HL Deb 02 February 1971 vol 314 cc1170-83

5.22 p.m.

LORD SHACKLETON rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have considered the case of Mr. Guy Clutton Brock who has contributed so successfully to multiracial development in Rhodesia, and whether they will now condemn the attempt by the illegal régime to deprive him of his Rhodesian citizenship and their proposed action to deport him. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to ask the Question standing in my name, which concerns the case of Mr. Guy Clutton Brock. I should like to make two glozes on the wording of the Question. First, I refer to Mr. Clutton Brock's contribution to multiracial development. I should have preferred to use the word "non-racial", but "multiracial" is more generally understood. It is as a person who is a non-racialist that Mr. Clutton Brock has contributed so greatly. Secondly, it is open to argument whether he has been successful. I have no doubt that his experiments have been highly successful and have pointed the way to a degree of non-racial development which held great hopes; but, alas! those hopes so far as Rhodesia is concerned are being frustrated.

In order to explain the reason why I have asked this Question I need to dwell a little upon Mr. Clutton Brock, the man himself. In raising this matter, I am fully aware that there is little that Her Majesty's Government can now do, but what they can do, and what I am asking them to do in my Question, is to express their condemnation. However, it is necessary to explain what sort of a man Guy Clutton Brock is in order to judge the nature of the action that is now taking place.

I am raising this matter from personal knowledge of Guy Clutton Brock. A member of my family has worked with him, and I know him myself. Other noble Lords in this House know that he is a man of the most passionate moral integrity. He is basically a man of peace; he is a profoundly religious man, though he is not associated with the orthodoxy of any particular Church. Before the War, when he was only 30, he became virtually the creator of the London Probation Service. My noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell will be able to speak with knowledge of this work. During the War he was one of the great community leaders in the East End, and thousands will remember his courageous work in Bethnal Green. At the end of the War he was put in charge of the Youth and Religious Affairs Section of the British Control Commission in Germany, under Sir John Birley. He resigned subsequently to take up work with the Council for Christian Reconstruction in Europe. I shall not dwell further on this.

When he returned to England in 1948 he turned down a number of important jobs. He could have had a successful and prosperous career. He was offered a senior post in the Prison Service. Instead he chose to become a farm labourer, and he went to work under conditions which were fairly rough in order to learn about basic farming techniques, because he had been so appalled by the conditions of starvation in immediate post-War Europe that he felt that the most important contribution he could make at that time was to seek to know how to grow food and to take his contribution of knowledge into parts of the world which would benefit.

In 1949, he went to the St. Faith's Mission Farm. He built up at St. Faith's over a period of ten years, particularly under the protection of the Bishop, a remarkable institution which became widely known throughout English-speaking Africa, especially among Africans, as the symbol of practical inter-racial achievement. It demonstrated a workable alternative to the pattern of apartheid, of separation. I will not dwell on the episode when he was detained in prison in 1959. I only know that at that time, when he was in prison and when his wife was exceedingly ill, he was offered the alternative of immediate release—which he refused—provided he guaranteed to leave Rhodesia, or of staying in prison. I do not want to dwell on this point. My knowledge of it comes from those who were concerned with him.

When he was released he moved to pioneering general rural development in Botswana, in Bechuanaland. This was a combined farm, school, clinic and store development. I will say a little about this because it measures the potential of his importance. Mr. Clutton Brock took the view—and there are many others in the world of development who take this view—that the masses of the people will find their livelihood in the rural areas, and that however desirable great capital investments may be, it is the finding of a good and tolerable life in the rural areas that will be of such profound importance to Africa. Other noble Lords will know the different philosophies as between Tanzania and other countries with regard to the importance of rural development; and the Botswana experiment, in which he worked so closely with Seretse Khama, in Bechuanaland as it then was, a country where there was under-employment in the rural areas, was of great potential significance and a great success. And, so far as I know, some of the work in Botswana is continuing.

He then returned to Rhodesia, and the Cold Comfort Farm Society was formed in 1965. Mr. Clutton Brock became its treasurer. The objects of the Society are: To promote understanding, friendship, co-operation and development among people through undertaking practical projects designed to increase production from natural resources. It is a non-racial, co-operative farming project. The trustees of the Society at last June were Lord Acton, the Right Reverend Kenneth Skelton, then Bishop of Matabeleland, and Mr. Jack Grant. Since the farm is situated in a European area, it was necessary for the trustees to appoint a European member of the Society to hold a controlling vote in the general meeting. That was in order to comply with the provisions of the Land Apportionment Act.

