§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take action in the United Nations and in the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference to ensure that the Government of South Africa carries out the solemn obligations it undertook in accepting the Mandate for South-West Africa, or surrenders it to the United Nations so that alternative trusteeship arrangements can be made.We have asked for this Amendment to be debated today, and we are grateful for facilities for so doing, because the debate on the position of South-West Africa is taking place in the United Nations at this very moment. The attitude of Her Majesty's Government is being made up day by day in the various Motions coming before the Fourth Committee, and we should like the House to have an opportunity to express its view.
The history of South-West Africa is brief and bloody. There is no need to recapitulate it in detail. After an unhappy experience under the Government of the Germans before 1914, the territory was surrendered by the Germans to the Allied Powers at the end of the First World War and it was given in trust by them to South Africa. Later, the League of Nations confirmed the mandate under the system which had been established. From 1920 until the setting up of the United Nations, the State of South-West Africa was administered by South Africa. When the United Nations took over, a trusteeship system was set up whose purpose—and here I quote from Article 76 of the Charter of the United Nations—wasto promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the trust territories, and their progressive development towards self-government or independence …Under the international trusteeship system. Article 77 laid down that territories could bevoluntarily placed under the system by states responsible for their administration.There were a number of mandates held from the League of Nations, and, although I am not an expert lawyer, I 672 understand that they were not obliged to surrender their mandates to the United Nations and receive the mandate back from that organisation. But the record shows that every state which had a mandate from the League of Nations surrendered it to the United Nations and received it back in due course from the new organisation to which it thereupon became responsible for carrying out the basic objectives which I have read, except one. The one, I need hardly add, was South Africa. However, she did not at that time wholly dispute that there might be certain advantages to be had from the United Nations. She therefore proposed to the United Nations that she should be regarded as having control over this territory and that it should become a part of South Africa. That would have been very convenient for her, but, in fact, the right so to do was denied by the United Nations.
The position seems to have remained so far that South Africa still holds the mandate from the League of Nations, even although that authority has disappeared, and that she cannot legally be called to account, except in certain circumstances, by the United Nations to which she has no direct responsibility. Because she failed voluntarily to put the territory under the trusteeship system of the United Nations she has been acting on her own. She has, however—and here the complication arises—certain obligations which stem from her own membership of the United Nations, because she signed the declarations of the United Nations. If one argued on a strictly legalistic ground, it would be possible to say, and certainly for lawyers to argue, that she is in breach of a number of the declarations which she signed when she became a member of the United Nations, irrespective of whether she placed this territory under the trusteeship system of the United Nations.
To bring the history up to date, it is fair to say that since 1949 South-West Africa has been virtually annexed to South Africa. The whole apparatus of a police State has been imported into this mandated territory. The system of apartheid has been imposed in its full rigour. Men and women have been alienated from the land which they had tilled.
673 The citizens of South-West Africa have been denied the elementary rights of free men everywhere to have a share in their government. They have no opportunity of voting for their representatives. They have no representation. Certain people are told that they are regarded as representatives of the people of South-West Africa in the South African Parliament. Indeed, when the recent referendum took place on whether South Africa should become a republic, these people, who against their will have been annexed by South Africa, were used to swell the republican majority. The Times, a newspaper not notably given to exaggerated statements, at any rate on the side of freedom, said that the mandate had been stolen, and I agree.
A year ago there was a revolt at Windhoek. It did not attract a great deal of attention in the Press, not nearly as much as Sharpeville. Windhoek is in South-West Africa. Africans were killed. Many were wounded and imprisoned. The whole history of the mandate, particularly since the Nationalists took over, has been one of increasing oppression and slavery.
The purpose of this debate is to ask the Government what they think about and what their attitude is in this matter. I do not think they will dissent from my description of history, even though they may not like all that I have said about the actions of the South African Government. But we know that the British Government disapprove of apartheid. A year ago we tried to get them to say so in this House. At the end of a heated debate we had failed to get the Minister of State to declare himself one way or the other. A month later, however, the Prime Minister went to South Africa and, fortunately, declared himself in a notable speech. Since then, and following the tragedy of Sharpeville, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, then Foreign Secretary, has gone on record as saying that in his view apartheid was immoral and unworkable.
We have had a fairly clear declaration from the Government. Publicly they have gone on record on the question of apartheid. I take it that in South-West Africa the British Government disapprove of the imposition of apartheid. Am I right? I think that the House would like to know. I take it from what they 674 have said on various occasions that they disapprove of the virtual annexation of the territory by South Africa in defiance of her trust. Am I right? I am sure that the House would like to know. We have not had a clear statement so far. I take it that they disapprove of the failure of South Africa to present reports on her trusteeship to the United Nations. Am I right? We would like to hear the Government say so. If they do, it would give a great deal of comfort to people in these territories who are waiting for a glimpse of the attitude of the British Government.
I do not wish to weary the House by reciting all the facts, but we know that on fourteen occasions the United Nations has asked the South African Government to prepare and present reports of its trusteeship and that fourteen times they have refused to do anything of the sort. One slight concession has been made, notably since Sharpeville. I believe that since June this year the South African Government have been supplying documents to the United Nations giving some account of what is taking place in these territories, disclaiming that they have any responsibility for so doing and are doing it merely as a matter of good will. I take it that the British Government believe that the people in this mandated territory, like those in the rest of Africa where the British writ runs, have the right to determine their own future. Am I right? The House would like to know the Government's views.
I take it that they hold the view that forty years ago the South African Government undertook to accept this solemn trust with a view to bringing these people forward to self-government? Am I right? Do they believe that? The House and the country would like to know. If the answer to these questions is "Yes"—and on the basis of what the Government have said in other places I do not see how the answer can be anything else, at any rate if they are to retain their selfrespect—what do the Government propose to do about it? Whatever the law of the mandate, the spirit of the mandate has undoubtedly been broken. And so we have a right to ask the Government what they propose to do.
In the United Nations, so far this session the Government have an 675 inglorious record. We managed to get up our hearts so high that on a resolution which asked that the United Nations Children's Fund might venture on some charitable purpose in South-West Africa, we managed to vote for it. That is the only thing for which we have managed to vote in the whole long series of resolutions which have been presented. The House would be astonished if I were to go through all the resolutions on which we have managed to abstain.
