HL Deb 03 March 1959 vol 214 cc717-46

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House do now adjourn. To have a debate on the adjournment in this House is very rare, as we all know, but the circumstances that have arisen in Nyasaland have, in our view, made such a debate necessary, first, because of the grave situation which has arisen there, and secondly, because the noble Earl, Lord Perth, the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, is leaving for East Africa tomorrow and we thought it was most important that we should be able to express our views in his presence, and also hear from him the views that he would like to put before us.

Originally, the noble Earl intended after his visit to East Africa to visit Central Africa, and in the course of his visit there would, of necessity, have entered the territory of Nyasaland and would have met the various political and other leaders. Just lately, I think in the last week or so, Her Majesty's Government have called upon the noble Earl to change his plans in this respect; and although he is going to East Africa it is now proposed that he should not go to Central Africa, or at any rate not go to Nyasaland. We feel that this is an unfortunate decision, and the reasons for our view I propose shortly to explain to your Lordships.

Most territories in the Colonial Empire in the last decade and more have struggled to be free of the Colonial Office. Their great ambition has been to stand on their own feet and have nothing more to do with the Colonial Office. I say this with no feeling of disrespect for the Colonial Office. These territories felt that while they were within the scope, so to speak, of Colonial Office activities they were no longer standing on their own feet. But that is not the case with Nyasaland. Nyasaland is a country which has for long fervently desired to retain its links with the United Kingdom, to remain under the protection of Her Majesty and to have the benefit of the control and the assistance which can be given by the Colonial Office. They objected very strongly indeed to removal from the control of the Colonial Office and to being taken into the ambit of the Central African Federation or, as it is now known, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

For some years past it has been felt that an economic link between the three territories of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland would he of advantage because, to some extent, their economic life is bound up the one with the other. Nyasaland supplies a large amount of labour for the copper mines in Northern Rhodesia, the coal mines in Southern Rhodesia—in fact all the way down to the Rand, to Johannesburg, they supply labour. The other territories supply them with the various goods and services that they need. So there has long been a case for some sort of economic link between the three territories; there were strong reasons for it. But the Nyasalanders, although admitting there were some economic reasons, have never agreed to any sort of link with the other territories which would amount to a political federation. They have said that they ceded their country to the Queen and wish to remain under the protection of the Queen. The Queen to whom they first referred is, of course, Queen Victoria. They do not wish to have any close association, at any rate of a political nature, with the other two territories.

In 1953 we had a series of debates in your Lordships' House on this question of Nyasaland and the other two territories, culminating eventually in a Bill which became the Act of Parliament governing the situation. In the course of a very long and thorough debate on the question in April, 1953, many of us were much struck with the views, expressed in correspondence, of the Bishop of Nyasaland which were repeated in this House by the then Lord Bishop of Chichester. In the course of correspondence which was repeated here the Bishop of Nyasaland said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 181, col. 470]: 'It is a complete misapprehension to suppose that the opposition is confined to a politically-minded minority. As missionaries we are surprised at the knowledge of the issues involved in federation shown by ordinary Africans. Their opposition is not to details of the scheme, but to the whole principle, and it is for this reason that they refuse to discuss details.' Speaking for the Opposition, in winding up, I said on that occasion [col. 512]: In conclusion I beg the Government to pause while there is yet time, and not to blunder on with this plan irrespective of African wishes. And I say to the Government: Pause until you can take Africans with you. If you cannot do that, drop the plan.' It would involve no loss of prestige—indeed, the Government would gain prestige. To go the other way means disaster: disaster for the Africans and disaster for us. There can be no doubt but that we gave a pretty explicit warning to Her Majesty's Government in this House—and of course our colleagues in another place did the same thing there—of what would happen if the plan, which was eventually put into an Act of Parliament in the same year, was proceeded with. What has happened? Since this Federation Act went on the Statute Book, whereas before there were hardly any active politicians, at any rate grouped in any Congress or political Parties, political nationalism has since grown apace. In Southern Rhodesia, Congress is a very powerful organisation. The Southern Rhodesia Government have banned it and 200 or so of the leaders of the Congress have been detained. In Northern Rhodesia there are two Congresses, and they, also, are giving anxiety, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said in his report today.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, as it is important for the record? I referred to only one of the two Congresses—that of Zambia. I gave no indication that the other Congress was giving any anxiety.


My Lords, I accept that clarification; but one of the Congresses is causing anxiety there. And in Nyasaland, as the noble Earl told the House to-day in reply to my Question, the leading members of Congress, including Doctor Banda, have been detained and removed out of the Protectorate to Southern Rhodesia where they will be held so long as the Government of Nyasaland consider it necessary. Therefore it really cannot be said that this Act has had anything but the unfortunate results that we predicted for it. I am very sorry that our predictions have come true, for I must confess that I do not feel any pleasure in pointing out that we did warn Her Majesty's Government.

I do not point this out as wishing to say, in any sense, "I told you so". The only reason why I draw attention to what happened in 1953 is to discount the suggestion now made in the Press and elsewhere that this feeling about federation is the work of a few agitators; that the Africans in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia do not have this feeling at all, and that it is simply and solely the work of a few agitators. I believe that it is quite clear from the debate in 1953 that the bulk of the population—and of course one can never get everyone to feel the same about anything—were against federation with Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia.

For all these reasons we felt it was most important for the Minister of State to go to Nyasaland, as he intended, and we would beg him to do so at the earliest moment that he possibly can, because we feel that in the peculiar circumstances of Nyasaland the visit of the Queen's Minister will have an enormous and, I feel sure, salutary effect. I reiterate that this is not the ordinary kind of trouble where we get a Colony or Protectorate trying to get away from the Colonial Office. Here they want to remain within the scope of the Colonial Office, and in those circumstances it is essential for the Minister to go there because they will all feel: "The Minister has arrived. He is interested in our welfare and Parliament is interested, too, and we can go to the Minister and put our troubles and problems to him."

