HL Deb 16 November 1961 vol 235 cc758-88

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I have it in Command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Southern Rhodesia (Constitution) Bill, has consented to place Her Majesty's prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a Second time. In doing so it may be helpful if I give a brief resume of the events leading up to the introduction of the Bill. The Constitution under which Southern Rhodesia is at present governed was granted by the Sovereign in 1923 by Letters Patent. This Constitution has been amended from time to time, but its general features have remained unchanged. At the pace of events in Africa, this is a long time for a Constitution to last, and the desire for a change which became evident in 1959, when the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia opened the question of a revision with Her Majesty's Government, was entirely natural. The desire to change sprang from two different sources, and for different reasons. The Government, representing the electorate, felt that the time had come when the powers reserved to the Secretary of State—and, my Lords, I shall come back to these later—should be removed, and the full responsibility for the government of the Colony outside the federal sphere should be laid in theory where it had lain in practice for so long.

At the same time, an awakening of political consciousness among the Africans, stemming partly from educational and economic progress, and partly, no doubt, from knowledge of events elsewhere in Africa, had led to the legitimate and understandable desire on the part of some Africans for an increased share in the government of their country, and, on the part of those who took an extreme view, for the immediate transfer of all power to African hands.

I should like to make it clear at this point, my Lords, that there is no single African viewpoint. There are many Africans who recognise that the future prosperity of their country lies in close co-operation between the races. There are, of course, many others who have responded to the more emotional appeal of "one man, one vote", without stopping to reflect on the consequences.

My Lords, I feel you would not wish me to give a round-by-round account of the negotiations and conferences which have taken place since 1959, but it may be useful if I sketch in the essential background. There were discussions between the Secretary of State and Sir Edgar Whitehead in 1959, and again in 1960. It was at the conclusion of the discussions in the spring of 1960 that the British Government defined their attitude to the withdrawal of the reserved powers in the following terms—and I quote from a speech by the then Minister of State, Mr. Alport (as he then was), in another place [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons. Vol. 623, col. 31]: The United Kingdom Government stated that their ability to accept a scheme which would reduce or withdraw the powers vested in the Secretary of State in relation to the Southern Rhodesia Constitution would depend on whether arrangements could be devised and agreed by both Governments which would provide effective alternative safeguards, particularly in respect of discriminatory legislation and land rights, and in respect of amendment of the Constitution. Previously, on February 18, 1960, the Prime Minister had given, also in another place, an assurance that [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 617, col. 1417]: in the event of any change being made in the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia, the interest of Africans would of course be given full weight". These, then, my Lords, are the pledges; to give African interests full weight and not to withdraw the reserved powers in the absence of fully effective alternative safeguards. I hope to demonstrate shortly how completely they are to be fulfilled in the Constitution which it is proposed to recommend to Her Majesty to grant under the powers which this Bill is destined to confer upon Her.

But before coming on to that, I should perhaps refer to the later stages in the discussions between the Governments of Southern Rhodesia and Britain. In December, 1960, and January, 1961, a constitutional conference was held, first in London, and later in Salisbury, to discuss these matters. Although there had been many previous exchanges between the Governments concerned, this was in no way (what shall I say?) a "rubber stamp" conference. All Parties in Southern Rhodesia were represented—European, African and multi-racial: and there were also representatives of the Chiefs and of the Asian and coloured communities. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations took the Chair. The outcome of the Conference was a Report, published as a White Paper (Cmnd. 1291). To this, all those represented at the conference subscribed, with the exception of the Dominion Party delegates, who dissociated themselves from it. Subsequently, as your Lordships are aware, the delegates of the National Democratic Party indicated that they were no longer prepared to support the Conference recommendations.

The main features of the Report were these. A new Constitution would include a Declaration of Rights to be enjoyed by the people of Southern Rhodesia. This would prescribe the fundamental rights and freedoms to be enjoyed without distinction of race, colour or creed. Any law—including subsidiary legislation—passed after the enactment of the new Constitution, which contravened the provisions of the Declaration of Rights, would be invalid. Thus it would be open to any person who considered himself to be adversely affected by a law which, in his opinion, contravened the Declaration of Rights, to question its validity in the courts. It was agreed that arrangements should be made to ensure an ultimate right of appeal in such cases to the Privy Council. The costs of such an appeal could be borne by public funds at the discretion of the Constitutional Council.

It was agreed that a Constitutional Council should be set up, with the duty of examining Bills between their passage by the Legislative Assembly and their submission to the Governor for Assent, with a view to advising the Assembly as to whether they contravened the Declaration of Rights. In such an event the Council would have powers to delay the passage of such Bills for six months unless they were confirmed by the Assembly by a two-thirds majority. I feel that perhaps I should make it clear that this procedure was not intended to be a substitute for the courts, but an additional safeguard of human rights.

The other major feature of the Constitution was the arrangements for representation and franchise. It was not possible, in regard to this, to find a solution which satisfied everyone. This was, perhaps, hardly surprising. Nevertheless, all groups at the time of the Conference—except, of course, the Dominion Party—considered that a scheme which was set out in the White Paper should be introduced. It is a fair assumption that all who subscribed to this felt it to be the best that could be achieved in the circumstances and agreed to its introduction without prejudice to their principles.

The scheme, which I shall describe only briefly, since it is fully set out in the White Papers (Cmnd. 1399 and 1400), which have been published, is for fifty "A" roll constituencies, and fifteen "B" roll electoral districts to be delimited, covering the whole country in each case. Each would elect one member of the Legislative Assembly. Voters would register on two rolls—those with the higher qualifications on the "A" roll and those with the lower on the "B" roll. The qualifications for both rolls are set out in the White Paper (Cmnd. 1399). All voters would vote in both their constituency and electoral district elections; but, in the "A" roll constituencies, "B" roll votes, if the number cast were more than one-quarter of the "A" roll votes cast, would be proportionately reduced, to a figure equivalent to one-quarter of the "A" roll votes; and vice versa in the electoral districts.