In due course the farm was bought, and the Society now has about 40 members, 25 Africans and 15 Europeans. It has attracted visitors from all over Rhodesia, from Britain and from outside; and there is a continuous flow of applications for membership from those who would like to take part in its activities. Membership has to be restricted to those the land can support. In 1967, the premises were twice searched by the security police, and all the records were taken away and held for about four months. In due course they were returned, and no charge was laid. In 1969, the Land Apportionment Act was replaced by the Land Tenure Act. This changed the nature of the Cold Comfort Farm Society from being "European." Under the Land Tenure Act it became "African". Section 2(3) of the Act reads: A controlling interest in … a body of persons shall be deemed to be held by … Africans if the majority of the members thereof are Africans. This section seemed to be almost specifically aimed at the Cold Comfort Farm Society. The Act divides Rhodesia into European and African areas. I do not want to go too deeply into Rhodesian politics, but this illustrates the nature of what is going on, that even according to official figures most of the people living in the European areas are African.

Mr. Clutton Brock, who belongs to no Party (there have occasionally been sneers that he was a Communist, but nothing could be less true than that, and I am sure that no Member of your Lordships' House would think ha was), has been pretty fearless in expressing his views. He stands for a principle. He has worked with those Africans who also stand for principles. Mr. Didymus Mutasa, the Chairman of the Cold Comfort Farm Society, is an example. He is a former civil servant who is immensely highly spoken of by his former superior officer in the South Rhodesian Civil Service, but he was arrested and is detained indefinitely without trial.

Last December the régime notified Mr. Clutton Brock that they intended to deprive him of his Rhodesian citizenship under Section 15 of the Citizenship Act and to expel him. It is not possible for a régime such as the present one in Rhodesia—I concede this—to tolerate a man of Mr. Clutton Brock's qualities and principles. Other noble Lords may wish to speak about the part he has played in relation to the Tangwena tribe when he has sought to act as an intermediary between them and Salisbury. Of course he will now be removed, and will be unable to give his services. Nor will he any longer be able to stand outside the prisons, when condemned men have been executed, giving comfort to their families.

Your Lordships will know that I do not often speak with strong feelings of indignation in your Lordships' House, but to me this symbolises a matter of such profound importance in terms of human dignity that I feel that, even though the Government—and I acknowledge this—are powerless to act, it is right that they should condemn the act of the régime. The situation is different from that in 1959. At that time there was a legal Government in Rhodesia. Some of us may not have liked what it did, but the Ministers at that time were in not such a simple position. To-day the position of the noble Marquess who is to reply is clear. He is, I regret to say (and it is no fault of his), powerless to intervene, but he is in a position to express the feelings that I hope and believe all your Lordships share about this case.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for asking this Question to-night, and for the way in which he has presented it to the House? I am glad that I am able to be here just to say a word or two. May I apologise to the House, as I have apologised to the Minister, that I was not able to be here earlier in the day.

I find it very difficult to express my feelings about Guy Clutton Brock. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has paid a tribute to him which must have moved all of us. I refrain from calling him a great man, because that would be the last description that he would desire. I do not think I can think back in the last fifty years to a man who, in his own life, has served his fellows and has so courageously stood by the deepest principles of life to a greater degree than Clutton Brock. I am a humanist and I do not accept his views of religion, but I am compelled to say that to-day one cannot see the example of such men as Clutton Brock (or indeed of many representatives of the churches in Rhodesia and in Southern Africa who have so bravely stood for the equality of human beings of all races) without paying our tribute to them, and appreciating the inspiration which has led to their actions.

I think we should bear in mind that when Clutton Brock began his experiment of an inter-racial community in Rhodesia, he did not do it only because he wanted to establish a small closed community to express his own principles. He was also motivated in two ways: the first to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has referred, was his deep conviction that hunger in the world required that there should be a new basis of food production. Not only in Rhodesia but also in Botswana he made his contribution to the creation of a new society in Africa, based not so much on massive industrial development but, at the roots of life in the villages, on new farming methods. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is right when he says that that experiment has made its contribution to the thinking of Tanzania, which is beginning its construction in a similar way.