This afternoon I asked another Question as to the pledge that was given. Your Lordships will remember that a very important pledge was introduced into the federation Acts. There was an absolute and precise promise that Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia should continue under the protection of Her Majesty to enjoy separate government so long as their respective peoples so desired. That is a very important pledge. So far as the Africans are concerned it is an essential pledge, and I was very pleased that in his reply to my supplementary question on that matter the noble Earl, Lord Perth, as I understood him, although he did not actually say "Yes"—but Ministers very rarely say "Yes" to any question—reiterated that that promise still held good. He said that all our pledges hold good. I do not mind so much about the "all", but does this one hold good? I feel that we should have to-night from the noble Earl, the Minister, a categorical assurance that that promise, which is so important, still holds good; and we should be very pleased if he could give that assurance.

There are one or two further matters to which I should like briefly to refer. We are all distressed to see in agency messages to-night that there has been shooting in Nyasaland and that seventeen Africans have been killed. I understand that the Tanganyika police, who are the direct responsibility of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, opened fire. It is always distressing when our fellow citizens, whoever they may be, are killed, and we should like to know whether the Minister of State has any further details on this occurrence.

The second point that I should like to put to him concerns the deportation of Dr. Banda. He is, after all, the leading member of the Congress, and apparently he and all other leading members of the Congress—an unspecified number—have been arrested, detained and removed from Nyasaland to, of all places, Southern Rhodesia. Why on earth anybody should ever consider in these circumstances, and in the kind of feeling there must be in Nyasaland at this moment, removing leaders of the African Congress to Southern Rhodesia I cannot imagine. I should have thought that it was about the worst possible place to which they could be sent, even if it was necessary. I do not know, and we cannot know, what was the necessity for their removal. We have no evidence, one way or the other.

But assuming for my purposes for the moment that it was necessary to take these people away, it was, I believe, a blunder of the worst order to take them to Southern Rhodesia, first of all because of the feeling that there is in Nyasaland with respect to Southern Rhodesia; and, secondly, because it has never before, so far as I am aware, happened that when there have been deportations of this kind the people concerned have been taken away from the responsibility and control of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. You can go back as far as you like. In the Boer War the military leaders were taken to St. Helena; in the last war the Burmese Prime Minister was taken to Kenya; the Jewish terrorists also were taken to Kenya; recently Archbishop Makarios was sent to the Seychelles. In no single case, so far as I am aware, have deportations of this kind ever been to a country not under the control of the Secretary of State and for which he has no responsibility—and, indeed, the British Government have no responsibility, for that matter. We should like an explanation of this, as it appears to us, extraordinary act.

In conclusion, we to-night obviously cannot propose any long-term conclusion, but we urge the Government to do everything in their power to restore the confidence of the Nyasaland people in Her Majesty's Government and in the express and implicit pledge for the future of the African peoples which they made when federation was imposed. We are quite sure that there can be no real solution to the problems of Nyasaland, or to those of Northern Rhodesia, which has not the whole-hearted support of the African people in those territories.

Moved, That the House do now adjourn.—[Lord Ogmore]

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, I rise for a moment to support the views which have been expressed by the noble Lord who spoke for the Opposition. I feel extremely worried about the situation in Nyasaland, because at the present time we are giving the impression, whether intentionally or not (of this I am quite certain), that we are not—to quote the words of the noble Lord, that Parliament is not—interested at the moment in the welfare of the people of Nyasaland. That seemed to be the key sentence of his speech.

When debates were going on in another place about federation I felt that the economic arguments in favour were totally convincing. I was never convinced of the political arguments. I thought, and still think, that some kind of confederation which would give all the territories the economic benefits of close association, but in fact would amount to political separation, is probably the ultimate solution to this problem. All I am absolutely certain of is that Nyasaland will never accept, in the long run, government from Salisbury and if Her Majesty's Government proceed in that course then I think we are in for another mistake which is quite unnecessary. I begin to ask myself: Shall we never learn our lesson?

As the noble Lord pointed out, Nyasaland wants to continue under our protection. It is not everybody who wants to do that, but Nyasaland does. That is why I cannot help feeling that, although there have been various decisions, the most unfortunate decision of all is that the Minister of State is not to visit Nyasaland at this critical moment, when leaders of the Nyasaland Africans have been deported to, of all places. Southern Rhodesia, which I agree is absolutely crazy. It gives the impression of a total abnegation of responsibility on the part of Her Majesty's Government.

I wish to make a very strong appeal that Her Majesty's Government should reconsider their decision and accept their responsibility, and that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, should go without delay to Nyasaland and see for himself the situation, and so give the impression that we in Parliament in this country are deeply interested in the future welfare of Nyasaland. Because at the moment one has a vague feeling that we are shirking our responsibilities—and we have direct responsibilities to the Africans of Nyasaland, which is, after all, a Protectorate of this country. I will repeat one thing, if I may, before I sit down—because there is not much to be said about this subject: that if any member of Her Majesty's Government thinks we can get out of this situation by shuffling off and turning over Nyasaland to Sir Roy Welensky, he had better think again.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think it is possible to debate the whole question of the wisdom of the Federation in a brief debate on the Adjournment, but I think it would be a pity if we did not try to see, even in this short debate, what is really the immediate issue, as I understand it, before us and before the Government this evening. I am not going into the question of whether the interest of Nyasaland, the undoubted enormous economic interest of Nyasaland, justified puting Nyasaland into the Federation. There were arguments both ways.

When it is said, rather conveniently, by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, "Well, of course, we all thought that there ought to be some economic link," I would point out that that is not the question. By "some economic link" one means some trading arrangement rather like the Free Trade Area in Europe. It is said that Nyasaland sends labour into these places and ought to have some services in return. But it is not a question of a mutual trade arrangement. The advantage which Nyasaland gets out of the Federation is that she receives an enormous revenue for her social services out of the two main territories in the Federation, Northern and Southern Rhodesia. Of course, those revenues could not possibly be forthcoming for the benefit of Nyasaland unless Nyasaland was a part of the Federation. That, I think, puts the matter on a fairer basis, and I think that the noble Lord would agree. I do not say that that means we ought never to reconsider whether it is wise to have Nyasaland in the Federation. Again, I think we should be very unwise to argue that in a brief debate to-night.