Lastly, any amendment of the Constitution would rest with Southern Rhodesia, except for certain matters concerning only the position of the Crown and the Governor in regard to which the power of amendment would be reserved to the Queen. The procedure for amendment would, however, be hedged in with powerful safeguards including, in respect of the basic clauses, such as the Declaration of Rights, the Constitutional Council and the Judiciary, a requirement that an amending Bill would need to be endorsed by a referendum, at which the four racial groups would vote separately and which could endorse the Bill only if each racial group's votes showed a majority in favour.

The Conference was agreed that such provisions in the Constitution provided safeguards fully as effective as those at present afforded by the powers reserved to the British Government; and the Secretary of State agreed to recommend the elimination of the reserve powers vested in himself. These, then, are the bare bones of the Constitution which it is proposed to advise the Queen to grant under the powers this Bill would confer. They more than fulfil the pledges to which I referred earlier. The safeguards are fully as effective. Indeed, I believe that a written Declaration of Rights, enforced by the courts, to whom any individual of any race can look for redress, will be more effective than the purely negative reserved powers, which have never been exercised by any British Government.

African interests have been taken fully into account. Under the workings of the present Constitution, no African has so far reached the Legislative Assembly, though there is no bar. Now, Africans should, at the first General Election under the new Constitution, win all fifteen "B" roll seats and, perhaps, one or two "A" roll seats; and, if they seize the opportunities which this Constitution offers they will be able to exercise an influence on the other "A" roll seats which no candidate of any Party will be able to afford to ignore.

No one doubts that, under this Constitution and by virtue of their greater numbers, the predominance in the political direction of Southern Rhodesia will pass progressively into African hands. We hope that, before that stage is reached, the political divisions in Southern Rhodesia will cut right across racial boundaries. They do so to some extent already, and there are signs that the multi-racial parties are in fact becoming more evenly based on both races.

May I now say a brief word about the Bill itself, and the necessity for it? Clause 1 (1) of the Bill confers on Her Majesty the power to grant a new Constitution by Order in Council. This is necessary because the Letters Patent, made in exercise of the Royal Prerogative in 1923, conferred upon the Southern Rhodesia Legislature the power to amend all but twelve of the clauses of the Constitution. By so doing, the Crown is considered to have divested itself of the prerogative power to legislate in regard to any part of the Constitution, except those twelve clauses. It would, of course, have been possible for the present Constitution to have been amended, in part by the Southern Rhodesia Legislature, and in part by Her Majesty by Letters Patent; but, since hardly a single section would have been left unchanged—even though the substance of a good many is to be retained—this was considered to be impracticable, and the Southern Rhodesia Government requested, and the British Government agreed, that the consent of Parliament be sought for the grant of a completely new instrument.

Your Lordships will observe the reference to extra-territorial legislation in Clause 1 (1). This is a legal matter upon which your Lordships will not expect me, a layman, to deliver a learned lecture. But for the benefit of other noble lay Lords present, it may be helpful if I say that I have ascertained that the object is to make it clear that laws of Southern Rhodesia may, by Act of the Southern Rhodesia Legislature, be applied, in Southern Rhodesia, to acts and omissions committed abroad by persons who belong to Southern Rhodesia, when they return home.

Clause 1 (2) deals with the future amendment of any new Constitution granted under the powers conferred by this Bill. Some provisions of the Constitution, those relating to the position of the Sovereign and the Governor, will be amendable only by the Sovereign by Order-in-Council. All the remainder will be amendable by a two-thirds majority of the Legislative Assembly, subject to the powerful additional safeguard, in the case of certain essential provisions, as set out in paragraph 77 of Cmnd. 1400, that thereafter a referendum will have to be conducted separately among the four racial groups.

I should explain at this point that, in order to obviate the necessity of going through the cumbersome referendum procedure in the case of minor textual amendments to the sections thus specially entrenched, an alternative to the referendum will be Her Majesty's consent, given on the advice of Her British Ministers, who will retain full discretion to refuse to decide the matter if they consider that it is one which should go to a referendum.

Clause 1 (3) brings any amending Orders made under the powers retained under Clause 1 (2), within the scope of the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946, and subjects them to the requirements as regards laying before Parliament, et cetera, which that Act lays down. Clause 1 (4) provides for any Order made under this Bill, when it has been enacted, to be laid before Parliament after being made. This brings it into line with Constitutions granted under the British Settlements and Foreign Jurisdiction Acts and with the accepted practice that the principles of new Constitutions for dependent territories are published as White Papers, which may be debated as such, but that the actual Constitutional Instrument itself is not debated in Parliament.

If I may sum up briefly, the Bill would enable Her Majesty to grant by Order-in-Council a new Constitution for Southern Rhodesia which will replace the reserved powers—except in respect of certain vestigial remains, to which I have referred—with locally-based safeguards of greater effectiveness. Further, it will give Africans an opportunity to associate themselves more and more with the political direction of their country. I believe the Constitution will offer the people of Southern Rhodesia an opportunity to do great things in co-operation with each other. The British Government hope that all men of all races in Southern Rhodesia will grasp this opportunity, not as Europeans, or Africans, or Asians, but as Southern Rhodesians. I warmly recommend this Bill to your Lordships. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(The Duke of Devonshire.)

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, it is a momentous step that your Lordships are being asked to take this afternoon, because this is a measure that we hope will ensure the orderly development of a multi-racial State in Africa—I think it is the first case of its kind—with nearly 250,000 European inhabitants and nearly 3 million Africans, with Asian and Coloured communities as well. We must obviously have that in mind and speak with a sense of responsibility. I am sorry therefore to have to say that my noble friends and I do not feel satisfied that the Bill meets the needs of the situation in two particular cases. One is that of the safeguards to replace the reserve powers that have been in the hands of Her Majesty's Government since 1923; and the other is the amount of representation in the Legislature allotted to the Africans.

But, first of all, let me give credit where credit is due. I think it should be said quite plainly that in recent years, as old Rhodesians will recognise, there has been a really spectacular change in opinion in Rhodesia. Opinion among the Europeans has moved a long way, and there are signs of a new spirit which accepts the African inhabitants of the country as fellow citizens. That is something quite revolutionary in Rhodesian climate of opinion. So one must give credit for that to Sir Edgar Whitehead and the other leaders of opinion in Southern Rhodesia.