In very small company, we managed to abstain on a motion which deplored and disapproved the policy practised by the Government of South Africa contrary to its obligations under the international mandate of December, 1920. We managed to abstain on a motion deprecating the application in the territory of South Africa of the policy of apartheid. We even managed to abstain on a resolution which invited the United Nations Committee on South-West Africa to go to South-West Africa immediately to investigate the situation prevailing there. When the whole resolution was put, we managed to abstain on the whole lot.
I do not wish to take the House through all the resolutions except to say that the Government's bloodless record on South-West Africa in the United Nations this session does them no credit whatever. I understand that the reason for this is that Ethiopia and Liberia, two States who were independent and were members of the League of Nations, have taken the case of South-West Africa to the International Court. It was said by our representative at the Fourth Committee—I have a copy of his statement; the Government put it in the Libary—that we treasured the independence of the judiciary to the point where we would like nothing to be done by the United Nations that would be likely whilst the matter was sub judice to prejudice any discussions which might be going on. I congratulate the Government.
The question follows, however, if that is the Government's attitude, whether they will accept the decision of the International Court when it is handed down. Will the Government of South Africa accept the decision of the International 676 Court? If they do, the Government may well have a case, but they must tell us this evening what is their attitude towards this matter if we are to accept their bona fides in the question of abstaining because the matter is before the International Court.
I look at the situation with grave suspicion when I see that Mr. Eric Louw was advancing that argument as a reason for doing nothing, rather like Satan quoting the Bible to 'his own ends. Any of us who met Mr. Eric Louw when he was over here and heard him speaking about the mandates and South Africa's attitude towards them can have no doubt at all that his approach to this matter is merely that the International Court has been presented as a convenient manœuvre to enable him to dodge debate, discussion and decision in the United Nations.
I do not want to do the Government an injustice, but I hope they will make it clear that that is not their intention. I hope they will make it clear that within the limits that are open to them in the United Nations they will take such action as is open through supporting resolutions that are put forward dealing with this subject to try to bring South Africa to a sense of the obligations that she undertook.
I can well imagine what the Minister of State, Commonwealth Relations Office, will say. I have listened to him so often that I could almost make his speech for him before he gets up. I would not want to have to do it. I hope that I would rewrite it. Assuming, however, that on behalf of the Government he says "We are sorry" about the United Nations, I come to the second half of the Amendment. What will the right hon. Gentleman do concerning Commonwealth responsibilities? He is not inhibited there. Indeed, I understand that the Government's attitude has always been that we were not likely to get the best out of South Africa by voting her down steadily in the United Nations and that we must use our influence on her as a member of the Commonwealth.
The opportunity is shortly to present itself. We understood from an Answer given by the Leader of the House the other day that the future position of South Africa as a member of the Commonwealth is likely to be discussed at 677 the forthcoming Prime Ministers' Conference, which, I understand, is being discussed for March of next year. What will the Government do there? Do they intend to raise the issue? If the Commonwealth means anything, Commonwealth countries have the right to say to a nation which desires to raise the question of her membership, "Are you in good standing before you become a member of our society?" I do not think that any Member of the House, where-ever he sits—at least, I hope, no Member of the House—would take the view that South Africa is in good standing on the question of the administration of the mandate.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The noble Lord is a splendid man for drawing red herrings across the trail. No doubt, he will make a speech if he so wishes. At the moment, I am discussing membership of the Commonwealth in relation to South Africa. I put the question quite openly. Is this not an opportunity of doing what, I hope, even the noble Lord wants—that is, to get rid of the system of apartheid, to get rid of the oppression in South-West Africa, to stop the alienation of men and women from their lands and to give them representative government? I hope that the noble Lord will make a speech and will make his position clear, because this is a moment on this sort of issue when everybody should say clearly where he stands. I hope that the noble Lord will have no hidden reservations on the subject. If he has, there is a deep gulf between him and most of the British people on the subject.
When that discussion takes place, from what has been said by the Prime Ministers of Nigeria, of Malaya and of Ghana, there is no doubt that the question will come up. I see no reason why we should not use this question of the continued membership of the Commonwealth, if South Africa desires it, as a means of inviting her either to abolish the system of apartheid and all that flows from it in South-West Africa or, alternatively, to surrender her mandate.
To whom should she surrender it? That is a matter for discussion. There are a number of possibilities. She could surrender it to the United Nations and 678 it could then be given in trust to somebody else. Looking at the record of Britain in relation to trusteeships, taking Tanganyika as the most notable example, although it would be a heavy burden I would feel that if the mandate fell into the care of Britain, we, including the present Government, could be relied upon to discharge it honourably and to bring these people forward to self-government. The mandate could, of course, be surrendered to the United Nations, who might feel that they could hand it over to the Commonwealth as a whole for the Commonwealth to administer these territories. That would be a wonderful venture in making the Commonwealth a reality. A third suggestion which has been put forward is that a group of African States could take responsibility for the welfare and advancement of these territories.
There is no shortage of possibilities for looking after the future of these territories if only the South African Government can be put in a position in which she is willing to surrender the mandate. It would be not only right, but wise, to do this. Wisdom and morality walk hand in hand on this issue, as, I hope, they do on many other issues.
Let there be no doubt that our position will be increasingly challenged by the U.S.S.R. and the other members of the Communist Internationale. The statement issued at the end of the recent meeting in Moscow has been widely, hopefully and properly regarded as a victory for the idea that war is not inevitable, that war can be prevented and that peace can be preserved and made secure. Those are the words of the manifesto itself, and the reason given is the growing, economic, scientific and technical strength of the U.S.S.R. Whilst attention has been concentrated on that and mankind has breathed a sigh of relief, there was another aspect of the manifesto to which not nearly so much attention has been given. This was the passage which dealt in a very significant way with the abolition of colonialism.
It we are to move, as I trust we are, into a period of lessening international tension, with the possible threat of the H-bomb gradually moving away—and I do not think that this is impossible—we 679 shall face, as everyone knows, the challenge of what they call peaceful coexistence, under which a powerful, well-organised, centrally directed system will challenge what the West can do in these territories and challenge it very powerfully. I have not the slightest doubt that the economic measures and the Socialist measures which one will find in countries of Eastern Europe, will become increasingly powerful against the uncoordinated, planless society in which the West is living at present.
That is a subject for another discussion, but I draw the attention of the Minister of State particularly to the fact that South Africa was mentioned in this manifesto and described as a cruel and vicious régime and that the Communist Internationale pledged itself to bring aid and support to the people struggling for freedom.
