HL Deb 06 July 1960 vol 224 cc1130-54

2.43 p.m.

LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the increase which will happily take place in the independent membership of the Commonwealth and the steps which should be taken without delay in order to meet the constitutional, economic, judicial and organisational requirements of the situation; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference was not only important, as indeed they all are, but was also, in some ways, unique, in so far as not only were grave issues discussed at the Conference but also we heard a great deal about them. No bromides were published at the end, but quite clearly there had been a clash of opinion, as there was bound to be, and it was only right not only that the Prime Ministers should discuss these grave matters, but also that the public should know about them. There is, I think, in the developing Commonwealth, bound to be a great deal of difference of opinion. It was useless to expect that is a multi-racial Commonwealth extending from on part of the world to another we should all agree on every topic, or that we shall on many topics. But the fact that there was this difference of opinion which was published is evidence of the changing nature of the Commonwealth. As we all believe, it is an invaluable organisation with one Head, with common memories, with a shared history, as diverse in race and world-wide in scope as any organisation there has ever been in the world's history.

Although apartheid and the position of South Africa were discussed at some length, and have been discussed at considerable length in the newspapers and elsewhere since the Conference ended, it is not the only problem with which we are faced. Perhaps in some ways it is not the most important problem. Therefore, while I have no doubt that many of your Lordships will be raising this question today, I do not propose to do so myself, as I think there are other vital and urgent issues which face us. I may say that I am highly gratified at the very distinguished list of speakers who follow me in this debate, and having regard to those speakers, I think it should prove a debate of great authority.

Up to now, the Commonwealth, as we know, has consisted, first of all, of members whose dominant electorates have had European backgrounds, and, secondly, of more recent members consisting of important Asian and African territories which can more or less stand on their own feet. There have been criticisms—and I should be less than candid with your Lordships if I did not voice them—that Her Majesty's Government in general, and the Commonwealth Relations Office in particular, have been unhelpful to the new members; that they have been cold, aloof and correct—in fact "correct" is the kindest expression which these critics use—"more Foreign Office than the Foreign Office", as it has been expressed. For my part, I believe this criticism to be unfounded. I believe that if a different policy had been pursued by the noble Earl, Lord Home and his colleagues and those who preceded him, there would have been intense criticism from the new members. They would have regarded it to a large extent as an attempt to interfere with their independence and continued freedom.

So much for the past. I would say that this no longer applies. It will not apply in the future because very soon we are to have quite a different type of independent member from those we have had in the past. Apart from Nigeria, which is in a class on its own (I say it does not apply to Nigeria, with 37 million people and a country eight times the size of England), there are territories which do not fall into the category we have known in the past: the West Indies, Tanganyika, Kenya, perhaps Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, perhaps the Central Africa Federation, depending how that works out in Central Africa, Uganda, Cyprus, Fiji, Malta and others. With regard to this type of territory, it seems to me that an entirely new attitude is called for on the part of Her Majesty's Government, the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office.

The new members will fall into three classes, There will be, first, those members with territories which are non-viable in the immediate or even perhaps the distant future; they will not be able to stand on their own feet economically. The second class will be those who are harassed with severe, or by severe, racial tensions and the third class will be those who are vexed by troublesome tribal problems and jealousies. There is a fourth class with which I am not going to deal to-day, and that is the class consisting of tiny islands in one of the seven seas which no one in his senses, I should imagine, could think would ever be independent in any realistic sense, and whose problems we have not settled yet by any means. But that type of territory is a separate one, and I do not propose to deal with it to-day. I have raised it on several occasions in your Lordships' House in the past.

Previously, when independence has been reached, the Colonial Office has relinquished control, sometimes with an air of self-satisfaction, sometimes with a sigh of relief; and, by and large, new finance, other than loans with substantial rates of interest, and advisory and technical services, other than the limited amount contributed to the Colombo Plan, have ceased. The new member is launched and it is up to him or her to sink or swim. Now, as I have said, the future members will be in a very different case. They will need just as much assistance, if not more, after as before independence, although such assistance, of course, cannot come through the Colonial Office.

I venture to suggest in the terms of my Motion four headings, four considerations which should apply when these new independent members come along. The first is the constitutional one. With 20 or more members, as there may well be within a few years' time, our present lack of a central Commonwealth organisation will be inadequate. In the past, as your Lordships know, there has been objection to any sort of central organisation, mainly on the part of Canada, but also on the part, to a lesser extent, I think, of India. I do not think that in the future it will be possible to do without some sort of central organisation. A start was made with the Commonwealth Division at the time of Korea. That is the first time there had ever been anything of that kind. More recently there has been an economic organisation, the research organisation set up, or to be set up, at Marlborough House.