But one must, at the same time, ask whether the rate of change is fast enough. As the noble Duke said, with the means of communication that there are at present, Africans in Rhodesia know all about what is happening in the rest of the continent. They have seen independence given to other African territories—former French, Belgian, British and Italian territories—and there is some impatience among the Rhodesian Africans. Moreover, there is another factor that is not working in the right direction. There have been discrepancies, inconsistencies or even contradictions in some of the public statements of different political leaders in Rhodesia. There have been statements like that of the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare sonic months ago, when he said that the problems of the community …should be approached on a non-racial basis. One of the major factors responsible for discrimination in Rhodesia was the attitude of many proprietors of hotels, cinemas and restaurants. Parliament should appeal to these proprietors to give all respectable people, regardless of colour, equal consideration. Many admirable statements have been made by Ministers, the Prime Minister, and others, but then in between these statements there have been some of a very different kind, designed to assure the European population that really they have nothing to fear; that the powers remaining are ample to prevent the pace of African advance getting out of hand, and so on. There have been these contradictory statements and, of course, it is only natural that in the minds of Africans more prominence is given to the statements unfavourable to them than to those which are favourable. That is the factor that has worked in the contrary direction.

Then there have been the former discriminatory measures, both social and legislative, which are only very slowly being removed. We must remember the Monckton Report. Only a year or two ago, we remember those two chapters, one on the removal of racial discrimination, and one on safeguards. Your Lordships remember that the Report said: …no new form of association is likely to succeed unless Southern Rhodesia is willing to make drastic changes in its racial policies. We recognise that much progress has lately been made in this direction…But what has been done, however good, is not enough, if the fears which have bedevilled Federation are to be allayed. Then they go on to specify some of the directions in which discrimination against Africans was most acutely felt, and of course, the pass laws were one. I know there have been changes in the pass laws and in the legislation which have been much talked about, and the world is well aware that there have been changes. But do they amount, in fact, to anything very much, or is their effect so far felt only by a very small minority of Africans? I suspect that the progress in removing the pass laws is still very slow.

Then there was, in urban local government, the complaint that voting for municipal councils was limited to ratepayers. We know also that there has been a change there. Only recently the Salisbury Municipal Council decided on changes which will result in some 8,000 Africans having a vote for the municipal council in, I think, Harare. That is certainly something; it is a step in the right direction. But is it going to be followed in all the other cities of Rhodesia?

There was also the question of limitations of promotion of Africans in the public services. We have certainly read that there have been great changes, and that the way has been opened to Africans to rise to positions of considerable responsibility in the public services. But how many Africans have attained commissioned rank in the Defence Forces? Have Africans been recruited for any of the non-Regular Forces? I know there are African-manned regiments of the Regular Army, but the Territorial forces, so far as I know, are exclusively European. As they have to be used very often in cases of civil disturbance, or in cases of emergency, a situation arises which is likely to cause fear and suspicion among Africans.

Next there is the Land Apportionment Act, which the Monckton Commission said is regarded by Africans as a major discriminatory measure. The Southern Rhodesian Government realised that, and appointed a Select Committee which reported a year ago. They made a number of recommendations which, if they had been implemented, would have done a good deal to allay anxiety and dissatisfaction. But I think we should be assured that steps really have been taken, because the surest way of arousing and fomenting suspicion is, of course, if one thing is said officially and publicly but the actions of the Government do not take it up.

Then there is the question of safeguards, and this is the biggest thing about the Bill—that it abandons the reserve powers that the United Kingdom Government have had ever since the Constitution was given in 1923. Of course, it is known that those powers have never been invoked. It is also said that the presence of those powers has influenced the Southern Rhodesian Government over the years in abstaining from any discriminatory measures which would have called down the reserve powers. You can look at it either way. To replace them, the noble Duke referred to an observation of the Prime Minister, who said that effective alternative safeguards must be provided. Are these effective? The two safeguards seem to me to be the Declaration of Rights and the Constitutional Council. The noble Duke said that the power to appeal to the courts over the Declaration of Rights was a complete safeguard. So it would be, if the Declaration of Rights itself was not so riddled with exceptions and qualifications. I will not go into it in detail. The particular exceptions were discussed thoroughly in another place. But the existence of all those exceptions seems to us to invalidate the whole idea of the Declaration as a safeguard for individuals and, of course, the Declaration is not retrospective; it applies only to legislation passed after the date of this Constitution.

As to the Constitutional Council, there again that is only advisory—it has advisory powers. Any action on its recommendations depends on the Legislature backing it by a two-thirds majority. There has been an unhappy experience already with the safeguard in the Federal Constitution for the African Affairs Board. The only recommendation they made was turned down. Is this going to be any better when there is a built-in majority for the Government, comfortably more than the two-thirds, which could be used to negative any recommendations by the Constitutional Council?

That brings us to the representation and the franchise. The noble Duke said that all the fifteen "B" roll seats would inevitably go to Africans and possibly —or did he say probably?—one or two of the "A" roll seats as well. That may be so; but the fifty non-African seats represent a sizeable majority over and above two-thirds and it may be quite a long time before sufficient of the "A" roll seats change their representation and elect Africans.

However, I think the Government pinned their faith to the gradual disappearance of racial feeling and its replacement by division on normal political grounds regardless of colour. We all hope that that will take place, but surely that brings us back again to the question of confidence and the removal of fear and suspicion. In fact, we come back to the Monckton Report again: what is now being done to remove discrimination and suspicion sufficiently to dispel those fears and to cause political divisions to be on non-racial lines?

I think he, and I should say all my noble friends and no doubt everybody in this House, greatly regrets the decision of the National Democratic Party, Mr. Nkomo's Party, not to take part in the election. We think it is a great pity and that they are making a mistake. They should work the Constitution as best they can, and hope, as the Government say, to win in due course some of the "A" roll seats. I think it has very rarely been to the advantage of a minority Party to boycott the Constitution offered them, even if it is nothing like what they hoped for; and we feel that the Constitution in those two vital respects is not what is wanted for the future of Rhodesia.