I regret to say that some people in Southern Rhodesia and in South Africa believe that the challenge by the U.S.S.R. is an argument for greater repression as a way of stopping this Russian influence. I hope that all of us in the House have learned the lessons. One cannot command friendship, one can only deserve it. But I wonder whether the Minister of State has had brought to his notice that only yesterday in the United Nations the U.S.S.R. had a majority for a motion by 35 votes to 32, with many abstentions, calling for independence forthwith for all dependent territories. That vote shows the way the wind of change is blowing in the United Nations. The South African Government will find themselves under increasing pressure from the forces of world opinion and African opinion to change their policies.
I therefore feel that the British Government should be less pusillanimous than they have been on this matter. It would be ironic if their good deeds were smothered because the U.S.S.R. were able to plant the sins of South Africa on them. But if they go on behaving as they are doing today—and I draw the Minister's attention to the debate in the United Nations in which we were specifically coupled with South Africa—we shall find that a great deal of the value of the work we have done will be destroyed.
680 I will not detain the House much longer because I want a number of my hon. Friends to join in the debate and I am sure that hon. Members opposite will also wish to do so. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) wish to deal with the legal aspects of this question. I have in my hand an excellent pamphlet signed by my own Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway), called "Mandate in Trust" If I may give the hon. Member a free boost, I should like to say that it is one of the best things of the kind that I have seen and that I hope it will have a large sale. I have no doubt that the hon. Member will wish to speak, and I am sure that he will find it difficult not to vote for our Amendment.
I hope that the Minister of State will agree that, although I have criticised him and his failure, nevertheless the terms of the Amendment are such that if the British Government are true to their owe beliefs and have the courage to say so, they should be willing to accept it and act on it on all possible occasions in the United Nations and in meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I rise to join in the debate rather timorously, because I am not a lawyer. I feel, however, that this is an occasion on which I can support the Amendment, particularly having regard to the discussions at the forthcoming Prime Ministers' Conference. It seems to me a very good opportunity. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has worded his Amendment in a very considerate manner and I hope that it will prove acceptable to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State.
The time has come to reconsider our position and I should like to make one or two points about the mandate as it stands at present. I understand that it was originally given to South Africa by the principal Allied and Associated Powers of the Treaty of Versailles. It was vested in His Britannic Majesty to be exercised on his behalf by the Government of the Union of South Africa. If the Union of South Africa becomes a republic, how does this affect the fact 681 that originally the mandate was given to the Union because it was vested in his Britannic Majesty?
Article II declares thatThe Mandatory shall promote to the utmost the material and moral well-being and social progress of the inhabitants.Article III declares thatThe Mandatory shall see that the slave trade is prohibited and that no forced labour is used except for essential public works and services and then only for adequate remuneration.Article V says:The Mandatory shall ensure in the territory freedom of conscience and the free exercise of public worship and shall allow all missionaries, nationals of any States of the League of Nations, to enter into, travel and reside in the territory for the purpose of prosecuting their calling.Has this been happening? If not, is it not time that we had a change in the way in which the territory is mandated? The Union of South Africa has repeatedly stated that while it is prepared to continue in the spirit of the mandate it thinks that the obligation lapsed with the coming to an end of the League of Nations. On 2nd May, 1933, it was suggested in the Legislative Council that South-West Africa should become the fifth province of the Union of South Africa. There was a referendum at a later date. The Africans of South Africa agreed that they would remain under this supervision, but I understand that they thought that they would be, as they call it, "under the shadow of King George" and did not realise that they would be completely under the control of South Africa.
Until April, 1955, there was a Native Affairs Administration of South-West Africa. This dealt with all activities for the native people. Later, this was changed and now the department has been taken over by the Native Affairs Department of South Africa, which, of course, has a quite different policy towards the natives of South-West Africa. There is also considerable overlapping, because I understand that the Administration of South-West Africa still has some jurisdiction over health and education.
We must be fair and say that in the old Administration of South-West Africa there were many people who did extremely good jobs. They were indepen 682 dent and they did their best for the people concerned. However, it is a different situation when they have to work under the Native Affairs Department of South Africa.
In studying this problem, one has to consider the nature of the country. I understand that it is about the size of France with five or six major races, including a section in which I am very interested, the bushmen, who number about 9,000. The total population has now risen to 424,632. There are still about 15,000 Germans and there are other Europeans and many non-whites. Over the past nine years there have been considerable inroads into the farmlands because of the influx of so-called land—hungry whites, and that is something which should be looked into. The extension of the Police Zone and the granting of more and more land to white farmers has been done under the mandate of the South African Government and much more land is needed for the native reserves which are overcrowded and overstocked. Furthermore, in the group areas, the urban areas, locations are moved when the South Africans wish to expand them. That is very unsatisfactory for the native people.
There is a good side to the work which South Africa has done, because the Native Affairs Department has greatly helped to increase stock within the reserves, while the Agricultural Department, which is only five years old, has built 44 new dams with the help of local people—essential work. I understand that the native people did the work themselves under supervision and were given "rations" only; and if they were, I would like to know whether that is a system which would be welcomed by Her Majesty's Government, in view of Article III.
The Agricultural Department has done a great deal to improve cattle. In 1954, only 7,751 cattle were sold, but by 1956 the number had risen to more than 17,000. When we are criticising, it is only fair that we should give some credit for what has been done. Sale of products has risen considerably and I understand that the average income is now about £76 10s. a year, whereas in 1949 it was about £31. Therefore, I could not say that the Union of South Africa has not done any good, because it is clear that there have been improvements during 683 her administration over the years. The Health Commission reported that there was considerable malnutrition among children, although there was some preschool feeding. That is something which should be investigated further, in view of Article II. The time has come when, especially in view of the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, Her Majesty's Government should again take up this matter with South Africa. I have much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
I am delighted, but, I confess, not surprised, that the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) has supported the Amendment, knowing, as many of us do, her notable work for the Anti-Slavery Society and other bodies of a similar character. I can only hope that the excellent lead that she has given from the benches opposite will be suitably and respectfully followed by the Minister of State.
It is our view on this side of the House—and it is to be hoped that it will be reflected on the benches opposite—that, quite apart from the injustices which the South African Government are perpetrating upon the inhabitants of South-West Africa, the South African Government's policy in that territory constitutes a defiance of the United Nations and of the international community itself. I fear that for Her Majesty's Government to condone or excuse it in any way will harm our own standing in the international community and go a good deal of the way to undermining the future of the British Commonwealth itself.