The Prime Ministers' Conference may have to be held regionally as well as centrally. Machinery will have to be created for the collection and supply of information, a task which many of these territories are quite incapable of doing themselves. Lastly, on this score, I am sure we ought to consider that in many overseas posts, instead of a multiplication of useless Embassies or High Commissions, some sort of joint Commonwealth Embassies should be created. I do not think I am revealing any secrets when I say that Ernest Bevin, in his very distinguished period as Foreign Secretary, was, I know, concerned about this particular problem. He discussed it with me and others at various times, and he felt that as the nations of the world which would be members of the United Nations increased—for example, they now number over 80 and there may be many more—the proliferation of Embassies and High Commissions and Ministerial posts would create an enormous burden on smaller territories, and even some of the larger ones. So I throw that idea out: it may be a possibility that we could have some sort of joint Embassy, joint High Commission, in some of these countries.

On the economic front it is, I believe, essential to provide financial, educational, technical and managerial assistance to these territories after independence. It will, in fact, although not perhaps in theory, have to come out of assistance from the United Kingdom. There may be a little help from Australia or a little from Canada, but, by and large, it is we who will have to provide most of it; of that I am sure. A move is being made in the direction of a Commonwealth effort just now, and no doubt the Secretary of State will tell us about this and give us more details of it. But in fact I have a strong feeling that it is the United Kingdom who will have to bear the main burden of economic support in this way.

I should at this stage like to stress the problem of managerial assistance. We have been an industrial country for at least 160 years, and I think we have quite forgotten what it is like more or less to start up an industry, an industrial area, from scratch. In such conversations as I have had recently in Whitehall on questions of this sort, I have found little realisation that just pumping money into a country is not enough. If you have a country with no industrial expertise, no tradition of commerce and industry at all, just pumping in money in the shape of loans is not enough; you must have managerial techniques as well. And this is one of the most difficult ideas to put over, either in the international or the national field.

One of the problems we face is how to help the small territory and the small man in any territory. The overheads are very great. If we want to help a man to enlarge his little fishing fleet—not to catch herrings but other fish—or to help set up a garage to repair motor cars and agricultural equipment, we find that at the present moment internationally or nationally we have very litle means to assist in that way. I feel that we shall have to consider, and the international bodies will have to consider, the creation of small development corporations in these territories for that purpose. A good start was made, I think, in the Commonwealth Teachers Bill, and we could derive a lot of benefit from reading the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Home, on Second Reading, as he touched on this point of assistance in training, which is so essential in these countries. I believe that it is not a matter only for Her Majesty's Government; it is a matter for us all, through our professional organisations, commerce and industry, trade unions, co-operatives and private individuals, this is a matter which we can all tackle, particularly this question of training in the economic field.

I would add this. It is not just a matter of supplying these countries with finance, or even with managerial assistance. There is the question of helping them to find markets, because it is no good developing little industries, it is no good expanding their agriculture with cash crops, if at the same time we do not help them to find markets. That is one problem which we have always to bear in mind. There is always a chance that when a country begins to develop its industry it affects some industry in this country (it is the same in the United States), and there is immediately a cry that there should be an embargo on their products or that a big tariff should be put on. That is no good. If we want them to develop their industry we must at the same time help them to find markets. Again, there has been a tendency in the developed countries to find artificial products which will compete, often very heavily, with the only products that the under-developed country, can produce. In this field, I would quote both rubber and sisal as cases in point. Both are cases in which the local industries, the native industries, are under heavy competition from artificial products in the developed countries.

Thirdly, there is the question of the Judiciary. This question was raised at the Prime Ministers' Meeting, and a Commonwealth Court of Appeal was mooted by the Ceylon representative. I gather that this proposal did not receive much support, but there was a suggestion that it might be possible to have Regional Courts, which might appeal to some of the countries concerned. I am very glad that when his judicial duties are over the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, is going to speak on this point, because I do not imagine many others will. But to my mind this is just as important as any of the others. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has been, in fact, so far as the Colonial countries are concerned, the final court of appeal. Unfortunately, but I think naturally in a way, as these territories have become independent they have sometimes ceased—this has happened in four or five instances—to send their cases to the Privy Council on appeal.

That, I think, is due to two reasons: first of all because it is a long way, and it is very expensive to send a case over here, and secondly, because it is, after all, a part of our own judicial service here. So far as I am aware, at the moment there are certainly not many Commonwealth Judges, other than United Kingdom Judges, who form part of the Court. I think it is a pity that the Judicial Committee did not expand, just as 600 or 700 years ago the King's Judges in Westminster expanded and carried the King's Justice to every part, certainly of England, and established the system of the Judiciary as we know it to-day. Unfortunately, that did not happen in the case of the Privy Council; so that I am afraid that some new Court may have to be created, and that the Privy Council will not be able to develop as one might have hoped.