I should like to end by saying to the Rhodesian Europeans that I beg them not to rest content with this Constitution, and not to feel that they have given all that can possibly be expected of them and that they can now stand still for a number of years. Rate of change is so rapid, and Africans are so aware of what is happening in the rest of the world, that, in their own interests, Rhodesians dare not stand still. They must go on and take what steps they can to remove this suspicion and then perhaps, as the Government say, all races living in Rhodesia can work together as Rhodesians.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am conscious of the fact that I have addressed your Lordships' House rather more often lately than I should have done, and also spoken too long. I hope to speak for only a very short time this afternoon. The noble Earl who has just sat down commenced his speech by saying that the Declaration of Rights was not as efficient a safeguard as that in the existing Constitution. Well, it obviously would have been impossible for the noble Duke in charge of the Bill to state the naked facts about the present Constitution, and there are obvious reasons why the Opposition do not want to do so. I, as one who first went to Rhodesia as a visitor in 1912, and was then owner of land in Northern Rhodesia, would venture with respect to tell your Lordships' House facts about the present Constitution.

There are alleged safeguards in it, but anyone who knows anything about white communities overseas knows that no British Government can really enforce those safeguards, because, as Lord Malvern, in a speech which caused resentment on the other side of the House but which I, personally, thought a very good speech, pointed out, there is no way of enforcing those safeguards except by using British troops, which would bring down any Government. You cannot go back to the days of Lord North; you cannot say to a European community overseas, "We are going to tell you what to do." It is impossible, and everybody knows that in private, though few people have the courage that Lord Malvern had to state it in public. I think it is greatly to the credit of the Southern Rhodesia Government over many years that they very carefully avoided any conflict with Her Majesty's Government because they knew how calamitous it would be. Therefore, I contend that the Declaration of Rights, with its appeal to the Privy Council, is a more effective safeguard than that in the present Constitution.

I do not object—he is perfectly entitled to put his point of view—to the points which Lord Lucan put. I hope he will not think I am making a wounding observation if I say that to some Europeans in Southern Rhodesia his remarks were slightly patronising when he was telling them what they had to do in the future. That is for them to decide, and one of the great advantages of this new Constitution is, I am glad to say, that neither another place nor this House will have an opportunity of criticising, as far as I know, what the Southern Rhodesia Government does, any more than they would have the right to say what the Australian Government or the Canadian Government should do, except on a Motion to Resolve.

There has been far too much criticism and patronising attitude towards Europeans in Southern Rhodesia on the part of certain people in this country. I do not suggest for a moment that that is true of most of the noble Lords opposite or their supporters in another place, but it is true of many organs of the Press, and I can tell your Lordships it is deeply resented. I am on very friendly terms with some very important people in Rhodesia, but it would be a gross breach of confidence were I to read some of the things they write to me about the attitude towards them of certain newspapers and others in this country who seem to look upon them as sort of "Legrees". I want to say, with great respect to your Lordships, that I very much hope that it will go out from this House as a whole that we have the utmost friendliness towards Europeans in Southern Rhodesia, which does not prevent us from having the same friendliness towards Africans. As the noble Duke pointed out in his speech, there are a very large number of Africans in Southern Rhodesia who are perfectly prepared to work this Constitution and who are perfectly happy to see that it is carried into effect.

I must pay the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, one compliment. I was very glad he said that there had been an advance in what one might call the social and economic position of Africans in Southern Rhodesia. I should have liked him to add, and I would add, that those who seek to draw a comparison between the situation in Southern Rhodesia and that in South Africa are doing, grave injustice to Southern Rhodesia; there is no sort of comparison between the attitudes of the two countries towards the African. The colour bar has been lowered.

Here I must say another thing which I think should be stated. It should be remembered that Sir Edgar Whitehead and Sir Roy Welensky are in a difficult position. I should imagine that privately they would like to see the pace of advance in economic and social matters of the Africans greater than it is, but they have to have regard to the fact of the European electorate, on whom, of course, they depend very largely for their position in office, and if they attempted to go too fast they would only make the situation worse. Personally I must say this. I regard the statement of Mr. Macleod that it was better to go too fast than too slow as absolutely calamitous. It has brought Kenya to the verge of bankruptcy and chaos, and I am very glad that the Southern Rhodesians take what I regard as a more statesmanlike view and believe you should bring on the Africans gradually.

I have only two other things to say. I was deeply shocked at the time of the referendum—which, incidentally, was a surprise in regard to the size of the vote in favour of the new Constitution—at the ill-concealed glee of certain British newspapers and certain elements of Leftist opinion in this country at what they hoped was going to be a sort of revolt on the part of the Africans. As your Lordships are aware, there was an attempt at a general strike, which was a complete failure; there were attempts to cause disturbances at various times, which were put down on the whole with a minimum of force. I am glad to think that the result was not to exacerbate feeling between Europeans and the Africans, the great bulk of whom do not like the extremists in Southern Rhodesia and, for that matter, the African extremists elsewhere.

The last thing I would say is this. I think a tribute should be paid to the statesmanship of Her Majesty's Government in Great Britain, especially the Commonwealth Secretary, and also to Sir Edgar Whitehead and his Government and, of course, to Sir Roy Welensky and the Federal Government, though they are not immediately concerned, for having brought about this new Constitution. I agree to this extent with the noble Earl, Lord Lucan: that despite the difficulties to which I have just referred in advancing as rapidly as he would like, and indeed as I should like, I hope there will be an advance, and I hope that the Southern Rhodesian Europeans will realise the need for that advance. Apart from that, I believe this to be an excellent Bill and I hope it will open a happy new chapter in Southern Rhodesia.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to make a very brief contribution to this debate. It is not the time or the place, I suggest, to go into the details of the new Constitution which will replace the present one, which is now 40 years old and admittedly has grown somewhat out of date. I have no doubt that the noble Duke who is to reply will reply adequately to the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, in some of his comments, but I should like to make this comment on what he said. Although he was manifestly trying to be fair, and he admitted that a good deal of progress had been made in Southern Rhodesia, the whole of what he said seemed to be shot through with the—I almost said customary suspicion, but what we have grown to regard in certain circles as customary suspicion, of the European electorate and the European Government in Southern Rhodesia. It has been said over and over again, and those who know Southern Rhodesia have implored people in this country to remember, that these are men and women who have made their home there; it is their country and their home; and it is most unlikely that they would deliberately spoil the future of their children and their children's children by grossly unfair or unwise acts.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I do not think I expressed any suspicion of Europeans. I mentioned acts that I thought were likely to cause suspicion, and I mentioned the large number of exceptions attached to the Declaration of Rights. But I did not intend to imply suspicion; I said that the suspicion was there.