The Government of this country are the trustees for these people, and it is our duty to discharge that trust to the best of our ability and in their best interests. There can be no question of any pledges which have been given and which are enshrined in the Orders in Council under the Federation Act, being abrogated. That, I am sure, is common ground to all Parties, and I do not believe that that would be sought. I should like to say this in justice: I do not think it would be sought by any except a very small minority of people in any of the territories concerned. But surely what we are concerned with to-night is the fact that there is in Nyasaland a very serious situation.

It is not Sir Roy Welensky, or the Government of the Federation, as I understand it (I shall be corrected if I am wrong), but the Governor of Nyasaland, who is the Colonial Office official there, entirely responsible to the Colonial Office, who has taken, on his own responsibility, the decision that he must declare a special emergency in Nyasaland. That is his decision. It is not a decision, as I understand it, of the Federal Government at all. In so far as troops are necessary, Federal troops or Federal police are sent into Nyasaland. So far as I understand it, they would be sent in at the request of the Colonial Office Governor in Nyasaland in support of the civil power, just as if reinforcements were sent into some parts of this country in support of the civil power, it would be at the request of the local authority responsible, no doubt with the approval of the Home Secretary.

Now, that being entirely his responsibility, and there being a very serious situation, which we all very greatly regret—there has apparently been a good deal of bloodshed—I do not think for one moment that we should blame the Governor for declaring an emergency, Very often it is wise to declare an emergency in good time. Very often it prevents bloodshed; and some of the most humane and successful administrators of the past were those who took action before the situation got out of hand. As I understand it, it is the Governor who has proscribed and arrested these persons. Dr. Banda and others, and certainly I would trust the man on the spot. The Governor would be sympathetic to the Nyasaland point of view, and he would not have arrested those people and sent them out of the country if he had not believed that they were responsible for inciting to disorder and bloodshed. The tragedy of situations like this, when they arise, my Lords, is surely this. Whilst it is easy to agitate, and easy to make speeches, unfortunately it so often happens that the people who suffer, who riot and are shot down, and who are then suppressed, are not the people who made the speeches. Those people, very often, either get removed into safety or, equally often, when things get hot, make for safety.

I hope that nothing will be said in this House to-night to suggest that, when a grave situation of that kind arises, it is not the duty of the Governor on the spot, and the Government, to discharge the first of the functions and duties of Government; that is the maintenance of law and order. In any case, I feel that somebody should raise a voice and say that if, in a difficult situation, the Governor thinks that such steps are necessary, then the Governor ought to be supported. If at any moment it is thought by the Governor—who, I am sure, will take the fullest consultation with the Colonial Secretary—that it is wise for the Minister of State to visit this country, I have not the least doubt he will say so; and have not the least doubt that in that event the Minister of State will go there. My Lords, I have said as much as I have, having regard to the views which have been expressed, because I think it is right that we should try to-night to see things in a little fairer proportion and avoid corning to final judgments.

7.14 p.m.


My Lords, I want to make a few brief comments about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the speech of the noble Lord behind me, Lord Boothby. This adjournment debate is no time to talk at length on this subject. There may possibly be a more general debate later on in this Session or the next—I rather hope so myself; there is so much to discuss in connection with the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. But I want to put my finger on one or two facts, because I cannot agree with all the remarks that have been made.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said quite definitely that Nyasaland wants to remain under the Colonial Office. Well, that was true at the time of the Federal Constitution in 1953. They would have preferred, generally speaking, I think, to remain under the Colonial Office at that time. But it is no longer true, and let us not be mistaken about that—and especially since Dr. Hastings Banda went to Nyasaland. What they are asking for is self-government and independence—not under the Colonial Office at all. Even two years ago, when I was there and was having lunch with some of the African members of the Legislative Council—they are all members of the National Congress—they made it quite clear to me that they want to be another Ghana. There is no question of their wanting at this stage of their development to remain under the Colonial Office, and I think that that idea should be corrected now.

The second thing is in regard to the other Congresses mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. He referred to the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress as being very strong. It is nothing of the sort: it is extremely weak. Up to last year it did not exist. Years ago there was a branch at Bulawayo, and another at Salisbury, but they collapsed for lack of support and lack of the ability to criticise the Government of Mr. Garfield Todd; and they died a natural death.


May I ask the noble Lord—and I am grateful to him for sitting down—why, if it is so weak, has the Government banned it, and why has it arrested and detained 200 of its leaders? It does not seem to be a very weak organisation.


I am just coming to that point. It was revived last year, based on the Bulawayo branch, and Mr. Nyandoro became President. It has made considerable progress in the last few months, largely as a result of liaison with Dr. Banda in Nyasaland; and the Southern Rhodesian Government, far from being "panic-struck" (which is an epithet which has been attached to them in, I think, another place), has taken the very wise precaution of not underestimating the damage that 200 fanatical organisers can perpetrate in an otherwise peaceful economy. It has happened elsewhere, and they simply are not prepared to take the risk. Southern Rhodesians are not in the least the sort of people who would get panic-stricken. I can think of few peoples who have a more complete faith in their future destiny, a more complete lack of fear of the way in which they will achieve it, and a more complete certainty as to the way in which they are achieving their destiny, whether it be political, economic, or anything else. They are not a people who get into a panic at all: they know exactly what they are doing. Sir Edgar Whitehead, who took the decision to arrest these people, is, in the opinion of Mr. Garfield Todd himself (who needs no introduction to your Lordships), a liberal person, and there is no question of his having taken an action from panic motives or reactionary motives.