Such a Court is necessary, first, because the courts of the various States which will be created will not have a wide field of judicial experience to call upon among their own nationals. These small and comparatively sparsely populated countries with educational systems which have only recently begun to flourish, can hardly be expected to call upon a large, or even a small, number of judges of the great eminence which the Privy Council has been able to call upon, because it has been able to call upon Judges from the House of Lords and elsewhere. The second reason why such a Court is necessary is that in most cases, for the reasons that I gave earlier, these countries will have written Constitutions in which will be written—they will be entrenched in them—safeguards on racial and human rights questions. If you have a written Constitution—which of course we have not got—and if you also have human rights and other safeguards entrenched in the Constitution, that presupposes the existence of some Court to interpret those clauses and also, in case of need, to enforce them. This is another reason why, in my view, there will have to be in many of these cases some superior Court of Appeal to which these countries can go.

So far as the organisation is concerned, there are various exciting ideas about just now in Parliament as to whether there should be a merger of the Commonwealth Relations Office with the Foreign Office, of the Commonwealth Relations Office with the Colonial Office, or even of all three. I personally believe that all three Offices will have to stay for some considerable time to come, as I believe that all three are needed. But I think that many of the functions performed by the Colonial Office will have to be performed certainly by the Commonwealth Relations Office and even, in some cases, by the Foreign Office. For example, the Foreign Office will have to co-ordinate the provision of diplomatic services for the new members in other Commonwealth countries and in foreign countries, and the Commonwealth Relations Office will have to provide the new members with many of the financial, technical and advisory services now provided to them by or through the Colonial Office. I must emphasise here that these services will, of course, be provided only if the new members ask for them. There is no intention on my part that anything should be forced on them if they do not want it. But from such conversations as I have had with the leading members or statesmen from some of these new territories I think they will welcome the opportunity of obtaining these services from the Commonwealth Relations Office.

Then, of course, there is the question of interchange of staff between the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office, and, more important I think in some ways, an interchange of staff between the Colonial Office and the other two Offices. At present, we are allowing a large number of good men to drift away, particularly from the Colonial Service, because they see no future. As their territories come towards independence, instead of being retained in the public service, with all their experience and trustworthiness, splendid men as they are, they are allowed to drift away into other things. One meets them in all sorts of peculiar jobs up and down the country, and even the world.

The reason why, in many cases, they cannot be taken into the Commonwealth Relations Office or the Foreign Office may surprise some of your Lordships, when you realise some of the problems they have had to face. It is that they have not a second-class honours degree. That is the bar. A man may speak Swahili or Malay or Kikuyu; he may have had a great reputation for handling those people. But because in his remote youth he either did not go to a university, or while there did not take a second-class honours degree, he is not good enough. I think that at this stage of our history we ought to be able to expand that and take a man if he is really suitable, as many of them are. We might forgive them the fact that they did not go to university or that, while there, they omitted to take a second-class honours degree.

Finally, a word about Africa. What I have said applies to all the territories, whether Asia, the West Indies or Africa, but it applies with particular force to Africa. The African leaders (I refer to the leaders of those territories coming towards independence, and some of which have recently assumed independence) are just now excited by ideas of a Federation or Confederation of African States. They are thinking in terms of four or five Confederations of African States. In some cases they are aiming at neutralisation and a non-nuclear club. They look eagerly to a Pan-African Council for economic co-operation and mutual development. These great movements may emerge as Africa stretches, like a giant awakening from a long sleep. But what is certain is that, in the present and in the immediate future, there is a new scramble for Africa.

With the withdrawal of British, French and Belgian influence there are a large number of new Codlins protesting that they are the friends, not the old Shorts. The United States, the Soviet Union, China (which is becoming most active in Africa), Japan, Israel, West Germany, Italy and others are crowding into the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the former Colonial Powers. Some may have praiseworthy motives from our point of view; some may not. But I confess that I look upon this particular movement with apprehension. Next year there will be some 25 or 26 independent States in Africa, apart from other States which will not have become independent. Of these 25 or 26 States, 15 will be French-speaking. I believe that in this particular situation—a most dangerous situation for Africa—it is essential that we play our full part, in order to bring sense and order into what may be a dangerous scene.

In Africa at the moment, whilst many of these countries—such as the Soviet Union and China—are prepared to supply arms; are prepared to supply political nostrums, and are prepared to supply even consumer goods, on terms, it is most difficult for African States to obtain finance for sound economic development. This applies to the London market, as well as to anywhere else. On the New York market it is practically impossible. But at the moment it is most difficult for Africa to obtain any money at all on the London market. The reason for that is that the London market is frightened, first of all, by the happenings in South Africa—all the riots, bloodshed, and so on—and, secondly, by the disturbances in the Congo.

Such economic development as takes place—and it is urgently necessary—must therefore come either from international sources such as the International Bank and the new International Development Association, or from national sources; that is to say, the former Colonial Powers. Here, ultimately, is where I feel we must play our part If the battleground of the future in the cold war is to be in Africa, then we of the West should play our part manfully. But I suggest that our duty does not rest solely, or mainly, on this rather sombre ground. It is both our duty and our interest to help the African States in the Commonwealth to achieve a reasonable standard of living, to make good economic and social progress for their own sakes and not merely for the sake of ourselves or anyone else. We owe that duty to them as well as to ourselves. I beg to move for Papers.