My Lords, I am sorry if I misunderstood the noble Earl, but I made a note at the time and I thought he said that, although certain statements of policy had been made, one wondered whether they would be adequately carried out; which does imply a certain amount of suspicion. But however that may be, I feel that this is a very historic occasion. To any fair observer, the amount of progress in thought and vision which has taken place in Southern Rhodesia in the last few years is quite astounding, and I feel that it is due to Sir Edgar Whitehead and to the present electorate in Southern Rhodesia, as well as to the Secretary of State here, to express our public appreciation of the great forward step which the people of Southern Rhodesia, all races resident there, are now taking.

This Constitution provides far-reaching advances for the Africans, with the full consent, let us remember, of the Euro- peans. That in itself is surely an historic event, the evidence of a desire to implement the principle of partnership and to give to the African community a platform and an open road to full participation in the government of Southern Rhodesia. As has been pointed out, there is nothing at all to prevent the African from qualifying within a period of what some people have said is fifteen years and having a majority in the Government of Southern Rhodesia. It rests purely with the African to qualify himself. In effect this constitutional change will give to Southern Rhodesia much the same degree of independence as was enjoyed by Australia and New Zealand before the passing of the Statute of Westminster in 1931.

I do not think it is necessary for me to go into the question of the safeguards. We have been assured by many highly competent judges that those safeguards are infinitely more efficacious than those which existed before. The Declaration of Rights, the Constitutional Council and the power of the courts surely must give every possible protection, if one looks at it reasonably, and if one tries to remember throughout that the people resident, the Europeans who are now Africans, Southern Rhodesian Africans, are reasonable people. Most of the criticism seems to me to be based on the assumption that they will behave unreasonably. I suggest that that is unfair as well as being untrue.

I think the answer to the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, is contained in some of the words which were uttered by Sir Edgar Whitehead at the end of July last, when he said: The stage is set for the African people to play their part fully in the political life of the country, and to have a hand in the framing of policy and all matters that affect them. The removal of the United Kingdom control under a new Constitution will call for a great sense of responsibility among the African members of the electorate, who will also require a wise and tolerant use of their new powers to ensure that the great advance in race relations which the referendum result shows is consolidated and developed as the pattern for the Rhodesia of the future. He finished by saying: I would say to all Rhodesians, and particularly the Africans, that the safeguard, in the Declaration of Rights will be far more effective to protect the interests of all races than the old powers of a Secretary of State ever were. Under the new Constitution it will be impossible for any Government to remain in power for very long in Southern Rhodesia unless they get substantial support from the voters of all the other races resident there. Surely that in itself is something to consider. I therefore welcome this Bill and congratulate the Secretary of State and Sir Edgar Whitehead, who is, I suggest, a worthy exponent of the principles laid down originally by Cecil Rhodes.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, rise this afternoon to welcome and to support this Bill. The main line of attack by the Opposition in another place, when, most regrettably I thought, they divided the House on Second Reading, was on rather legalistic and, I believe, quite unreal issues. The main Opposition argument, which indeed was deployed again this afternoon by the noble Earl, was that the existing reserve powers of Her Majesty's Government, which have in fact never been used, are more valuable than the safeguards which have been quoted here this afternoon—of a Constitutional Council, a Declaration of Rights, resort to the courts, an appeal to the Privy Council, and so on. I have no doubt whatever that, from the point of view of all sections of the population—Europeans and Asians, as well, of course, as the Africans—the new safeguards are infinitely preferable. But I do not intend to pursue that aspect of the matter this afternoon. It has already been dealt with most efficiently by some of my noble friends, and no doubt will be touched on by my noble friend the Minister when he comes to reply.

The point which I should like to emphasise this afternoon is that the Bill which we are discussing exemplifies the most remarkable change in European public opinion in Southern Rhodesia—something which, three years ago or even a year ago, was quite inconceivable. It is almost exactly twelve months ago that I had the honour to attend as an observer the so-called Indaba or the National Convention in Salisbury, which was an unofficial gathering of nearly 200 people drawn from almost every European, African and Asian organisation. They spent a whole week there threshing out the vital problems which lay ahead, and they produced a most important report. I have no doubt whatever that it was that report, and the principles laid down in it, which was adopted both by the Southern Rhodesian Government and the United Kingdom Government as a basis for their discussions at the constitutional talks held in Salisbury last February.

That Constitution was fully accepted at the time by Mr. Nkomo of the National Democratic Party; but unfortunately—I say this with great reluctance—Mr. Nkomo and his colleagues were induced by external influences, first of all, I would regret to say, in this country, and then of course, later on, elsewhere, to repudiate the agreement. I hope that when the elections come along Mr. Nkomo and his colleagues will change their minds and that they will have the statesmanship to abandon any decision to boycott the election. Clearly, it must be both in the interests of Southern Rhodesia and of their own Party that they should take part. But if they do not do so, though it would be regrettable, I do not think it would be the end of the world. There are many other highly qualified and intelligent Africans all eager and able to play their part in the political life of Southern Rhodesia.

Many of these are members of the United Federal Party. I should like to emphasise that they are not stooges. That is the propaganda which is put out so widely in this country and, unfortunately, given currency by the Press. They are not stooges, but are men who have great intelligence and wills of their own. Then, indeed, there are many other moderate Africans who at present belong to no political Party and who realise that the future prosperity of their country lies in the development of a non-racial society. All these Africans have every reason to be encouraged by the events of the past twelve months.

As I say, there has been a most remarkable change in the climate of Southern Rhodesian opinion. Not only has there been a change, but practical effect has been given to it: the civil service has been thrown open to the African; as I understand it, and, in spite of what the noble Earl said, the pass laws have been virtually abolished; Africans have been admitted into the trade unions; all teachers' salaries have been equalised. Laws against discrimination in public places, as I understand it, have been passed and are being put into effect. The Land Apportionment Act has been amended, the most important feature being to allow Africans to hold land in the European townships; and, as regards the rural areas, it should be noted that the President of the Southern Rhodesian African Farmers' Union quite recently said that the total repeal of the Land Apportionment Act at this stage, unless accompanied by new protective measures, would be even more disastrous to Africans than its continued implementation.

