HL Deb 10 May 1962 vol 240 cc339-45

3.14 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Dundee.)


My Lords, the Third Reading offers an apportunity to speak on the general aspects of the Bill. At the Second Reading of the Bill I was fortunate enough to be in the House to hear the Foreign Secretary explain it with, as always, temperate human understanding and in a clear legalistic manner. That was followed by a debate in which there were a great number of most interesting speeches. I myself, unfortunately, was obliged to leave and therefore had to be content with reading the whole of that debate in Hansard, which I carefully did. That was a debate on this Bill which was read with the greatest care by many in South Africa. What was said here could have had a weighty effect on our relations. At that time there was, and there is now, a feeling of regret—I think, shared by many—that some things were said in that debate which would more happily have been left unsaid. There was a most moderate speech by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and other speeches which followed gave a great deal of information.

Other speeches, to which I draw attention, caused unihappiness in South Africa. I refer particularly to that by my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chil-worth; and I have already told him that I intended to refer to it to-day. I often find myself in complete and energetic agreement with him on much on which he cares to give his experience to the House. In this particular case I find myself in emphatic disagreement with the kind of speech which he saw fit to make. He did in fairness tell us that this was based upon one visit, and with his great assiduous application he doubtless took every opportunity to inform himself within that limited time. Certainly, his speech told us that he had made inquiries in many quarters.

If I might digress for just a minute, my Lords, I venture to detain you because, feeling emphatically as I do with regard to the Union of South Africa, I could not—my conscience would not let me—be in the House and see the Third Reading of this Bill passed, without exercising the privilege one has of giving voice to what one feels so strongly. I am among those who feel deep unhappiness with the circumstance that South Africa recently found it necessary to leave the Commonwealth. There are many who feel that she was forced to leave. Anyhow, we remember those words of Mr. Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia, on the Monday after the event had occurred on the Friday. In a public speech in the City of London he said: If anybody interfered with the internal affairs of Australia I, too, would take Australia out of the Commonwealth. It is because of the possible effect of the remarks of my noble friend that I want to raise this matter to-day.

Let us bear in mind that a good deal of what prompted my noble friend to make his speech was based upon strong feeling with regard to racial questions, which opinion he is entitled to hold. But supposing the same attitude is taken about Australia, if she intends to exclude other than white races, surely consistency would suggest that an equal attitude was justifiable for Australia. But I am convinced that any such course would not find much response in this country. It is because of that feeling that I find myself so unhappy about my noble friend's speech. And I repeat again: it was widely reported in South Africa. Doubtless he hoped it would be; it paid a great compliment to him: but it did not do any good.

Now, my Lords, it is very easy to make a general criticism about a speech. In the main, I repeat, I think he was actuated by the feeling that the black races of South Africa are unfairly treated, and, more particularly, as he said, that the policy of the Union Government of South Africa is wrong. My Lords, I do not enter upon the ethical question at all. I merely say, from the point of view of the South African Government, that, of course, its policy is confoundedly stupid. It cannot work; it cannot last; it must fall down. But that is not the only Government of the world that is stupid; it is not the only country where policies are being followed which many of us think are undemocratic. If you go into parts of Africa to-day other than south of the Zambesi, you will find many places where the same is true. Would to God that we could change all these things in five minutes! But, my Lords, how is it possible to suggest that you can change things quickly, and bring all these black peoples forward rapidly to the stage where they are entitled to the attitude of no discrimination of colour, race or creed?

My Lords, let us think. How long would it take? Consider the inhabitants of these islands. My history is poor, but I believe there were a thousand years between the Roman and the Norman invasion of these islands. People were content. They did not expect things to happen in less than twenty years. In my fifty years of travel I have seen a good deal of the black man in those parts of the world to which he has transferred—some States of North America, the Caribbean Isles, Brazil; but I do not know his origin. I have been only once to West Africa, although I have seen him in Central Africa and, more particularly, south of the Zambesi. I am sure my noble friend forgot that, as most of us in the House know and remember, in a large part of the Union of South Africa the white man was there before the black man. Why must it be suggested that the white people, who were there first, must sacrifice everything?

At this moment I pass to the question of housing. We all have sympathy with people living in bad housing conditions. Heaven knows they are bad enough in our country! One should go into the manufacturing cities of the North and see the slums which are being pulled down. In relation to them we have nothing to be so proud of ourselves. But when one flies over South Africa, up to, say, Durban, or up the Garden Route and looks down at the tens of thousands of people dotted over the land, is it to be suggested, as my noble friend suggests, that those people ought to be regarded as equal in having a vote? For goodness' sake—


My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive me for intervening? I make no complaint whatsoever of his right to criticise what I said; but I think he should make certain that he is being accurate. I never suggested anything whatsoever about voting. The word "vote" never passed my lips from the beginning of my speech to the end.


I will be more specific in a minute. I was dealing just with housing. The point I was trying to make—and I think the noble Lord will agree with me here—is this. I thought the population was 12 million but the noble Lord says it is 16 million, and I accept his figure. There are three million whites. Three over sixteen is, in my calculation, different from three over twelve. However, anybody who takes the trouble to go into these new housing estates, in the Springs region on the Rand or the Jacobs outside Durban, or outside Cape Town, will see the tens of thousands of reasonable, small houses with their very nice gardens, public buildings and shops with automobiles around them. If we in this country had the same ratio of the population—five to one, according to my noble friend's figure—for which to meet the expense of re-housing more quickly, I suggest there would be many murmurings of dissatisfaction. But I respect my noble friend's intervention.

May I take one particular sentence from his speech [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 239 (No. 66), col. 613]: … you will never … have a change of Government there"— that is, in the Union. There is not a vestige of a chance of getting a Liberal Government in South Africa … I remember in the very early days, when I was just old enough to take an interest in politics, the Election of 1902. That was a landslide for Mr. Balfour's Government. I remember hearing men who had been in politics all their lives say, "The Liberal Party will never come into office again. The Conservatives are in power for all time". I will not try to quote the figures. Within four years—and we were reminded about this when the Prime Minister unveiled a statue in another place yesterday—the country was ringing with the charge, "B.M.G.—Balfour must go". And that was the Liberal landslide—within four years! It is for that reason that I think those statements by my noble friend were loose in predicting that there was never any chance of seeing a return of the Union into the Commonwealth, which Lord Robertson of Oakridge, with much more knowledge, said he hoped he would see. Pray God it may occur! That is why I find myself in such disagreement with my noble friend.

It is fortunate that Lord Robertson of Oakridge was able to speak as he did, with his knowledge, and it is well worth the while of all of us to read that speech again. I read it several times. Lord Milverton spoke from a wealth of information, and Lord Fraser of Lonsdale spoke with a wealth of knowledge. I say that because, thank Heaven!, there was in that debate plenty of the other climate to be recorded about South Africa. I wonder why it is that so much steam is turned on to the Union. Perhaps I should recommend to my noble friend and to others that they should go to India and see the conditions under which the Indians live, and, more particularly, the conditions under which they work in the coal mines. I hope that many of those from the Opposition Benches will take the opportunity, if they go to India, to look at the conditions under which people work in the coal mines there. Then, I think, there will be plenty of criticism about Mr. Nehru's country. But I say this particularly because speeches of that kind are inclined to stimulate something which I hope we all deplore.

There has been a good deal of discussion recently in another place about the United Nations vote urging investigations into the conditions of things north of the Zambesi. I cannot lose this opportunity to remind the House, as the Foreign Secretary has stated in this House within the last few weeks, that of the 58 who voted on the Resolution to interfere with the internal affairs of Southern Rhodesia, 47 were in arrears with their subscriptions. They did not think it worth while even to pay their dues to the "club", yet they are ready to go and talk and stir up all the trouble and mischief which such statements create. Would to God that they had the same sort of energy to interfere in some other people's affairs! When Hungary was oppressed, as it was, should the United Nations have done more than express their dissatisfaction with conditions?

My Lords, I speak because, as an industrialist having an interest in the Union of South Africa, I have travelled about there a good deal, and, like my noble friend, I have spoken to a good many people in high positions and to financial authorities in the Union. I am among those who believe that the Union is making fast headway. I would say one thing more. If our gold and foreign reserves could have increased, as luckily and fortunately they have—and I hope it will rightly prove the wise plans of Her Majesty's Government—it would raise an interest in South Africa, in the existing Government of the Union as a model which others might well follow.

I believe it is unfair to present the picture of it as a tyrannous country into which Africans outside the part south of the Zambesi will not go. What about the thousands of natives who voluntarily go every year into the Union? If it were so disadvantageous, they would not go there. There is; nothing to force the natives to go from the reserves into the manufacturing areas. Speaking as an industrialist, and believing, as I do, that there is a brilliant future for the Union of South Africa, and that it is desirable that our relations with them should be most harmonious, I say we should do all we can to cultivate those relations. I think we should remember that the Bantu peoples of South Africa are essential to the industrial future of South Africa. It is obvious; they must go there. So much of what has been represented gives a false impression. Believing, as I do, that there is room for close collaboration between this country and the Union of South Africa to the benefit of both our peoples, I want to record my unhappiness that contrary things should have been said. But, naturally, I give my support to the Third Reading of this Bill.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.