But not only was Clutton Brock concerned to give that example of the importance of food development in a world that was hungry, he was concerned to give an example within Rhodesia itself of the possibility of white and non-white races living together in constructive co-operation. When, in the 'fifties, he began that experiment, he had some hopes that it might find reflection in the society of Rhodesia itself, but in that he has been temporarily disappointed. However, with quite extraordinary courage, despite living in a State which has penalised co-operation between the races, he has maintained his activities. He has recently been magnificent in his championship of the African people who have been driven from their territory and exiled in order that their land might be given to Europeans. If he has now been deprived of his Rhodesian citizenship, that is not a condemnation of Guy Clutton Brock but a condemnation of the State of Rhodesia for regarding a man of that character as unworthy of being a citizen of its territory.

I wish to conclude by saying that I hope Her Majesty's Government will not merely express condemnation of this action, but will make the experiment carried out by Clutton Brock a symbol of the kind of society that we wish to establish in Rhodesia. I also hope that it will be made clear that we stand for racial equality, that we stand against the conception of a white race which is superior to an African race, and that we stand against a society where one-twentieth of the people claim to have the right to govern the vast majority. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will make this wrong which has been done to Clutton Brock another reason for standing by the principles which their own Party first proclaimed and that they will decline to recognise a Government which denies elementary human rights which must be the basis of civilisation if we are to live in a world of harmony and peace.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, my two noble friends have probably said all that can be said about Guy Clutton Brock. My only reason for intervening is that it was my privilege to work with him over 30 years ago, when he was brought out of the Prison Service, where he had been eminently successful in the field of prison reform, and put in charge of the organisation and construction of what was then the London Probation Service.

It is not often that we in your Lordships' House give up a whole debate—if this is a debate—to discussing one individual. But I am glad that we are doing so to-day, because Guy Clutton Brock is a person who recognised years ago that the ultimate problem which was going to face mankind throughout the world would be concerned not necessarily with economic systems or with power, but with the relationship between the white peoples and the coloured peoples. When he left the Probation Service and went as head of Oxford House, many of us thought that he would ultimately find his way into the Church. I am sure that if he had decided to take that course we should have found him on the Bishops' Benches in your Lordships' House. It is not for me to say whether he served a far greater purpose doing what he has done in the last 20 years.

His offence is nothing more than that he has succeeded in creating a multiracial society, small though it be, on a farm known as "Cold Comfort Farm", which in the first instance he alone created, where white and black people have learned not only to live together but to live together in harmony.


My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend on one point, which is an important factor in relation to Guy Clutton Brock? He always sought to avoid taking too paternalistic a view—I know this from his Bechuanaland activities—and my noble friend said that he alone created Cold Comfort Farm. I fully acknowledge that he was responsible, but Guy Clutton Brock always sought to get away from that direction.


My Lords, I accept that from my noble friend, but people with ideas so often create, and I feel that that society was very much the brainchild of Guy Clutton Brock. He succeeded in creating a multiracial community in Rhodesia, which has made a very valuable contribution to the understanding of a most difficult problem. My noble friends have both said that Guy Clutton Brock would not claim to be a great man. I am reminded very much of the words of Lord, Tennyson, who said: In me there dwells no greatness Save it be some far-off touch of greatness To know well I am not great. I think that those words sum up Guy Clutton Brock very well indeed.

I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Alport, raised the matter of the Tangwena Tribe on Wednesday of last week and, I think, managed to get a promise from the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, that their position would not be forgotten in any negotiations with the Rhodesian Government. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the contribution which Guy Clutton Brock has made in that field. Many of your Lordships know that the Tangwena Tribe are a very small tribe who, not surprisingly, were in Rhodesia long before the first Europeans. The land they occupied was ultimately sold to Europeans, following the passing of the Land Apportionment Act of 1930. The Tribe ultimately disregarded the notice to quit and their Chief was charged on two occasions, and was convicted for not obeying the order. The only point I want to make is that it was through the help and advice of Guy Clutton Brock that the Chief appealed to the High Court, with the result that the conviction was quashed on the ground that the Tribe occupied the land before it was alienated to Europeans. Subsequently, of course, in 1969, the present régime issued a proclamation demanding that the Tribe leave the land; and, as many of your Lordships know, ultimately their huts and buildings were razed to the ground. But if Guy Clutton Brock goes from Rhodesia, then the help that he has been able to give will be lost.