Having regard to what the noble Earl said about the Armed Forces—I cannot tell him whether he is right about the Territorial forces—certainly the African police reserve, for which there have been large numbers of recruits among Africans, was entirely responsible only a few weeks ago for dealing with the troubles in the Harare township outside Salisbury. It was Africans, and not Europeans, who dealt with those particular disturbances.


My Lords, is the noble Lord sure about that? I thought I read that there were white Territorial troops deployed at the time?


My Lords, if I may intervene, I should think that discussion on this point is perhaps slightly off the point. I think the matter of the Armed Services is one for the Federal Government rather than the Southern Rhodesian Government itself. It is outside the powers of the Southern Rhodesian Government.


I entirely accept that. I was merely saying that the police reserves were concerned and that they were entirely African. They are getting large numbers of recruits, and they have handled these matters extremely efficiently.

It is perfectly true that the Africans cannot hope at the moment to win more than seventeen or eighteen seats out of 65; but surely this political advance—the first admission of Africans into the Southern Rhodesian Parliament, and one which has been approved by the great mass of the Europeans—is a remarkable achievement, having regard to the trend of events elsewhere in Africa, particularly further South. It must not be forgotten that this Constitution, with the grant of about 25 per cent. of the seats to the Africans, was approved by a three to one referendum held in Salisbury last June. I am perfectly convinced in my own mind that the inclusion of Africans in Parliament and the changes to the franchise were genuinely welcomed on their own merits by the majority of Europeans. At the same time, I also feel sure that many of them voted as they did because they believed that this advance in Southern Rhodesia would contribute greatly to solving some of the problems facing the future of the Federation as a whole.

I have believed all along, and I think my noble friend Lord Molson would agree, that Southern Rhodesia has really been the clue to the problem of federation. Now with this change in the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia, a great deal of what was written in the Monckton Report is out of date. Further, my Lords, in voting as they did, the Europeans in Southern Rhodesia were also no doubt influenced by the announcement of Her Majesty's Government that month—I think it was a few weeks earlier on June 13-of a final decision in regard to the next constitutional steps in Northern Rhodesia. If, as has been suggested, there is now to be any going back on the decisions reached last June over Northern Rhodesia, except over the smallest points of detail, it would, in my opinion, not merely be regrettable as far as Northern Rhodesia is concerned, but it would involve a breach of faith with the European voters of Southern Rhodesia; and that, my Lords, is important.

The elections under the new Constitution in Southern Rhodesia will be held early next year. The Southern Rhodesian Government, under the enlightened leadership of Sir Edgar Whitehead, are bound to have a tough fight against the Southern Rhodesian Dominion Party, and there I should like to distinguish the Southern Rhodesian Dominion Party from the Federal Dominion Party and its leaders. If it can be said during that election, for one reason or another, that the voters have been let down by the United Federal Party or Her Majesty's Government, there is a risk of a majority being returned for a Party which is utterly opposed to the admission of Africans into the Southern Rhodesian Parliament and which, in general, advocates a policy not far removed from that of Doctor Verwoert. I hope that the Government, in dealing with this question of the Northern Rhodesian Constitution, will have this point very much in mind.

To conclude, my Lords, I believe that this Constitution offers a real opportunity of creating a non-racial State in Southern Rhodesia. If it succeeds, it can greatly assist the development of the whole Federation on a similiar basis. I have always believed, since the very early days, that federation would be not merely of great benefit to the people of our three central African territories, but it would be of immense value as an example of what could be done elsewhere. My Lords, I still believe this: and I also believe that the Constitution which we are discussing this afternoon forms one of the most important steps towards that goal.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support this Bill, but from an angle which is somewhat divergent from that of my noble friends on this side of the House who have already spoken. This Bill is paradoxical. It is hoped and intended by everyone promoting it and supporting it that it will lead to a more liberal constitution and one which will give greater scope to Africans in Southern Rhodesia. The paradox is that, in order to increase the safeguards of the Africans, it is proposed by this new Constitution to sweep away those safeguards which were provided in the Constitution of 1923.

I think it best to be quite blunt about these things. In the last twenty or thirty years there has been a complete change in the outlook of Governments of both Parties and of Parliament in this country to the problems of Africa. I have no hesitation in saying that neither Party to-day would make itself responsible for a Constitution like that of 1923, which gave to a small minority of white people political power over a very large majority of Africans. It is better, therefore, to realise, and to admit quite frankly, that there has been this change in outlook. As my noble friend Lord Winterton has said, it has proved difficult or impossible for the Government in this country to apply the safeguards against discrimination which were provided in the Constitution of 1923. I am not seeking to make a Party point, but it is significant that the Land Apportionment Act, for example, was approved by a Labour Government when it was in power, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies of that time never sought to intervene.

I welcome the proposals for these new—if I may use a modern slang expression—built-in safeguards. The idea of a Constitutional Council is identical with what the Monckton Commission recommended, but we called it a Council of State, as it is called in Kenya. I also welcome the provision of a Declaration of Rights, the purpose of which is to ensure that the same rights shall accrue to all people, regardless of their race or colour.

Now, my Lords, my noble friend Lord Colyton, said that the Monckton Commission had found that Southern Rhodesia was the clue to federation. Well, I suppose that "clou" is the English or French word for a nail. Actually, our finding was that the intense unpopularity of Southern Rhodesia and its discriminatory legislation was the chief cause of the opposition to federation in the two Northern Territories. Although the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, quoted it, I do not hesitate to repeat what we said in paragraph 221: …no new form of association is likely to succeed unless Southern Rhodesia is willing to make drastic changes in its racial policies. If I may reminisce for one moment, I very well remember the Vice-Chairman of our Commission putting a point in Northern Rhodesia to a number of African witnesses who appeared before us simultaneously. They had raised a very large number of objections to federation, many of them trifling or even irrelevant and based upon a misunderstanding of the Constitution. So he put to them this question: If we were able to do away with all of these grievances that you have recited, would you then be in favour of federation? As soon as the question was translated, they all rose spontaneously and simultaneously, and said: No, on no account, not as long as it means being associated with Southern Rhodesia. That is the reason why I am venturing to refer to painful matters in this connection which my noble friend Lord Winterton deprecated being discussed.