Coming now to Northern Rhodesia, I would point out that there are two Congresses there: there is the original one under Harry Nkumbula, and the one which split off from that, the Zambia one, under Kenneth Kaunde. He was previously Nkumbula's secretary, but they quarrelled. Far from speaking in favour of the strength of the Congresses in Northern Rhodesia, it on the other hand points to their essential weakness. Following upon that, I would merely mention the opinion of Sir John Moffat—who, after all, was responsible for the Moffat resolutions when he was in the Legislative Council of Northern Rhodesia, and who subsequently became chairman of the African Affairs Board. He has now resigned from that and has formed the new African Party with Mr. Garfield Todd. Sir John Moffat was one of the outstanding Liberals in the country and was also one of those most closely in touch with the African Federation. It is his opinion that 90 per cent. of the Africans—and I am not at all sure one could not say 99 per cent. but I have not got the exact quotation with me; the debate has taken place at short notice—are perfectly willing to co-operate with the Europeans, so long as they are treated well and can be sure of a gradual and steady advance politically as well as economically; it is only the small minority of the nationalists and political fanatics who are stirring up these people to demand more than they would be perfectly satisfied with. That is the opinion of Sir John Moffat.


Is not Sir John Moffat also saying that in fact they are perfectly content with that state of affairs so long as Northern Rhodesia is under the Colonial Office?


I am afraid I cannot reply to that specific point immediately, but it was in a debate on racial relations within the Federation as a whole about a year ago, or rather less, that he made that statement, and I think it is worth recalling to your Lordships.

I rather take up arms, so to speak, with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, because I do not think it is at all true to say that the Nyasas think Parliament is not interested in Nyasaland. I do not see where he gets that point of view. After all, Nyasaland has always been promised a review of its Constitution by 1959. I do not know where the idea came from that it was going to occur before that; it was not my impression when I was there two years ago.


Perhaps I may interrupt to explain that what I was trying to say was that the implication which might be drawn from the decision that the Minister of State should not go there was that Parliament was losing interest in Nyasaland. I do not say that it has happened; I do not want it to happen.


I appreciate that explanation, but at the same time the Nyasas knew perfectly well that discussions have been going on now for many months between the Colonial Government and all races and all Parties in Nyasaland as to the sort of Constitution that might be worked out; and the visit of the Minister was, in fact, to finalise those discussions and try to come to some final conclusion. Therefore, I do not think there is any excuse for their saying that Parliament was not taking an interest in Nyasaland. There may be good reason why my noble friend the Minister should not be deflected from going, and why these discussions should continue, now that law and order apparently has been restored—or I trust is about to be restored. But I am sure that there is no impression in Nyasaland that there is a lack of interest at this end.

Again, I do not know why the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, spoke in those terms of Southern Rhodesia—and the same note rather crept into the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. I think the first thing to get clear is that Nyasaland has no right to blame Southern Rhodesia for what has happened in Nyasaland since federation; and it is just as well to be clear also that Southern Rhodesia did not, in fact, want Nyasaland originally to come into the Federation—Lord Malvern has said that publicly. It is probably in the records of the discussions that went on before federation, but he certainly has stated that publicly since in the Federal Assembly in Salisbury. So do not, in the first place, blame Southern Rhodesia for dragging Nyasaland in; and please do not blame Southern. Rhodesia for everything that goes wrong in Nyasaland, because what has happened in Southern Rhodesia has had little influence on developments in Nyasaland: it has been used as a scapegoat by the rabid nationalists in Nyasaland only to enable them to make these speeches and to frighten people about what will happen to them if the wicked Southern Rhodesians ever get control.

Pledges have been given frequently by Her Majesty's Government, and I cannot think there can be any doubt that the territorial Governments are going to remain territorial and are not going to be handed over to an independent Dominion until a majority of the inhabitants wish it. I think those pledges were given, and they have been given again to-day, and I do not see any reason why they should be doubted. I wanted to make these few remarks only to try to get one or two facts quite accurate, and also to decry any attempt to put the blame anywhere where it is not deserved. We have to deal with the problem in Nyasaland as we find it, and not look outside to Southern Rhodesia, or in any way blame Sir Roy Welensky—and again the noble Lord behind me, I regret to say, with regard to Sir Roy Welensky, spoke as if he were a sort of man-eating ogre.


No, no!


That was my impression, at any rate. I hope that no attempt will be made to fasten that sort of label on either him or the Southern Rhodesians. I would merely say that I am sure the right action has been taken to avoid bloodshed before the situation gets out of hand. We have not acted in other places soon enough, and we have seen the results. I think it is wise both of the Southern Rhodesians and of the Colonial Government in Nyasaland to put a foot down firmly before it is too late. I do not despair unduly of the situation, so long as Her Majesty's Government handle it firmly and fairly and produce a new Constitution for Nyasaland, on reasonably liberal lines, in the near future.

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will forgive me if I do not follow him in his line of thought this evening. I rise particularly to ask a number of questions of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the events of the past few days in Nyasaland. But before doing that, I should like to refer to the speech that has been made by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. He made a plea that no speech this evening should create greater difficulty in Nyasaland. I am sure we shall all agree with that view, and I do not think the noble Earl would in any way be critical of the action of my noble friend Lord Ogmore in moving the Adjournment of the House this evening.

The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has, I believe, a particular interest in the events now taking place in Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. It fell to the noble Earl, when he was Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, on April 1, 1953, to wind-up a debate on a Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Noel-Buxton. In his speech then I think he made a definite pledge on behalf of the Government. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 181, col. 487]: To-day in Central Africa we have the opportunity that comes, if we are lucky, once in a lifetime. We should be faithless to our trust if we did not seize that opportunity. We should stand condemned in history, condemned in our own consciences and condemned in no long time by those for whom we hold the trust. We will not play them false. Let us go forward resolutely and confidently, discharge our trust and establish the partnership, the harmony. My Lords, have we established trust? Have we established harmony? The events of the last few days show clearly that the high hopes of the noble Earl and the Government have failed.

The question I wish to ask the Government this evening is whether the situation in Nyasaland on Sunday and Monday was such that it was necessary to declare a state of emergency. It is true that the Government of Southern Rhodesia had felt it necessary to declare such a state of emergency in their own territory, but I believe it was on Monday that the Governor of Nyasaland was reported at a Press conference to have stated that in his opinion the circumstances did not warrant a state of emergency.