As the issue is likely to come to a head very soon, I regard the presentation of the Amendment as most timely and I hope that tonight the Minister of State will make quite clear where the British Government stand in this matter. My recent experiences in South Africa have led me to the conclusion that if the status quo in South Africa is to be maintained the consequences for the future are truly frightening.
Very recently, the International Commission of Jurists, on behalf of which I had the honour to visit South Africa, has published a report. The report says that 684 the discriminatory policy of South Africa, which has been extended to the South-West African Territory,is not only contrary to the generally accepted concepts of justice and the principles of human rights, but also creates a potentially explosive situation which may soon lead to even more widespread internal violence than has already been experienced in South Africa.When I went to South Africa in the spring of this year, I attended the Sharpeville inquiry and saw there and elsewhere the cruel operation of apartheid in Africa. I believe that apartheid is not only hurting the Africans, but is harming the Afrikaaners as well, in particular by corroding their own standards.
I found a most remarkable illustration of that in an institution which above all should be practising equality before the law, namely the South African Ministry of Justice itself. When I was in Johannesburg, I got a copy of a memorandum of the South African Ministry of Justice on legal aid. It started with the impeccable words:The only obligation of the State is to ensure that no person is prejudiced in the legal sphere as a result of his poverty.Excellent sentiment.
Then followed the astonishing words:The existing legal system in South Africa does not lend itself in the normal way to any possibility of a failure of justice. Such being the case there is no justification for legal aid in criminal cases.It adds:The State is satisfied that innocent persons will not be found guilty and that only those who are, in fact, guilty will be condemned.To crown it all—and I am sure that this will raise memories with you Mr. Speaker—the statement ends:Possible discharge"—of an accused—on technical points is no argument in favour of legal aid.That approach runs wholly counter to all the standards of modern civilised States who now all accept the duty of providing legal representation for the defence so as to minimise the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. Even when that is accomplished, miscarriages of justice, alas, still occur.
The curious feature of the memorandum is that it goes on to say:In civil cases legal aid appears to be justified. This, however, cannot be said in cases between native and native where native law and custom are to be applied"—685 because—… the Native Commissioner is of opinion that legal aid in his courts is unnecessary because he and his staff are able to and, in effect, do render all the necessary assistance to native litigants and the Department of Justice has accepted this.I cite this because I believe that the Nationalist Government's attitude towards legal aid is, regrettably, in keeping with their whole attitude and approach to law and justice. Because of their contempt of the rule of law at home, I fear that they are equally contemptuous of international law and of their obligations under it. In 1954, for example, the International Court of Justice, which has consistently and frequently expressed opinions condemning the position taken by the South African Government about South-West Africa, expressed the view that a two-thirds majority vote alone was needed in matters pertaining to South-West Africa.
Mr. Loew reacted to this decision by imputing ill motives to the Court. He said:We do not care tuppence whether the United Nations observes the two-thirds majority rule or the unanimity rule in dealing with South-West African affairs, because we have consistently said that the United Nations has no right to concern itself with the affairs of South-West Africa.This attitude constitutes a serious and direct challenge to the authority of the United Nations, which Her Majesty's Government are pledged to support.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said, after the last war all the mandatory Powers except South Africa voluntarily submitted a trusteeship agreement for their mandates. The Union of South Africa alone refused to recognise any international rights in its mandated territory. The Union Government alone scorned decisions and rulings of the International Court about the international status of South-West Africa and about the international obligations of the Government of South Africa. Indeed, so far from accepting its international obligations, as the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport said, for a very long time the Union Government have regarded this mandated territory as the fifth province of South Africa, and apartheid, in particular, has been, and is being, enforced there with the same 686 cruel, fanatical zeal as in South Africa itself.
Whereas, in regard to South Africa itself, the Union Government might contend—although, I think, without proper foundation because apartheid is contrary to the commitments of the South African Government under the United Nations Charter—that their policies in respect of the inhabitants are a matter of domestic jurisdiction, that could not possibly be said in regard to South-West Africa, a territory for which the world is the guardian.
The South African Government have sought to call in aid Article II of the mandate, which provides that the mandatory may apply the laws of the Union of South Africa to the territory, but that Article is prefaced and, as I submit, limited, by the explicit requirement thatThe mandatory shall promote to the utmost the moral well-being and social progress of the inhabitants of the country.The hon. Lady has drawn attention to the significance of that responsibility. When one examines the working of apartheid, it is, clearly, quite impossible to reconcile it with the promotion of either well-being or social progress. On the contrary, when one sees it in operation, as I have, in some of the courts outside Johannesburg, where the pass laws are enforced, one sees a pathetic line of impoverished Africans being humiliated, insulted, driven and chased. The pass system is a degrading humiliation, even when it is enforced without brutality.
We have to face the fact that the whole set-up in South-West Africa today is designed principally to keep control in the hands of the small privileged European group and to provide cheap labour for mine and farm by restricting the African's rights to move, to own land, to be educated, and to acquire skills. I remember vividly the wife of a distinguished African to whom I spoke saying, what hurts, above all, is the knowledge that in future our children will never get a chance to be other than hewers of wood and drawers of water". That was said by the wife of a distinguished lawyer, and I had better not say more of her qualifications lest I identify her and cause her suffering.
The International Commission of Jurists has recently designated this 687 system as legalised slavery, and that is not exaggerated language. In this situation the British Government have a special responsibility, which they have shown little sign of appreciating, for exerting the influence of civilised and proper international standards. The British Government have a historial responsibility because we were one of the principal Allied Powers who made the grant of the mandate to South Africa, a mandate under the terms of which the mandate was conferred on His Britannic Majesty to be exercised on his behalf by the South African Government, language on which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) may have some comment to make.
We have a direct legal and political responsibility. We are the parent of the Commonwealth. We are a progressive mandatory in Africa and we have the right to intervene. I believe that our word can still carry weight in South Africa. After all, the Nationalist Government are opposed not only by all the Africans. There is substantial opposition to Nationalist policies, as I saw and heard for myself, within South Africa, but I am convinced that it is only by tremendous pressure from outside, in particular from Britain and the Commonwealth countries, that the Nationalists will he induced to turn from their present disastrous policies.
Instead of pressing condemnation where condemnation is required, we have, as my hon. Friend said, given aid and comfort to the Nationalists. As long as they can look forward to Britain standing by and supporting and condoning their actions in the United Nations, their contempt of the United Nations will continue. It is deplorable that there has to be pressure time and again from this side of the House, with what support we are able to obtain from the other side, on this matter. I plead for a forthright attitude by the British Government in these critical times.