For those of us who are sincerely desirous that federation should go on and should be a success, it is of the utmost importance that there should be changes in the attitude of Southern Rhodesia. I fully recognise that that has been happening in the last few years. I think it was in large measure due to the prominence which we gave to this matter of discrimination in our Report. I think it was my noble friend Lord Colyton who said that it was most unfair to compare Southern Rhodesia with the Union of South Africa. That is perfectly true. We pointed out that the movements are in exactly opposite directions. Southern Rhodesia is, and has for many years been, moving in a liberal direction, but it has not been going fast enough, and I hope that the effect of this Bill will be to speed it up.

I am glad that tribute has been paid to Sir Edgar Whitehead. It is often the case that elected Members of Parliament are more enlightened than their constituents—one of the things, my Lords, that it is safer to say in your Lordships' House than it would be in another place. I am bound to say that, when I met Ministers of the Southern Rhodesian Government, I was well aware of their anxiety to move forward as fast as they dare. My Lords, we cannot blame Sir Edgar Whitehead for having moved slowly and prudently. At the last election his Party was in a minority when the first votes were cast. It was only the effect of the transferable vote that brought his Party ahead of the Dominion Party and into power, and even then with a majority of only three. I am very glad indeed that all the indications, like the Indaba to which my noble friend Lord Colyton referred and now the referendum, which has meant that an overwhelmingly white electorate has given its approval to these forward steps, indicate a further movement in the right direction.

I will not say that the threat from the Dominion Party has disappeared, but it obviously has been largely reduced as a result of the satisfactory result of the referendum.


My Lords, as my noble friend referred to me, I should like to ask him a question. It may be my stupidity, but I really do not quite understand what his grievance is against the Southern Rhodesian Government. He has admitted that there has been a great advance in the last few years—whatever the cause is, I do not know; it may be the result of the Monckton Report, but, personally, I do not think that Southern Rhodesians attach quite as much importance to that Report as do the members of the Commission—but he then went on to say that it would be very difficult for Sir Edgar Whitehead to move too fast. What is the noble Lord's grievance, if he has one?


I am not conscious that I have a grievance. I merely say that although there is a movement in the right direction, it has not gone far enough or fast enough. If my noble friend wants a further answer, it is that so far the Land Apportionment Act has been dealt with in only a very halfhearted manner. I hope and believe that there will be fundamental changes in it as a result of the Report of the Select Committee upon the subject. If he wants another example, I would say that so far the Plewman Report on the condition of Africans in urban areas has not yet been tackled, and in a number of other respects I would say that there still is very great need for further steps to be taken and I do not doubt that they will be.


Hear, hear !


I hope, therefore, that my noble friend is in agreement with me upon this subject.

My Lords, there are three ways in which progress can be made. One is what might be called the removal of pinpricks, and a great deal has already been done in that way. There is also what I am quite sure Africans consider to be the most important of all, and that is an increase in their political power. The effect of the new franchise and the new Constitution, as the noble Duke pointed out in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, will be that no candidate will be able to ignore the attitude of Africans. But I would also emphasise the great importance of an improvement in the economic position of the Africans, and I hope that Sir Roy Welensky will lend the weight of his great authority to a movement in that direction.

While in this country, he has expressed his regret at the speed with which the Government's policy is being applied in the Colonies. In the Albert Hall he asked for a change in that policy. He obviously is not very likely to get that. The new Secretary of State has just repeated that the policy of Mr. Macleod was not only that of an individual but of the Government and that he intends to continue with the same policy. I hope that in Southern Rhodesia Sir Roy Welensky will urge the desirability of moving more rapidly, especially in that economic sphere in which Sir Roy Welensky himself has, as one would expect in the case of an ex-trade union leader, taken a very great interest. It was only a few years ago, and since the war, that, as a result of the pressure of the white railway trade union of which Sir Roy Welensky had been the organiser, Europeans who were not even British subjects were imported into the Federation to act as firemen on the locomotives. This clear and harsh application of race prejudice and a colour bar has had a permanent and a most unfortunate effect. They are moving in the right direction; already the colour bar has nominally been done away with on the Rhodesian Railways. By going further in that direction a great deal will be done to commend this Constitution to the people of Southern Rhodesia and it will enable partnership in the true sense of the word to be applied in industry as well as in politics.

Since my noble friend Lord Colyton referred to the Northern Rhodesian Constitution, which I should not have thought was within the ambit of this Bill, I should like to say that I entirely disagree with him. I very much hope that the new Secretary of State will carry out in the spirit and in the letter the undertaking of Mr. Macleod that the representations of the African Parties and the Liberal Party in Northern Rhodesia will be given full weight. It was made quite plain by Mr. Macleod that he had not intended in the second White Paper to alter the general effect of the first White Paper. If, as I believe has proved to be the case, an unintentional alteration in the balance of power has taken place, then I think it most important that the British Government should be willing to rectify what was an unintentional change.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend again—I think we are both out of order—but he will be aware that Sir Roy Welensky regards the pledge which was given to him as equally binding as that to which my noble friend refers. This is very delicate ground to discuss in your Lordships' House.


This is all extremely delicate, but, of course, any attempt by the Federal Government to prevent advance being made in the Northern territories is completely unconstitutional. It has been made perfectly clear, time and again, both in the Constitution and by Ministers of the British Government, that the responsibility for the rate of advance in the Northern territories rests exclusively with Her Majesty's Government in this country. Although they are prepared to consider representations from the Federal Government, in the words of my noble friend Lord Chandos the political advancement of Africans in the Northern territories must be, and be seen to be, safeguarded. And as my noble friend Lord Swinton, when he was asked whether amendment to the Territorial Constitutions required the assent of the Federal Government, said on July 7, 1953 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 183, col. 338]: "The answer to that is emphatically No".