I do not propose discussing the question of Mr. Stonehouse this evening, but it is relevant in that, in the view of the Government of Rhodesia, Mr. Stonehouse was potentially a troublemaker, and that his visit to Nyasaland might create grave threats to life and property. On March 2 Sir Robert Armitage, the Governor of Nyasaland, said that he would be prepared to give all facilities to Mr. Stone-house. He said that the Rhodesian Federal Government's declaration that Mr. Stonehouse was a prohibited immigrant had nothing to do with him, and he had not been consulted. The Governor was then asked whether, if Mr. Stone-house arrived in Nyasaland the next day, he would hand him over to the authorities. "Well, wait and see," he replied. He said that he had received a copy of Mr. Stonehouse's itinerary. and had written him offering him his assistance. That was on March 2. So far as Southern Rhodesia was concerned, Mr. Stonehouse was a troublemaker; yet here we find practically an invitation by the Governor of Nyasaland to Mr. Stonehouse: "Come to Nyasaland, and I will give you all possible facilities." If a state of emergency was being considered in Nyasaland on that day, it seems extremely strange to me that the Governor should have made such a statement.

The question I must ask Her Majesty's Government is this: What changed the Governor's attitude towards an emergency? Was it through pressure from Southern Rhodesia? Was it pressure direct? If it was, did the Governor consult Her Majesty's Government, and did Her Majesty's Government give approval? Or did the Governor receive instructions from the Colonial Office? If he did, was it through pressure or because an appeal was made by the Government in Southern Rhodesia? These are very important questions. The whole situation changed in only a matter of hours and I think we are entitled to know why on Sunday the Governor did not believe that a state of emergency was necessary, and then, within twenty-four hours, felt it necessary to declare an emergency.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord, do I follow from his argument that he is trying to tie up the state of emergency with the visit of Mr. Stonehouse? I do not see that the two things are necessarily connected. From the point of view of the Governor, in his particular situation, there was no reason why, because there was to be a state of emergency in Nyasaland, Mr. Stonehouse should not be admitted.


I am sorry that the noble Lord did not follow me. I was trying to show that, in the view of the Governor of Nyasaland on Monday—that is, yesterday—he was prepared to accept the so-called troublemaker. If he was prepared to do that, the situation could not have been so serious that a state of emergency was necessary. That is why I have brought in Mr. Stonehouse. I do not want to discuss his problem, but I want to use it as evidence about the situation prevailing in Nyasaland on Sunday and Monday, and ask why the situation has changed.

I wish to support my noble friend Lord Ogmore in his remarks on the case of Dr. Banda and his colleagues. I cannot understand the mentality of some people who have agreed to deporting these African representatives to Southern Rhodesia. Was it done after consultation with Her Majesty's Government? Did they approve?


It must have been.


My noble friend says, "It must have been". But I do not know. I therefore ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the fact that Dr. Banda and his colleagues are British-protected subjects, that they be removed from the custody of Southern Rhodesia and brought back under British protection. I should think that in the interests of peace in Nyasaland the quicker that is done the better. I will close by making an appeal to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, to try to show to the African people that, if they do not wish to remain in the Central African Federation. Her Majesty's Government will remove them and bring them back under the protection of the Colonial Office.

7.38 p.m.


My Lords, at this stage and at this short notice it is obviously out of the question to discuss the whole subject of the Federation. We spent many Parliamentary hours on that matter five or six years ago. We are discussing the ominous shadow of violence beginning in the Protectorate of Nyasaland, and the first thing I should like to ask the Government is this. In the statement which was made this afternoon it is said that there were such clear indications of the intention of Congress to stir up further disturbances involving widespread violence and murder of Europeans, Asians and moderate African leaders, that the Governor was compelled this morning to declare a state of emergency. My noble friend Lord Shepherd has pointed out some of the strange features of this decision which was come to this morning. I should like to ask the Government what evidence there was that the Congress were planning widespread violence and murder of Europeans, Asians and moderate African leaders. Did any clear evidence of that reach the authorities, or is it merely surmise on the part of the Government—merely corroborative detail intended to supply artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald statement? When statements like that are made by the Government, we must assume that there is substance behind them, and we should like confirmation that there is actual evidence that those were the intentions of the Congress leaders.

So far as actual violence is concerned, I suggest that we should keep a sense of proportion. There were riots. There was at the little lakeshore town of Karonga an attempt to release prisoners, interference with the little airstrip there, and further north on the border at Fort Hill there were fairly large-scale rioting crowds that prevented the use of the aerodrome; and there were further riots in other parts. But riots have often occurred in colonial territories before now and they have not all led to the declaration of a state of emergency. That suggests that the situation has been bedevilled all along by the deep distrust felt by all the Africans of Nyasaland of anything coming from Salisbury. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, that rule from Salisbury by Southern Rhodesians will never be accepted willingly by the majority of the people of Nyasaland.

With regard to this question of who is responsible for riots, we are almost invariably told that riots or popular feeling are the work of outside influences, agitators, extremists and so on, who lead the poor gullible people. I think some of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, rather contradicted that idea. He said that the people of Nyasaland knew all about the constitutional talks that had been going on between the Governor in Zomba and the Colonial Office. If the people of Nyasaland are as politically alive and acutely conscious as that, I cannot see that they are going to be led away against their will and better judgment by outside agitators. This is an old story that is always brought in to explain popular agitation; that it is the people who are led away by agitators. There is even a suggestion now that the agitators get their inspiration from somewhere right outside the Federation.