I hope, for instance, that they will take a sympathetic view of the action of Liberia and Ethiopia in taking the issue of South-West Africa before the International Court of Justice. I hope that they will indicate that they will stand by any decision of that Court and of the United Nations, even if it means terminating South Africa's mandate, 688 because unless South Africa is prepared to honour its international commitments under its mandate it forfeits all rights to hold and retain it.
Many difficult legal issues anise in relation to the whole matter. I shall resist the invitation of my hon. Friend to embark upon any of them tonight. I merely ask the British Government to give a hand in this matter. So far as there is any question of the power of the United Nations to revoke the mandate in the event of South Africa refusing to honour her responsibilities under it, I hope that the British Government will take a hand in referring the issue to the International Court of Justice and in supporting the international community in seeing that this Commonwealth Government behaves in a civilised fashion.
In the Prime Ministers' Conference there is an unparalleled opportunity for bringing pressure to bear and for making life once more tolerable for millions of people who now suffer under the lash of apartheid.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) is an expert on these legal matters and has told the House that the position of the mandate in South-West Africa appears to be highly complicated. I therefore have no hesitation in saying that I find it difficult to sort out the rights and wrongs on legal grounds. As I understand it, the International Court has held that South Africa cannot be forced to turn the mandate into a trusteeship and at the same time has held that the supervisory functions of the old League of Nations have passed to the United Nations, and the South African Government have refused to recognise this fact. Since 1949 I understand that they have been administering South-West Africa as part of the Union.
That means that the full legal weight of apartheid is being applied in South West Africa. Is this legal in terms of the mandate? The hon. and learned Member quoted one requirement of the mandate as being to promote the moral wellbeing of the people and their social progress. I suppose it could be argued by an Afrikaaner Nationalist that South Africa was doing that by applying the 689 policy of apartheid. The Nationalists feel that the two-race theory is best for both black and white. I do not think that any Member of this House would agree, but the Nationalists can argue on those lines. On the other hand, it has been pointed out that Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations requires Powers to develop self-government and to take account of the political aspirations of the people. That certainly could not be held to be done in South-West Africa by the Nationalist Government.
It has been pointed out that the legal position is even further complicated by the probability of South Africa becoming a republic. It is not, however, the legal implications that worry me unduly, they are so complicated, and I am prepared to accept the conclusion in the last sentence of the leading article in The Times of 14th September, which reads:A mandate has been stolen and the thieves are vainly protesting their innocence.I support any effort which can be made by Her Majesty's Government to sort out the legal position in international law.
The moral issue is the one that chiefly concerns me. Apartheid is being applied in South-West Africa. Many Afrikaaner Nationalists in the Union itself are beginning to feel that the policy of apartheid will not work. The fact that the Afrikaaner Nationalists have disregarded the recommendations of the Tomlinson Report; that they have not developed the theory of Bantustan by putting money into the creation of African areas; that they have not allowed Africans to hold freehold tenure in African areas, or allowed European capital to go into Bantustan, shows that the idea of apartheid as a two-race system is not fundamentally believed in even by the South Africa Government. If it were they would have put more money into Bantustan in order to show that their policy could really work.
I am afraid that the present South African Government have no intention of modifying the system of apartheid as it exists in the Union and in South-West Africa. Not many months ago, when I was last in Cape Town, I talked to a member of the present Government. This was only about three weeks after the events at Sharpeville. He said, "Look round the country and make your own 690 judgment. I can tell you there is nothing wrong in this country at all. The Africans in the Union are perfectly happy. All the trouble is caused by the international Press and by a small number of Africans from Basutoland and Nyasaland who have come here to work but instead of working indulge in politics". That man really meant what he said.
Another educated Afrikaaner—a magistrate—when asked if he could tell me in what country in the world the South African policy of apartheid was supported said, "It does not matter. We were sent here to guide and lead the Bantu. God is with us and God's will will prevail." That is the terrifying thing about the whole concept of race relations that exists in the minds of the Afrikaaner Nationalist. He believes quite sincerely that he is doing right—that he is doing God's will for the benefit of himself and for the benefit of the Africans. It is therefore extremely difficult to shift him from this belief.
I do not want these stories to be construed as an attack upon the Afrikaaner people. As I am sure the House will recall, the leaders of both opposition parties in South Africa—the United Party and the Progressive Party—are led by men of Afrikaaner stock. What concerns me is the effect which the voting of the British Government alongside the South African Government in the United Nations has had upon people who oppose the Government policy in South Africa today. I have discussed this question with members of the opposition parties and they have told me that when they see Britain—perhaps for quite valid legal reasons—lining up alongside the Union of South Africa in the United Nations they feel that it strikes a blow at their efforts to change the policy of apartheid. The effect on the African people, who do not pretend to understand these legal niceties that often confuse us, is obvious.
The speech which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made in Cape Town—the "wind of change" speech—did a great deal to remove the feeling which was growing in African minds that we had abandoned our interest in their future. We in Britain therefore have great responsibilities. We have tried to set a good example. In the colonial 691 sphere the contrast between Nigerian independence and Congolese independence is obvious to the world, and in the mandatory sphere the development of Tanganyika as compared to that of South-West Africa is also obvious to the world. We have set an example which has not been followed by the present Nationalist Government of South Africa.
That Government's policy is opening out that part of Africa to the Communists—the very thing which the Nationalists say they are trying to prevent—and this policy is a grave embarrassment to us. I hope that we shall not destroy the faith which the African people, the vast majority of English-speaking people, and a large number of Africaaner-speaking people in the Union have in us by supporting a Government whose racial policy is discredited in the eyes of the world.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
Am I right in assuming from the tenor of the hon. Member's speech that he supports the Amendment and will vote for it tonight?
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
There is a remarkable degree of unanimity in the House tonight and I would like to say, speaking for myself, how much I welcome both the speeches which we have heard from the benches opposite. I listened with great interest to what the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) had to say about his recent firsthand experiences in the Union. As for the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), I would only say to her that I am not one of her constituents, but I do happen to take a great pride in being a native of the City of Plymouth; and I thought that her speech tonight, particularly the opening sentences, was in the best Plymothian tradition.