I feel, my Lords, that Guy Clutton Brock is a man whose only concern is the welfare of the wider community. The noble Marquess has been invited to express concern, and he has been invited to express condemnation; but I would ask him, further, whether it is possible, through channels which certainly are not known to me but which I presume are there when one Government does not recognise another, so that they can get through to each other, for something to be done so that Guy Clutton Brock is not deprived of his citizenship and is not deported from Rhodesia.

5.51 p.m.


My Lords, may I add about two sentences to the discussion on the rather sad Question that we are discussing to-day? What we see, my Lords, from this deprivation of the citizenship of such a man as Guy Clutton Brock is the continuing decline in the moral political climate in Rhodesia. Every step that this illegal régime has taken, like the separate housing plans, brings them nearer to apartheid. But what is ironic about this illegal régime is that, just at the lime when South Africa is beginning to feel a wind of change—not the kind of wind of change about which Mr. Macmillan spoke when he came back from Africa, but a wind of change in the world in protest against them—just at a time when South Africa is beginning to feel the pinch of protest and criticism, Rhodesia is beginning to go slowly down the downward path towards apartheid.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to say a word or two in support of my noble friend's request to Her Majesty's Government. We all recognise the realities of the situation but, nevertheless, those of us who have over the years followed the career of Guy Clutton Brock would feel it lamentable if we did not, on such an occasion as this, bear witness to the work which he has done. I do not think that any of us would pretend that he is necessarily an easy man to get on with so far as authority is concerned; but, after all, what is society without the great eccentrics? We need the leaven in the lump, we need the salt which has not lost its savour—and he is one of those personalities.

Of his character and integrity we have already heard from other noble Lords who have had a much closer knowledge of him personally than I myself have had, but I have followed what he has done over the years. I made my very modest contributions to the funds of St. Faith's years ago, and I know the work which he has done. I know also of his wife, Molly Clutton Brock, who has done the most devoted work for disabled children in Africa. As my noble friend Lord Shackleton has said, the whole essence of the work which the Clutton Brocks have done is to help people to help themselves. It has been always a co-operative community, and one of its greatest values, to my mind, was not just the emphasis laid upon agricultural work, important as that was, but also the emphasis laid upon the need for people to take their fate in their own hands and, by working together, try to solve the problems which face them both as individuals and as communities.

I feel that we in this House should at least bear witness to the truth as we see it. I was brought up a Welsh Calvinist; the noble Marquess bears an illustrious name in the Catholic Church—and may I say how very much I have always been moved by the work the Catholic Church has done in Africa, particularly in the field of race relations? It has been among the most courageous of all the Churches in Southern Africa in speaking up for the necessity for human beings who share the same faith but not the same pigment to work together. I hope very much that we shall let it be known what we feel about a régime that is determined, by one means or another, to break up this multiracial or non-racial experiment, however one wishes to speak of it. We cannot discuss the whole attitude of the present régime or of society in Rhodesia to race relations, but if any of your Lordships have any doubt about the attitudes that have persisted over the years I suggest that they do a little research and read the verbatim report of the Salisbury City Council when the University was being established in Salisbury. If noble Lords will do that, they will not be surprised at the action which the régime is now trying to take against Guy Clutton Brock. Although there is little we can at least speak out, and I hope very much that the noble Marquess will do so.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I may add just a word to this debate before the noble Marquess replies. I do not have the privilege of knowing Mr. Clutton Brock, or of having been associated with his work. Therefore, I am quite ready to accept from noble Lords and noble Baronesses opposite who have spoken that Mr. Clutton Brock and his work are extremely good things. But the aspect that disturbs me a little is that it appears that the noble Marquess who is to reply is being invited to express concern, and even perhaps condemnation, about a case of which only one side has been heard. It seems rather to have been presented to the House that if the work of Mr. Clutton Brock and Mr. Clutton Brock personally are both excellent, anything which is not to his taste must therefore automatically be bad. There are very few stories that I have ever heard in my life which do not have two sides to them. I have no idea what the noble Marquess is going to say—perhaps he may put some other side. But it seems to me that if Her Majesty's Government are asked to express condemnation, and if we in your Lordships' House are asked to support it, we ought at least to know the full facts of the case.