3.11 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has put down a Motion on the Paper which enables your Lordships to review the whole wide field of the Commonwealth and of Commonwealth relations; and you will be indebted to him for the way in which he has moved this Motion. As he has said, it is very gratifying to find so many distinguished noble Lords who are willing to help him—and I hope to help Her Majesty's Government—with their advice during the course of this debate. We shall be able to review the political institutions from which the Commonwealth has evolved and from which Commonwealth countries, one by one, are framing their own patterns and their own versions of democracy, the principles of living to which the countries and the peoples of the Commonwealth have subscribed, which enable each member of the Commonwealth to claim that it is part of a whole which is much more than merely an association of convenience.

This Motion will enable your Lordships to review the machinery of consultation and co-operation which makes the Commonwealth a working partnership, the problems of organic growth, which have been given a new impetus now that the Commonwealth is beginning to act together over so many fields of common interest—the latest being the fields of science, industry and education. Our problem is made more urgent by the fact, which I think we have come to realise, that the Commonwealth must set an example in solving the problems which are involved in bringing along those who were late starters and who are classed as underdeveloped countries and trying to help them to bridge the gap and enable them to catch up with the techniques and standards of those more advanced partners who have been long on the road of industrialisation.

I do not think I need rehearse to your Lordships our conviction that the modern Commonwealth can play a profound and very beneficial influence on the world's stage. I believe that that conviction which we hold is shared by the latest recruits from Asia and Africa. The influence of the Commonwealth clearly depends first on the countries being seen to practise nationally and internationally a code of conduct which upholds the values of free men, and secondly, on the Commonwealth being seen consciously to work together and to try to help each other at every point where the interests of one touch the interests of another. The fact that there are one or more Commonwealth countries now in every continent in the world gives the Commonwealth an unexampled opportunity to contribute to the well-being and destiny of man.

In a Commonwealth so varied in character, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said, there are certain to be stresses and strains at times. There is the pace at which Commonwealth countries are moving from dependence to independence. I sometimes think there has been a tendency to believe that it is possible to move smoothly, so to speak at one leap, from a tribal system to the full paraphernalia of Westminster democracy. That is a very severe test to put on any country or any society, because democracy is not a kind of twentieth century gimmick that can be turned on by a switch or brought into being by pressing a button. We know that from experience, and it is certain that as the Commonwealth expands there will be lapses from accepted standards as we see them from Westminster. If so, what is to be the response of the partners? Is it to be censure, boycott and threats of expulsion? I am quite sure your Lordships would reject that in favour of understanding, persuasion, patience and help back on to the right road.

Again, as the noble Lord has pointed out, there are within the Commonwealth countries where there are very different races and religions, where differing customs and habits have their roots deep in history—Hindu and Moslem, Tamil and Sinhalese, Malay and Chinese, European and African—to say nothing of the tribal differences between countries within Africa itself. These situations will mean that problems will erupt from time to time, and infinite patience will be needed to solve them. The solution must be in the main for the societies and countries themselves; but because the Commonwealth is basically a multi-racial society there will be occasions—and we must face them—when complications within a country may have an impact on the Commonwealth as a whole.

Such an example, as the noble Lord very briefly recalled, is fresh in our minds over the question of the South African Government's doctrine on apartheid. Faced with that situation, what should be the practice of the Commonwealth? I believe that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers gave a lead at their meeting which this House will do well to mark. They insisted on two things: first, that the independence of each Commonwealth country must be respected by all. If there was even a suspicion that Commonwealth membership conferred on the majority the right of inquest into the internal affairs of another country in the Commonwealth, that would be fatal to the whole structure, and the Commonwealth would come to an end. I believe we should do well to mark that finding of the Prime Ministers' Conference, and to remember it.

They recognised, too, however, that an internal dispute in one country could have external repercussions on the whole Commonwealth; and at the Prime Ministers' Conference they evolved a procedure which allowed the Prime Ministers to press their advice to the absolute limit which friendship permits; and they went a very long way in doing so. Indeed, the representative from South Africa could not have had any doubt of the view of the rest of the Prime Ministers, and must so have reported to his Government; and he must have reported, too, that in so far as the procedure for South Africa becoming a Republic (if she so wishes) was concerned, the Prime Ministers were not ready to take any decision of any kind until the constitutional processes which the South African Government have chosen had been completed. Therefore I think that in reviewing that aspect of the Prime Ministers' Conference, your Lordships would endorse their findings and approve their practice, and you would add to their counsel that the advice should be heeded by South Africa; and, we should hope, heeded in time.

As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, it would be a pity if the recent meeting of Prime Ministers was thought to have dealt only with the question of South Africa and the public eye was, so to speak, taken off the other important questions with which they dealt. There was, for instance, a very close identity of view over the whole field of foreign affairs and particularly in relation to disarmament. A joint study was set on foot of the question of the future constitutional development of the Commonwealth, with particular reference to the future of the smaller territories (those territories to which he referred) which can never be economically self-supporting.