I wish to say a word or two about the legal questions, which, in my submission, necessarily arise when we are approaching this or any similar debate. I suggest to the House that there are 692 four juridical issues which fall to be considered relating to South-West Africa. They are these. First, can the United Nations revoke a mandate, or can a mandate be forfeited? That question was canvassed in the leading article in the Guardian this morning. The second question is whether, when South Africa becomes a republic, either inside or outside the Commonwealth, she will have forfeited her right to continue as the mandatory Power. The third question is: is it the case that, as is now alleged by the Governments of Ethiopia and Liberia, the South African Government are in breach of their obligations under the mandate by reason of the policy which they have pursued in South-West Africa? The fourth question—this was foreshadowed by the hon. Member for Haltemprice—is: are the South African Government in breach of their obligations under Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations?
It may well be that the third question, and possibly the first, may be decided by the International Court as a result of the initiative which has been taken by Ethiopia and Liberia. But I would like to say a word or two about the second and the fourth question. The second is: what happens when South Africa becomes a republic? This matter was touched on by the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport. The mandate is expressly given to His Britannic Majesty to be exercised on his behalf by the Government of the Union of South Africa.
I have ventured to raise this matter before, both in the House and outside, and in May of this year I wrote to The Times suggesting that if South Africa became a republic within the Commonwealth it was at least questionable whether she could continue to exercise a mandate on behalf of the British Crown. I went on to suggest that if South Africa were to become a republic out of the Commonwealth, the result must almost certainly be to bring her mandatory rights to an end; because it could never have been contemplated, when the mandate was first given in 1919, that it should be exercised on behalf of the British Crown by an alien Power.
Later, The Times raised the same question in a leading article on 5th September, which evoked an immediate 693 reaction from Mr. Eric Louw, the South African Minister of External Affairs. He said, of course, that he had been advised in a contrary sense. In particular, he referred to the speech made in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations. May I remind the House of what the right hon. Gentleman had to say on 4th July.There is one further point that may well be under consideration during this debate; indeed, it was touched on by the right hon. Gentleman. What is the position if South Africa becomes a republic as the result of a referendum which includes South-West Africa, and wound this prejudice the status of the territory? Here, I think, there are two questions and I will give the answers to the best of my ability, because it seems important that we should try to get this clear. The first is, assuming that the mandate is recognised as still being fully effective, the status would not be affected by any change of the Constitution of South Africa. My understanding is that the international obligation entered into by a country when its monarchy is head of the State is not abrogated or in any way diminished by reason of the adoption by that country of any other form of constitution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1960; Vol. 626. c. 58–59.]It will be observed that the right hon. Gentleman, in that speech, did not deal at all with the distinction—it may be the vital distinction—as to whether the Union, as a republic, was inside or outside the Commonwealth. I wish to ask him this, because this is a very important question: is it the view of the Commonwealth Relations Office that it makes no difference, that the mandate would be entirely unaffected even though South Africa were a republic outside the Commonwealth?
Of course, in any event, as The Times pointed out, these matters simply cannot be decided by the ipse dixit of a Government Department. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is advised by those inside his Department as to the law, but the advice that he receives is not necessarily correct, not only himself but other Ministers. There have been a good many occasions when Government Departments have proceeded on a view of the law which has afterwards turned out to be ill-founded. I am not suggesting that the Government should now immediately change their view, but I want to say this. There is only one tribunal in the world which is competent to decide this issue, and that is the International Court of Justice. We ask—I do not suppose 694 that we shall get an answer tonight, but we shall continue to ask—are the Government prepared to submit this issue to the International Court?
The third question which arises is whether the Union Government have been acting in breach of the terms of the mandate. That has already been covered by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) and it is the specific issue which is raised by the application to the Court on behalf of Ethiopia and Liberia. I am not now going over the ground which the Court will have to consider, but I want to put one query to the Minister. These two nations, taking a certain view of their rights as original members of the League of Nations under the Covenant of the League, have made their application to the Court. A resolution came before the United Nations only a few days ago in which the member States were asked to do no mare than to take note of the application that had been made to the International Court. It was not a great deal to ask. I suppose it might be said that "taking note" involves some degree of approval, some kind of sanction as to the validity of the procedure. But it is rather remarkable. The resolution was sponsored by 20 nations. When the vote was called there was a roll-call of 73 in favour.
The Union of South Africa did not vote. Nobody voted against, but there were five abstentions—Australia, Belgium, France, Portugal and the United Kingdom. I think that this House is entitled to know the grounds for that abstention, because it really is very difficult to reconcile the attitude that was taken by the United Kingdom representative, when that vote was called, with what he said during the debate.
During the debate on the various resolutions the United Kingdom representative excused himself from expressing any positive attitude because of the reference to the Court. He said, "This matter is sub judice." He said it on more than one occasion and at considerable length. He explained the procedure of the House of Commons. He said that the Fourth Committee should find some way to debar itself from considering any matter which was sub judice. 695 But all the resolution did was to take note of the fact that this issue was sub judice. Why, in those circumstances, did the United Kingdom representative abstain? That is something which surely we are entitled to know.
Finally, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Haltemprice, there is the most important juridical question of all, or so it seems to me. That is the obligation which rests upon South Africa, as upon all other members of the United Nations under Article 73 of the Charter, an obligation… to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement.That is not a pious aspiration. It is not merely a form of words. It is part of the law of nations. It is the specific obligation which is accepted by every member of the United Nations. Having regard to what we all know of the application of the policies of apartheid, it is impossible to argue that that obligation is being carried out in South-West Africa by the Union Government. Here again, there is only one tribunal which can adjudicate upon this matter, and that is the International Court.
It may be that some of these questions I have raised tonight will not be covered by the application which is brought forward by Liberia and Ethiopia. Therefore, they ought to be dealt with separately. There ought to be a reference by the General Assembly of the United Nations to the Court for an advisory opinion. May we know, at any rate in general terms, what is the attitude to these juridical issues of Her Majesty's Government? Do they agree that these issues as to whether the mandate can be, has been, or in certain circumstances may be, forfeited should be decided by the International Court? If so, will they in future instruct their representatives at the United Nations to act and speak and vote accordingly?
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I have never attended the House on an occasion which has reminded me more of a vicarage tea party. Everybody seems to 696 be agreeing with everybody else because they have one person to pick on and attack. I am sorry to throw a little discord into the Chamber. I do not wish to involve myself in these legal complexities which I have been trying to understand but which, not being a trained lawyer, I have not been able to understand. I do not think it is necessary for the points I wish to make to try to explain the various niceties.