My Lords, I support this Bill for three reasons. First, I believe that it will have the effect of facilitating the preservation of federation. Secondly, I believe it will give immediate advance in Southern Rhodesia. Thirdly, I believe it will strengthen the hands of the enlightened forces. I believe that it will, in general, promote the happiness and the welfare of the Federation, and of Southern Rhodesia in 'particular. I hope—I will not say that I have complete faith—that it will result in a liberal advance, in an improvement in the social status, in the economic standards and in the political rights of the Africans, and that it will result in a genuine partnership between the two races.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, first of all, I should like to thank all your Lordships who have taken part in what I am sure has been a most valuable debate. If I might, I will deal at greater length with the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, than those points raised by my noble friends on this side of the House, because they, without exception, were speaking in support of this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, had two major criticisms of the Bill. He felt that the safeguards were inadequate, and he was distressed about the lack of African representation.

If I might, I will take the question of safeguards first. I think the points he made were two-fold. One was that there were too many loopholes; secondly, that the Declaration of Rights was not retrospective. As regards the loopholes, no doubt the noble Earl was referring to what I might call the "escape clauses". I would just say to him that I think anyone who studies any Declaration of Rights, whether it be the Charter of the United Nations or the Declaration of Rights in Sierra Leone or Nigeria, will find that those draftsmen who have drawn them up, with their immense knowledge and skill, have found it quite unavoidable, indeed inevitable, to put up these escape clauses, particularly in regard to conditions that might arise in an emergency. I do not think in this case the Declaration of Rights goes any further at all in having loopholes than any similar document of the same kind.

As regards the question why the Declaration of Rights was not retrospective, I think we can say that this was because if it had been it would have thrown into doubt a number of laws, some of them designed to protect specifically African interests, some of which apply to native law and customs, and some of which are the basis of rural administration. Instead of this chaotic situation which would have occurred had the Declaration of Rights been retrospective, the Southern Rhodesian Government have put in hand an orderly review of the discriminatory laws on the Statute Book, and the first result of this review—the repeal of a number of laws which were out of tune with modern times—has already taken place.

I mention the word "discrimination", and the noble Earl had something to say on that as well in his speech. I think it is fair to say—indeed, it is a matter of fact—that the United Federal Party, at their National Congress last month, at which nearly a third of the delegates were Africans, adopted unanimously a resolution that, at the next General Election, the Party should seek a mandate to debar racial discrimination at cinemas, hotels, and at other places. I believe they had other resolutions on the same ground, but I think there is every cause for happiness at the attitude which is being taken by the United Federal Party over this vexed question of discrimination.

The noble Earl also raised the point as to why the Constitutional Council was only advisory. I think I am right in saying, with respect to my noble friend, that in the Monckton Report there were suggestions to the effect that these Councils might have rather further powers than have actually been incorporated in the Bill. The reason for this is quite straightforward. This matter of the powers of the Constitutional Council was very fully discussed at the Southern Rhodesian Constitutional Conference, and it was the view of the delegates here—and I might add that it is not without significance that these views were especially strongly held by the members of the National Democratic Party—that the role of the Constitutional Council should be advisory only. The Conference considered that it was not right that a nonpolitical and non-professional body should have such a powerful brake upon the politically-elected Legislative Assembly, and the Conference felt that it would be important for the Constitutional Council to be kept non-political in such circumstances.

Secondly, the Conference considered that the courts of Southern Rhodesia, which I am sure your Lordships will all agree rightly enjoy a high reputation and respect for integrity, would be acceptable to all races as a safeguard of their rights, always provided that a satisfactory definiton of those rights could be laid down in a Declaration of Rights for the courts to interpret. To this safeguard, I might say that we added a further bastion in the shape of an inalienable right of appeal in Declaration of Rights cases to the Privy Council, to which I alluded when I spoke earlier.

Then, on representation, I am afraid I can only repeat what I said earlier to the noble Earl. We hope and believe (I am glad to hear that my views have been endorsed by noble Lords on this side of the House) that the Africans at the first election under the new Constitution will have fifteen, anyway, and perhaps one or two more—say, seventeen—seats. But that is only a beginning. As time goes by there will be more Africans on the "A" roll and more Africans coming on to the "B" roll, so their influence in the electorate will be steadily growing. This is but a beginning, and I would ask the noble Earl to look at this representation only as a beginning, and one which we all hope, expect and believe will steadily grow. I hope I have dealt adequately with the points the noble Earl has raised.

To my noble friends, may I say how grateful I am for their support, and how delighted I am to learn that they support this Bill. We had characteristic and helpful contributions from my noble friends Lord Winterton and Lord Milverton. I should like to take this opportunity of referring to what my noble friend Lord Colyton had to say about the effect of a total abolition of the Land Apportionment Act. If that step were taken the lot of the African would be far worse than it is to-day. This, as my noble friend Lord Molson said, is a complicated and difficult matter which is under review. If the interests of the African in this all-important question of land are to be properly looked after, then we must take it gradually and slowly. Any action in haste would end in chaos and by far and away the first sufferer would be the African himself.

I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Colyton drew attention to the Indaba, which he attended. I am happy that that was the case because it was a most important gathering, whose findings should have an important effect on the way in which Southern Rhodesia develops, and I am extremely grateful to him for having drawn attention to what happened at it. My noble friend Lord Molson spoke with all the authority and knowledge of a member of the Monckton Commission, and I know that it will give my right honourable friend the Secretary of State satisfaction to know that he so warmly supports the Bill. The fact that we have his support behind us will give us great comfort. There was some discussion on matters concerning the Northern Territories. I hope that your Lordships will agree with me that it would not be seemly in a debate on this Bill for me to add anything to those discussions. It was outside the debate and therefore I would just leave it on one side.

Before I close, may I come back for a moment to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, and say how very pleased I was that he expressed regret that the N.D.P. were going to boycott the voters' roll and the election. The noble Earl expressed the hope that they would change their minds. I know that views such as that, coming from the opposite side of your Lordships' House, will carry great weight in the councils of the N.D.P.; and, if I may say so, it was a most helpful contribution to this debate, one which I hope will be noticed by Africans and members of the N.D.P. in due course. I thank your Lordships for the helpful way we have proceeded in this debate.

On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived.