§ 2.42 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals they now have for further constitutional changes in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and future links between the territories; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, since our last debate on the Federation in December three things have happened. I hope your Lordships will agree that these events make it desirable to have another debate rather exceptionally soon after the last one. These are the events to which I have just alluded: Mr. Butler visited the Federation in January and discussed its future with the federal and territorial leaders; the new Governments in Northern and Southern Rhodesia, which at the time of our last debate had only just been formed after the elections, are now firmly in the saddle and it is possible to judge from their actions and from Ministerial statements what their policy is likely to be; finally, the Government published a White Paper last week in answer to the charge of breach of faith made by the Federal Government. I am sorry that there is no allusion to the White Paper in my Motion, but of course it was published after the Motion was put down on the Order Paper. It has a very direct bearing on relations with the Federation.
§ I propose to direct my remarks this afternoon to the future of the Federation in the light of Mr. Butler's visit and developing policies in the territories; and, secondly, I should like to say something about the alleged breach of faith and the Government's rebuttal in the White Paper. I will start from the White Paper, but before I do so may I make a plea for a sense of proportion in this debate—a plea that may be quite unnecessary, knowing the extremely reasonable atmosphere that prevails in this House—and beg noble Lords to pull me up sharply if I myself become an offender?
§ What we are discussing this afternoon is a theme of immense importance to our country: the winding up of the old British Empire and its transformation into a free Commonwealth. It is a process begun in 1947 with the independence of India, and it has continued 1157 since. Many noble Lords from both sides of this House have taken a creditable part in what has been done in the last fifteen years. In East and Central Africa we have now reached the last and most difficult stage, equally difficult for any Government in power in this country. If we succeed in bringing about the political transition in these parts of Africa, as we have done elsewhere, without bitterness or bloodshed and without a breach in the Commonwealth, we shall have accomplished something really unique in history. We are now facing one of the greatest tasks of British statesmanship, and our reputation in the outside world will stand or fall by it.
§ What the country needs is a policy to bring Central Africa as soon as possible into line with the rest of the free Commonwealth. The policy of federation has failed. Have the Government a new policy to take its place? That is the fundamental question before the House this afternoon. So I hope that the main emphasis in this debate will be on the future rather than the past. When we deal, as we must do, with quarrels arising from the past, let us always remember that what really matters is how it will affect our future relations with the Federation. I think that what I have said up to now is something with which all noble Lords will agree.
§ I consider there are two reasons why this charge of breach of faith, repudiated by the White Paper, must be discussed: first, because it involves the honour of the British Government; and, secondly, because many noble Lords—as I can see in looking at the Benches opposite—have come down to the House this afternoon with the express purpose of talking about it. May I perhaps remind the House with what the Government have been charged? The charge which has been made by Sir Roy Welensky and the Federal Government is that Her Majesty's Government, by their unilateral decision to allow the secession of Nyasaland from the Federation, have broken a pledge, given in 1953, that the Federation could be terminated only with the expressed consent of all the Governments concerned, including of course the Governments in the Federation. This promise, Sir Roy maintains, was in effect that the Federation would not be broken up without the agreement of the Govern- 1158 ments in Africa and without the desire of the United Kingdom Government. Sir Roy made this charge originally in a speech in the Federal Assembly on December 19.
§ To give just a short account of what happened, so as to make certain that the House recollects exactly what were the circumstances, I would remind you that he was supported on the same day in your Lordships' House by four noble Lords: the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Colyton (and all but one of the noble Lords who spoke then are, I am glad to say, here again to-day), who had all been Ministers at the time this pledge was given. The noble Viscount, Lord Malvern, who unfortunately is not here to-day but who was present at the Conference as the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, also supported the charge against the Government.
§ In view of the nature of this charge and the weighty support it had received—I say "it had received", because I am talking at the moment of what happened then, in December—my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition the day after our debate asked the Government to publish the proceedings at the Conference at which the alleged pledge was given. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House agreed to consider this proposal, and now, very properly in our view, and I think in the view of your Lordships, the Government have published a White Paper. In this White Paper there is a record of the Minutes and a verbatim record of the meeting that took place, together with the interpretation put on what happened at the meeting by the Government. I hope your Lordships will read this White Paper. It is quite short, as White Papers go—commendably short—and reading it is the simplest way of judging whether the Government's contention that no pledge of the kind was given or accepted can be sustained. At the same time, we are all entitled to our own points of view, and I hope your Lordships will bear with me while I express mine.
§ The Government's contention, as I understand it, is that the pledge not to break up the Federation without the agreement of the other four Governments was limited to what could be done at a 1159 Conference to review the Constitution. Consequently, the British Government are free to act without the consent of the other Governments before or after the Review Conference or while it is adjourned—which, of course, is the position at the moment. I hope the noble and learned Lord will correct me if he thinks that is not right.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
My Lords, I certainly respond to the invitation. I do not think that that is what is said in the White Paper. What is said in the White Paper is that the discussion related to amendments proceeding from the four Governments through the Federal Assembly which is provided for in the Constitution.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
Am I not right in saying that these amendments are limited to what could be done at the Review Conference, and that the whole subject of discussion was what would happen at the Review Conference? I think I am right in saying that.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The discussion was about what could be raised at the Review Conference and in relation to amendments which could be made by way of the Federal Assembly.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
As a result of anything that might be decided at the Review Conference. So, my Lords, I think we are agreed about that: that what this White Paper relates to, in the view of the Government, is what could be done at the Review Conference, which would, of course, have to pass through the Federal Assembly.
My Lords, I must say that I myself find this an extraordinary misconstruction of plain English: a misconstruction such as I have never come across outside Alice in Wonderland. May I commend to your Lordships what I read in the White Paper? The subject of the discussion was whether or not the provision for a Constitutional Review of the Federal Constitution would frighten away investors who might fear that the Federation would be broken up as a result of the Review Conference, and the agreed Minute sums up the discussion that ensued. I will, if I may, read to your Lordships the Minute:The general view expressed by delegates was that, since any proposal to terminate the Constitution could only be put into effect 1160 with the concurrence of the Federal Government and all three Territorial Governments, and of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, it was unlikely that investors would consider the proposed review clause a reflection on the permanence of the Federation.That was agreed by all the Ministers who attended the Conference, both those from this country and those from the three territories in Central Africa.
My Lords, there is nothing whatever in this Minute to suggest that the required concurrence of the Federal and Territorial Governments was limited to the constitutional Review Conference. Nor is there any qualification of this kind, so far as I can see, in what the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, himself said during the discussion. The noble Viscount will speak for himself at a later stage, and he will tell me whether my interpretation of what he said is correct or not; but, if I may, I will quote one sentence from what he said. It is this:Nothing can liquidate the Constitution unless all four are agreed on it.Again, that does not seem to be limited to what can be done at the Review Conference.
May I also ask the noble Viscount whether he could clear up this point? When he was speaking about "all four", was he meaning the three Governments in Central Africa at the time, the three Territorial Governments, and the United Kingdom Government, which were the only Governments which existed when this Conference took place, or did he intend to refer to the five Governments mentioned in the Minute? That is an extremely important point; because if he was referring only to the four Governments, the case of Her Majesty's Government in paragraph 7 of the White Paper really falls down completely. This was put very clearly, I thought, by Sir Gilbert Rennie, the late High Commissioner for the Federation, in a letter which appeared in The Times this morning.
A little later in the discussion—and this appears in the White Paper—Mr. Greenfield, who is now the Minister of Law in the Federal Government, made the important reservation that the British Parliament cannot be bound. Of course, everyone agrees with that. This was endorsed by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, when he said in a pleasantly graphic manner:You cannot legislate against the United Kingdom Parliament going off its head".1161 Of course, our sovereign Parliament can override Ministerial pledges, even the most solemn pledges, such as Treaties with foreign countries. Your Lordships will remember there was speculation recently about whether a Labour Government would repudiate the Treaty of Rome in the event of the present Government joining on the wrong terms. But the fact that Parliament can override a pledge does not mean that Ministers do not give pledges, or that when they are given they should not be honoured.
I am not the only person to find the White Paper entirely unconvincing. I ask your Lordships to look at Sir Gilbert Rennie's letter in The Times this morning. It may safely be assumed, I think, that a leader writer of The Times is a man of average intelligence, and this is what The Times' leader said about it last Thursday, in its last sentence:The Government's argument fails lamentably. It does not, of course, follow that they must keep Federation going, or accept Sir Roy Welensky's veto now on their actions … But the pledges cannot be denied".That is the view of The Times.
Further evidence that the pledge about consent was not limited to the Review Conference is contained in a letter from Sir Albert Robinson, the present High Commissioner for the Federation, which appeared in The Times last Saturday. In it, he quotes an extract from the speech of Lord Malvern (who was then, of course, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia) in the Southern Rhodesian Parliament., in which he quotes from an answer by Her Majesty's Government to the British Council of Churches. I should like to read one sentence from the British Government's answer—and perhaps, during the course of the debate, we shall hear which member of the British Government at the time provided this answer to the query from the British Council of Churches. This is the sentence:The United Kingdom Parliament would not be precluded by law from amending the Federal Constitution without the consent of the Federal or Territorial Governments; but as the Constitution will be based on a scheme which has been agreed between the four Governments concerned and will itself be so agreed, it seems to Her Majesty's Government that it would in any foreseeable circumstance be morally and politically indefensible for Parliament to enact amendments which had not been similarly agreed".1162 May I ask the noble and learned Lord whether the Government deny the authenticity of this answer to the British Council of Churches? But if this communication is authentic, can the Government deny that what it, in fact, means is that it would be morally and politically indefensible for Parliament to amend the Federal Constitution without the agreement of the Federal and Territoral Governments? Does not this make complete nonsense of what another Minister, Mr. Macleod said in another place on Friday last: that no pledge of this nature had been given, in Parliament or elsewhere, in the last ten years?
My Lords, I will not pursue this controversy any further, apart from one final comment. I believe that this Government and the 1953 Government have been gravely at fault. They have fallen below the standards of conduct expected of a British Government. In 1953 a secret pledge of enormous political importance was given to the Federation, and this pledge was not revealed by Ministers when the Bill to set up the Federation was before Parliament. In these days we do not believe in secret pledges or secret treaties. They undermine the basis of our democratic system of government, which is the control of the Executive by Parliament. What Ministers do must always be subject to Parliamentary approval, and they should do nothing behind the back of Parliament.
The present Government have broken a pledge but (though others take a different view) I do not myself blame them for that. The dishonesty lies in not admitting that a pledge has been broken. Why not be frank and honest, instead of publishing this transparent sophistry? If the Government had said that the new circumstances which have arisen in the Federation make it impossible to keep a pledge given ten years ago, when these circumstances were not foreseen, I should have had little to complain about. But the attempt in this White Paper to explain away a promise by verbal ingenuity can only have the effect in the Federation of making the British Government despised as well as distrusted. I very much hope that, after this debate, we shall hear no more of this sterile controversy and that both our Government and the Federation Government will refrain from further 1163 exchanges: because one comment provokes another, and so it goes on. What really matters is, as I said earlier, that we should stop quarrelling about the past. That only makes it harder for us to work with the Federation Government in planning the future of the Federation.
My Lords, may I now turn to the recent developments, already alluded to, in Northern and Southern Rhodesia and to their implications for British policy? In Northern Rhodesia the Legislative Council has passed a resolution asking for secession from the Federation and for a new Constitution. This surely removes any shadow of doubt that the majority of the inhabitants of Northern Rhodesia want to leave the Federation. Do the Government still maintain that there is any difference between the position of Northern Rhodesia and that of Nyasaland? I should like to read one passage from the White Paper about Nyasaland, because it applies exactly to Northern Rhodesia. It is in the last paragraph:In the new circumstances that have arisen, namely, the expressed wish of the majority of the inhabitants of the territory to withdraw from the Federation, it would in the view of Her Majesty's Government be a breach of its obligation to the people of the Protectorate to disregard that wish".Can the Government really maintain that this statement does not apply with equal force to Northern Rhodesia, having in mind the resolution passed in the Legislative Council, which represents the people of that territory?
Mr. Winston Field, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, has made a powerful speech in the Southern Rhodesian Parliament saying that Northern Rhodesia can be kept in the Federation only by force. He expressed the hope that the British Government will let Northern Rhodesia go, so that the territorial leaders can get on with the job of working out new relationships between the territories. Sir Roy Welensky is now a lone voice, with all three territories against him and with no support from public opinion, African or British. Surely, the statement in the Press to-day, that the people of Nyasaland have always been against federation, is hardly an argument to use in favour of preventing Nyasaland from seceding. In these circumstances the secession of Northern Rhodesia must come about sooner or 1164 later; but until the principle is granted, then Mr. Kaunda will be unable to talk to the other territorial leaders about new links between the territories. The longer the delay, the further these territories will drift apart. My plea to the Government is to act and to act quickly.
This plea was put in far better words than mine in the Governor's speech in opening the Parliament of Southern Rhodesia on February 12. I will quote a part:My Government have not advanced the right to secede from the Federation, and have not and will not take any action which will contribute to the demise of the Federation as it at present exists. But at the same time my Ministers are prepared to be realistic in to-day's conditions and hope the First Secretary of State will give early and final decisions so that the Governments affected here may proceed to reappraise their positions and to settle between themselves the nature of their future association.The decision about a new Constitution for Northern Rhodesia is no less urgent. I hope that the Government will invite the parties in Northern Rhodesia to a Conference in London at the earliest possible moment to work out with them a representative Constitution with powers of internal self-government.
May I say a final word, my Lords, about the position in Southern Rhodesia? In Southern Rhodesia there has been a regrettable worsening in race relations. The policy of community development or racial segregation is beginning to take shape. Until now, of course, it happened by custom; at the moment it looks as though it may become enforceable by law. Legislation to provide separate swimming baths and other amenities has been forecast in the Governor's speech. It remains to be seen whether the constitutional safeguards against discriminatory legislation are effective. Mr. Nkomo and several of his colleagues are awaiting trial for offences arising simply and solely from the popular demonstrations that followed their release, and it is not surprising, however regrettable it may be, that disturbances have already broken out in Southern Rhodesia as a result of these arrests.
Worst of all, a mandatory death sentence is to be introduced for offences against property. The Bar Association has protested and public opinion has been deeply stirred. Of course, these are matters for the Southern Rhodesian 1165 Government and we should naturally not dream of trying to interfere, Southern Rhodesia has just as much right as its neighbours have to ultimate dependence. But I hope that we shall make it clear to the Government of Southern Rhodesia that, until it comes to terms with its African inhabitants, we cannot contemplate any demission of our responsibility.
My plea to the Government this afternoon is for an immediate and positive policy, for an end to indecision and drift. The new links between the territories which we hope to see can be forged only between the territorial leaders themselves, but they cannot get together until the Government here have decided to wind up the Federation and accelerate the constitutional advance of Northern Rhodesia. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for his Motion and for trying to steer our course through what is becoming more and more a tricky channel. In many ways, of course, this debate is an extension of the debate we held on December 19, also introduced by the noble Earl.
The first point he made was the controversy that there has been, and still is, over the alleged pledge. I fully accept his suggestion that we should not dwell too much on this part of the proceedings, but I feel that we must touch upon it, because it naturally arouses a great deal of feeling, both in Rhodesia and in this country. As your Lordships know, the assertion is made by Sir Roy Welensky—and it was repeated in the debate on December 19 in this House—that pledges were given by Ministers of Her Majesty's Government that no major changes would be made by the British Government, or the British Parliament, without the consent of the four Governments in Central Africa. These major changes were intended to comprise secession and the breaking up of the Federation. Those were the important questions that actuated the minds both of British Ministers and of the Ministers from Rhodesia at that time.
The White Paper, Cmnd. 1948, sets out the British Government's reply. The noble Earl to-day has said that he does 1166 not find it at all convincing—in fact, he used much stronger language that that. Sir Roy Welensky has stigmatised this reply as "an absurdity", and Sir Gilbert Rennie, in his letter in The Times to-day, also rejects it. Personally, I believe that the British Ministers at that time did make a pledge and that they were understood by the Rhodesian Ministers to make a pledge. I do not think that anyone who listened to the debate on December 19 (and I listened very carefully) or who has read the various letters that have appeared in the Press, especially in The Times, since then, can think otherwise. If words still mean anything at all (it is true that in modern diplomacy they are beginning to mean less and less, and that things are said which are intended to be the opposite of what they would appear to mean), there was a pledge.
The first that I knew of this pledge—and I have been closely concerned with this matter of federation since at least 1950—was at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon of December 19, and it was a complete surprise to me. I had never heard a word about it before. Therefore it seems to me that the question we have to decide is whether Parliament is bound by any such pledge. I do not believe that this Parliament is bound by it, because we knew nothing whatever about it. It was a secret pledge, arrived at in secrecy; because it was well known at that time that Parliament would never have accepted such a pledge. In fact, the speeches by Ministers in this House and in another place at that time were all against such a pledge as this. We were under the impression that if at any future time there was a strong body of African opinion—or European opinion for that matter, because at that time it was by no means clear that the Europeans in Rhodesia would welcome this Federation—against the continuation of the Federation, then there was nothing in the legislation which would prevent secession from taking place. That is what I understood, and I cannot believe that anybody who heard the debates in both Houses at that time felt to the contrary. Therefore I feel that Parliament is not bound by any secret pledge given at that time, behind the back of Parliament, by people who well knew that they dare not bring it out in public before Parliament, otherwise it would have been 1167 entirely rejected. Having said that, I do not wish to deal further with the past.
Let me deal with the future, because there is one pressing matter with which the Government must deal immediately, and they must not allow any quarrels over the past to interfere with it. While we know that federation is in fact doomed, in spite of Sir Roy Welensky, who will soon be left high and dry with no States at all within the Federation, so far as I can see, it is of first importance that Her Majesty's Government should decide forthwith that there will be a continuing economic organisation to handle the common services of the three territories: posts and telegraphs, airways and railways, the Zambesi Dam and other matters. This is of first importance because credit is now at a standstill so far as the Federation is concerned, and a most serious situation will develop unless Her Majesty's Government jump in at this moment to make it clear that there will be a continuing organisation. So long as they make that understood, the details can be worked out later.
I understand the three territories wish for such a common services organisation. I think that until the details are worked out, the British Government must, if necessary, take over the rights and obligations of the existing Federation for the common services and for the Federal debt. Mr. Winston Field said, in the Parliament of Southern Rhodesia last week, that the two Rhodesias could… stagger on with a deteriorating situation, until the final break-up of the Federation".The alternative, he said, was to make a clean break and open up the way for negotiations on an equal footing as fully independent States, and to attempt to reach agreement for the operation of various common services, with trade and economic agreements, too. I fully subscribe to this statement, which I am sure will have the support of the Governments in the other two territories. I hope that Her Majesty's Government fully appreciate the urgency and importance of making such a statement as soon as possible.
The future of these territories politically is very much with us, of course, in view of the impending break-up of the Federation. So far as Nyasaland is con- 1168 cerned, I think that the way is clear. It is unrealistic to suppose that Nyasaland canshoulder its just commitments and liabilities arising from its membership and withdrawal from the Federation"—that is a quotation from a statement made in your Lordships' House on December 19. It will be quite impossible for Nyasaland to shoulder its just commitments and liabilities arising from its membership and withdrawal from the Federation. It has nothing with which to shoulder them. At the moment the territory is quite incapable even of paying its way and meeting its ordinary budget. How on earth this little country, which has hardly any industries and a very difficult agricultural problem, is going to shoulder any obligations which arise from the Federation, I do not understand. In fact, as I say, it is impossible for it to do so. We may as well realise now that it is the British Government, in other words, the British taxpayer, who will have to shoulder these liabilities, and much else. Nyasaland will continue to need a great deal of help in every way after she becomes self-governing.
So far as Northern Rhodesia is concerned, this is the one truly viable territory among the three, and I think the only one which at the moment is able to stand on its own feet, owing to the enormous resources that the territory gets from the Copper Belt. It has an African majority in the Legislative Council, and I feel that we should consent, as it is still a protectorate, to a move towards self-government; and we should also cut out the fancy franchise that it has and go out for universal adult snffrage. Northern Rhodesia needs help of a different kind—or should I say more help of a certain kind—from that required by Nyasaland. It needs technical and managerial assistance. It does not need finance on anything like the scale that Nyasaland does.
With regard to Southern Rhodesia, we have there the new Government of Mr. Winston Field, and an even more fancy franchise than that in Northern Rhodesia. The election was boycotted by the African nationalist parties, and since taking office two months ago Mr. Field's Government has produced legislation imposing the death penalty for a number of offences, increasing maximum 1169 sentences in others and providing for whipping. It also requires any former office bearer of a banned organisation to resign from any other specified organisation. This is surely an impossible way of coming to terms with the African nationalist parties, the Zimbabwe African People's Union. They are the people who will in future provide the Government of the territory, and now not only are they being banned, but anyone who belonged to them can be required to resign from any other institution. That seems an extraordinary piece of legislation in any country still responsible to the British Crown.
I would suggest that the following action be taken here. I suggest that the British Government should in the near future declare the ending of the Federation. They should take immediate steps to help create a Common Services Organisation, in agreement with the three territories. They should end the fancy franchises in Northern Rhodesia and in Southern Rhodesia, and establish for both territories new Constitions based on universal adult suffrage. They should confirm self-government for Northern and Southern Rhodesia, with Ministry and Legislatures which would undoubtedly be largely African. They should retain responsibility for foreign affairs and defence relating both to Northern Rhodesia and to Southern Rhodesia until they are ready for independence. And after a period of self-government, Britain should grant independence to Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, I hope within the Commonwealth. The three territories are as viable as several of the States which have already achieved independence and a good deal more independent than many of the States which are now members of the United Nations.
I have reason to believe that this sort of policy would appeal to the African nationalists in Southern Rhodesia, who would be willing to extend the hand of friendship to White Rhodesians. I know that they particularly wish to secure the co-operation of the younger White Rhodesians, who I believe will be ready to work with their African compatriots and will not let the dead shadow of their elders blot out the rays of the rising sun. This is, I am convinced, my Lords, the last chance for Rhodesia. With states- 1170 manship, African and European, all will be well. There is a bright future ahead for this part of Africa. I am certain that there is no need for despondency. The younger people will work well together. Let us hope that Rhodesians and the British Government and Parliament will rise up to meet the challenge of the times.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for having introduced this Motion to-day, not only because it gives us this debate but, on personal grounds, particularly because, for reasons with which I think he is familiar, it was quite impossible for me to be present, as I should have wished, on the other occasion. I am glad that the Government have published in full the documents from which quotations have previously been made, although I am bound to say, as a former Commonwealth Secretary, that I hope this will not constitute a precedent, because, if it did, I think a great many intimate discussions between Commonwealth countries might become extremely difficult and much less fruitful than they have been all the time that many of us have been in office.
I think there are really three questions which the House will particularly want to consider to-day. First, is there any convention or pledge which precludes Her Majesty's Government and Parliament from allowing Nyasaland to secede from the Federation? Secondly, are Her Majesty's Government justified legally and on merit, in doing what is proposed? Thirdly—and perhaps this is the most important question, though it has not occupied most of the debate so far—what constructive suggestions can we make in the interests of the territories and of their peoples?
Taking, first of all, the question of convention or pledge, I should like to deal briefly with the suggestion that has been made fairly frequently that there is a convention which affects this. I think any lawyer will agree that, under the Statute of Westminster (which did not make new law, but, as Lord Balfour put it, really stated as law what had been the custom for many years past), the United Kingdom Parliament does not legislate for any Commonwealth country which has attained complete independence—what we should now call an independent 1171 sovereign State—except at the request of the Government of that country. But I think it is perfectly plain that that convention applies only to sovereign States, and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland is certainly not in any sense a sovereign State. The only convention (if that is the correct term) which can apply in the case of the Rhodesian Federation is the convention that, where powers have been devolved upon the Federal Government and the Federal Legislature, the United Kingdom Governmentment and Parliament would not, in practice, interfere with such matters. But it goes no further than that; and this was indeed clearly and accurately stated in the joint Declaration made by the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary, who was then Commonwealth Secretary, the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, and Sir Roy Welensky, in 1957. Obviously, the Territorial and Federal Constitutions were not subjects falling within that convention.
I speak only for myself, but I speak now having had the opportunity of refreshing my memory, and I am sure the House will accept my statements because, whatever mistakes I have made, I have been in Parliament for 45 years and the one thing I have never been accused of is trying to mislead the House. Therefore, I am to-day going to tell the House with absolute sincerity what in my opinion—it is a matter of fact—happened regarding the Conference, what I, at any rate, intended by the action which we took, and what I said on that occasion. Of course it is alleged that pledges were given in 1953 which preclude Parliament from legislating to alter the Federal Constitution without the assent of the Federal Government or the Federal Legislature. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said that he heard of the pledge for the first time on December 19 of last year. I may be wrong in this, and I shall be corrected if I am, but I do not think there was ever anywhere any mention of a pledge or a claim of a pledge, either here or in Rhodesia, until 1962. If such a pledge had been given or intended, it would surely have been inserted in the Federal Constitution.
Was such a pledge in fact given? As I say, I speak for myself, and so far as I am concerned I certainly gave no such pledge. I think it is very important to 1172 distinguish and separate two matters which are indeed wholly distinct and separate: first, was any pledge given to limit or fetter the power of Parliament and, secondly, what were the hopes and intentions of us in the Conference—and, I am sure, of the whole Government in 1953—for federation to endure and prosper? On the first point, that of the pledge, I think it is important to remember what we were discussing in the passages which were quoted. I am absolutely clear about this, and I think my colleagues of 1953 would agree with me. We were not discussing the power of the United Kingdom Parliament, but how the Review clause in the Federal Constitution should be phrased and what it meant. But, even so, far from giving any pledge, made it quite clear that nothing could fetter the power of Parliament.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has quoted words which were spoken colloquially, as one often does speak colloquially, in these conferences; indeed, they would be quite intolerable if one could not be a little colloquial at times, and one certainly does not guard one's language as one would when speaking in this House. Therefore, I perhaps owe an apology to Parliament for saying that, while Parliament can legislate to do anything—Parliament could legislate to-morrow to undo the Federation or to undo the Rhodesian Constitution—you cannot legislate against (and I apologise for the language) Parliament's going off its head. I was trying to make the point that the British Government and Parliament so long as the Government of that time remained in power, would certainly not exercise their powers irresponsibly. By that I meant that they would not do so to defeat, hinder or hamper in any way the Federation which we were setting up.
I say at once—and I make no apology to the House; I think I made it plain, and I am sure my noble friend Lord Chandos did so when he was piloting the Bill through another place—that I made it absolutely plain that we were determined that the Federation should continue and succeed. For my part, I certainly would never have agreed, so long as I was a member of the Government, to the dissolution of the Federation if it had gone forward in the way which we all hoped and intended. That is certainly not a pledge to surrender or fetter 1173 the power of Parliament. Indeed, Mr. Greenfield, who is now a Minister in the Federation, and who was then one of the delegates for Rhodesia—really underlined the same point, equally colloquially. He said:The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.There certainly was not a pledge limiting the power of Parliament, and if there had been I am quite sure that my colleagues and I, and the Government, would have made that plain to Parliament and put it into the Constitution. There was really nothing secret about this.
There has been quoted to-day an extract of a letter which appeared in The Times last Saturday from Mr. Robinson, who is the High Commissioner for the Federation. He quoted the letter referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, addressed to the British Council of Churches. He said he wondered who was responsible for that interesting letter. I can relieve him. I have made it my business to check this morning who was responsible for that letter, and I find I was responsible. I caused it to be written and probably I wrote a good deal of it myself. I think it is a very good letter. Let me point out not only that there was no secrecy about this, but how clearly it supports the argument. I will not read it all. What I said in this letter was this:The United Kingdom Parliament would not be precluded by law from amending the Federal Constitution without the consent of the Federal or Territorial Governments"—those, of course, were the four Governments concerned and referred to—but as the Constitution will be based on a scheme which has been agreed between the four Governments concerned and will itself be so agreed"—these are the important words—it seems to Her Majesty's Government that it would in any foreseeable circumstance"—and I am bound to say that nobody then could foresee the circumstances which exist at the present time—be morally and politically indefensible for Parliament to enact amendments which had not been similarly agreed.So much for this pledge.
Let me come to what were our hopes and intentions; and here, as I have said, I do not think there was anything the least secret. Our intention was as 1174 plainly stated in both Houses of Parliament as in the Conference. Of course we intended that the Federation should succeed and endure. We discussed in Conference whether the Constitution should contain an explicit power for secession. We were all opposed to this.
Sir Roy Welensky has quoted a passage from a speech of mine at the Conference, in which I said that it would be quite wrong to put such a clause in and that there was no Federal Constitution that we are aware of, in the Empire or outside it, which contained such a secession clause. I went on, as your Lordships will see, to point out, in a passage which Sir Roy did not quote, that it would be rather as if, when conducting a marriage service, the minister, having united the couple, wished them well and hoped the union would succeed, then went on to draw their attention most actively to all the facilities for divorce which would be open to them. That was rather a relevant passage and showed that it was perfectly clear that the possibility would be there. I then went on to say, and I certainly stand by it, that of course the Federation must be made to succeed; of course we ought not to have a secession clause in the Constitution itself, inviting any one of the countries to secede from the Federation, because they would not be able to raise any money on the market if they did. I stand by every word of that.
May I add this, on this question of a pledge or undertaking?: that I think the Declaration of 1957 is very relevant. Observe, my Lords, that this was four years later. That was a Declaration made by Lord Home, who was then the Commonwealth Secretary, Lord Boyd of Merton, who was Colonial Secretary, and Sir Roy Welensky, who was the Prime Minister of the Federation. It turned on what were the powers of the Federal Constitution which it had been alleged could be altered without any reference. What the Declaration stated was that, in regard to the convention to which I have already referred, on matters delegated to the Federal Government and the Federal Legislature, the Government and Parliament in this country would not intervene without their request. It then went on to say that it had every hope that the Federation would go on and succeed. That was important at the 1175 time, because it was just about then that the Monckton Commission had either been appointed or was just about to be appointed. But if there had been a pledge to the effect that the Federation could not be touched or altered unless the Federal Government or Parliament agreed to it, surely Sir Roy Welensky would have insisted on having that declaration inserted at that time; and of course no such declaration was made. There is, therefore, I think, no question of a pledge. There was not, other than to accept the pledge or the convention to which I have referred. In fact the Declaration of 1957 really reaffirmed entirely the position of 1953.
To me, and, I am sure, to my colleagues in 1953, the outcome to-day is a sad disappointment. We believed firmly and passionately in federation. We were sure that it would bring great economic benefits, as indeed it has, to all the territories. But, still more, we believed and hoped that federation would create a living, growing, inter-racial partnership. It was a great conception, which I trust may in some way still become a reality. But the fruition of that hope depended on and assumed a steady progress in African partnership and participation. In Southern Rhodesia Sir Edgar Whitehead strove to achieve this and there was real progress. I regret profoundly that he has been defeated. I regret to say it, but I feel I must, that the pace of partnership was quite different in the Federation. It is quite true, and great credit to them for it, that the Federal Government have achieved a great deal on the economic side and they have spent a great deal of money on African services, especially in Nyasaland; but politically and socially the pace has been disappointing. There is one notable exception—the inter-racial university in Salisbury, strongly backed by the noble Viscount, Lord Malvern, and owing a very great deal, I know, to Sir Edgar Whitehead, whose work it was after his eyes had given way.
The outcome in all the areas is very different, alas!, from what we had hoped, and we have to face the position as it is to-day. We have the Report of the Monckton Commission, which strongly supported federation. In fact, it says that it would be disastrous if it came to an end, but that there would have to be great changes. Now, there have been 1176 elections in all the three territories, and let us face the simple fact that all three are opposed to federation, at any rate in anything like its present form. It really is idle and unrealistic to say that however much conditions change one must be bound by one's previously-expressed intentions.
I have said, and I hope I have shown, that there was not a commitment or agreement or pledge in the sense that Sir Roy Welensky has claimed; but, even if there had been, there is such a thing as supervenient impossibility, and it would be quite impossible to go on with the Federation to-day. The simple fact is that three of the partners—in fact all three, the three territories—will not play on the old terms. It follows, therefore, from what I have said, that in my opinion Her Majesty's Government are not only not inhibited from acting but were bound to act. I must at the same time say I agree with my noble friend Lord Chandos, as I so often have agreed with him, that it was unfortunate that the First Secretary was not able to meet the four Governments and discuss the matter with them before an announcement was made.
I pass, therefore, rapidly and briefly, to my third point: where do we go from here? I think everyone agrees that the economic benefits of federation have been outstanding, and could not have been achieved in any other way. An enterprise like Kariba must be maintained and developed in the interests of all the territories. There is the whole field of communications, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred—railways, airways, roads, posts and telegraphs—and these surely ought to be unified services. And can anybody doubt that a customs union would not only be a common interest but a common necessity?
These are common interests, common services that spring to mind at once; but there must be a good many Federal services, Federal activities, which it would be uneconomic and wasteful to split where uniformity is clearly in the common interest. There are for example, matters like commercial treaties, the regulation of imports, banking, company law, agricultural research—I daresay there are a number of others. It will take a great deal of leadership and 1177 guidance, and, where necessary, direction from the First Secretary to achieve this. But I think he is wise and objective and impartial, and I believe he has already won a large measure of confidence in Africa. If representatives of all the Governments can work with him on what these services should be and how they should be run, much may yet be saved and developed; and it may be that, working together, a new unity will be developed and grow. At any rate, I am sure of this: that, however much we may disagree on some matters, all our good wishes will go to the First Secretary to-day, and not only our good wishes but the determination of all of us to help him in his difficult tasks in any way we can.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, it is, I think, perhaps natural, in view of the urgency of this topic and the importance of the issues involved, that the Opposition should have asked for a debate on the situation in the Central African Federation as soon as possible after Mr. Butler's return, with a view to finding out what developments there have been as a result of his visit to the Federation and the discussions which he has had with the leaders, Federal and territorial leaders, while he was there. I wonder, all the same, with all deference to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, whether this debate is still not rather premature; for the impression one gains from the Press is that nothing very much has yet happened and that there are no developments of any real substance to report.
I do not think that anybody doubts Mr. Butler's good will and courage in taking on, with great public spirit, the most invidious task of trying to find some solution for the appalling mess which has been bequeathed to him by some of his predecessors. But he seems to have gone to the Federation without any very definite plans for the future, for the consideration of the political leaders whom he had to meet out there, and to have come back without any very tangible results. He has indicated, indeed, that he has brought back from his travels what may prove to be the germs of constructive ideas, and I think we shall all agree that that is very good news. But he has not, so far as I know, 1178 yet divulged what these are. He certainly did not do so in his statement in another place on February 7, and perhaps he was wise, at this particular stage, not to rush in with public statements before he was ready.
I have seen suggestions in various quarters—and I suppose that other noble Lords have done, too—of some sort of arrangement under which the Federation as a political entity would cease to exist, but under which there should remain what is always vaguely and rather agreeably described as a "loose economic link". This I take to mean, in plain words, that the two Northern territories should be given complete political independence, but that what remains of the Federal Government—or some other as yet unspecified, central organisation—should be devised for the purpose of bridging the inevitable gap between the meagre revenues which Nyasaland herself produces and the steadily rising costs of administering the country at its present level, bearing in mind, of course, as a principle aim the need to ensure (this is as I understand the proposal) that the sums required, which may be considerable, should not in any circumstances become a burden upon the taxpayer of this country.
It is proposals of this sort that I have heard put forward, and no doubt they are all extremely ingenious. But to me they all have one fatal blemish: that they begin with a complete divorce between responsibility for policy and responsibility for providing the financial resources with which policy is to be carried out. And this, surely, sooner or later, will lead to a row. A central body which is responsible for the provision of funds will almost certainly, sooner or later, find itself in the unhappy position of having to fork out large sums of money to finance policies to which it is fundamentally opposed, or, at any rate, of which it is profoundly sceptical; and at once a deadlock will occur, and the Constitution will begin to break down.
I suggest, therefore, that the Government must face the fact that, once they have agreed that Nyasaland should be allowed to secede (and I think there is no undoing that), and now that it is becoming again an independent State, either her standard of living must fall, if not to 1179 where it was before, at any rate a good deal below where it is now, or Her Majesty's Government will have to be prepared to foot the bill: the bill for the Civil Service; the bill for some, at any rate, of the spending departments, and possibly accept some responsibility for the future of the Federal National Debt. I do not see how the Rhodesias can be asked to pay for an imbroglio which is not of their own creation. This, I am afraid, involves me inevitably in further references to the events of 1953 and the White Paper of last week. I am afraid that that, in its turn, means that I shall have to cover a certain amount of ground which has already been traversed by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and others. But perhaps it may be from a somewhat different angle.
My Lords, there was a time, in 1952 and 1953, when others outside Nyasaland would have been quite glad to have a right of secession written into the Federal Constitution—notably Southern Rhodesia. But it was made abundantly clear by Her Majesty's Government, in the talks that preceded federation, that they would be strongly opposed to that. We know from the White Paper that was published last week that the Government now maintain that they made no binding declarations of broad policy against the principle of unilateral secession at that time. The White Paper makes what I personally regard as a rather unworthy point: that whether or not statements of Government policy were made—and I think it is difficult to deny that—yet, because they do not appear in any published document, they cannot be regarded as binding. Actually—and here I differ a little from my noble friend Lord Swinton—I do not think it is so surprising that the Rhodesians should not have insisted on a specific provision against unilateral secession being inserted into the Constitution. One must remember that their situation at that time was, in one respect, quite different from what it is now. The Rhodesians—I say this with no desire to offend, but as a straight statement of fact—at that time still had absolute faith in the good word of Her Majesty's Government.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, would my noble friend allow me? Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I did 1180 not say "against unilateral secession". I said that if there had been a pledge that the United Kingdom Parliament could not act without the permission of the Federal Government, then that would certainly have gone in the Act.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Then we are not at great difference from each other. They had heard British Ministers say that they were strongly opposed to unilateral secession, and these were down in black and white as saying so in the Minutes of Conference. It never occurred to the Rhodesians that what had been said was not binding. They would not have understood the rather strange differentiation between "public" and "private "declarations of policy to which the White Paper of last week apparently attaches so much importance.
I know Her Majesty's Government do not share my views on this subject. Their contention apparently is that the question of secession cropped up only once in the 1953 talks, when it was raised, I think, by Mr. Eastwood, a member of the Southern Rhodesian Delegation (I think I can say this without breach of confidence because it is in the White Paper) on January 18, and then only in relation to a proposed review of the Constitution of the Federation after seven to nine years; and they argue that any view which was expressed by Her Majesty's Government on the subject of secession must be looked at in that limited context and that alone, and that it had no wider significance at all. In support of this view they rely greatly on the Minutes of the Meeting of January 18, 1953, from which they quote fairly copiously. They describe this—I use their own words—as "the basic document", and they deduce from it that if Her Majesty's Government were bound at all, they were bound only within these narrow limits.
But I think that if they had pursued their researches rather further back they would have come to quite a different conclusion. They would have found that in the 1952 talks—and, after all, as my noble friend Lord Swinton will agree, the 1953 talks were really only a continuation of the 1952 talks, largely with the same delegates (I can give the date, if the Government would like me to do so, but I do not wish to be guilty 1181 of a breach of confidence), the whole broad question of unilateral secession was examined, with no reference to any Review Conference at all. The idea of that had never occurred to anyone at the time. The Conference was concerned just with the broad general principle, and there was a discussion on that subject. I think I ought to know something about this because, if I remember aright, I was in the Chair at that particular meeting.
In the course of that discussion, reasons were given by certain delegates from Southern Rhodesia why they thought it desirable that provision should be made in the draft Federal scheme to permit the members of the Federation to secede from it if they wished. But they got no real support from any quarter. Speaker after speaker in effect said that to insert such a provision as that would be to destroy all confidence in the Federation and, as it were, strangle it at birth. Eventually an appeal had to be made to the delegation in question to withdraw their proposal, and they agreed to do so. That, surely, and the equally firm statement which was made by the British delegate at the beginning of the 1953 talks, ought, if any, to be regarded as the basic documents.
It is perfectly true that Mr. Eastwood reverted to the subject yet once more on January 18, on the limited question of the purview, the ambit, of the Review of the Constitution. He had accepted the view of the Conference a year before, that to insert a provision for unilateral secession in the Constitution itself might well impair the credit and stability of the new Federation. But, he said, would not to allow unilateral secession to come within the purview of a Review Conference after seven to nine years have just the same bad effect in weakening the credit and stability of the Federation? The Conference discussed the point fully, as will be seen from paragraph 6 of the White Paper, but they decided that there was no necessity to modify the existing wording, on the general grounds that there could be no amendment of the Constitution unless all four Governments agreed—and that would, as I understand it, include the Federal Government also. The wording was therefore left as it was; but clearly there was no weakening of the attitude of Her Majesty's Government, or indeed of any of the other Governments represented at the Conference. They were all 1182 against unilateral secession by any of the member States as a general principle, and not one arising merely from the Constitutional Review. The discussions of January 18 to which such prominence is given in the White Paper, did not in fact therefore modify in any way the general decision that had been reached in the 1952 talks and at the beginning of the 1953 talks.
If I am told that all these assurances were given in private and therefore were not valid—and I say this, I think, to Lord Ogmore in particular, who said that they should not bind Parliament—I would refer him and other noble Lords to statements which were made by the then Colonial Secretary, my noble friend Lord Chandos on the Committee stage of the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Bill in the House of Commons on June 24, 1953—and that is not a confidential document. I quote his words, if he will allow me to do so in his presence. This is what he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 516, col. 1973]:It all comes back to whether there is a right of secession under the present scheme. My advice is that there is not".And he repeated this at a later stage on the same day, when he said [col. 1974]:There is no right of secession under the scheme. Indeed, if there were, I think it would be thoroughly retrograde…Why do not the Government quote those passages? Are not those basic statements? I should have thought they were.
In the light of the facts which I have tried to expose to-day, my Lords, how is it possible for the Government to maintain that the debate on January 18 and the limited issues which were discussed there were anything more than, if I may use a Parliamentary expression, consequential on earlier decisions which had been taken in 1952 and at the beginning of 1953? To call the discussions of January 18 "basic" seems to me, if I may be forgiven such a colloquialism, to be mere bunkum.
I may be told that all this is beating the air: for, from the strictly legal point of view, Her Majesty's Government, it may be pointed out—I think it is one of the points made in the White Paper—have legally a perfect right to do what they like about Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. This is a point which my noble friend Lord Swinton went into in 1183 some detail. My answer to such a contention would be that that may well be true from the purely legal point of view, but, to my mind, it is entirely irrelevant. The point, surely, is not whether the United Kingdom Government could do what they have done. The point is that they said they would not do it, and yet they have done it. Whether you call that a pledge or not, I really do not know,, but there is no doubt that the United Kingdom Ministers did make unequivocal statements which influenced the other Governments to join in the Federation. That is the gravamen, and the only gravamen, of the charge against them.
My Lords, I fully recognise that the truth about this business may possibly be that the Government—who, like all Governments, have a great deal on their minds—may have forgotten how definitely Ministers had committed themselves in 1953 against unilateral secession when they gave what appear to have been conflicting pledges to Dr. Banda last year. That is quite understandable, even if unfortunate. But, if that be the case, surely it would have been better to say it frankly and to call together a conference of all concerned to try and wrestle things out. That, in my view, would not have been contrary to what had been decided in 1953. For I do not hold, any more than the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, or the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, that what was decided at that time meant that each of the five Governments concerned had an absolutely permanent veto—what I would call a "Medes and Persians" veto—against change of any kind, for ever and ever and ever. One cannot put political change in such a straitjacket as that.
It was always envisaged, I think (and if the Government like to look, they will see that references to this possible situation, even at that time, can be found), that, in spite of all our endeavours, the Federation in fact might run into very rough weather indeed. Then there would have had to be joint consultation on the new situation which had been created. But what was never envisaged, my Lords, was that Her Majesty's Government, after all they said, would themselves, without any prior consultation with the other signatories, announce unilaterally the secession of one of the members—that, 1184 in fact, the gamekeeper should become the poacher on such a very large scale. No one expected that, and I am afraid that many of us must regard it as a grievous blot on our escutcheon. In fact, the impression given—as one can see from the Press—by all this shifting and shuffling, these attempts to defend the indefensible, to conceal what ought not to have been concealed, have been so damaging, I think, to the good name of the Government and of the country that one would have thought the Prime Minister himself would do all in his power to prevent it.
However, over this particular issue the harm has been done, and perhaps it is better that the full facts should come out now, however late, than never. It is better that the people of this country should know what was actually said by British Ministers in 1953 than that matters so vital to the cause of our fellow countrymen in Rhodesia should be concealed from their knowledge in confidential minutes. But, my Lords, however that may be, there is one thing I would put forward most earnestly, and especially to the Prime Minister and Mr. Butler, who were themselves fairly senior members of the Government back in 1953. The Federal Government, having already been victims of what they regard, not without reason, as a breach of faith should not be asked to have unloaded on them the more unpleasant results of that breach. Her Majesty's Government, having allowed Nyasaland unilaterally to secede, must be prepared to foot the bill—unless, of course, they can find a way out of the difficulties that is freely acceptable not only to Nyasaland herself, and to Northern Rhodesia, but to Southern Rhodesia and the Federal Government as well.
My Lords, I should like to turn for one moment, very briefly, to the question of Northern Rhodesia. What do the Government propose to do about that? Having, as many of us may feel, broken faith over Nyasaland, can they find any good reason (I think I asked this question in our last debate on this matter, in December) for adopting a different line over Northern Rhodesia? Having got on this slippery slope, can they pull up anywhere? And what, in particular, do they feel about the Copper Belt? The Copper Belt can in no way—neither in its conception, nor in the money that has been 1185 invested there, nor in its value to the world, nor in any way, except in respect of labour actually being used for its construction and use (I do not think we ought to ignore the importance of that element, because it is very important)—can in no way, I repeat, be regarded as the creation of the African. It is purely the creation of the white man. It is the white man who provided the brains; it is the white man who provided the money to build up these vast enterprises in the wilds of Africa, from which the Africans themselves have so greatly benefited. Are the Government going to take that into account at all in reaching their decision over Northern Rhodesia? Or are they just going to walk out, without any safeguards, and leave it to its fate?
I am not going to ask for an answer to that question this afternoon. I do not believe that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who is to reply, could possibly give the answer at this time. But it is probably the most agonising question that Mr. Butler and the Government have to decide, the one most likely to give them sleepless nights. For on the decision of the Government on this particular point must depend not only the future of Northern Rhodesia and the great copper industry there, but the very existence of the Federation itself, and, maybe, the whole future of the white man in Central Africa.
I feel that it is a matter which must be giving Mr. Kaunda, too, furiously to think. There are so many respects, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, knows, in which Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia are, one might say, indissolubly linked: the railways, the Kariba project, the trade that passes to and fro across their borders. We have seen the declarations of Mr. Kaunda and Mr. Winston Field that they, in effect, regard the Federation as at an end. To me personally, and I am sure to many of your Lordships, that would be a very real tragedy. The creation of a great State in the very middle of Africa, as big as the Union and actuated by British ideas, was one of the great imaginative conceptions of the twentieth century. If it dies before it reaches maturity, the world, I believe, will be very much the poorer.
But, my Lords, even should it die, in its present form, something, I am sure, as between Northern and Southern Rhodesia, 1186 must be found to take its place. It will be a task of the highest statesmanship on the part of Mr. Butler, Sir Roy Welensky, Mr. Winston Field and Mr. Kaunda—and here I warmly agree with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—to find that thing; and it will be very greatly to the interest of Northern Rhodesia, just as much as to Southern Rhodesia, that it should be found. But I am certain that the search must be started here, by Her Majesty's Government in this country; and that efforts to find a basis must begin at once. It is a matter of the very greatest urgency. Time must not be allowed to slide away, otherwise we shall only see happening again what has so often happened before, and the one precious moment when agreement could have been reached will be irretrievably lost.
I know that there are those who feel it would be better to break all the links now, and then start again to forge new ones. I am not sure that Mr. Winston Field himself did not say something of the kind. But, if I may say so with very great deference, while breaking old links may not be easy, joining them together again is infinitely more difficult still. There are all the barriers of national pride and national prejudice which stand in the way. Better far than that, I submit, will be to preserve whatever links remain; and to try to find ways and means of strengthening them and broadening them. That is no doubt a task to which Mr. Butler's working committees will be applied. But I beg of him—and here again I agree most strongly with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—do not let them be too long about it for too long in this case, I firmly believe, will be too late.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CHANDOS
My Lords, I fear I must trespass for a few moments upon your Lordships' indulgence. Since our last debate I have had the opportunity of studying the Government White Paper and also of making a closer study of the transcript of the conversations in which I took part at the time. More of this transcript has been available since our last debate. My noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton is unfortunately prevented from being here this afternoon, but I have given him the gist of what I propose to say, and I have his authority to tell your 1187 Lordships that he agrees with the gist; although he must not, of course, be committed to any infelicities of language of which I might be guilty.
I believe the claim advanced by Sir Roy Welensky that Her Majesty's Government were pledged—and that is the operative word—not to legislate for Central African Federation matters save with the agreement of the other four Governments goes too far. Such a pledge, as the White Paper shows in paragraph 9, would have given not to one Government only, but to any of the four Governments, a perpetual veto upon the actions of Her Majesty's Government. Such a pledge could not be, and, in fact, was not given. I might at this point say that what we were thinking about at the time was a Federation, and there is no secret in saying that, when we said a Federation, we meant a Federation.
May I, for one moment, turn aside to try to answer—which I cannot do properly—a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in opening the debate? He asked me whether in the conversation ten years ago I referred to four Governments, meaning, the four existing Governments, or Her Majesty's Government and three others. I can only say with Mr. Disraeli that, just as travellers remember more than they have seen or see more than they remember, so I really cannot give an answer. I cannot remember. I do not want to be put down as one who has remembered more than he has seen. Having said that, may I say that I regard Sir Roy Welensky as entitled to feel aggrieved and injured, and even enraged. Speaking once again from memory, and my noble friends will confirm this, I think no hint was ever dropped at the Conference that the British Government would themselves dream of breaking up the Federation. Nothing could have been further from our thoughts.
All our preoccupations at that time were centred upon preventing one of the three Provincial Governments from having the right to secede without the consent of the other two and of the Federal Government itself. Everything we said, in public or in private, at the Conference seems to bear this out. In fact, so far were we from expecting action against the Federation to be 1188 taken here, that at the time we regarded Her Majesty's Government in this country as the cement to bind together the emerging Federation. We never dreamt that Her Majesty's Government would turn out to be the gelignite to blow it up. Sir Roy was left in the lurch, my Lords, by an act of policy, and not by the breaking of a legal pledge; and I think Sir Gilbert Rennie in his letter to The Times bears out what I have said.
I find all this very distressing, because there seems to have been an obvious course that Her Majesty's Government could have steered in these matters—steered before any act of secession was in fact taken. That course was to have called a Conference of the five Governments concerned—the Federal Government, Her Majesty's Government and the three Provincial Governments. There are reasons for supposing that the Rhodesias would have consented to the secession of Nyasaland, and, even if the Federal Government had sought or demanded guarantees which could not have been given, at least the whole subject could have been discussed with sobriety. For example, the very real difficulties concerning the Federal debt, to which some noble Lords have referred, and that part of it incurred for the benefit of Nyasaland, could have been resolved, as could many other questions besides. I think that Sir Roy Welensky would have helped at that Conference. It is quite ridiculous to regard him as a firebrand; he is a very far-sighted man. If that Conference had been called, and if the Federation had had to be buried, it at least would have had a decent funeral without the mourners being seen squabbling around the grave as they now are. Whether these hopes would have been dashed or realised is, of course, mere conjecture. The act of secession has now been taken, and it appears futile to rake over the embers of the past. Rather we must turn our eyes to the future.
No student of African affairs, I believe, would deny the very solid, indeed massive, advantages that the three States of the Federation have gained during its life; and none as much as Nyasaland, the poorest of the three, and the one most in need of the help, the money, the credit and the skills of the Federal Government. Under the Federation the advances in 1189 industry, agriculture, power generation and education have been truly striking. It is therefore our duty to see whether any new association can be built upon the ruins of the old. I should not despair of success. Whether our hopes or our fears are dominant, another attempt must be made if the damage to our conscience is to be repaired. No one wishes Mr. Butler or Her Majesty's Government success in the future more fervently than I do.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, we have been treated already, in the excellent, interesting speeches we have had, to various quotations from The Times newspaper, and I myself may make use of some of them in some later remarks; but I should like to descend for a moment from the lofty pinnacles of the Establishment newspaper to the editorial of one which speaks very often with a similar voice though in different language, and to remind your Lordships of an editorial to-day in the Daily Mirror, in which it refers to the recent Conference this weekend of the Young Conservatives, at which various of Her Majesty's Ministers made pronouncements. In particular, it quotes Mr. Henry Brooke, the Home Secretary, as telling the young Conservatives that what were needed most at the present time were three things—humanity, vitality and sincerity. I think it is worth looking to see how our actions, how Her Majesty's Government's actions in Central Africa, have in fact measured up to these virtues of humanity, vitality and sincerity. Because we all remember well the remarks—and we remember many of them—of the noble and learned Viscount who leads the House, that it is no good trying to lead this country with pious platitudes (I hope I am not misquoting him) but that we need to put those qualities into effect.
Let us first of all look at vitality. Have we seen very much vitality in our actions in Central Africa in the last years? The main complaint of practically every one of your Lordships who has spoken to-day, apart from this question of pledges, has been the dilatoriness, the slowness of action and the need for action at the present time, and the disastrous effect upon the economy of those three territories if things are allowed to drift as they are drifting at the moment. There, my Lords, is a clear example of lack of 1190 vitality, lack of energy. The result is not simply that things go on drifting in present circumstances, nothing getting better, nothing getting worse: the result is that things definitely become worse at an ever-increasing pace. We know that the Federation as a whole, and Southern Rhodesia in particular, is suffering to-day from a lack of investment, from a lack of confidence and even from a withdrawal of existing investments. The result of that can mean only an arresting of the standard of living, which should be rising; and the result of the failure of the standard of living to rise can mean only further discontent, further political unrest and a further desire to change Governments by whatever means are in the power of the people. So, my Lords, I think that we must regretfully agree that, at least so far as vitality is concerned, the present Government have failed signally to show this quality in their dealings with Central Africa.
Now let us have a look at sincerity. We have heard a great deal about that, my Lords, from many speakers to-day—speakers who have had a very intimate knowledge of what has been going on during the past years. I approach this matter, perhaps, from a somewhat different angle from that from which many other noble Lords who have spoken approach it. I am possibly somewhat split in my prejudices—and I think we must all admit that we have prejudices in anything of this kind. On the one side, I cannot deny the fact that it is rather an entertaining and pleasing situation to be in, to find Her Majesty's Government being strenuously attacked, with knowledge and experience, as well as force, by many of those who normally support them. There is some enjoyment in that, but that enjoyment is tempered, as it must be, very severely by the unhappiness at realising that not only Her Majesty's Government but this country as a whole is now being looked on by the outside world—and the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Malvern, when we discussed this question before Christmas, made this clear—as a country whose word cannot be trusted. That, my Lords, is something which, on whatever side of the House one sits, whatever one's political views, one cannot listen to happily with detachment or with pleasure.
Thirdly, the difficulty which arises, certainly in the case of my noble friends 1191 on this side, is that the action of Her Majesty's Government in breaking up the Federation is something we consider right, something which should be done. So we cannot criticise the Government for doing that. But I feel very strongly that there are ample grounds for criticism of the way in which this has been done. We have listened to-day; we have listened before; we have read and studied the White Paper, and we have read the articles, the leaders and the letters in newspapers. Whatever conclusion one eventually comes to, whether one comes to the conclusion that the case is not proven or whether one comes to the conclusion that Her Majesty's Government gave no pledges at all, I believe that one cannot escape the conclusion that the impression given to the other signatories of the original Agreement—to the noble Viscount, Lord Malvern, Sir Roy Welensky and the others—and the impression intended to be given at least by some of Her Majesty's Ministers who signed that Agreement, was that the Federation should not be broken up—certainly not if it were humanly possible to avoid it—by any act of Her Majesty's Government themselves. Therefore, my Lords, without attempting to enter into any of the legal niceties, without attempting to defend on legalistic grounds, there Is surely a very serious charge that can lie against the Government in respect of the way they have handled this matter.
In his speech the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, referred to a letter which had been quoted in another letter to The Times, and which he himself admitted having written—he made no bones about it. The words, as I wrote them down, were these: that…it would in any foreseeable circumstance be morally and politically indefensible for Parliamentto break up the Federation. My Lords, "in any foreseeable circumstances". The noble Earl himself said, "But, of course, the circumstances which have now arisen were unforeseeable". That, my Lords, surely, needs a little more thought. It cannot be lightly dismissed. I would produce only one piece of evidence, but I think it is an important piece of evidence. It comes from the Report of the Monckton Commission, which, as your Lordships will remember, was set up only some six years after the Federation itself 1192 was started. On page 16 of the Report, right at the beginning of paragraph 27, appear these words:The dislike of Federation among Africans in the two Northern Territories is widespread, sincere, and of long standing. It is almost pathological".My Lords, if the Monckton Commission was able to discover, only six or seven years after the setting up of the Federation, that dislike among the vast majority of people in two of the three countries concerned was not only widespread, sincere and pathological but also of long standing, surely no responsible member of Her Majesty's Government in 1953 could possibly say to-day, or at any time, that the conceivable break-up of the Federation was unforeseeable.
So, my Lords, I would suggest that, at the worst, on this ground the Government stand convicted of a breach of faith, and at the best they stand convicted of a highly reprehensible lack of foresight. Better Governments than this one have resigned for less serious reasons than either a breach of faith or lack of foresight in a matter of such great importance. It is too much to expect that Her Majesty's Government will try to retrieve their reputation by taking that honourable course. We can only console ourselves with the knowledge that they have not many more months or years to run.
Now let me turn to the third of these characteristics, these virtues, which Mr. Henry Brooke told his Young Conservative audience they should practise—that is, humanity. How are we putting into effect, in the territories that were formerly the Federation, this belief in humanity? How are we fulfilling our responsibilities as the Power who has the final say in what should go on in these places? My Lords, in the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia, now some two years old, there is a Declaration of Rights. That is an admirable document which goes a long way—indeed, I would say all the way—to ensuring that humanity is in fact practised, at least in Southern Rhodesia. If I may, I will read two small extracts from this Declaration of Rights:Whereas it is desirable to ensure that every person in Southern Rhodesia enjoys the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, the right, whatever his race, tribe, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed … to each and all of the following, … life, liberty, … the enjoyment of property 1193 and the protection of the law; freedom of conscience, of expression, and of assembly and association, …and so on. That spells out very clearly indeed what is being attempted.
Then on a later page, in paragraph 11, under "Protection from discrimination by written laws", it is enacted that:(1) No written law shall contain any discriminatory provisions.(2) For the purposes of this section a provision shall be regarded as discriminatory if by or as an inevitable consequence of that provision, Persons of a particular description by race, tribe, colour or creed are prejudiced—Those are admirable sentiments with which I am sure all your Lordships would entirely agree. But, in spite of that, your Lordships will remember that in Southern Rhodesia to-day the Land Apportionment Act quite specifically and deliberately enacts that certain areas of the territory shall be reserved solely for people of a certain race, tribe or colour and shall be prohibited to people of different races, tribes or colours.
- (a) by being subject to a condition, restriction or disability to which persons of another such description are riot made subject; or
- (b) by the according to persons of another such description of a privilege or advantage which is not accorded to persons of the first-mentioned description, and the imposition of that condition, restriction or disability or the according of that privilege or advantage is wholly or mainly attributable to the description by race, tribe, colour or creed of the persons concerned."
I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not on the Woolsack, because should have been happy if he could have explained in his reply how the provisions in the Constitution of Southern Rhodesia in the Bill of Rights, are reconciled with the enactment of the Land Apportionment Act—an Act which, had the previous Government won the elections, I understand would have been repealed but which the present Prime Minister has expressly determined will not be repealed. I do not want to appear to be misrepresenting the Land Apportionment Act. In its original intention it was admirable. It was correct in the early days of the Colony, and even before that, to make certain enactments to protect the native tribes of those areas from victimisation, encroachment and swindling by Europeans or Asians and people from outside that particular area. That was the intention of the forerunner of the Land Apportionment Act. But as time has gone on it has changed very significantly, so 1194 that we come to a state of affairs where the approximately quarter of a million Europeans in Africa now own, or are entitled to own, approximately 50 per cent. of the total land of Southern Rhodesia, and the 2¾ million Africans—ten times as many as the Europeans—have somewhat less than the other 50 per cent.
My Lords, that is hardly consistent with the original intentions of the Act and hardly likely to lead to a feeling of good will, happiness and co-operation between the Africans and the Europeans; because we must remember that, particularly in countries such as those one finds in Central Africa, the ownership of land is of enormous and overriding importance. It is not only actual wealth but the symbol of wealth at the same time. To my mind, there is something even worse than that now taking place in Southern Rhodesia, which is still, although self-governing, a Colony. I am quoting from The Times of February 13. The Governor, in his speech from the Throne, said that the policies of the Government aimed:to allow each racial community and in rural areas each tribal community to develop within its own area in its own way at a speed largely governed by its own initiative.That, at first sight, may sound admirable, liberal, freedom-loving and all the rest, but if we look at it a little more carefully what, in fact, it means is that the tribal and racial distinctions in Southern Rhodesia will be perpetuated, if these desires bear any fruition at all. Certain tribes, certain sections of society and certain communities, by reason of their own ability and their own effort, will rise fast; others, because they have less of either the natural or the acquired advantages, will remain at their present low level. That cannot be good for any country.
We are worried enough in this country when we have the threat of "Two Nations"—the North-East, the depressed, and the somewhat more prosperous South and South-East. We are giving great thought how to equalise that. We do not take the line that it is right that the communities of Jarrow and Tyneside should reach only such economic prosperity as they may be able to reach by their own efforts and that the economic communities of London and areas to the South of London should also be left free. We 1195 believe we are one country. We believe the welfare and the unhappiness and hardships of all sections of people throughout the whole country are the responsibility of the rest of the country. Surely, my Lords, we must hope that in Southern Rhodesia the same attitude will prevail and that there will not be a perpetuation of this division of the country—not only into whites and blacks, into European, Africans and Asiatics, but into the different tribes which, as we have already seen in Kenya, leads to so much trouble.
I turn aside from that and return once more to this overriding question of racial discrimination as it exists to-day but as it should not exist under the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Let us not forget that Southern Rhodesia is not all that far removed from South Africa and that the fears of what is happening in South Africa are very real in the minds of many of the Africans of Southern Rhodesia.
Again, let me quote from a leader in The Times which gives in a balanced and unbiased manner, as I am certain your Lordships will agree, a description of what is happening in South Africa to-day. It is called "The Turn of the Screw".To people who know the labyrinth of South African racial legislation it must have seemed almost impossible to devise fresh laws to add to the regimentation, harassment and humiliation of the black man. The relentless logic of apartheid theory, however, has triumphantly come up with further refinements. …And later on:The truth is that the new Bill would provide the South African authorities with better machinery to force all unwanted Africans back to the poverty-striken reserves and to make loss of employment the equivalent of a sentence of banishment for those who are allowed to stay on a purely migratory basis. It is easy to see how this strengthens the hands of employers as well as police. It is another step in the fateful process of reducing the Africans to a modern helotage.If The Times can write that, it requires not much imagination on our part to realise how the happenings in South Africa must be looked on by the political and nationalist leaders in Southern Rhodesia to-day. Nor should it require very much imagination on our part to realise the effect that it must have on the eventual working together and co- 1196 operation of all people and all races in that country. What is going on in Southern Rhodesia to-day, and what is seen and thought to be going on, cannot measure up to our responsibilities in the realm of humanity, the third of those virtues which Mr. Brooke so recently recommended to the Young Conservatives.
The future in all of the three countries which we are discussing to-day can rest securely and prosperously only on co-operation; it cannot rest on hatred or mistrust. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, mentioned the wealth coming from copper in Northern Rhodesia and said, and said rightly, that it was due to European brains and European capital. But he did not say that, without African labour, all the capital and brains from Europe would not have extracted an ounce of copper from Rhodesia. There must be that partnership between capital, brains, skill and labour, and labour must be encouraged ever increasingly to provide from its own savings, capital, and from its own education, brains. Only therein can lie the future of what has until now been the Federation of Central Africa. We must work towards that. We must use, not only our encouragement and exhortation, but also the power that surely still remains with Her Majesty's Government over at least two of these territories, to make sure that nothing is done at the present time which is going to make their present and future co-operation more difficult, and that everything is done to ensure that the hatreds and mistrusts, that the barriers which exist already, are broken down and are replaced by the desire of Europeans, Asiatics and, above all, Africans, to work together for the good of their country.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, the Federal Government has argued successively that it has the right of imposing a veto upon any alteration and amendment of the Constitution, first, on the Statute under which the Constitution was set up; and, secondly, under the Convention of 1957; and just recently, and thirdly, in December, 1962, as a result, as it alleges, of pledges or promises given by British statesmen with whom it negotiated in 1953. I think that it has been made quite plain and there is no doubt that the arguments 1197 advanced under the Act of 1953, and the Convention of 1957, are not sound.
Your Lordships have been privileged this afternoon to hear the extraordinarily interesting and, I think, very frank speeches by three ex-Secretaries of State, who have told us what they had in mind at the time those conversations were taking place. It was interesting that the views expressed were slightly divergent, as one would expect when people are frankly and truthfully relating what they remember of conversation that took place ten years ago. But two things, I think, emerged from what all three said, and I think that they go a long way towards explaining what all this trouble is about.
They all three said that no pledge was given that no amendment or repeal of the Constitution could take place without the consent of all four African Governments.
As I think all three ex-Ministers said, to have done so would have been to give each one of the Governments an absolute veto upon any amendment of the Constitution. They all three also said that at the time they were full of hope, of confidence, and faith in the future of the Federation and therefore it was natural that they should not, in the graphic words of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, at the time of the wedding ceremony talk about the arrangements for divorce.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords—if I may interrupt my noble friend—I did not say the words which he put into my mouth. I did not say, obviously, "We all agree that there should be a complete, absolute and permanent veto"; that would be impossible. What I intended to say was that in the event of there being a violent disagreement or difficulty, they should get together and discuss it. I did not mean that any party to disagreement should be able unilaterally to convert it. Perhaps my noble friend did not mean that, either.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, what I was seeking to do was to draw from the three slightly divergent speeches of the three ex-Secretaries of State what I think they have in common and what must be an accurate statement of what happened. It is that no pledge was given which gave to the Federal Government an absolute veto on any amendment to the Constitution to which it did 1198 not agree, and, secondly, that the general atmosphere at the time when this great and imaginative experiment was being launched was one of hope and confidence. I was just going to add, before my noble friend Lord Salisbury interrupted me, almost exactly what he said about it—namely, that I think they agreed that, although this Government might be obliged to take action for the amendment of the Constitution without the agreement of the Federal Government, all felt that perhaps the Government might have had one more Conference with the Federal Government in order to try to get agreement. I hope I have established from these three speeches that Her Majesty's Government have not been guilty of a breach of an exact pledge, but that these three ex-Ministers are slightly critical of the way in which it has been handled. I hope that I have begun, at any rate, by making a contribution to the settlement of this controversy without too much acrimony.
At the time federations were very popular in the Colonial Office. It was about that time that the Federation of the West Indies was launched—and that has broken up. I very much fear that the same is going to happen in the case of the Federation in Central Africa. Whatever might have been said in the past, it is surely important to realise that great nationalist movements cannot be controlled by pledges given by Ministers in the past, any more than they can be by constitutions, which are broken by revolution, or by treaties which are broken by revolts. I think that it is relevant to remember that while the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, for good and logical reasons united Holland and Belgium, such were nationalist feelings that the country broke into two. Sweden and Norway were united and although that unity lasted until 1905, again nationalist spirit resulted in breaking it up.
I do not think any fair-minded man could possibly blame the statesmen of 1953 for not having foreseen what has happened. There are two things that could not have been foreseen: first, the speed of the European withdrawal from Africa; and secondly, the narrow and illiberal policy that has been followed in the Federation. As regards the first, let me give these striking figures to your Lordships. In 1953 there were 1199 only five African States that were independent; the whole of the rest of that great continent was under white control. In 1963 (and I have just checked this), by chance, it is five which are still dependent and not on their way to independence, chiefly the colonies of Portugal and of Spain.
The second thing is the failure of the Federal Government to practise that partnership upon which Federation was founded. Indeed, I think the only kind of partnership was that which was described in an unfortunate witticism by the noble Viscount, Lord Malvern, when he was Prime Minister, as the partnership of a rider and his horse. I think that the blame which rests upon the United Federal Party as a whole especially rests upon Sir Roy Welensky. It is not altogether to be wondered at. A man in politics is what he has been created by his career and his constituents. It is worth remembering that his first public work was as secretary to a white railway trade union, and one of the main objects of that trade union was to reserve all skilled work to white Rhodesians. It was that trade union that was largely responsible for a most unfortunate event—namely, the importation of Europeans, many of whom could not speak English, into the Federation to work as stokers in order that Africans should not be trained for that skilled work.
Afterwards as a politician he has been responsible to primarily white constituents. We all know in this country how a trade union official is somewhat inclined to regard economic problems from the point of view of the union which he represents: and I think we have all, especially if we have sat in another place, found ourselves tempted to regard political problems a little from the point of view of our own constituents. While I think it is true to say, as my noble friend Lord Chandos has said, that Sir Roy Welensky is a farsighted statesman, I believe that he suffers from the optical handicap of colour blindness and he is not as well aware of the great black majority as he is of the white minority upon whom he is dependent for his political power.
During the first seven years of federation a number of events happened which 1200 checked what I believe was the happy promise of the Federation. The first thing was the passing of the Federal Franchise Act in 1957. That was generally regarded by Africans as a deliberate attempt to alter the franchise in order to delay their advent to political power. It was the view taken by the African Affairs Board that it was discriminatory against the Africans. I regard it as being an error on the part of Her Majesty's Government that they supported the Federal Government and overruled the African Affairs Board. So far from considering, as Sir Roy Welensky does, that Her Majesty's Government have been insufficiently sympathetic to the Federal Government, I think they have erred on the other side.
The next event was the Southern Rhodesian election of 1958. Mr. Todd, rightly or wrongly, had been regarded by Africans as a very liberal statesman. The effect of the election of 1958 was that the United Federal Party, having represented itself as being as liberal as Mr. Todd, managed to destroy the United Rhodesia Party which he led. What was extremely significant was that on the first counting of the votes, before the single transferable vote was applied, it was the Dominion Party which had a majority of the votes. Only a few months afterwards the United Federal Party fought the Federal election on the issue of Dominion status for the Federation as soon as possible, and represented itself as being indistinguishable from the Dominion Party. Again they were more successful against the Dominion Party than they had been in the previous election. All these things have come to be regarded by Africans as a clear indication that the United Federal Party, especially in its Federal capacity, is not sympathetic to the advance of Africans.
This was the situation when the Monckton Commission arrived in Southern Rhodesia. Here I should like to reply to the charge made by the noble Viscount, Lord Malvern, on December 19 against the Prime Minister when he complained that the Prime Minister of this country had not restrained the Monckton Commission from making the recommendations that they did. Here I can speak of a matter of which I have personal knowledge, as so many other Members of your Lordships' House have done this afternoon. The Prime Minister 1201 was not asked to interpret the terms of reference. That is the duty of any Commission that is set up, and having regard to the eminence of our legal members there is no doubt that the interpretation that was put upon them was correct. We included three ex-Conservative Ministers from this country and the representatives of the four Rhodesian Governments and we unanimously found thatAfter seven years African distrust has reached an intensity impossible to dispel without drastic and fundamental changes, both in the structure of the association itself and in the racial policies of Southern Rhodesia.It was our first objective to try to preserve some political association. In order to do that, it was necessary to persuade the Africans to give a fair trial to some amended Federation or other kind of association. Since it was obvious that they were demanding immediate dissolution of the Federation, we proposed that they should be asked to exercise patience while a fair trial was given to a new kind of association likely to be more acceptable to them. The best inducement to them to exercise their patience and to give it a fair trial was that, if they were still dissatisfied after the lapse of a fair period of time, then they would be allowed to secede. So far from this being an attempt to break up the Federation, it was, in our opinion, the only way in which the Federation, or some kind of association, could be preserved. I do riot believe that Sir Roy Welensky has ever understood our proposals—certainly none of his speeches show that he has understood them. The very word "secession" was like a red rag to a bull, and anger is not normally conducive to lucid thought.
No attempt has been made to apply the proposals that we made for amending the Federal Constitution in order to make it more acceptable to African opinion. On the contrary, despite the assurances that were given in 1953, and which were written into the Preamble to the Constitution, the Federal Government quite openly attempted to interfere with reforms which Her Majesty's Government proposed to introduce into Northern Rhodesia. Sir Roy Welensky asked for a gerrymandered Constitution, and actually said that he considered the British Government should not introduce a Constitution which would be inimical to the preservation of the Federation. 1202 The only one of our recommendations which has been introduced was the courageous effort of Sir Edgar Whitehead in Southern Rhodesia to do away with colour discrimination. There the disastrous result has been the dismissal of Sir Edgar Whitehead from power.
It has been suggested that our unanimous proposals were dependent upon the view which we put forward, and which has been confirmed by two successive Lord Chancellors, that the Imperial Parliament has the right as well as the power to legislate to amend the Federal Constitution. Our advice was not in any way affected by the question of whether the Imperial Parliament could carry out any changes that we recommended. We were appointed by five Governments to advise the five Governments, and we should have given exactly the same advice even if we had been of the opinion that it was necessary to obtain the unanimous agreement of all five Governments before anything could have been done. The only difference would have been that we should have been less likely to see our recommendations put into effect.
Two and a half years have now passed by; conditions have changed; development has taken place, and I fear now that that disruption of the Federation which we so earnestly sought to avoid is probably inevitable. The principles which Her Majesty's Government have applied to Nyasaland must surely be applied to Northern Rhodesia also. If the majority in the Northern Rhodesian legislature against federation is not as large as the majority in the Nyasaland Legislature, that is because of the nature of the Northern Rhodesian Constitution. Owing to the intervention of the Federal Government it reflects less accurately the views of the inhabitants than does the Legislature of Nyasaland.
I should like to quote on this subject the words of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor when he wound up the debate on December 19 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 245, (No. 26), col. 1214]:Few, if any, of your Lordships … would contend that this country should ignore that clearly expressed opinion of the people of Nyasaland. I would myself put it as high as to say that that mandate of the Nyasaland electors is one that we cannot ignore. Indeed we could ignore it … only if Her Majesty's Government were prepared to embark on a 1203 policy of repression … such a policy would be wholly inconsistent with those that Great Britain has followed for so long with regard to dependent territories.I venture to repeat those words, not because your Lordships are likely to have forgotten them, but because I think they establish quite clearly that the action of Her Majesty's Government in regard to Nyasaland is based upon principles, and those principles must equally apply in the case of Northern Rhodesia. Southern Rhodesia also at this last election has supported a Party which stands for secession. Federation in the past has been like a stool standing on three legs, which were the three territories. All those three territories are now unwilling to continue to support federation. There is need for speedy action if there is not to be political violence, industrial stagnation, unemployment and financial stringency.
Her Majesty's Government should, I feel, take the initiative—and take it soon. They should convene a Conference of the Governments in Africa and they would, of course, take a leading part in the deliberations themselves. The three territories would no doubt be chiefly concerned to divide up the estate of the Federation. The Conference would have to decide what functions should remain at the centre and what kind of reorganisation would be required to administer it. Would it be necessary to go back to the Central African Council? It worked pretty well until it was scrapped just at the time of federation, and when I was in Rhodesia I made some inquiries as to why it had been scrapped. I was told that Sir Godfrey Huggins (as he then was) considered that the best chance of obtaining the Federation upon which he had set his heart was that something short of it working reasonably well should not continue. I was very much struck that in the debate here on December 19 Lord Malvern said for the first time to my knowledge [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 245, col. 1172]:The Central African Council was unilaterally torpedoed by Southern Rhodesia.He was Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia at the time, so he ought to know.
I look rather to the East African High Commission in an improved form as the best model for the future. The High Commission was reasonably satisfactory in dealing with the common services of 1204 the three Colonies, but its great shortcoming was that it was dependent upon the three territories for finance. I feel that in the case of Central Africa we must try to preserve, first, a customs union; secondly, a single system of taxation and Consolidated Fund; thirdly, a single currency; fourthly, a single reserve bank—and I should like to see the interest on the National Debt a first charge on the Consolidated Fund.
When nearly all the spending departments have been transferred to the territories, it will naturally be difficult to maintain this degree of unity. But not to have it would be disastrous, and would, I am sure, result in a quite catastrophic economic decline in that area. I throw out the suggestion that perhaps the best we can get is an ad hoc Central Legislature representative of the three Territorial Legislatures, which would be responsible for dealing with the financial matters. It is the old Confederacy of which there have been examples in the past; and if it is not possible to have a federation, then a Confederacy may be the best alternative. One of the most difficult problems will of course be the treatment of the Federal Civil Service, and I hope that the mistake will not be made that has been made in so many Colonies reaching independence of paying civil servants more generously to go than to stay.
This prolonged uncertainty in Central Africa must be ended as soon as possible, as so many of your Lordships have said in speeches that differed in almost every other respect. Nothing could do more harm than a protracted deathbed for the Federation. Great Britain has the power to legislate and that imposes upon this country a great responsibility. The three Territorial Governments must be made to face the grim realities of disrupting the Federation, but they must be free to take what action they wish, be it wise or unwise. No new arrangement can succeed unless it obtains the support of African opinion.
Nor must the Federal Government be left in a position to bargain away its powers under the old Constitution. It has had its chance to do that and has rejected it. That entails, as it seems to me, a plain statement from Her Majesty's Government that the Government will invite Parliament to repeal the 1953 Act, and 1205 will make new arrangements for Central Africa. It entails also something like a time limit for the conclusion of the Conference. It is essential that bargaining and negotiation should not be indefinitely prolonged. It is important, my Lords, that the decisions taken should be wise; it is almost equally important, if we are to avert a serious breakdown, that those decisions should also be speedy.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ LORD COLYTON
My Lords, we are always grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for the opportunities that he affords us from time to time of discussing the affairs of Central Africa, and we are so again to-day. My noble friend who has just sat down spent a good deal of his speech criticising Sir Roy Welensky, and I must immediately dissociate myself from those remarks. I shall have more to say about Sir Roy Welensky later in my speech, but I should like to emphasise one point; and that is that his complete devotion to the ideals of a non-racial or multi-racial society represents the basic feature of his whole political philosophy.
My Lords, my right honourable friend the First Secretary of State has just returned from a visit to the Federation, where he carried out consultations with the Federal and the Territorial Governments. In a statement in another place on February 8 he announced the formation of a Working Party to deal with the details of the arrangements for giving effect to the decision for Nyasaland to withdraw from the Federation. He also deprecated the calling of a general Conference to discuss the whole future of the Federation until the necessary preparatory steps had been taken. Further, he indicated that he would not wish to rush in and spoil the possibility of a settlement when a constructive point of view about a future association was being expressed in varying degrees by all the Governments concerned. I hope that nothing we may say in this debate this afternoon will endanger the hopes of a constructive settlement such as the First Secretary contemplates, but, at the same time, there are certain things which clearly have to be said.
I do not intend to detain the House at any length in regard to the matter of the pledges or assurances or undertakings—call them what you will—which form the subject of the White Paper. I must 1206 say right away, however, and I say it with regret, that I regard the White Paper as inaccurate and misleading and the arguments contained therein as inept and, in certain respects, disingenuous. I cannot believe for a moment that it was written by anyone who was present at that Conference. In the first place, it seeks to show that the assurances given by my noble friends Lord Swinton and Lord Chandos, to the effect that the Constitution could not be liquidated or abrogated without the agreement of all the parties, related only to discussions on the Constitutional Review. It is to my mind quite absurd to try to draw any distinction between actions taken during the Constitutional Review or when the Constitutional Review is suspended, as it is at this moment, or at any other time. To try to do so, as my noble friend Lord Salisbury, pointed out, is to ignore all the history of the previous attempts to write a secession clause into the Constitution.
This idea was first mooted, I think I am right in saying, by Mr. Stockill, the Leader of the Opposition Dominion Party, at the previous Conference in May, 1952; and, as my noble friend Lord Salisbury has said, he was persuaded not to press the matter. However, one of the members of the Southern Rhodesian Delegation (I think, Mr. Keller, but I cannot be sure) reverted to the matter at the very beginning of the 1953 Conference. At that time the position was perfectly clear. It was the extreme European nationalists in the Southern Rhodesia Parliament who were pressing for the right to secede. It was the British Government and the moderate Europeans of Northern and Southern Rhodesia who were strongly resisting it.
The views of the British Delegation were made perfectly clear by my noble friend Lord Swinton at one of the earliest meetings of the Conference, in a statement which is quoted in the White Paper, but only, I notice, as a footnote on the last page. At that time there had been, so far as I know, no question of a Constitutional Review. This came much later. The more detailed assurances quoted in the earlier part of the White Paper were given only several weeks afterwards, and long after the principle that there could be no question of secession had already been accepted by all concerned. It is in this respect, I submit to your Lordships, 1207 that the White Paper is misleading and rather disingenuous.
Further, the White Paper suggests that the four Governments referred to by my noble friend were the three Territorial Governments and the Federal Government. I submit, with all possible deference to my noble friend Lord Swinton, that this could really not have been correct. The four Governments in my recollection—and this is borne out in Sir Gilbert Rennie's letter to The Times to-day—were the three Territorial Governments and the United Kingdom Government.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend; but that must, of course, have been his own view. I can only say what I meant by it when I was responsible. I have not the faintest doubt that I meant the four Governments in Africa. That was the whole point, as I am sure my noble friend Lord Chandos would agree, because there would have been no sense in regarding it as including the Government of the United Kingdom and the Governments there.
§ LORD COLYTON
Again, with all deference to my noble friend, there was no Federal Government at the time.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
There was going to be; and, of course, the whole point is that we were going to set up a Federal Government and a Federal Legislature. The noble Lord really must not put words into my mouth which are exactly opposite to what I expressed and intended at the Conference.
§ LORD COLYTON
Of course I accept that from my noble friend, but in my view the reference to the four Governments was changed to five Governments when the Secretariat, when they were writing the Minutes, took up the point that the Federal Government had been omitted, They put that into the Minutes, and it remains for us to see.
It is also suggested in paragraph 8 of the White Paper—and this was reaffirmed by the Leader of the House in another place on February 14—that until last year no suggestion had been made that any such pledges had been given. Certainly they were within my recollection, and I have no doubt within the recol- 1208 lection of others present at the Conference. As the High Commissioner of the Federation stated in his letter to The Times on February 15, a reference to these assurances was made in a letter which my noble friend Lord Swinton said emanated from his office to the British Council of Churches reaffirming—and I am now quoting:… that it would in any foreseeable circumstances be morally and politically indefensible for Parliament to enact amendments which had not been similarly agreed.Moreover, Mr. Greenfield, the Federal Minister of Law, said last Saturday that in the course of correspondence with the Prime Minister regarding the Monckton Commission's recommendations on secession the Federal Prime Minister, in a letter of September 21, 1960, quoted the extract from Lord Swinton's statement at the 1953 Conference which is reproduced in the White Paper.
In short, my Lords, the position remains that although no provision against secession was written into the Constitution, although no formal pledge may have been given, there is no doubt in the minds of all who attended the Conference that the agreements there reached were on the basis that there would be no changes in the Constitution, or at any rate no abrogation of it, without the consent of all the parties. Of course everyone accepted the fact that in the last analysis the British Government, by Act of Parliament, could repeal the Federal Constitution or dissolve the Federation. They could equally repeal the Statute of Westminster or the British North America Act. But no one has ever suggested that they should do so. I feel quite satisfied in my own mind that Her Majesty's Government, in admittedly the most difficult situation in which they found themselves last year, made a great mistake by not admitting that these assurances existed but explaining that a new situation had arisen and saying that, after all efforts to find a solution by agreement failed, they would be bound, in spite of these assurances, to act unilaterally.
The Federal Prime Minister, Sir Roy Welensky, has been subjected to criticism on the grounds that he revealed the contents of confidential proceedings without the consent of the other parties, and thereby did great damage to the principle of Commonwealth consultation. I should 1209 like to ask my noble friend on the Woolsack who is to reply for the Government what action he thinks was possible to Sir Roy Welensky in those circumstances. He had been informed that Her Majesty's Government intended to announce a unilateral decision in violation of what he regarded as solemn undertakings given by that Government. Was not this breach of undertakings at least as liable to damage Commonwealth consultation as the revelation of confidential but certainly not secret documents? Moreover, it seems to me that the position of the Federal Prime Minister himself has been much misunderstood. He is responsible not to the British Parliament, not to the British Government, but to his own Parliament and electors. He was appointed to his office by the Governor-General acting on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, as Leader of the majority Party in the Federal Parliament. It is his duty to be as vigilant in regard to the interests of the people of the Federation as it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to be vigilant in regard to the interests of the people of this country.
Apart from the ethics of this matter the reason why I so deplore the action of Her Majesty's Government is that it reflects an attitude towards the Federation which in my view has bedevilled our relations with the Federal Government for the past three years. I do not for a moment maintain that the Federal Government has always been wise or always in the right. I deplore, for example, the recent restriction on Mr. Kenneth Kaunda's movements at Salisbury airport. In this case I suspect that it was the fault of individual immigration officers at the airport acting on their own initiative. But pinpricks like this, by whoever they are committed, can serve only to exacerbate the situation and render solutions more difficult to achieve. Unfortunately, the actions of the British Government towards the Federal Government have often gone further than mere pinpricks.
It has been generally recognised, I think, in this House that Her Majesty's Government in 1953 gave enthusiastic support to the principle of federation, and this was certainly rightly recognised and acclaimed in the country as a whole. It was reflected in public statements and speeches in Parliament in both Houses during the period of the passage of the 1210 necessary legislation. Even the then Leader of the Opposition in another place, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who opposed federation, said at the conclusion of the Second Reading debate [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 515, col. 425]:The right honourable Gentleman"—he was referring to my noble friend Lord Chandos—knows perfectly well that if this becomes the law of the land it is the duty of all of us to try to make it work to the best of our ability.That is what Mr. Attlee (as he then was) said. I must say quite frankly that I regret that no genuine effort was made by many members of his own Party to carry out that undertaking. Nor indeed was the enthusiasm of the British Government, in my view, fully translated into effective action in the Federation itself.
It will be remembered that prior to the establishment of the Federation in 1951, under the Labour Government, colonial civil servants in the two Northern Territories were instructed not to take a positive attitude towards federation. In spite of instructions given by my noble friend Lord Chandos and myself, when I was out there, to the contrary, this attitude persisted in many quarters after the Federation had been established. The Monckton Commission indeed found that this was a major factor in the build-up of anti-Federal feeling in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I think that we in the Government at that time were perhaps to blame for not making quite sure that this policy in relation to the two Northern Territories was changed. I also feel that Her Majesty's Government can be blamed for not having taken more positive steps to bring their influence to bear informally on the Government of Southern Rhodesia to make a reality of partnership.
In spite of what my noble friend Lord Molson has said, I do not believe that this applied to the Federal Government, or in particular to my right honourable friend Sir Roy Welensky. Obviously, in this matter of anti-discrimination in Southern Rhodesia, while it was politically and practically impossible to go too fast, equally it was possible to go too slowly. But the fact is that public opinion in Southern Rhodesia was moving, and in fact did move, in the right direction. The tragedy lies in the fact that at that 1211 very moment when Southern Rhodesia began to translate into practical action the changes of view which had swept through the people, the British Government, having, I submit, been in the main neutral towards the federal idea, began to turn their back on it. This is the only way in which one can interpret their actions in the past three years. They paid lip service to the idea of federation but they were never at any time prepared to stand up strongly against the forces of Pan-Africanism, both within and outside the Federation, which were seeking to destroy it.
When my right honourable friend the First Secretary of State became responsible for Central Africa I was convinced that we should see a new approach to this whole problem. I regret to say that, in spite of the cautious optimism which he now expresses, I am disappointed by some of his actions. I will give an example. Her Majesty's Government are still committed to the principle of federation so far as Northern and Southern Rhodesia are concerned. Yet when, a week or so ago, a Motion advocating secession was introduced in the Northern Rhodesian Legislative Assembly the official Members, who act under instructions from the Government and indirectly from the First Secretary, were apparently told to abstain. Consequently the Motion was carried. Surely, while federation remains the law of the land, and while the whole issue is under discussion, it was the positive duty of the official Members to vote against a Motion for secession. Any action of this kind, which is bound to be interpreted as an act of bad faith, or at any rate of on the part of Her Majesty's Government, is bound to have its repercussions in Salisbury.
The First Secretary has said in another place that, in his discussions with the new Governments of Nyasaland and Southern Rhodesia, he was encouraged to find a widespread disposition to think constructively. That is all to the good, and we can see it in a number of different directions. Mr. Winston Field, the new Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister, paid a visit to Nyasaland with his Minister of Justice, and he had what he described as a most cordial reception from Dr. Banda. Mr. Chipembere, the former Malawi extremist, who has just been 1212 released from two years in prison, said the other day:I now lay down my arms and abandon my hostility to the Europeans.Even Mr. Kaunda, in spite of what I regard as some sinister threats to the European-owned newspapers who reported a split in his Party, has saidWe intend to establish a truly non-racial society; it is something we believe in.In spite of all that has gone before—and certainly I have not been behindhand in criticising where I thought that ill-considered or dangerous things had been said or done—I believe we must take these statements at their face value. Certainly the Federal Prime Minister has made his position perfectly clear. Sir Roy Welensky has said publicly on many occasions that he is willing to consider changes, even radical changes in the forms of association between the territories of the Federation. The Federal Government have also made it clear that they are prepared to participate in preliminary talks between the Governments concerned and, if the talks show some sign of general agreement, to participate in a conference. But until such time as it is found possible to agree on a new arrangement to replace the existing pattern of federation, the Federal Government insists that no changes should be made in the present constitutional relationships of the two Rhodesias.
What they feel, I think, is that to be constructive we must start from the basis of what is already in operation, modifying it if necessary, and not by beginning to break it up and then trying to put the pieces together again. I believe it is sheer illusion to think that a purely economic form of association would succeed. In my view some form of central political authority must be retained. It was entirely for the reason that this central African authority, in the form of a Government and a Legislature, did not exist under the old system of the Central African Council that that system failed and had to be scrapped. We can at this moment see, in spite of the many difficulties and divergencies, how the three East African territories are striving their utmost to lay the foundation of a political structure which will make possible the full development of the economic links which already exist between them in the form of the Common Services authority.
1213 So it is with the Rhodesias. Apart from the historic ties which bind them together, the economic break-up of the two countries would be disastrous to both of them, but particularly to Northern Rhodesia, with its single commodity economy based on copper and a limited consumer market. We have just witnessed the tragedy of the Southern Rhodesian chrome industry. Due entirely to a Russian offer of chrome, the American purchase of Rhodesian chrome has been completely cut off and this important Southern Rhodesian industry faces complete collapse. It shows how unwise it is for any country to base its economy on a single commodity. Southern Rhodesia would, of course, suffer from a break-up, though to a lesser degree. But this is the point that matters in the long run: it would not be the Europeans who would be the sufferers—after all, if necessary, they can leave; in the long run it would be the millions of Africans inhabiting the country who would suffer from a collapse of this sort.
I repeat, I do not think it possible to maintain the existing unity of the Rhodesias in the absence of a strong political authority at the centre. Let us seek to approach this problem constructively. Let us, if you like, go back to the recommendations of the Monckton Commission in which Lord Molson played such a prominent part. Let us start from there. Let us see which were the powers which the Monckton Commission felt should inevitably be retained at the centre. Defence, external affairs, customs, communications, immigration, income tax perhaps—these seem to me to be the essentials. Then let us look again at the form of the Central Assembly which the Monckton Commission proposed, and see whether we cannot bring something about on those lines.
I do not believe that if Her Majesty's Government were prepared to give an active lead, to make positive, constructive proposals, to put them forward with their full backing and a real determination that they should be accepted, it would be impossible to reach an agreement. I believe that Mr. Butler is absolutely right when he says that there is a realisation in the Federation that the ties which bound these territories together in the past have brought them great benefits. I am sure he is also right when he says that he found a great deal of constructive 1214 thought among many of the inhabitants, including businessmen and farmers, who, he said, had an urgent quest for certainty. I am convinced myself that there is also a far wider measure of goodwill than is sometimes thought. In conclusion, I beg Her Majesty's Government to seize this opportunity now presented to them, with courage and with conviction and a determination to succeed.
§ 5.47 p.m.
My Lords, it has been of some academic and personal interest to discuss whether there were or were not pledges, but may I suggest that the truly pathetic thing is that anyone should ever have thought that such pledges were worth seeking or giving. What a tragedy that there was no Minister at the Conference in 1952 or 1953—or there appears to have been none—who reflected that the future of the Federation would lie in the hands of its African peoples, the peoples who form the majority in each territory, and that their representatives would not be bound by pledges upon which they had never been consulted! It is doubtful whether anyone can pledge the people of another nation unborn; but for British Ministers to fancy that they could pledge three unborn African nations was not realistic. The truest statement in the commentary is that Her Majesty's Government were not in a position to give guarantees. If any such pledges were made, they will certainly be swept away and submerged, as were those nice questions which we discussed in your Lordships' House as to whether the Devlin Commission exceeded their terms of reference or whether the Monckton Commission had any right to consider secession. Having perched a three-roomed "pre-fab" on the crater edge of a volcano, you may argue about notices to quit, but your conclusion is unlikely to affect events.
The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, says that none of us foresaw what would happen. Taken literally, that remark is of course undeniable. But if the noble Earl meant that he did not foresee that federation would not last, then I accept the statement and I greatly respect him for the admission that he did not foresee it; but there were other Members of your Lordships' House who did foresee it. There was the late Lord Jowitt; there was the late Lord Bishop of 1215 Chichester. I see the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. He also took part in the debates of those days, warning the Government what would happen to a Federation that was imposed on people contrary to the wishes of the majority.
May I, with great humility, point out that I, too, foresaw what would happen? On July 7, 1952, I borrowed words from Edmund Burke and applied them to the Federal scheme, saying that it was [OFFICIAL REPORT, VOL 177; col. 777]:… such a tesselated pavement without cement; here a bit of black stone and there a bit of white—indeed a very curious show, but utterly unsafe to touch and unsure to stand upon.All through the debates, I would jump up behind these noble Lords on the Front Bench and oppose—because I was a Conservative, because I believed, in caution, because I believed in history, because I believed in keeping in touch with reality. The noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, never foresaw that the gelignite would be provided by the United Kingdom. My Lords, has it been? Surely the gelignite has come from the African peoples.
I am in close agreement with proposals that have been made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and by the noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Molson, as to the Conferences that should be held, but the points that I would stress are these. If we are to avoid the mistake that has been made in the past—the mistake of under-estimating the strength of African opinion—we must proceed differently from the way we proceeded in the past. Southern Rhodesia must be told that she will not be granted independence until she has a Constitution that truly represents all her people. If we were to grant her independence on any other terms we should be repeating the mistake that was made when the Union of South Africa was set up.
Further, Southern Rhodesia should be told that this country will give no further economic aid until a democratic Constitution has been created. Northern Rhodesia should, of course, be assured of her right to secede and given a fully representative Government. And when any Conference is called there should be representatives, not only of the Governments of Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia, but also of the Africans of Southern Rhodesia whom the present Government of Southern 1216 Rhodesia do not in fact represent. If these things are done, then I believe there is indeed a chance that the Conference would make representations, or set up a Commission to make representations, about the organisation of common services that subsist among all the three territories. But, my Lords, no kind of success will be reached in the future, any more than in the past, unless due deference is given to the strength of African opinion.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, my intervention in this debate at this hour will be a brief one. I had not intended to speak at all in this debate, as I felt, with the noble Marquess, that it was perhaps a little premature, since we debated this subject on December 19, when I personally took part and dealt in some detail with the administrative difficulties which must accompany the secession of Nyasaland. I do not propose to attempt to repeat any of that to-day. But there are one or two things which, perhaps coming from an ordinary observer, may be worth recording. I notice that a very large assembly of ex-Ministers has taken part in this debate, so perhaps a few words from the man in the street may be of some interest.
To begin with, I do not propose to say anything about the pledge—except this. I do not care what word you use, but in my opinion there was an honourable understanding, and it has not been observed. There has been a breach of it; and no one, as noble Lords have said, would have thought worse of the British Government if they had admitted that there was this misunderstanding, but that, in the changed circumstances of to-day, no sensible person would attempt to suggest that they were bound by it. I am sure that attitude would have been eminently forgivable. But one cannot move about Africa to-day without stumbling over broken promises and broken pledges—and, may I say, not only those of the British Government, but those of almost every African leader who has taken part in affairs in that country. I do not wish to go into any more detail about that, other than to mention that broken promises are rather common currency in Africa to-day.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in opening this debate—and we are 1217 indebted to him for his words—said that we are engaged in winding up the Empire. Well, that is undoubtedly so, my Lords. But that is precisely my complaint about what has been happening in Central Africa. Because, surely, "winding up" implies some deliberate plan and a careful inspection of the circumstances with which you are dealing. I would suggest that planned action has been eminently absent from the actions—perhaps "actions" is the wrong word to use: the drifting—of the British Government over the past few years.
The noble Earl also implored us to deal with the future, and not with the past. I could not agree with him more. But there is a tendency, which is all too easy to slip into, for us in this country to go on volunteering our opinions, our advice and our orders to people who live in Africa and to overlook the destiny of these people. Surely the people with the greatest say in the matter should be those who live in Africa and understand it. I shall never forget the speech of the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, in our last debate. He flew here from Africa to make it, and to my mind it did not receive half the attention it warranted. He is a prominent employer of labour who has settled there and whose relations with his labour are eminently satisfactory. I mention that in passing. I feel strongly that in this new relationship about which we all talk the people of the country should have the major part in settling their own affairs.
My Lords, a good deal has been said to-day about Southern Rhodesia. Emphasis is laid upon what Southern Rhodesia must do in relation to the racial question, to the franchise and the way in which she runs heir Government. But is there nothing at all to be said for the sort of security we must ensure in the future for the Europeans who have built that country? As has been mentioned by one noble Lord, what about the Copper Belt, which has great importance and owes its position in the world to European enterprise? When one talks about ensuring that there is universal adult suffrage for Northern Rhodesia, and all the rest of it, is there no time to spare to consider what is going to be done to enterprises of that kind when adult suffrage does arrive?
1218 My Lords, surely it is acknowledged to-day that the greatest enemy of democracy is an ignorant electorate, and we should always remember that in dealing with Africa. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, speaking of Nyasaland, said a number of things with which I agree. But almost everything he said underlined the recklessness of agreeing to the secession of Nyasaland, without proper consideration of the immense administrative difficulties of dealing with that question of secession. I agreed most heartily, too, with the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, when he emphasised the impossible divorce which seems to be contemplated between finance and responsibility for policy. You cannot successfully run a country where those two are divorced from each other.
Now we have three Governments in Central Africa, each of whom has declared against the continuation of federation. Surely, the way to deal with that situation would have been belatedly to have a conference of the heads of these Governments, with the representative of the British Government, and to have sat round a table and talked about what will happen if the Federation is dissolved. Surely that is how to settle and to agree upon the outlines of this economic co-operation, with which I heartily agree, for the sake of the African population even more than anybody else, must be arranged between Northern and Southern Rhodesia, and if possible with Nyasaland as well, for the sake of Nyasaland. As one noble Lord said, it is very easy to break old links but it is terribly hard to replace them. I think that this conference should take place at the earliest possible moment, as many have said, and it must be an essential part of an agreement about the breaking up or adjustment of the Federation.
In passing, may I say I feel that Sir Roy Welensky has had very considerable reason to complain of his treatment, and I sincerely hope that in the future conferences he will have reason to say that he and his Government have at last been recognised as somebody who must be consulted. I want to emphasise one other thing, and that is the tragic failure of this policy of drift, if you can call it a policy. The kind of uninspired opportunism which has passed for policy in the management of the British Government in Africa over the past few 1219 years, has been rather a public exhibition of a lack of any policy. But surely, my Lords, if it is a policy, it is one of the deliberate leaving to chance of what you should try to settle by planned wisdom.
Also in passing (and I have noticed a relevant note in some speeches to-day), I would say that one of the curses of Africa has been excessive control from this country. If you want people to be responsible—and I am referring not only to Africans; I am referring to Europeans as well—you must give them a fair share of the authority to shape their own lives. The Europeans who have made Africa their home have only too often been handed down instructions and orders about their affairs, or hampered in their own administration by well-meaning but relatively ignorant people in this country. I suggest that in the future, in these very difficult circumstances which we now face, it should always be remembered that a large part of the responsibility and the authority should be given to the people on the spot. In my opinion, it is very noticeable that the vacillation of the British Government over recent years has been a major cause of the growing intransigence of the African leaders. The practice of real partnership has been severely handicapped by this vacillation, and by the sort of drift which was so noticeably practised by the successor in office of the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton.
In conclusion, my Lords, where do we go from here? I agree about all the institutions and all the departments of government which were mentioned by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, which must sensibly be run in a co-operative way in the future, for the sake of the economic prosperity and the happiness of the people of Northern and Southern Rhodesia particularly. Surely the only way to arrange that, as I have already said, is to have this conference at an early date with the representatives of all the Governments. Action is really urgently needed, and we look for some of that wise understanding which, in my opinion—I am sorry to have to say it—has been so lamentably missing in the past. Finally, I would say that all of us who have our criticisms of the mess into which we have got in Central Africa, wish Mr. Butler the best of success in 1220 solving the problems which have been handed to him and which are none of his making.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, there have been some very notable speeches this afternoon from people who have enormous experience in the field. I may say that it pleased me to hear the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, describe himself as speaking as "the man in the street". If there is one person who speaks with direct experience of Colonial matters in your Lordships' House it is surely he, and in his speech just now he gave us several matters to think over. His emphasis on the need for giving authority to people on the spot was perhaps a two-edged argument for him to use because, as I understand it, he thinks that Governments have been too quick in giving authority to Africans. I think we would agree with him. In fact, several noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Hemingford, last of all—have spoken in the sense that the opinion of the African inhabitants of these African territories is one that Governments disregard at their peril. We have had examples of it, and the whole case of federation arose, we believe, from the fact that the Government ignored the existence of an African opinion in the Northern territories which was hostile to the idea of Federation with Southern Rhodesia.
As to an excessive control from Whitehall, can that accusation really be sustained? The two aspects in which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said there had been a quite unforeseen and unforeseeable change in the last ten or twelve years were in the growth of independent African States and in the failure of the authorities in the Federation to give the concessions that were clearly necessary to African opinion. Those, surely, were cases where people on the spot, administrators in Africa and Governments in Africa, had the authority, and in the case of the Federation they neglected to use it in the only way which could have led to a successful outcome of the Federation scheme.
But, my Lords, one thing that I feel should be mentioned (because it has been touched on only lightly) is the question of the future of economic links between the territories of the Federation. Other noble Lords have dealt with the political situation and the urgency of reaching a 1221 decision, and on that I would not quarrel. But we must remember that as long ago as 1939 the Bledisloe Commission recommendedan inter-territorial council to examine the existing Government services of the three territories and bring about the greatest possible measure of co-ordination in those services, and to frame plans for future economic development".All that was recognised; and the Central African Council, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, was set up, to be superseded in 1953 by the Federation. Now we have to go back and think again what measures are desirable and possible in the present circumstances to bring about this co-ordination of the common services and of economic development.
Surely the first thing to remember in any scheme of this sort is that it must be arrived at by consent. Nothing can be imposed that is not acceptable to the authorities in Central Africa, and that means to the Malawi Government in Nyasaland and to the African Government, the coalition of UNIP and the African National Congress, in Northern Rhodesia. I suggest that as urgent a matter for Mr. Butler as the political future of the territories is an arrangement for the common services. What are the patterns on which we have to go? There is the East African Common Services Organisation, which was set up last year to replace the East African High Commission. That has an authority consisting of a Minister from each of its three territories, with four functional groups under it, each consisting of a Minister from each of the three territories. They are dealing with communications, finance, commercial and industrial co-ordination, and social and research services. Would something on those lines be acceptable to the three territories?
Then there was the Caribbean Common Services Authority, which was set up only last year. Your Lordships will remember that we had some discussion on it here; and, as an interim measure, the Government appointed a Commissioner to be responsible for running the common services until some more permanent arrangement could be devised. Those common services were meteorology, the Statistical Office, the Supreme Court, shipping and communications, defence and, 1222 last but not least, the University College. In the Federation there is the University College in Salisbury, and it must be the hope of everybody that that University can continue to afford to supply higher education for all the territories of Central Africa. But under what conditions can it be made acceptable to the Nyasaland Government? That is a matter for Her Majesty's Government to thresh out with the three Territorial Governments, not forgetting Mr. Field's Government in Southern Rhodesia, and the other two of the Northern Territories. Those are things to which Her Majesty's Government ought to give urgent thought, because it will not be denied by anybody, I think, that there would be advantages to all three territories in a co-ordination of these common services.
My Lords, the other matter that must be in the back of all our minds is the uneasiness over the future in Southern Rhodesia. The electorate of Southern Rhodesia, which consists almost entirely of Europeans, has, with its eyes open, chosen a Government pledged to a more rigid enforcement of racial discrimination. As the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said, it may be that the factor which caused Sir Edgar Whitehead to lose the election was that he had proposed quite progressive measures, the repeal of some of the Land Apportionment Act and other measures, and that he stood for what, was, in many ways, a progressive policy towards Africans. It was his misfortune, and I think it is the misfortune of the whole country, that the electors there have chosen this more extreme form of Government. Whether Her Majesty's Government here should say flat out that they cannot agree to give complete independence so long as there is no effective expression of African opinion is an arguable matter: it is a matter of tactics. But the fact remains that the Southern Rhodesians have placed themselves in a position in which they cannot claim to represent the people of the country: and in the prevailing climate of world opinion that puts them in a very dangerous and exposed position. That is what leads many of us to look on the future in that country with some misgivings. We hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will be able to tell us that Her Majesty's Government intend to act, and to act quickly, in the only possible sense left open to them.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, who is in Scotland, has asked me to express his regret at not being able to be present at this debate to-day. It has been a debate of a far-reaching character and I think I have heard every word that has been said in the course of it, except for the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Walston. I apologise for not being able to hear what he had to say, but I have a full note of it. As was to be expected, a great deal of the debate to-day has been directed to the question of whether there has been any breach of pledge given by United Kingdom Ministers in the course of the Conference in 1953 held to settle the final form that federation was to take. It is alleged that things were said in the course of that Conference which, while not amounting to a legal fetter on the freedom of the United Kingdom Parliament to legislate, amounted to a moral obligation not to do so without the consent of the Federation and of each of the three territorial Governments.
Other charges were made and I will deal with them later. But it is important, in my submission to your Lordships, to bear in mind the allegation preferred on December 19 by Sir Roy Welensky. It was not an allegation with regard to unilateral secession, the phrase used by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. It was an allegation that a pledge had been given not to legislate for the Federation without the consent of the Federation and of the three territorial Governments. Other charges have also been made and to these I will refer later. But this, I think, is the main charge and, in answering it, I can tell the noble Marquess straight away that I do not regard myself, to use his expressive language, as defending the indefensible. Nor is it correct to say that the White Paper seeks to draw a distinction between public pledges and private promises. There is nothing in the White Paper to support that conclusion.
My Lords, the allegation preferred by Sir Roy Welensky on December 19 was quite specific, and he supported that accusation by quoting extracts from the verbatim record of the meeting of the Conference on January 19, 1953, and the minute relating to that meeting. Those were the documents he cited in support 1224 of his contention; and it was in that context that the White Paper refers to the verbatim record as the basic document, as indeed it clearly is, in connection with the charge preferred by Sir Roy Welensky. At that time, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, was Lord President of the Council, and I should like to remind your Lordships, if I may, of what he stated in our debate on December 19. He then said that he had been at pains to refresh his memory and that he could assure your Lordships—and here I quote the noble Marquess's words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 245 (No. 26), cols. 1165–66]:… there can be no doubt at all that British Ministers at the Conference gave most explicit assurances that the Constitution of the new Federation … would not be liquidated without the free assent of all the Governments concerned.He was then clearly supporting the allegation made by Sir Roy Welensky. To-day he did not speak about liquidation; he spoke about unilateral secession or the right to secede. I will come to that later; but that is quite a different issue from the charges preferred by Sir Roy Welensky.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, may I interrupt at this point? In practice they are exactly the same thing.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not agree at all with that, and I will explain why later. A pledge by Ministers on behalf of this country not to legislate without the consent of the Federation and without the consent of the other three territories—that is what is alleged and is the charge I am answering. I will come on to deal with the noble Marquess's intervention in a moment or two.
To come back to the debate of December 19, I must confess I was surprised at the time at the very positive nature of the noble Marquess's statement, for I too had read the record from which no doubt he refreshed his memory. I was then and, despite what he said, am to-day unable to agree with his intepretation. I say this with the greatest respect to the noble Marquess. I know he was present at the Conference for some of the time, but he was not present on January 19, 1953, nor in fact at any subsequent meeting of that Conference. So I assume he refreshed his 1225 memory from the record now published in the White Paper.
When I replied to that debate I was in a difficult position. I did not agree with the noble Marquess's interpretation, and yet I was not able to say why I did not do so without reference (which it was not then proper for me to make) to the contents of these confidential documents. And now the noble Marquess has accused the Government of attempting to conceal something which ought not to be concealed. I do not know whether he means by that that he thinks the documents ought to have been disclosed on December 19 without consultation with the Governments involved. He did not express a view on that when he preferred that charge to-day. My Lords, in my submission the record, when considered in its context, does not support, and indeed is not capable of bearing, the interpretation which the noble Marquess, Sir Roy Welensky and The Times and others have sought to put upon it. I hope that your Lordships will bear with me if I give my reasons at some little length for saying this. The charges of bad faith, coming from such quarters, have to be taken seriously, and I feel it incumbent on me to answer them as fully and conclusively as I can.
Before I refer to what was said at the meeting, may I remind your Lordships of the sequence of events? The meeting of the Conference was on January 19, 1953. The Conference finished on January 29. The Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Federation) Act received the Royal Assent on July (4, and the Federation of Rhodesia (Constitution) Order in Council was made on August 1, 1953. That Act was an enabling Act, enabling Her Majesty by Order in Council to provide for the federation of the three territories. Section 1 (2) of that Act provided that the Order in Council might authorise the amendment or revocation of any of its provisionsbut save as may be so authorized, that Order in Council shall not be capable of being revoked or amended except by Act of Parliament".The Act thus made it clear, if there was any doubt about it, that Parliament could revoke or amend the Constitution Order in Council. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that a pledge that the 1226 United Kingdom Parliament would not legislate in relation to the Federation without the consent of the Federation and the three territories, if given, was a pledge of the greatest importance, affecting, as it would have done, not only Parliament but the Constitutional relationship of the United Kingdom with the Federation and indirectly with each of the three territories.
The noble Lord, Lord Colyton, despite what has been said to-day in the course of your Lordships' debate by my noble friends Lord Chandos and Lord Swinton, said that there was no doubt in the minds of all present that there would be no change without the consent of the parties. I wonder, then, at the course of events during the passage through Parliament of that Act. In the circumstances, whatever the noble Marquess may have thought recently on refreshing his memory from the records, I cannot believe that if in 1953 the noble Marquess or the noble Lord had believed that a pledge to this effect had been given by either of their colleagues, my noble friend Lord Swinton or by my noble friend Lord Chandos, they would not have felt it incumbent upon them to say so then. There was no reason for secrecy.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has challenged me. The answer is, that it never occurred to me that it was not the settled United Kingdom policy, in view of the statements which had been made by me and other representatives of the British Government.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I have not seen any public statement anywhere by the noble Marquess or any other member of the Government which confirms that statement.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is always making this difference between public and private statements. I was referring to things that had been said and that I had heard said in the Conference. The noble and learned Lord just said that he could find no trace anywhere in the White Paper of this differentiation between public and private documents. If he will look at the first line of paragraph 10 of the White Paper, on which 1227 I based my remarks, he will see that it says:No trace of such a pledge can be found in any public document, in any contemporaneous announcement, or in the Constitution itself.That seemed to me, and still seems to me, to draw a sharp differentiation between what was said publicly and what was said privately.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, of course there is a differentiation between what is said publicly and what is said privately. What is said publicly is available for everyone to see, but there is no such support in the White Paper for the noble Marquess's suggestion that the Government regard private pledges as less effective and less binding than public ones. That is the statement that the noble Marquess has made, and that is the statement I have challenged.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord whether at a later stage he will deal with the letter, of which the noble Earl. Lord Swinton, claimed he was the author, to the British Council of Churches? Because clearly that was a published statement.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Certainly, my Lords; I will come to that later. But it does not support the argument advanced in relation to it by the noble Earl, as I shall seek to indicate.
I have referred once or twice to public documents. I do not for one moment suggest that I have myself read through all the mass of private documents, telegrams and so on, which have accumulated through the years before and after 1953. I am dealing with the charges put forward by Sir Roy Welensky, in support of which he has cited two documents. What I have been saying is, if the noble Marquess or the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, thought that a pledge of such vital importance had been given, I should have thought they would have felt it incumbent upon them to see that it was communicated to Parliament at the very least. There was no reason for secrecy about it and, I suggest, not the slightest justification for it. It is not for me to use the words of the noble Marquess to ask, "Was he concealing something that ought not to be concealed?" I believe 1228 myself that if the noble Lord had thought this pledge had been given, he would have been one of the first to insist that it should have been made public—indeed, perhaps, to have insisted on a qualification being added to Section 1 (2) of the Act. After all, in the Ireland Act, 1949, the Government inserted the pledge thatin no event would Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of Her Majesty's Dominions without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.There is no reason why, if such a pledge had been given, Section 1 (2) should not have gone on to say:… With the consent of the Federation and each of the three territories.So that the Act would have read:Save as may be so authorised that Order in Council shall not be capable of being revoked or amended except by Act of Parliament with the consent of the Federation and each of the three territories".I hope that I shall not be thought to be questioning the sincerity with which the noble Marquess spoke on December 19, because I know how easy it is to draw the wrong conclusion, even as to the meaning of a Statute, if one does not consider not only the context but also the background to which the Statute relates.
§ LORD COLYTON
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord passes on from that quotation of the Ireland Act, may I ask him why it was possible to give an undertaking of permanency in the case of Northern Ireland, yet in the case of Rhodesia, paragraph 13 of the White Paper says that:Her Majesty's Government, however, were in no position to give and did not give any undertaking or guarantee as to its permanency"?Can the noble and learned Lord explain the difference?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Certainly, my Lords. The two points are not in pari materia. The point I was on was in regard to the pledge, and now the noble Lord is trying to bring me back to the undertaking part of the allegations made. If a pledge of the sort alleged had been made, the Ireland Act was the precedent for embodying it in an Act of Parliament, and that was not done. I will come to the undertaking point later. The point I wish to make 1229 about this is that if the noble Lords thought that pledges of the kind alleged by Sir Roy Welensky had been made, then I venture to say that that is wholly inconsistent with the course they followed in 1953 arid thereafter.
My noble friends Lord Swinton and Lord Chandos, who were present at the meeting on December 19, have told your Lordships that no such pledge was given. The question was put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Colyton: what advice would I have given to Sir Roy Welensky if I thought that such a pledge had been given? What could he do but publish? I think that the answer to that is quite simple. Before publication, he could have communicated with the two people primarily concerned, my noble friends Lord Swinton and Lord Chandos, to find out whether or not they agreed with his version of what had taken place. And the answer would have been quite clear.
I also find it difficult to believe that in 1953 Sir Roy Welensky, if he had thought such a pledge was given, would have remained silent during the passage of the Act through Parliament. The point is made in the White Paper that nothing was said by either of the Ministers concerned, or by anyone else, about this alleged pledge. The matter does not end there, because Article 29 (7) of the Constitution Order in Council provides:… nothing in this Constitution shall affect any power to make laws for the Federation or any of the territories conferred on Her Majesty by any Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.My Lords, the generality of this provision appears to me quite inconsistent with the pledge alleged. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that the noble Marquess and Sir Roy Welensky would have allowed this Order in Council to be made containing this provision (to which I must refer later in another context) without referring to this pledge, if they thought that such a pledge had been given.
The Review provision which gave rise to this discussion on January 19 is Article 99 of the Order in Council, the final Article. It was suggested by the noble Earl who opened this debate, if I understood him correctly, that the White Paper was seeking to contend that there was a pledge given applicable only to what took place at the Review; and that was sup- 1230 ported by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Colyton. If they will look at the White Paper again, I think they will see that it is not seeking to draw that distinction. Sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 7 states that the discussion related only to what might happen at the Review and the question of what amendments, if any, could be brought about through the Review. That is what initiated the discussion. Article 97 provided for the amendment of the Constitution by the Federal Legislature, subject to a number of safeguards with which I need not trouble your Lordships. Article 98 put a further restriction on the right, in certain circumstances, of amendment by the Federal Legislature of the Constitution—a restriction which meant that they could not do it without the consent of the other three Governments.
So the position at that time was this. After this Order in Council was made there were two ways in which the Constitution might be altered: one by the passage of legislation through the Federal Assembly; the other (recognised by the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federation Act) by legislation of the United Kingdom Parliament. The question which arises for consideration, bearing that in mind, is the question: to which of the two methods did this discussion on January 19 relate? Was it to both methods, or only one of them; and if so, which one? Was it to the legislation (if I may say so) from above, or to legislation starting from below; or was it to both?
A consideration of the verbatim record, in my submission, provides the answer, quite apart from the excellent and clear speech of my noble friend Lord Chandos to-day. What obviously the parties to this discussion were concerned about was that one of the three territories, or all of them, might put forward at the Review a proposal for secession; or that those who would be in the Federation—that is, the three Territorial Governments—or the Federal Government would desire to liquidate the Federation. If your Lordships will look at paragraph 6 of the White Paper, you will see that Mr. Eastwood starts by saying:You remember we were dealing with the Constitution the other day. We dealt with this revision, not before seven and not later than nine years. It has been suggested that that is a possible loophole for secession and if not secession it might mean voluntary liquidation.1231 By "voluntary liquidation" he must have meant a liquidation at the instance of the members of the Federation. Mr. Eastwood, surely, could not have meant liquidation imposed by the United Kingdom, or have contemplated that at the Review the United Kingdom would impose it. He was, as the noble Viscount was saying, I submit, concerned with what might be brought forward at the Review by the territories.
Then, a little later, your Lordships will see that my noble friend Lord Swinton said:To get a Constitutional amendment. Supposing the actual review said on the whole those who are conducting the review, all tour Governments, that certain variations in the Constitution are desirable. The way I imagine that those alterations would have to be put into force should be, would it not, by amendment to the Constitution passed through the Federal Assembly, is that not so?Sir Roy Welensky replied:Yes.So one thing, at least, is clear at that stage: that what was under consideration then was not an amendment to the Constitution by United Kingdom legislation—because that does not have to go through the Federal Assembly—but an amendment to the Constitution introduced by one of the four Governments who would be parties to the Federation and could, therefore, bring it before Federal Assembly.
The noble Lord, Lord Colyton, raised the question about the use of the word "four" by my noble friend Lord Swinton. It is not for me to say, and, with respect to the noble Lord, not for him to challenge, what my noble friend Lord Swinton meant when he referred to "four" Governments. My noble friend is fairly precise in his language, I have learned from past experience, and I am sure that if he meant five he would not say four; and if the four included the United Kingdom, then either the Federation or one of the other three territories would have been left out. That seems to me to be a ridiculous result. I would submit to your Lordships that it is clear, as my noble friend said, that they were not dealing with legislation by the United Kingdom; they were not considering legislation to alter the Federation by the United Kingdom. What was under consideration was what might be suggested by the three territories in the Federation at the Re- 1232 view. I think that is made clear, too, by the reference later on to the United Kingdom Parliament—because in a large number of cases it is right to say that under the Constitution the approval of amendments would have to come before the United Kingdom Parliament.
If that reading of the record is right, it is not inconsistent with the Minute, which refers, not to four Governments, but to five; because the Constitution contemplates in many cases an Order in Council coming before Parliament before the Royal Assent can be given to a Bill amending the Constitution.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord will forgive me for interrupting, but there is inconsistency between what he has quoted from the verbatim record and the Minute. The verbatim record refers to four Governments, but the Minute refers to five Governments.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I fully appreciate the inconsistency between four and five, and I was hoping—I perhaps went a little too fast, or did not make myself clear—to put forward an explanation of that. Of course, the basic document is the verbatim record. That starts by talking about what four Governments can do. Then, if the noble Earl will turn to page 5, about the middle of the page, he will see:Mr. Lyttleton: I think the position is that you cannot upset the Constitution without agreement, can you?Mr. Greenfield: You could not do so constitutionally without the intervention of Her Majesty's Government here.That, in a number of cases, is entirely accurate, as the noble Earl will see if he will look at Article 97. The point I would also make on that is that you see, from what Mr. Lyttleton (as he then was) said, that he was clearly asking a question about what the position was then, presumably in the light of what they had already discussed at the Conference as to the form the Federation would take. If my submission to your Lordships is right, the record clearly shows that the discussion was related to amendments passed by the Federal Assembly. It was in that context, and that context alone, that my noble friend Lord Chandos said:Nothing can liquidate the Constitution Order unless all four are agreed on it.1233 I would ask your Lordships to note that this was the first observation made by Mr. Lyttleton on this matter.
Sir Roy Welensky, in his speech on December 19—a speech which has been widely circulated—after citing passages from the record and statements made by my noble friend Lord Chandos, said—and I quote Sir Roy Welensky's words:and finally he"—that is, Lord Chandos—said this: 'Nothing can terminate the Constitution unless all four are agreed on it'".The transposition of this sentence of my noble friend may perhaps convey the impression that my noble friend was summing up the discussion. The record shows no such thing.
I would make this general point, too. The language used in that discussion was very different indeed from the language one would expect if Sir Roy Welensky were seeking, and United Kingdom Ministers were giving, a pledge of such a vital character—pledging the United Kingdom Government and Parliament not to legislate for the Federation without the consent of each of the four Governments; a pledge giving them, as the White Paper points out, a permanent veto on all changes, no matter what might be the views of the United Kingdom Parliament and of the other three Governments. In my submission, the fact is, as my noble friend the then Secretary of State said, they did not intend to give, and did not give, any such pledge, nor, I submit, were they regarded then by Sir Roy Welensky as having done so.
In 1957, if I may go on to that, there was, as my noble friend Lord Swinton pointed out, a joint announcement by the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Federation. Paragraph 7 of that published announcement reads as follows:The Federal Prime Minister drew attention to doubts which had arisen with regard to the purpose and effect of Article 29 (7) of the Federal Constitution and to the subject of legislation in the United Kingdom for the Federation. United Kingdom Ministers made it clear that the United Kingdom Government recognised the existence of a convention applicable to the present stage of the constitutional evolution of the Federation whereby the United Kingdom Government in practice does not initiate any legislation to amend or repeal any Federal Act or to deal with any matters included within the competence of the Federal Legislature except at the request of the Federal Government.1234 My Lords, the significance about this is, as my noble friend Lord Swinton pointed out, the fact that it is really inconsistent with the pledge alleged. If, then, Sir Roy Welensky believed he had a pledge of the kind he now alleges, why did he bother about this limited announcement? The pledge, if given, would have covered and, indeed, gone beyond matters included in the competence of the Federal Legislature. If Sir Roy Welensky then believed that he had been given such a pledge, it is indeed odd that he should have drawn attention to doubts as to the purpose and effect of Article 29 (7), and to the subject of legislation by the United Kingdom for the Federation; and have drawn attention to those doubts without any mention of this pledge. There has been a suggestion that there is a convention going beyond the convention recognised in 1957, but to the same effect as the alleged pledge. I dealt with that when I spoke last December, and I will not repeat what I said then apart from this: that in my submission that suggestion is not justified.
As the White Paper points out, the Government have also been accused, by accepting the principle that Nyasaland should be allowed to withdraw from the Federation, of proposing to act unilaterally in defiance of undertakings given in 1953 that the Federation would be permanent. That was the second head of charge preferred by Sir Roy Welensky on December 19, and it is, of course, a distinct charge, and I want to say a word or two about it. I am sure that as has been said before in this debate, in 1953 the founders of the Federation all hoped that they were creating something which would endure, and they all wanted it to succeed. They were satisfied that it would be to the great economic advantage of all three territories, and they no doubt hoped that after its formation the peoples of all races in those territories would draw together to their mutual advantage. It is another thing to say that we guaranteed or undertook that the Federation would be permanent. We hoped it would be, but we gave no guarantee or undertaking to that effect, and we could not. The only basis put forward for this accusation by Sir Roy Welensky in his speech on December 19 is the statement made by my noble friend Lord Swinton, published in the White Paper, and to which he has referred this 1235 afternoon. An omission from the Constitution of a provision conferring a right to secede cannot, and does not, import a guarantee by us of the permanence of that Constitution.
The writer of The Times leader, I am sorry to say, failed to appreciate this. He stated that he had read closely the White Paper. In the light of his comments I find that somewhat astonishing. He said:The White Paper argues that no significance is to be attached to the omission of any clause referring to secession from the Federation.The White Paper does not say that. What it says is that from the omission of a provision for secession you cannot imply a guarantee by us of the permanence of the Federation. I really should have thought that the contrary could not seriously have been argued by anyone. It appears to have escaped the notice of the writer of that leader that the White Paper deals with two distinct things: the alleged pledges not to legislate without the consent of the four Governments, and the alleged undertakings that the Federation would be permanent. The omission of a right of secession was relied upon by Sir Roy Welensky not to show the existence of the pledges, but as establishing inferentially a guarantee by us of the permanence of the Federation, and that clearly it does not do.
My Lords, I come now to the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in an intervention in the course of my remarks about the letter published in The Times on Saturday from the High Commissioner for the Federation, in which he drew attention to yet another document, a letter to the British Council of Churches, written in 1953. If I may remind your Lordships of the exact terms of what that said, the relevant passage runs as follows:It seems to Her Majesty's Government that it would in any foreseeable circumstances be morally and politically indefensible for Parliament to enact amendments"—that is to say, to the Constitution—which had not been similarly agreed."—that is to say, agreed with the other four Governments. Your Lordships will note that that expression of view, limited to any foreseeable circumstances, is represented by the High Commissioner—he said so in his letter—as an unambiguous 1236 pledge not to act without the agreement of the Government concerned. That is, to say the least, putting a very considerable gloss upon the terms of the letter to the British Council of Churches.
The High Commissioner quotes in the letter an extract from the debate in the Southern Rhodesia Parliament in September, 1953. That debate was about the power of the United Kingdom to legislate, and it is noteworthy that the noble Viscount, Lord Malvern, as the concluding words of the extract in The Times show, took that letter to the Churches as bearing out what he had said, namely, that the United Kingdom Government would refrain from interfering in the Federation's domestic affairs. Again, I make the point that if the noble Viscount, Lord Malvern, had then thought that United Kingdom Ministers had given the pledge alleged, it is indeed curious that he made no reference to it but relied merely on the expression of view contained in the letter to the Churches in relation to the interference in the domestic affairs of the Federation.
My Lords, I apologise for having spent so much time in answering these charges, which are, in my submission, unfounded. In view of what my noble friends Lord Chandos and Lord Swinton have said, I might perhaps have relied just upon their evidence; but these charges have been persisted in, and I therefore thought it desirable to deal fully with them in the hope—though perhaps it may be far too optimistic—that by doing so I might put an end to what I would call this arid controversy—what the noble Earl who introduced this debate called a "sterile" controversy. It is a controversy which benefits no one, least of all the Federation.
My Lords, of course it would have been preferable, had it been possible to act with agreement of all concerned, and we have done our best to proceed by agreement. My noble friend Lord Chandos expressed the view that the Rhodesias would have consented to the secession of Nyasaland. Whether or not that be the case, it is clear from the White Paper published by the Federation that they would agree only if they received a satisfactory guarantee of the continuance—and I quote their words:of a strong political and economic association between the two Rhodesias.1237 As I said when I spoke in your Lordships' House on this matter on December 19, this country could not possibly give such a guarantee. The charge that we did not consult with the Federation is rebutted by the content of the White Paper published by the Federation, which shows perfectly well that they knew what was under consideration.
What was the position? The position, as I see it, was that either we had to disregard the clearly expressed wishes of the people of Nyasaland and let events take their course, whatever that might entail—and I am sure your Lordships will agree that for the United Kingdom to use force, or to be a party to the use of force, against the people of Nyasaland, who are under our protection, to keep them in the Federation would be absolutely out of the question—or to take the course we did. Those were the alternatives and in my view it is wishful thinking to think that the choice between them might, in the circumstances which existed, have been avoided. As I have said, there was information and there was consultation with the Federation.
In 1953 and thereafter we all hoped that Federation would lead to a multiracial society supported by all peoples and contributing to their material progress. In the course of years—and I do not seek to blame anyone—that hope has not been realised. Just as I do not think we should be charged with breaking pledges or undertakings, so I do not think that we ought to be held responsible for the way in which the Federation is now regarded in certain quarters.
My Lords, this Motion asks what proposals Her Majesty's Government now have for the future, and certain indications were given in the course of our debate that some of your Lordships thought that on this matter the debate was rather premature. I can say something in reply to this part of the debate, and I will endeavour to do so. First, I should like to say a few words in regard to the position in Nyasaland. In the course of his visit to Central Africa my right honourable friend the First Secretary reached agreements with the Governments of the Federation and of Nyasaland on the form of machinery to be set up for carrying forward the detailed examination and negotiations between the two Governments concerned of all the 1238 many and complicated matters arising from the decision that Nyasaland should be allowed to withdraw from the Federation. These discussions will be handled through a Working Party consisting of representatives of the Federal and Nyasaland Governments under a United Kingdom Chairman.
We see the process as one of flexible inter-Governmental negotiation with the representatives referring back to their respective Governments as necessary, as the work goes on. The United Kingdom Chairman will, of course, be supported by the appropriate technical advisers, and the other Governments will be free to bring into discussions additional officials or advisers to help their representatives in the discussions of the various subjects which arise for consideration.
The task of the Working Party will be to work out the detailed arrangements for Nyasaland to withdraw. It will cover the whole range of financial and administrative problems which need to be settled: in particular, those relating to the apportionment to Nyasaland of a fair proportion of the Federal debt; to the transfer to Nyasaland of functions at present carried out by the Federal Government, and to the effect of such transfer on officers of the present Federal services whose future must, of course, be considered in a just and humane way. It may be that, in the course of the work, matters directly affecting the interests of the Southern and Northern Rhodesia Governments will arise. In that event arrangements will be made as necessary, in consultation between the Chairman and the Governments concerned, for representatives of the other two Territorial Governments to participate in the discussions.
It must be recognised that a great deal of hard and intricate work requires to be done. We want the Working Party to proceed with the greatest speed possible, and much emphasis has been laid in the course of this debate on the need for speed. But the matters it will have to tackle are bound to take time to deal with, and Her Majesty's Government cannot at present anticipate on what date it may be possible for the actual secession of Nyasaland to take place. It depends, of course, on how quickly the work that has to be done can be accomplished.
1239 Similarly, I cannot usefully at this stage make any statement about the future financial relationships between the United Kingdom and Nyasaland. At the present time Nyasaland is receiving considerable help from the United Kingdom etowards balancing her Budget. The consequences, of withdrawal, as has been said on numerous occasions, will be serious; and in particular there will be a substantial increase in the budgetary gap. There is, we must acknowledge, a readiness on the part of Nyasaland Ministers to face these problems in a realistic way, and a feeling that they are not beyond the capacity of the territory and its leaders to solve. They have also a determination to bridge the gap, given sympathetic assistance from outside. But until the consequences of withdrawal have been worked out in detail, and we can take stock of the new situation which Nyasaland will then face, it is not possible to judge to what extent and over what period the Nyasaland Government may need financial help to their own efforts to bridge the gap. Her Majesty's Government naturally cannot commit themselves in advance, but their approach to this question when it is reached will, of course, be sympathetic.
May I turn for a moment to Northern Rhodesia? During his recent visit the two Parties which form the Coalition Government presented to my right honourable friend the First Secretary a clear statement of their agreed joint views. They asked, first, for the early dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland; secondly, for the introduction of a new territorial Constitution based on universal suffrage; and, thirdly, for an enlarged Legislative Council and a considerable reduction in the powers of the United Kingdom Government in relation to the territory. These views, as your Lordships know, were subsequently endorsed in Motions carried by the two Parties in the Legislative Council.
My right honourable friend was not, of course, in a position during his visit to entertain any decision or commitment on these matters, but he undertook that he and the Government would give full attention to the views put to him in further considerations of the whole problem of Central Africa. The discussions 1240 were frank and friendly, and my right honourable friend feels that the vigour and clarity with which the parties stated their objectives is not to be taken as implying a disinclination to take a constructive attitude towards the future. It is natural that in considering these views, and others expressed during the First Secretary's visit, both in Northern Rhodesia and the other two territories, Her Majesty's Government should be inclined to relate them in the first instance to the central problem of the future and the prospects of evolving an alternative and acceptable form of association. This is, as I am sure your Lordships agree, the pressing issue.
The question of further constitutional advance in Northern Rhodesia is also part of the pattern of the future, but the present Constitution has produced a Legislature reflecting the main shades of political opinion in the country on the major political issues of the time, and an Executive in turn reflecting the composition of the Legislature. It will cause no harm or hardship to give it a chance of working and of establishing the experience necessary for further advance.
In Southern Rhodesia, the Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Field, made a statement last week, to which attention has been drawn, in which he set out his Government's attitude to future association of Southern Rhodesia with the other territories. He expressed the view, as I understand it, that in the light of the attitude of political leaders in both Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia it was unrealistic to suppose that federation could continue; that a political link between the territories was not indispensable to the maintenance of economic associations; and that future economic links should be a matter of direct negotiation between the Governments concerned. Mr. Field's statement is now being carefully studied, and I do not propose to comment upon it in substance this evening. I would only point out that that statement is clear and positive in its terms and that it underlines the importance of maintaining the economic links between the territories.
My Lords, I have stressed the views of the new Governments of the two Rhodesias because their willingness and capacity to work with each other to their mutual advantage lie at the centre of the 1241 problem. Moreover, these public declarations of their respective attitudes, which have been made since our debate at the end of last year, have done much to clarify the situation which now confronts us. At the same time it is idle to suppose that there is any cut and dried solution, any magic formula which has only to be applied, for everything to fall into place and stability and prosperity to be assured. I, for one, do not believe and do not accept that a satisfactory solution cannot be found. It is the desire of Her Majesty's Government to do all they can to secure an acceptable form of association in the future which will preserve the very real benefits which association in the Federation has procured.
But the solution of these problems does not rest on us alone, as the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, pointed out in his speech just now. Her Majesty's Government have no intention of shirking their proper responsibilities, but they cannot be expected to shoulder the entire burden of planning for the future. A great responsibility for that rests on those in Central Africa. The visit of my right honourable friend the First Secretary has done a great deal to promote realistic and constructive thinking in Central Africa. There is a widespread desire to see the present uncertainties brought to an end, and that has been voiced by many speakers in your Lordships' House. A suggestion has been made also in many quarters of your Lordships' House that Her Majesty's Government should summon a conference. That may well happen, but I am sure your Lordships will agree that it is unwise to summon a conference until the necessary preparatory work has been done and conditions have been established to give, it a good chance of success. Her Majesty's Government will keep in close touch with the Governments concerned, and with their good will and co-operation, with their realisation of the extent to which their true interests are interwoven, it is surely not too much to 1242 hope that a satisfactory solution will be found.
I owe your Lordships an apology for having spoken for so long. My excuse is the importance of the subject. It may be too much to hope that this debate will be the end of quarrelling about what happened in the past; but I hope it will, for such arguments really do nothing to promote the future progress of the three territories, and indeed might impair their prospects of creating some form of association so essential for their future prosperity.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the trouble he has taken to reply at length to the speeches that have been made in this debate, and that we all share the desire that this controversy may die as quickly as possible. I was glad to hear, to quote his words, that Her Majesty's Government will not showa disinclination to take a constructive attitude towards the future—a delightful phrase, which I hope will be included in any anthology of ministerial pronouncements. Noble Lords who have spoken have asked for rather more than that. I should like to thank all noble Lords who have spoken for making this an extremely interesting and, I think, notable debate. I sincerely hope that their advice (for a great majority of them have had enormous experience of Africa, either as administrators or serving in some other capacity) will help Her Majesty's Government to find a new and more successful policy towards the Federation and help the Federation to build an edifice of voluntary association on the ruins of Federal authority. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past seven o'clock.