I dislike this Amendment. Why I could not support it and would, in fact, oppose it is that I dislike the idea of this country taking one member of the Commonwealth to pieces in the United Nations and that this House should pass an Amendment to take action in the United Nations against a member of the Commonwealth. We should consider very seriously before supporting an Amendment like this, or before long we shall find the Commonwealth split in many pieces like the party opposite.
The second point I make is in regard to the forthcoming Prime Minister's Conference. Judging by the way in which motions have been put forward and suggestions made about what should be done to South Africa at that Conference, anyone would think that it was merely being held in order to tear South Africa to bits and bring it into the dock instead of attending an open Conference. I am not prepared to discuss apartheid, whether I support it or not, because I do not think that is the issue. I do not think the issue is whether the mandate should be administered or resigned at this particular time.
The dangerous thing about this Amendment is that we, the senior member or metropolitan Dominion in the Commonwealth, are attacking a member of the Commonwealth, trying to do it in the most obvious place possible—the United Nations—and trying to make the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference into a sort of court or headmaster's study to which one of the members is called. I ask the House to think very seriously about the reaction among our friends in the Commonwealth and among other nations when they see that this House has even discussed an Amendment like this. I hope for that reason that the Amendment will not be supported.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
Like the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison), I was beginning to feel that this discussion was like a vicarage tea party, but it was for a very different reason from his that I was feeling uneasy. He is uneasy because he objects to this House of Commons making criticism of the apartheid policy in the Union of South Africa and contemplating some action against it in the United Nations and at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.
I shall develop the point later, but it seems to me there are certain elementary human rights which go beyond the frontiers of any nation. If our Commonwealth is to stand for something worthwhile in the world, one of the human rights for which it must stand is the equality of men and women of all races within the territories which it represents. The reason why I welcome the protest of the hon. Member against the tea party atmosphere of our discussion is that I am fearful, after certain speeches which have been delivered from the opposite side of the House, that this Amendment might be accepted by the party opposite without any intention of carrying out the definite demands it makes.
I ask the Minister of State to look at the Amendment, which says:That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take action in the United Nations".I emphasise the word "action". I had today an Answer from the Lord Privy Seal to a Question which I put to him about resolutions on South Africa in the General Assembly of the United Nations. The reply was that on four out of five of those resolutions the delegate representing our Government abstained. The only resolution which the delegate supported was that, which I welcome, that the United Nations Children's Fund and the three other Agencies should operate in South-West Africa. On every other issue which voiced any criticism of the system of apartheid in South Africa, on a resolution which merely noted that the matter was to be raised at the International Court, the representative of the Government abstained.
I am saying to the right hon. Gentleman that if he intends to accept this Amend 698 ment it means a complete change of the Government's policy in the United Nations. It would be sheer hypocrisy for the House of Commons to adopt unanimously an Amendment which asked the Government to take action in the United Nations if the Government's delegate continued to abstain on every resolution of importance brought before the General Assembly on this subject.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to go a little further into our Amendment. It statesThat this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government … in the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference to ensure"—I stress the word "ensure"—that the Government of South Africa carries out the solemn obligations it undertook in accepting the Mandate for South-West Africa …There could hardly be a decision of the House more decisive in the action which the Government's representatives should take at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference than that sentence.
If the right hon. Gentleman will not accept this lead wholeheartedly, then I ask him not to come to the Dispatch Box and to say, as did the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), "We accept this in general terms. We like this amendment. We are not quite sure about the legality, but the general principles are unexceptionable and therefore we accept them." If the right hon. Gentleman intends to accept the Amendment, we shall expect him to put it into operation both at the United Nations and in the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.
There is no need for me to analyse again tonight—although I have all the facts—the attitude which the Government representative has taken at the United Nations, but may I say a word about the coming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference? The right hon. Gentleman may be a little surprised to hear that I am not one of those who wish to expel the Government of the Union of South Africa from the Commonwealth; I believe that that is the wrong way to approach the matter. I believe that the correct approach is for the Commonwealth to declare for a whole series of principles of liberties and rights and racial equalities, and for the nations in the Commonwealth to 699 say, "That is our faith and our belief." When the nations of the Commonwealth have taken that decision, it is for the Government of the Union of South Africa to say whether it can remain in a Commonwealth which has that declaration as its basis.
If, at the coming meeting of the Prime Ministers, a declaration of that nature is adopted; if we say that we believe in human equalities and that a personality, whether his skin is white or black, is of equal value, whatever his race may be; if we declare for those freedoms and democracies, and challenge the Government of the Union of South Africa upon a declaration of that kind, then that Government will either have to reverse their policies entirely or leave the Commonwealth—not be expelled from it—because it will not accept the declarations of principle and liberty in which the rest of the Commonwealth believe.
Finally, I take the last sentence of the Amendment, and again I say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he intends to accept the Amendment he must accept the action that it demands. It says that South Africa should either carry out the solemn obligations it undertook in accepting the mandate or surrender itto the United Nations so that alternative trusteeship arrangements can be made".Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to accept that? If he sincerely accepts the Amendment, we shall welcome it. Will he go to the United Nations and the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference and say to these two bodies, "If the Union of South Africa does not apply the mandate, which insists on social progress and economic advance, then it should be requested to surrender its mandate to the United Nations, to be applied in a different way"?
If we carry this Amendment sincerely, believing in it, and if the Government give us a pledge that they will take the action which is embodied in the Amendment, then our decision tonight will be an historic decision for this Parliament, for our Commonwealth, for Africa and for the world. But I say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he accepts this form of words, it must not be in general, pious, vicarage tea party terms. It must be in terms which mean that he will take action to carry out its implications.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I do not think that any hon. Member can ever accuse me of being a supporter of apartheid. I need only remind the House that I spoke in the strongest possible terms in support of a resolution moved in March or April by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house) and that only last week I put down my name in support of a Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). Consequently, I need not justify myself before the House in that respect.
I had not intended to speak tonight, but I feel most uneasy about the speeches which I have so far heard. I would remind the House that if we pass this Amendment the hon. Member for Eton and Slough will be quite right in saying that it cannot be done and shrugged off; it must mean something. If we pass this Amendment it will be, as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough said, an attempt, not to expel South Africa from the Commonwealth, but to make the position so difficult for the Union of South Africa that it will leave the Commonwealth of its own accord.
With all respect to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, that is not an attitude of mind that I can possibly respect. I can understand and respect people who say, "Let us expel the Union from the Commonwealth", but I cannot understand or respect the point of view which says, "Oh, no, I am not going to expel the Union of South Africa; I am going to make the situation so damnably unpleasant that the Union will go of its own accord." To me, that does not seem straightforward dealing.