An examination was set on foot of the economic needs of the Commonwealth countries in Africa as regards technical aid, and help with administration; and another examination was started of whether a Commonwealth Court, or some adaptation of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, might play a useful part in the Commonwealth, helping to maintain the law as one of the essential foundations on which the Commonwealth association rests. Progress reports were made on the corporate effort in the field of education started at Montreal and carried further at Oxford. It is difficult to convey to the public outside the amount of practical work conducted in a Prime Ministers' Conference and the important subjects with which they deal and on which they arrive at a considerable degree of unanimity. The communiqué is inevitably disappointing and often an anti-climax; and, indeed, I think it is a matter for serious consideration whether it might not be better without final communiqués at all. I have sometimes myself found them very misleading in the impression which they convey. But all the evidence is that the Commonwealth is now possessed of a very strong corporate sense, and the Prime Ministers' Meeting certainly showed it to be vigorous, progressive and alive.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, went on to argue that as the Commonwealth expands so the organisation of Whitehall must be adapted and must be adequate and efficient to meet the changing needs. If it is the United Kingdom policy—and it certainly is—to contribute to making the Commonwealth a real partnership of independent countries working together round the clock on matters of common interest and concern, each adding to the strength of the whole, then from my observations over the last five years (and the House will acquit me here of any self-advertisement or wish for aggrandisement) I would say that there must be in Whitehall, as part of the British Government, a Secretary of State specially charged with the duty of serving the Commonwealth in the British Cabinet and a Department adequately geared to fulfil all the rôles which the modern Commonwealth requires. The United Kingdom—and for the foreseeable future this rôle must be ours—can give an indispensable service to the whole Commonwealth in this way and contribute to the Commonwealth's cohesion.

I should like to give your Lordships four illustrations of the duties, as I see them, of the Secretary of State—and there are others in this House who are to follow in this debate who have filled the office and I shall be interested to hear whether they concur in what I believe the essential duties are. The Secretary of State must see to it that every idea that is circulating in the Commonwealth and every event which takes place in the Commonwealth is evaluated in relation to United Kingdom policy and in relation to general Commonwealth relations. Secondly, he must secure that the Commonwealth aspect of every matter is appreciated by every Government Department in Whitehall, both when they are taking their day-to-day decisions and in the framing of United Kingdom legislation; and he must be certain that the interests and views of Commonwealth Governments are always kept at all times before his colleagues in the Cabinet when they are framing United Kingdom policy. Conversely, he must secure that United Kingdom policies are understood by the Commonwealth Governments, and where there are difficulties—as there are bound to be—that those difficulties are reconciled. In matters of foreign policy he must watch world events always with an eye to their significance for the Commonwealth; and he must—because Whitehall has an eye on international affairs all over the world—give the best assessment possible to the Commonwealth Governments of all events on the world stage.

I have outlined those duties, as I see them, for this reason. There has always been, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, opposition to institutionalising the Commonwealth and setting up any centralised directorate or secretariat, and I think that that opposition is still there. But over the years the Commonwealth Relations Office itself has increasingly become a clearing house for Commonwealth affairs and a sort of informal secretariat for an expanding association of nations. My Lords, this development, which I think is of great significance for the United Kingdom, has been made acceptable to the other partners in the Commonwealth because we have scrupulously recognised in all our dealings independence as absolute, and we have provided a service at all times which is comprehensive, which is frank, which is discreet, and which is conducted always with that degree of intimacy which distinguishes partners from any looser form of association. Therefore, I believe that the Commonwealth Relations Office can give an increasing service, an acceptable service to the whole of the Commonwealth, to the great advantage of the United Kingdom.

The expansion of the Commonwealth has necessarily brought special problems to my Department, and the contraction of the Colonial Empire, of course, special problems to the Colonial Office. I might say that in the Commonwealth Relations Office we now have to staff more than twice the number of High Commissioner posts which existed in 1946. Sometimes, as has been clear to the House, I have had to go outside my own service in the Commonwealth Relations Office to fill some of the highest posts of the High Commissioners. I should like to say that that is no criticism of the people in the Commonwealth Relations Office, but simply reflects the fact that in the early years the new service has been absolutely stretched to the limit.

A Secretary of State must always retain the right to select the best man he can find, if necessary from outside; because, as your Lordships know full well, the secret of successful diplomatic relations is to put the right man in the right place at the right time. But I can say with confidence that this will become less and less necessary as the years go by, and that the civil servants in the Commonwealth Relations Office have met the expansion which they have had to meet with great imagination and real ability. Nor has there been, I can assure the House, any reluctance to recruit others to the Commonwealth Relations Office to meet the expanding need, and to use sources other than direct recruitment. The Indian Civil Service did us extremely well, and we had many good people from there. The Colonial Office has let us have some people, and besides that it has been our policy to take people from the Indian Civil Service and to reinforce our ranks from the Overseas Service.