I do not think it is necessary to go to those lengths to explain the deep feeling that exists and I know existed three or four years ago when federation was imminent. The most moderate Africans felt profoundly distrustful of their future if they were to be under the rule of the Southern Rhodesians. Nyasaland had for a long time been in racial matters almost a model Colony. There were inter-racial associations; things went on there that could never happen in Southern Rhodesia. There were football and hockey matches between white and black teams. There were black civil servants well above the ordinary clerical grade. There were men in responsible positions in the Post Office and on the railways. There was, in fact, a rice growers co-operative (which I visited) on a very large scale in the Karonga neighbourhood, which was staffed entirely by Africans, with a few Asians. Nyasaland was well advanced and race relations were extremely good. What they saw and what they knew of the Rhodesian attitude to race relations was the cause of this bitter opposition that they felt to the idea of federation. As for economic advantages, it is surely well enough known by now that the spirit of nationalism takes no account of economic advantages. We may think it foolish, but if people think they are not going to be treated as equal citizens with white people they will starve and they will not regard comfort and economic prosperity as a substitute.

So we come back to the responsibility Her Majesty's Government bear for this situation. I believe the long delay in giving Nyasaland constitutional advance has been one of the factors in keeping the underlying hostility to federation alive. Nyasaland has lagged a long way behind Northern Rhodesia in its political structure. That is all the more reason why we believe that the visit of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, far from being cancelled owing to these events, should most certainly have been carried through, and we still believe that that is the best thing that Her Majesty's Government could do to ease the situation and to do what we all in the short run want, which is to prevent further violence.

7.45 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want to wait and take an unfair advantage after the Government have made a statement, and I said this afternoon, in suggesting talking on the adjournment, that I would say a few words myself. I am most grateful to my noble friend, Lord Ogmore, for the manner in which he opened this discussion this evening, and I think the whole debate has been conducted upon quite reasonable and logical lines, in view of the state of emergency. I do not think the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, would wish to take exception to what I have said in that respect. Nevertheless I want to say this: that when I had the advantage, through the courtesy of the noble Earl, of seeing and reading the statement a few minutes before it was made in your Lordships' House, I was at once seized of the seriousness of the situation. I could not help but wonder, as my noble friends have been wondering to-night, exactly how this sudden state of emergency had been declared. The first five or six sentences of the statement indicated how much the position really had been taken in hand. Then all of a sudden, immediately after that, comes this statement that a state of emergency had been declared and that leading members of the Congress, including Dr. Banda, had been detained and removed out of the Protectorate to Southern Rhodesia.

I do not want to speak at any length, but first of all I would say that I am very glad that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, intervened in the debate. He knows a great deal about the constitutional issues involved. I did not take part in the debates myself, but when the Opposition were taking their proper part in Parliamentary debate on the 1953 Act, the noble Earl repeatedly had to deal with points which he felt needed a reply by way of assurance, and over and over again pledges were given. I am not in any way casting any reflection on the noble Earl.


I said I was sure we all stood by those pledges.


I just want to call them to the minds of the existing Ministers, because they are vastly important. In column 552 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for July 13, 1953 [Vol. 183], the noble Earl said: We are all pledged to maintain the Protectorate status of Nyasaland and of such parts of the Rhodesias as are under protection; and we are also committed to seeing that these Governments remain responsible for the political advancement of these territories. That is common ground between us. The only question—and we need not get hot under the collar about it—is, what is the best way of doing it. If I may take another extract, the noble Earl said (columns 554 and 555) Believe me, there is no doubt, here or in Africa, among those who have read and who understand this scheme, what the intentions of Her Majesty's Government are, what are the powers under federation, what are the limitations under federation. There is not the faintest question of the Federal Government or the Federal Assembly impinging upon the Protectorate status or attempting to deal with any question of amalgamation. I think that the noble Earl would agree that I have picked out the right pledges that had to be given at that time, and were given.


Yes; and, if I may say so, they were always accepted throughout the negotiations with Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland during the conferences. These were not pledges which were extracted from the Government during the debate; they were a vital and an integral part of the whole Federation structure.


I agree. I am much obliged. On this point the noble Earl and myself seem to be in complete agreement. What I ant anxious about is how it is that the position in Nyasaland has so severely changed the minds of the people there. I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, because Whenever he addresses the House he speaks with knowledge and a widespread experience, which is not only mental but geographical—he travels and he knows the places. But I am bound to say that the impression left upon our Bench when he had finished speaking and giving us the benefit of his experiences, was to prove to us that the change had taken place since 1953, and may well have been due to the fear that had developed in the minds of the people, which was the one thing that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, was anxious to avoid happening by giving the pledges that he gave willingly on behalf of the whole Government at that time. All that the speech of the noble Lord amounted to was that it is only since 1953 that things have gone wrong.


My Lords, I think that the noble Viscount is right in saying that fears have increased. I only pleaded with the House not to blame Southern Rhodesia for the increase of those fears. The mere fact of fearing future federation would be sufficient to increase these fears if they were not damped right at the start. But there have also been outside influences which have become markedly on the increase in the last year, stemming from Dr. Hastings Banda's arrival, the Accra Conference and the general unrest in Africa as a whole. All those things have conspired to make any agitation in Nyasaland that much more effective and more easy for the agitators.


Well, I point to the fact that these things did not appear before the 1953 legislation was passed, and that a good many other things have occurred in the Rhodesias and Nyasaland since then.

If one just follows the reports of the different Parties, their statements and speeches from Southern Rhodesia, as well as from Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, one knows how the divisions have arisen. And behind the fears of Nyasaland lie this thought: that if in 1960 (which is the year which I think the noble Earl ought to have mentioned, rather than 1959) they are pushed into a position in which they lose the real protection they have enjoyed throughout the years since their chiefs sought British protection, then they will be far worse off than they are now. Of course, I admit that in this moving world, scientifically and mentally, it is certain that there will be populations who will keep on struggling for independence. I am quite sure of that. I am not leaving out that factor at all; nor that there may be agitations and conferences, meetings and things of that kind used to promote that feeling. But when one listens to the people who have been there, not so much from the Government point of view, but from a social and even from an educational point of view, and to their summarising of the views of the people in Nyasaland, then one is left convinced of the fact that the fear I speak of is there—the fear that they will lose the one great advantage of British protection and British help towards preparing them for and, finally, granting them their own political freedom, as they have seen happening in other places.

