§ 3.33 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, this may be a convenient time for me to repeat in this House, with your Lordships' permission, a statement which is now being made in another place by my right honourable friend, the First Secretary of State. I think it may be convenient if I use the precise words of my right honourable friend, and they are these:In the course of the debates on Central Africa on May 8 and December 3 I emphasised two points: first, that it was the desire of Her Majesty's Government to find an acceptable solution of the situation in Central Africa which would maintain the very real advantages of continued association between the territories; and second, that Her Majesty's Government acknowledged the position of the Malawi Congress Party, namely, that they are not prepared for Nyasaland to remain within the present Federation.Her Majesty's Government are aware of a widespread desire for early decisions which will remove uncertainty and give new impetus to progress and development. Her Majesty's Government therefore propose, now that new Administrations are in office in Northern and Southern Rhodesia, to engage in early consultations with the Federal and Territorial Governments. I propose to visit Central Africa to initiate those consultations and to seek in co-operation with the Governments concerned ways and means of achieving a practical and durable solution. Full account will have to be taken of the close links which have developed between the territories, and particularly between Northern and Southern Rhodesia whose economies are so closely interwoven. The form that the future association of the territories may take will be covered by the consultations to which I have referred.Her Majesty's Government accept in principle that Nyasaland shall be allowed to withdraw from the Federation. I should explain that such a withdrawal does not mean that the present constitutional relationship between Northern and Southern Rhodesia is thereby broken.The financial and economic consequences for Nyasaland will be serious and substantial. 1147 The Nyasaland Government are fully aware of them and are ready to adopt policies to minimise them.Detailed negotiations between Her Majesty's Government, the Federal Government and the Nyasaland Government will be required before effect can be given to the decision that Nyasaland should secede. Her Majesty's Government will expect the Nyasaland Government to shoulder its just commitments and liabilities arising from its membership of and withdrawal from the Federation. Many matters will need to be examined and negotiated, including in particular those arising from the Nyasaland Government's obligation to bear its due proportion of the Federal debt, and to assume its proper responsibilities, financial and otherwise, in respect of the problems which may arise over the transfer of present Federal functions and its effect on individual officers, and also over the future of Federal statutory bodies and their staffs operating in Nyasaland. Arrangements will have to be reached regarding loan expenditure by the Federal Government in Nyasaland between now and the actual date of withdrawal. Other problems requiring examination will include the Nyasaland Railways.There is no reason why the decision regarding Nyasaland need impair the basic economic strength of the rest of the area, which rests on its agricultural, mineral and other resources. These resources will continue to provide a good foundation for a stable and expanding economy. It is of course very important that credit should be maintained, and that private enterprise should continue to invest in the area. In seeking a solution to the political problems of Central Africa, it will be Her Majesty's Government's aim to co-operate with the Governments concerned in maintaining confidence, especially over the period of transition.Her Majesty's Government reaffirm their constructive purpose, taking account of the benefits that have been derived from the past as well as the aspirations for the future, to secure in Central Africa conditions in which a stable and expanding economy can be maintained and people of all races can live in harmony.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, from our point of view—and I hope your Lordships will agree—in view of the Motion on the Order Paper and the number of speakers down, instead of having the usual questions immediately after the statement, it might suit the House better to go straight on with the Motion on the Paper.