Will the noble Earl give an assurance to the House that no educational bar will be imposed on people from the Colonial Service who are otherwise qualified?


We will in all circumstances take the man who is fully qualified for the job. I am not quite sure what the noble Lord has in mind as to educational qualifications, but we are looking (and this is the point I want to make to the House) for the best men, and when we find the best men we are not going to be narrow-minded as to the source of recruitment.

My Lords, I have no very cut-and-dried view at this moment on the actual shape of Whitehall in the future years, as to how it should be adapted to meet the new demands upon it. I am a little suspicious of those who always want to meet a new situation by creating a new office. But I do know this: that at the present there is more than enough for two Secretaries of State to do; and the function of one of those Secretaries of State is diplomatic, and the function of the other is mostly administrative. The thing to which I believe we have to give urgent attention (I shall come to this in a moment, and my noble friend will deal with it in detail) is the reorganisation of the Overseas Service. That is a matter which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, raised, and it is very important. But as for the relationship between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office, we have a period of transition of some duration ahead of us; and clearly we must prepare ourselves in good time against the day when we have to reorganise to meet the needs. I am not prepared to-day to say exactly what form that reorganisation should take.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has stated the case, very persuasively and very rightly, for extending administrative and technical assistance to Commonwealth countries, and particularly to these countries which are still underdeveloped, following their independence. The arguments which he used are fresh in your Lordships' minds, and I need not repeat them. One thing I think I must repeat, though: Commonwealth countries are independent, and their status in international society depends upon their being seen to be independent. It is important to remember and recognise that. It therefore seems that, when we are considering any schemes of assistance from the United Kingdom which follow independence, the right course for the United Kingdom is, first, to encourage and assist them to establish their own credit in the world, and to do it at the earliest possible moment, and to see that aid given, whether it is in the administrative field or in the field of more technical aid, will have that objective always in the foreground. We cannot, as the noble Lord said, thrust administrators upon these countries if they do not want them. Nevertheless, it is perfectly true to say—and I think that those countries which are coming much more quickly towards self-government than even they anticipated are beginning to recognise this—that the great weakness from which they are likely to suffer is a vacuum in administration. Therefore, we must try to find a way to help them.

My Lords, the dilemma, which my noble friend Lord Perth will elaborate, is clear. It is a duty which rests upon any Government of this country to see to it that, if an officer in the Overseas Service, the Colonial Office, wishes to retire, then compensation terms are generous and just. But, of course, the better the compensation terms on retirement, the more people are tempted to retire. Therefore, we have, if possible, to devise a scheme in which there are two essential ingredients: first, the inducement of sufficient pay to attract a man to take on a job under contract from a newly independent Commonwealth Government; and, secondly, an element of security as regards his career.

The Colonial Secretary has on each occasion, from Malaya down to the latest examples of Sierra Leone and Cyprus, devised special schemes to try to meet the special circumstances of each country; and I think that he would say that he has gained a lot in experience, and that probably the last schemes are the best and most satisfactory of all. He is giving the most urgent study to this matter, to see whether he can find a scheme which we can adopt and which will meet the needs to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, pointed. There is no doubt that any scheme of this kind must be expensive; but, of course, the argument is very strong that the cost would be repaid in terms of social, economic and political stability. The Colonial Secretary, then, is studying this matter urgently.

Lastly, I should like to say something on the contribution this country makes to the stability of the Commonwealth through investment and trade; because, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, rightly said, we must not neglect the contribution which the United Kingdom market makes to these countries whose produce has to be exported if they are to live and to expand their standards of living. What is the scale of aid and investment that the United Kingdom has to spare? So far as investment is concerned, in 1959, in addition to what we contributed through the International Bank, through the United Nations Technical Assistance programme and through other international bodies, we invested, through Government agencies, roughly £103 million; and through private sources and investments £100 million went overseas, the vast majority of which was to the Commonwealth. Our ability to invest depends upon our earning a genuine and substantial surplus on our annual balance of payments. Provided we can do that, we can expand the money which we can invest overseas in the Commonwealth.

I turn now to trade, as I have noticed a tendency lately to undervalue the benefit of the United Kingdom market to the countries of the Commonwealth, and of the Commonwealth markets to the United Kingdom. My Lords, so far as foodstuffs, drink and tobacco are concerned, your Lordships know that, with very few exceptions, imports come free into this country. So far as basic materials are concerned, half have preference over similar imports from other sources, and half come in free. I gave some of these figures last week, but I should like to repeat them because I think there has been a tendency lately for them to be forgotten.

Imports of food, beverages and tobacco from the Commonwealth, including the Colonies, into this country last year were £721 million in value, representing 47 per cent. of our total imports. Imports of basic materials amounted to £426 million in value, or 46 per cent. of our total imports. If we take the reverse side of the picture, manufactured goods sent from the United Kingdom to the Commonwealth countries amounted to £1,263 million, or 45 per cent. of the total export of our manufactured goods. I think it is well, at this time, when we are considering future markets for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, that we should remember that the Commonwealth is a very formidable and impressive trading organisation in itself. We must be very careful not to damage it. We must do everything to expand it.