The noble Lord said something about other cases that have gone before: that when troubles have arisen we have been too late in acting. It seemed to me, in the circumstances in which he was speaking, that he meant that we did not take military action early enough. Nobody wants to prevent, or to speak against, the proper steps being taken to have civil order in the State, because if you are without protection such as enforced civil law for the general population, then you are in a much more difficult and dangerous situation in that community. But let us, as members of a British Parliament, admit in our minds that in practically every case which must have been in the mind of the noble Lord in the past we have had to shake hands even with murder, before, finally, coming to the situation of granting constitutional freedom and development such as we might have done long before without all the troubles arising.

It seems to me, therefore, that when my noble friend Lord Ogmore opened this debate to-night he had in mind what we all feel so much on this side of the House—and I am sure the feeling must be shared, as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, indicated, by many on the other side of the House. What we need, of course, is to get law and order restored out there in the quickest way we can, and certainly to regain the confidence of the majority of the Africans that the pledges made by the British Government will be carried out, so that they can look forward to developments, with sound, reasonable Constitutions, each one of those Constitutions for a different country that still has to be dealt with in the African area, which will enable them to expand and evolve into something really worthwhile. They must have a hope and a faith which will carry them on.

That is why, at the present time, with these doubts in the minds of the people of Nyasaland, we think it is a pity that' the Minister of State is not there. I feel sure that it will be said that we are advised that in the present state of lack of law and order it is not the right thing to go on. Well, that may be so—I do not know. I must hear what the Government have to say about it. But I feel sure that my noble friend Lord Ogmore was right in saying that if the noble Earl the Minister of State were now sent out to the spot he could do a great deal of good, especially if he carried with him the right message from the British Government to bring confidence back to the people there.

On the other matter which I raised in my Private Notice Question to-day, on which I do not want to expound at any length this evening, I would say only that that Question comes as the result of Mr. Stonehouse, the Member of Parliament for the Wednesbury Division in this country, being. I understand, forcibly deported from Northern Rhodesia. I am not going to argue the merits or demerits of anything in which Mr. Stonehouse may have been engaged out there: so far as I know, he was on what is generally described as a fact-finding mission. But I am bound to say that, however this has been done, and whatever the circumstances, it is not the best augury for the future development of the Commonwealth, which we all love so much. When racial troubles arise here, we in this country at least have common sense when people of extreme views immediately advocate that we should deport. If a Member of the British House of Commons can be deported, apparently without evidence and without a trial of any description, one is bound to ask what is to be the future demand in this or any other of the Commonwealth countries in regard to the action that shall be taken when the head of some particular Government happens to disagree with us.

I believe that that is a very serious state of affairs, and that is why I suggested this afternoon that it is certainly not calculated to expand the belief and confidence of the African people in the British method of Parliamentary government and practice; and I earnestly hope that something can be done by Her Majesty's Government to find out the facts, now that it has gone so far. I know Mr. Stonehouse. He is a Co-operator and a member of my Co-operative Party. He is not an ignoramus. He is quite an educated person. He may have been wrong or he may have been right in something that he has done; but, this step having been taken, I believe that we ought to know what are the facts.

In conclusion I would say this: if we can help at any time to promote or aid whatever Government is in power to restore confidence to the African people we shall be only too glad to do so. We ought always to remember, in all our different stages of discussion and thought, that they are entitled just like anybody else to every condition set out in the Declaration of Human Rights; and we ought to make sure that in all we are doing, saying and negotiating we stand on that principle.

8.3 p.m.


My Lords, I believe we all welcome the debate, although it has come at very short notice. I certainly do so because it will give me an opportunity to remove one or two misconceptions or clear up one or two points which certainly at this moment do not appear at all clear. I have been wondering how best I could help the House in this debate. Perhaps I might first go back a little in history and show that what has culminated in the state of emergency is no sudden happening but is rather the end—an unhappy end—of a long and premeditated campaign.

Over the last months, if not longer, there have been constant cases of members of the Congress Party deliberately flouting authority. They have been doing that up and down Nyasaland to such a degree that a number of the simple African people have begun to wonder who, in fact, is in authority in Nyasaland—whether it is the Congress or the Government. Those members of Congress have been flouting authority, not just over such flatters as paying taxes, which might be serious enough, but in other ways, such as refusing to follow the regulations in regard to soil erosion or other matters which are clearly for their benefit. They have said that they will not do so because the leaders and advisers of the Congress have told them not to bother; that soon Congress will be in charge and that they need worry no more. That has happened despite the fact that many of these arrangements have been obviously for their own benefit. A great number of chiefs and Africans in different parts of Nyasaland were very worried about this state of affairs. They may or may not have had sympathy for certain of the things for which Congress stood, but it was quite clear that they were not behind this flouting of authority and the disorders which were going on up and down the country. It was becom- ing very important that they should see that while the Governor ruled he was the ruler.

Having given that as a general background, I will come quickly to what has happened over the last three weeks. I am afraid that I have not had time to get the detailed story. Now the hour is late and much of it will be in your Lordships' minds because we have seen a great deal reported in the Press; so let me go to February 20. On that day there were fairly serious riots in one or two places, particularly in the Northern Province where crowds were trying to rescue prisoners from a gaol. It was on that day that the aerodrome at Fort Hill was occupied by crowds and put out of use. On that day the Governor decided that he wanted help from outside, and he asked for police and troops from Northern Rhodesia. Also on that day the Chief Secretary, Mr. Footman, saw Dr. Banda and said to him: "You know that we are proposing to have constitutional talks very shortly and that Lord Perth is coming out for that purpose. Clearly, if these disturbances go on, constitutional talks cannot be held in an atmosphere of that kind, so will you please restrain your followers and leave the situation such that the talks can continue?"