My Lords, if I do not know Mr. Clutton Brock, I do know, and from my own practical experience, a good deal about life as it is lived in Rhodesia by the people, both white and black, who make up the community of that country. I know from that experience that life as it is lived by the average citizen in that country is somewhat different from the way it is alleged to be lived in the light (or perhaps I should say under the cover) of the political smokescreen which is invariably drawn over Rhodesian affairs and which is just about all we in this country are allowed to know about them. If I may say so with the greatest respect, and without the faintest hint of hostility to the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, or anybody else who has spoken, that political tinge has been very evident in all the contributions I have so far heard on this Question.


My Lords, before the noble Lord goes any further —because he is putting us in some difficulty—it is of course for the House, if it wishes, to express a view contrary to the very clear line of my Question. I think it is a pity (because the Rhodesian régime is not without some voice in this country) that this perhaps has not been expressed. But I do not think that it is fair for the noble Lord himself to suggest that we who raised this matter—and I have very carefully eschewed politics as much as possible—should also provide a defence to what I believe is an indefensible position.


No, my Lords, I should not dream of criticising noble Lords opposite for not presenting it; but as I said before, when Her Majesty's Government are invited to condemn, and this House to support the condemnation which noble Lords opposite or anywhere else are entitled to make, we should know both sides of the case. I am not attempting to put both sides; I am merely saying that there could be another side. I say this because affairs involving Rhodesia are almost invariably politically tinged—I put it no stronger than that. I must return to what I hoped would be accepted as a factual statement and not as some kind of biased opinion: that I seem to have heard a tinge of the political aspect running through the presentation of the case so far. I merely wanted to say that there is another side to life in Rhodesia other than the political side about which we hear so frequently.

I have nothing further to say except that my own path is shortly to lead me in the direction of that country and it is that which prompted me to intervene. I have been interested in this matter, and I shall be delighted to accept the noble Lord's offer—because I heard it, unfortunately for him. It should be at least interesting to find out what may be the other side of the coin; and, if necessary, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to return to this matter on another occasion.


My Lords, may I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for putting down this Question on this very sad and important subject and also thank all the other noble Lords and Ladies who have spoken in this debate. I will try to give as full an answer as I can to the noble Lord but I think that he will appreciate that my reply will inevitably be comparatively short. This is not because we have any lack of sympathy with his Question—indeed, by far the reverse—or that we regard it as being of no importance. The reverse is completely the case. But, to be quite frank, there is comparatively little that one can say at this stage.

My right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has made it clear in replying to Questions in another place that the Government deplore any action which undermines racial harmony in Southern Rhodesia. We have therefore watched with concern the actions taken against Mr. Clutton Brock and the Cold Comfort Farm Society. The noble Lord has told us, as have other speakers, of Mr. Clutton Brock's great personal qualities, of his humanity and of his achievements not only in Rhodesia but also in Botswana and, in times gone by, in his work with the Probation Service. I have not the pleasure of knowing Mr. Clutton Brock myself; but I am convinced by what I have heard to-day and by what other people have told me that all this is completely true. We have also been told of his work for the Society and it is, I think, absolutely clear to the Government and to noble Lords that this Society has been a successful experiment in racial cooperation, and Her Majesty's Government naturally regret any action that hampers its work or attempts to destroy it.

Mr. Clutton Brock, who is one of the founders of the society, is a man, we have heard, who has stated his opposition to violence as well as to racial discrimination, and his work in Rhodesia and his example as a Christian are both widely respected and admired. But the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said—and he is perfectly right in this—that Her Majesty's Government have no power in Rhodesia to intervene in cases of this kind. From the information that we have, it is very difficult to understand why Mr. Clutton Brock should be considered a threat to Rhodesian security. Admittedly, Her Majesty's Government—and possibly all noble Lords are in the same position—do not have access to all the facts in this case; but on what we do know and on what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has told us, the Government cannot but condemn the way in which a man of the standing of Mr. Clutton Brock has been deprived of his citizenship and deported from a country in which he has made his home for the last twenty years.

The Government are pursuing the only course which appears to offer hope of improving the racial situation in Rhodesia. I am referring to the fact that we are at present attempting to find out whether or not we can establish a basis for negotiating a settlement in accordance with the Five Principles. It may be suggested that actions such as those recently taken against Mr. Clutton Brock indicate that there is no chance of such a settlement. We do not accept this view. I do not agree with those who argue that these actions should be regarded as a reason for giving up the search for a settlement. We should be doing less than our duty if we failed to explore every path along which a solution to this problem might lie and which would ensure justice for all the people of Rhodesia.