As the Commonwealth expands and changes its nature, I think that we can look forward with faith. We shall be faced with many political difficulties, but there is no reason why, with flexible and adaptable policies, we should not meet the changing needs of the day. I see no reason either why we should not adapt our institutions, particularly the organisation of Whitehall, to meet the needs of the changing Commonwealth. I think that our record has been good in this matter. I have been at the centre of affairs at the Commonwealth Relations Office for over five years, and I think that I can say that I have no fear about the wisdom and understanding with which these challenges can be met.

At the end of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the one particular challenge of 1960—the challenge which comes in Africa, deriving from the increased pace of the movement of the dependent territories to self-government and independence. I hope from what he said that we shall have the noble Lord's support in pursuing a policy of progress to self-government, combined with order and stability. I believe that the experience which this country has had of watching events in Africa during the last few months has helped everyone to understand that there are no facile solutions. Certainly no solution can come from striking attitudes in terms of black nationalism or white nationalism. We want great patience in settling this matter, but I believe that with the help of Parliament and of the Monckton Commission, we may be able to settle the situation in Central Africa and put the Central African Federation on the road of peaceful, orderly and acceptable progress this year.

As for the other matters which your Lordships will discuss to-day, I shall listen with the greatest attention to what is said, because I know that the speeches of noble Lords will be inspired by the desire to help the Government to enable the United Kingdom to play the fullest part as leading partner in the Commonwealth association, an association which contributes so much to United Kingdom influence in world affairs, which adds so much to the stature of each partner and which, if it is wisely guided, can act as a network of stability, of order and of peace for spanning the whole world.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself very much in agreement with the noble Earl who leads the House, probably because I have had somewhat the same experience that he has had. I do not think that anyone can be at the Commonwealth Relations Office without finding it a most fascinating office. The Commonwealth is something that has grown up in our own time, and it is important to remember that it is a living entity which is growing and changing all the time. There is the greatest danger in thinking that we here can restrict its growth or give it Constitutions. It is an extremely British thing, the Commonwealth, because so much of it depends on the unspoken—the unspoken assumptions and way we work. We must remember that it is not just "our" Commonwealth. We do not own the Commonwealth any more or less than does Canada, Ghana or any of the other constituent parts. Sometimes there is a tendency to think, as we find in foreign countries, that the Commonwealth is merely a change of name for our old Empire. It is something entirely different.

I confess that I am always a little suspicious when people try to make constitutional changes. I saw the other day that someone was complaining that when we have a Commonwealth Conference we do not end up with any decisions. It is even suggested that we ought to have majority decisions. This is to misunderstand the whole genius of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is not a kind of alternative United Nations: it is essentially a family gathering. You do not take decisions by counting heads in a family—at least, not in my experience. Anyway, how can we know how to weigh the various members of the Commonwealth?

To-day we are facing some new problems. We faced them with the advent of our Asian friends and now with the advent of our African friends. I thought that the noble Earl was very wise in suggesting that we must expect difficulties. At first, we are bound to have an over-stressing of independence, but as time goes on I think that the demand for independence will change to a realisation of the necessity for interdependence. I have seen this in my own time with some of the older members of the Commonwealth. There was a time when our Canadian friends were extremely suspicious of anything we did. It was a kind of reversion of colonialism. They were difficult and stand-offish. But I have seen that attitude change a great deal. I think that we shall find with all the new members of the Commonwealth that at first they are bound to stress independence, and it will be only later that, feeling secure in their independence, they will join more readily in co-operative enterprises of all kinds.

For this reason, I am a little chary when I hear suggestions about new pieces of machinery. It has been suggested that we need some kind of Commonwealth Court. I agree when it is said that it is a pity the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has been "thrown over" by some members of the Commonwealth. The Judicial Committee is a very remarkable tribunal, with Judges drawn from different races and countries, and it deals with different codes of law. However, it is settled here in this country. If a court of this kind is wanted, I think that, with our modern travel conveniences, it should be a peripatetic court; and its judges should be drawn from the various parts of the Commonwealth. But when we come to look at the matters with which this proposed new court should deal, I am doubtful. There is great danger of getting a clash between a Commonwealth Court and the courts of the particular parts of the Commonwealth.

I have also seen it suggested that there should be some kind of Rights of the Individual—an excellent thing—and that these should be somehow enforced by a Commonwealth Court. You are in great danger there, when you begin to interfere between a Government and its citizens on the spot. So far from necessarily strengthening the position of the individual, you may do just the opposite, because the fact that there is some external body may lessen the feeling of responsibility inside. To quote a parallel case, I remember that in the Army there was a great deal of talk about welfare officers. That is very nice. But the point is that every officer ought to be a welfare officer, and if you put in a welfare officer then perhaps you do not get the troop commander being a welfare officer, as he should be. I think you have to look at that very carefully.