For a day or two things were a little quieter and there was some hope that perhaps all was going to be well; but then the troubles started again very seriously. They began with bad incidents on February 22 and others on February 24. Here I must say to the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, that I have a sense of proportion about these incidents. They were very serious. They were often the cause of loss of life and many injuries as well. I have here details of a case which took place at Chigmaru where a crowd wanted to rescue two prisoners. They refused to disperse. Four shots were fired and one person was killed and two others wounded. Things of that kind had been going on in greater or lesser degree in many parts, and the situation was very serious.


My Lords, the noble Earl has said that there was often loss of life, but I do not recollect that that appeared in the Press. Can he say what the casualties amounted to during that week?


My Lords, I, cannot give the exact figures of the casualties during that week, but if I am wrong and there was not a great number of people killed there were at any rate some killed and a good many injured. The situation was one in which law and order was in jeopardy. At that moment it was becoming very clear that we were losing control. After all, I think one must realise that when the Fort Hill aerodrome was out of action it was out of action because we could not get there and put it right again, and that was a state of affairs which lasted for about a week. Again, about the 27th or 28th the Governor felt he must have further help, and he asked for the Royal Rhodesian Regiment from Southern Rhodesia and also for some contingents from the British South African police, and these were all forthcoming. I think we owe a particular, debt of gratitude to Southern Rhodesia for their readiness to help the Governor and provide these forces for the restoration of law and order at such a time. People somehow seem to think Southern Rhodesians have run all this affair. I assure your Lordships that they have not. It is the Governor who is responsible.

We reached a stage at that moment when it was quite clear that things were continuing very, very tense. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, quoted something out of a paper about how the Governor said on Sunday that things were all right; there was no need to have any emergency regulations. All I can say is, "Do not believe all you read in the papers." We took the trouble to ask the Governor by cable what in fact he did say in that respect, and I think it might be useful if I quote his reply. He said: I can tell you at once"— and these are his opening remarks to the Press— that we intend to re-create conditions of law and order so that the life of the country can go on as usual in peaceful circumstances. We also intend to arrest those people who have committed offences and created disorders. Exactly what we are going to do I naturally cannot reveal to you, and I would not expect you to press me on this. I refused to answer"— he goes on— any other questions on future actions, and was not really pressed to do so. That is the Governor's own report of his conversations of Sunday. So I think we should all agree that very often in such circumstances the Press should not be believed. I would only ask the noble Lord and others who have seen that to compare what was said in one or two papers with the report in the Manchester Guardian, which is often very factual on such matters.

The situation was extremely serious, and while I am not going—I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, would not expect me to go—into detail about the intimations we had of real threats and violence that lay ahead, I am sure he will accept that the Governor, weighing all of this up, came to a conclusion, and he came to it not after Sunday but after a long period of time, with the full knowledge and approval of the Government, whom he consulted. But in the last analysis, even then, we always leave it to the man on the spot to take the decision. I should not like it to be thought that we did not do so in this case. I would merely say that we knew about it and we had complete confidence that in doing it when he did he was absolutely right.

A question which has arisen again and again to-night and which I should like to clear up is why many of these detainees have been sent to Southern Rhodesia. First let me say that that was the Governor's decision. I am quite clear why he took that decision. He took that decision because in his own territory the situation was so grave and we had already seen two or three cases of what happened when there were prisoners in Nyasaland. There were riots and loss of life, and clearly at a moment like this to have the prisoners in Nyasaland might well lead to further disturbance; and so they were sent to Southern Rhodesia. I think it is very important to make clear that although they are sent to Southern Rhodesia, the Governor, who is responsible for law and order in his territory in Nyasaland, will also decide when these prisoners, these detainees, should be released or what should happen to them. They are not—I repeat, not—taken away from his control.


My Lords, may I raise just a small point? Is it not true that under the Constitution it is the Federal Government that have power to govern the movements between the various States? Is there no fear that that power might be evoked to prevent Dr. Banda and his colleagues from returning to Nyasaland when the situation has quietened?


No, I have no such fear. I think we should realise that in all of this matter the three territories have co-operated very closely and most valuably, each one to help the other who is in a difficulty.

There have been several requests that Her Majesty's Government should say something more on the pledges in relation to the 1953 Act. I do not believe that there is really much more that I can add to what I said earlier to-day. I would emphasise just once more that we accept the Act in its entirety—not just one bit or the other, but we accept the Act in its entirety. A certain number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Boothby, spoke about the constitutional future, whether Nyasaland should still be in the Federation and so forth. I think with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, that it is not really appropriate to-night to talk on this subject. What we are talking about or have been discussing is the question of the emergency and all that flows from it.

Lastly, many noble Lords have asked that a Queen's Minister should soon go to Nyasaland. I would say this: that clearly the timing of when he goes must in some degree, or perhaps in every degree, depend on what the Governor himself thinks is the appropriate time. He knows our anxiety. He also is anxious that somebody should go out as soon as possible. But there are times for every- thing, and if one went too soon while these troubles are going on it might do a great deal more harm than good. I can only say that even if there is not the question of having any constitutional talks, I am sure that the Government will consider most earnestly when somebody can go out, and I know that the noble Earl my Leader who will be here when I am already in East Africa will bear the debates and the representations of various noble Lords on this point.

I would finish by joining with the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in emphasising the importance of law and order and the need above all else to get that re-established. If we can get that re-established, then I entirely agree with him again that the next and most important thing is to regain the confidence of the Africans. Although I should not like it to be thought that there are not already a lot of Africans who have confidence in us, there are others who are worried, or may be worried; and clearly we have a job to try to regain their confidence as soon as we can. The noble Viscount referred to Mr. Stonehouse. I know that the noble Earl my Leader will, as soon as he has any further information, bear in mind the anxieties of the noble Viscount and will keep him closely informed. So, my Lords, there we are. This state of emergency is something none of us likes, but the decision was not a sudden decision taken overnight. It was the only way to crush what was, as we saw it, a deliberate plot, running over a period of time, to flout law and order, and to have resort to any means to that end—and that is something which I know none of us will tolerate.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and House adjourned accordingly at twenty minutes past eight o'clock.