouble was they were not representative of the main political forces in the country. If they had set up an Indian Committee, first of all, and had sent us out to co-operate, it might have been all right. As it was, we made our Report, such as it was, but we were boycotted by the live people in India. And by "live people" I mean the Nationalist Movement.

I am rather disturbed at the setting up of a body of this kind. It is rather mixed. It is selected partly from here, partly from the Commonwealth; partly of white people from Central Africa and partly of Africans. It seems to me that the Government are combining in one body people who should be giving evidence and people who should be hearing evidence. The noble Earl said that one cannot have these people who talk about murder. In all our dealings in the British Commonwealth we have always had to deal with the Nationalists. In South Africa eventually we had to deal with Smuts. In India, it was Nehru and other people who had been put into prison. If you send out a Commission of any kind and you ignore the Nationalist leaders, you will fail. I do not know any of the National leaders personally. They may not be very wise or experienced, but in so far as they are the recognised leaders of nationalism you cannot ignore them. If you do you only strengthen their position.


Recognised by whom? I am sorry to interrupt, but recognised by whom as the leaders?


It is a question of recognising a faction. If you have someone who quite obviously has influence with the African himself, it is best to consult with him and not to ignore him and put him in quarantine. That is a short point to remember when dealing with a nationalist movement. If you do not deal with the leaders they have, you will get worse ones later.

You are in danger here of doing what I have heard so often, getting a nice moderate opinion. You have to deal with people who often have extreme opinions, and you have extremists on both sides in Central Africa with whom you have to deal. I cannot quite make it out. These are, somehow or other, going to be completely impartial people. You cannot get impartial people unless you get nonentities. You are going to get people from this House and the other place but you cannot get people who are impartial unless they are either nonentities or know nothing. You will get a clash of opinion and will probably get separate reports. But it seems to me that there is a great danger here of anticipating everything, and queering the pitch for what might come on in 1960 or 1962. I agree how dangerous it is to fix a date for these things. Whenever you fix a date in advance it means that the people working with things as they are are looking ahead for that date and not facing the present. I would not have a date but would watch how things progress. If you want to send out a fact-finding body well and good, but do not combine that with making recommendations. Because it is a fact-finding body, whatever they find is bound to be used for or against; and a subsequent Government will have to deal with things as they seem then, and not as they seem now.

So apart from being much too large, this will not be a useful device for dealing with what is the major problem we have to face in many parts of the Commonwealth—the putting in one area of people of different races and different stages of civilisation. It is the greatest difficulty we have and you cannot deal with it by some amiable formula. Every case is different and I do not believe this is the right way of going about it.

7.19 p.m.


My Lords, I am personally grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition for putting this Motion on the Paper and for the speeches that have followed from both sides of the House. They have fairly recognised that this is one of the most complex and challenging problems with which any Party or Government in this country could be faced. Parliament as a whole is faced with this problem, because although we might avoid, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said, a decision in 1960, we cannot avoid it in 1962. A statutory duty is laid upon us to have a review not later than then. Therefore, while we balance the arguments for delay which were raised by the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon—and I see his reasoning—on balance it seems better to face the difficulties now; and if they were faced fairly and objectively, then there would be a better chance of restoring the confidence of the communities of this part of Africa in each other.

The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, propounded the difficulties which are really inherent in any Commission, in that it may by its finding raise hopes or fears. At least let me at once set his mind at rest on one thing: this Commission will certainly not decide anything. I hope it will assemble the facts, analyse the facts, advise us on the facts and give us indications as to how we might wisely proceed; but certainly it will not decide anything and decision will be reserved for the Governments in 1960. He and the noble Earl said that this Commission was clumsy and too large. Of course it is larger than I should have liked to see it. But if we are to try to bring in people from the Federation, and to try to create what earlier I called a common mind—it is at least a respectable and honourable ambition, although noble Lords opposite may disagree with it—if we are to do that, then we have to bring in Europeans and Africans and we cannot have purely Federal representatives. The Opposition would have criticised us for that. We must have representatives from the units which compose the whole. Although it is large, I believe it is manageable.

My noble friends on this side of the House, Lord Hastings, Lord Robins and Lord De La Warr, gave us an account, which I think is certainly true, of the advances that have been made in the Federation and they made a plea that we should make these facts known and that the people should be given more knowledge. That is precisely the purpose that we have in mind. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, gave us some most colourful recollections of his memories of India on the approaches to independence. They were most interesting and I am sure the whole House thoroughly enjoyed them from one who saw them first hand. I should like to look at his speech and read it again, because I agree that we must, if we possibly can, get on to the Commission the type of African who will inspire confidence in the great majority of Africans. I think that that is important, and it is not only important in respect of the Commission which may precede the 1960 Review, but it is important that we should carry African opinion with us in the 1960 Review itself. Therefore, if he will allow me, I will look at the precedents he has quoted and consider the speech which he has made.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has great experience of these matters. He prefers a fact-finding Commission if there is to be a Commission at all. He is afraid that a Commission with so many independents from here or there will be composed of people who do not have a "mind", because they are uncommitted. I should not be quite so pessimistic as that and I believe we can find good men from both here and elsewhere.

My main reason for asking the leave of the House to speak again is that the Government, above all, want to carry the country and all reasonable people here and in Africa with us on the next stage of constitutional advance in Africa. Therefore I will give the closest consideration to the speeches that have been made from all sides of the House. And I end with the hope I expressed at the beginning, that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, will not close any doors and will enable us all, if at all possible, to go forward with what I believe is a constructive plan preparatory to 1960.

7.25 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to all the Members, in all parts of the House, who have taken part in the debate upon our Motion. Whilst, of course, it was we who put down the Motion, we know that to everybody in the House it is a fundamental subject that has been under discussion. It would not matter quite so much who put the Motion down, because there was tremendous interest from all parts of the House. I am grateful to the noble Earl the Leader of the House for the manner in which he has dealt with the debate. I entirely agree with what he said about the speech of my noble friend Lord Stansgate. I do not agree with all of it, but at least he made a reasonable case.

As to the last approach which he has just made, after listening to my noble friend Lord Attlee, I feel that there is something to be said. We want not only something done which will be really effective in bringing immediate improvement in specific relations between the States out there, and the peoples out there, but something which will be the basis of a permanent pacification and an advancement of the races there—we want something permanent. We do not see that that is going to happen unless you can make an early advance in the political status of the peoples in Northern Rhodesia, especially, and in Nyasaland. I gather from what the noble Earl has just said in his concluding sentences that he wants to get over to the people of those territories out there the belief that political advancement is a real part of the Government's programme. It was towards the end of the speech which the Secretary of State for the Colonies made in another place last week that he spoke of making some improvements in the African representation on the Legislative Council. It is frightfully late—I repeat, frightfully late—because he had told the delegation from Nyasaland, as I mentioned this afternoon, that the Governor after going back in the following August (that is, August, 1958) would say what was going to be done; and nothing has happened since.

I do beg the noble Earl, in thinking along the lines on which he finished his concluding speech to-night, to realise, first of all, that you must make it absolutely plain to the Africans that advancement of their status is an objective; and then you must do it upon a basis which does not enable it to be just cast off as only another one or two instances of nomination and selection. You have really to improve their political status. If this franchise is not universal, at any rate it should very largely increase the free electorate so as to get a representative opinion. In view of the general nature of the reply of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, I think the best thing we can do is to think again about the matter and I ask leave to withdraw the Motion to-night.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.