I should look much more to the close relationship we have between the lawyers in every part of the Commonwealth. I do not think you can overstress the importance of the Inns of Court in this matter. We all know the lists have come out, and it is often difficult to see whether there are any English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh in those long lists of Inns of Court of the Bar. It is an invaluable training in law, and I should not like to see that broken down. That is one of the matters that is not in any Constitution; it has just grown up and is there. Therefore, I look especially to that kind of development.

I think, as the noble Lord has said, that you have a difficult transitional period between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. Sometimes I see proposals that they should be merged, but I feel that it would be a retrograde step and I am sure it would not please the Commonwealth. The Colonial Office has done great service, but it does stand for the past and is bound to diminish more and more. The difficulty is to see how you are to take advantage in the new state of affairs of that old experience which you have in the Colonial Office. I wonder sometimes whether you may not do it by developing some inter-Commonwealth organs. Take, for instance, the question which was raised by the noble Lord, of the difficulty that grows up about civil servants with the ending of one system and the beginning of another: the danger of losing experienced people, and the danger of recruiting where there is uncertainty. There is much to be said for trying to build up a kind of cadre of officials who will be ready to serve anywhere in the Commonwealth. It would not necessarily mean a career in one particular part of the Commonwealth, but there should be a Commonwealth career.

After all, soon we shall be beginning (I think we are already) to draw from our developed Dominions. It is a great mistake to think that the only part of the Commonwealth which can supply service is the United Kingdom. Australia, Canada and New Zealand are rapidly growing up and developing, and I think we must tend to see in the years ahead those great communities taking the lead. I think we are already seeing that in the case of Australia. I was interested in what was said the other day about the developments going forward in New Guinea. When one looks at the Commonwealth as a whole, one finds that there is not only one focal centre, the United Kingdom, but there are other focal centres: there are Australia and New Zealand out in the Pacific, and there is India in the heart of Asia. One looks to those, so to speak, senior members to be helping the younger ones on.

Quite frankly, I do not like the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that somehow or other there can be substituted for the present individual representatives of our Commonwealth members some sort of Commonwealth representation abroad. I think that that would blur the position altogether. It is not always easy to get foreign countries to recognise that the members of the Commonwealth are free and equal and independent. It is a great strengthening where you find, as you do, a representative of different parts of the Commonwealth in foreign countries. They are separate nations, but there is still that close co-operation. I have noticed it when travelling abroad. If you travel abroad you go to a place where there are Commonwealth representatives and get together with them, and you always find that you begin to talk about "what we want"; there is that close unity of outlook, whether they are from Australia, India, Pakistan or elsewhere. So that you have, in a way, a kind of little Commonwealth representation in a foreign country.

There are one or two other things I should like to mention, and particularly this question of economic development. The great advantage of being in the Commonwealth is that a member can receive assistance without strings. There is a lot to be said for the making of particular organs for dealing with such matters as economic affairs. It should not be just a United Kingdom show. It should be in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole; and support for the less developed members of the Commonwealth, whether it is in service, in money or in supplies, should not only come from the United Kingdom but be as widely dispersed as possible.

Finally, in this matter we must remember that this thing is growing all the time; that we are only part of it; and that with its expansion we are bound to have difficulties. Some people get disturbed because they find that in the transition from a Colony to a self-governing Dominion there at once arise differences between one part of a territory and another. We must expect that. After all, we have more or less sat on top of them for many years, and when nobody was ruling there was not so much trouble. But directly you take off the Imperial pressure you are bound to get other pressures arising, just as there were in India, with the Hindus and the Moslems, and as happened in Africa owing to old tribal rivalries. We must expect that to happen. We cannot expect that in a great, growing organisation like this we shall not have trouble of that kind. I attach great importance to two things, in particular. One is our Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The meeting of the Parliamentarians is, I think, vitally important, because there are so many countries now that have had a transition from tribal rule almost straight to Westminster. It is a great thing that they come here and mix with us.

The other thing which I think of the utmost importance is the constant meeting together of Prime Ministers; not just a parade of speeches and not wonderful reports in the Press. It is annoying to the Press, because they do not get any disastrous things coming out; and the Press lives on misfortune. The fact is that they look on a Commonwealth Conference as dull because there is not a lot of trouble. As a matter of fact, you thresh out troubles there and, if you are wise, they do not get any publicity. I recall very well some difficult ones we had in my time, when the Kashmir problem was very alive, when we did a lot of useful work. Even then we did not manage to solve it. The same is happening to-day in these difficult problems in Africa. But if you start off by having a series of speeches, all reported, every Prime Minister is bound to take up a position and he will not go ahead. I want to preserve our Commonwealth structure and our Commonwealth practice in the way in which it has grown up, which is, I believe, a natural way for the British people and the British Commonwealth.

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