§ Mr. Brockway
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that any association has the right to declare certain principles, and make those principles the test of membership? Then it must be for each nation that is in that association to decide whether it accepts the principles. My enthusiasm is for the declaration of human rights; my enthusiasm is not for the exclusion of any one nation.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
It is a small point, and I do not attach much importance to it. If the hon. Member for Eton and Slough prefers to have it that way he may, by all means.
701 I will tell the House what it means if we take steps, either directly or indirectly, to lead the Union of South Africa to leave the Commonwealth. I ask the House to recall what percentage voted in favour of a republic. That percentage may be taken, perhaps, as a rough percentage of those who support the Nationalist Government in the Union of South Africa. Speaking from memory, I think that it was 53 per cent. or 54 per cent. of the white voters. That only represents a majority of the white voters. There are no coloured or black voters.
Abount a quarter of the population of the Union of South Africa is white and so, being generous, let us say that 54 per cent. of one-quarter of the population of the Union of South Africa voted for the Union to become a republic. Fifty-four per cent. of one-quarter is about 13½ per cent. of the total population of that country. Because 13½ per cent. of the population of that country takes a certain view we are preparing steps which may lead to that country being expelled from the Commonwealth, or making conditions so unpleasant that it has to go.
I think that the Commonwealth means more than something which can be treated in that way. Everyone has his own view of what the Commonwealth means. It is like the fundamental question of what one means by one's faith in Providence. To me, it means a family. We are only primus inter pares. We are the eldest child. We are not the parents of that family. The parents of the family are our forebears in this country and elsewhere who have built up the body of tradition and achievement which has led to the existence of the Commonwealth. I believe that in doing so we have not only served ourselves and our race; we have served the world.
Never in the history of the world has mankind needed more that for which the Commonwealth stands—that blend of kindliness, liberty, decency and common sense, for which we believe the Commonwealth stands. I believe that anything that is liable to fracture and fragmentate that Commonwealth is doing the greatest possible disservice to mankind. We are children of the same family. Do all children always behave perfectly? Are there not naughty children? Are there not children whose conduct one deplores and regrets?
702 My father brought us up on the great principle that nothing justifies a family feud, family row, or family split. In every family there are black sheep; in every family there are sinners, Can a sinner never repent? Can a small and bare majority in the Union of South Africa never be turned into a different majority, a majority holding opposite views? Are we to risk breaking up the Commonwealth?
I may be self-satisfied and priggish when I say that I sincerely believe, as I think we all do, that in serving and preserving the Commonwealth we are serving and preserving the world. Are we to risk breaking that up because there is, momentarily, a certain majority in the Parliament of one of our children, and because, momentarily, bad ideas and bad thoughts have taken charge of that child?
Are we concerned only with the Nationalist majority in the Union of South Africa? Are we concerned only with the white population in South Africa? If we are, are we concerned only with 54 per cent. of it? What about the other 46 per cent.? Are we not concerned with the millions of Africans and coloureds in South Africa? Do they want to leave the Commonwealth? Are we serving their interests by driving South Africa from the Commonwealth?
I admit that I am a repentant sinner—in other words, I have changed my mind. A year ago I believed that we should expel South Africa from the Commonwealth. I have changed my mind fundamentally. I have reached the conclusion that to expel her from the Commonwealth, or to create such conditions as to compel her to leave the Commonwealth, would do the gravest possible disservice to those 86½ per cent. of the inhabitants of the Union that did not vote for a republic. We should also do a disservice to the rest of the world.
I sympathise with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough. I wish that it was practicable and possible for this country and the Commonwealth to lay down a creed, a set of principles, to which all members should adhere. But how many different religious faiths have run on to the rocks through narrowing the terms or principles which gave qualification for membership?
703 Families should not feel like that. Whatever my children or my relations may do, they are my children and my relations, whether they repent or not. I believe that it is only on that basis that a family can be kept together.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
I listened with surprise and regret to the speech of the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson), for whom I have very great respect. On this occasion he wandered rather far from the Amendment and its context. After all, we are discussing the particular difficulty of South-West Africa. Anyone listening to the hon. Member's speech without having seen the Amendment would have supposed that we were having a general discussion about apartheid in the Union as a whole. The Amendment concerns the position of the mandated territory of South-West Africa.
I can appreciate the difficulty of Her Majesty's Government—it is a real difficulty—when the United Nations is asked to express an opinion upon the administration within the Union of South Africa other than the mandated territory. Many of my hon. Friend have formed the conclusion that we should take a stand at the United Nations even on that subject. However, that is not what we are discussing tonight. What we are discussing tonight is the situation as it affects the South-West Africa mandated territory, the attitude of the Union in relation to a mandate, and whether the Union is in breach of international law as regards this territory.
It appears to me, therefore, that arguments that might possibly be advanced, or that it would be reasonable to advance—whether or not one agreed with them—on the internal arrangements of the Union of South Africa, fall completely to the ground when what we are discussing is a mandated territory that is susceptible to international law and to international opinion properly expressed. So it seems to me that a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman said is not relevant to this point, although it might have been to another debate.
The history of all this should convince hon. Members—as, indeed, it has, as we have heard from hon. Members opposite as well as from my hon. Friends—that 704 we have a peculiar duty in this matter. The hon. Member for Farnham has said that we are all members of one family and that we should treat one another as such. That is certainly true, but if a member of his family was in breach of the law would he encourage a breach of the law? Would the hon. Gentleman regard that as his duty, or would he not say, as the Romans said in their ideals of pietas and gravitas, that it was his duty as a citizen to say to that member of his family, "No. If you are in breach of the law then, much as I love you, I cannot support you. I can give you all the affection and devotion that you wish, but I cannot, consistent with my duty, support you if I believe that you are in breach of the law." It is the reverse of that, in effect, that the hon. Gentleman asks of those of us who believe that in this instance the Union of South Africa is in breach of international law—
§ Sir G. Nicholson
Perhaps the hon. Lady has forgotten that her hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) concluded by saying that he did not wish to expel the Union of South Africa from the Commonwealth but that he wished to lay down a set of standards that might make it impossible for the Union to stay in. I may have been led astray by that. My speech, in the main, was an endeavour to counter that.
§ Mrs. White
I do not think that anyone wants to expel the Union of South Africa. I certainly would not. I was not able to hear all of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), but if he said that he hoped that the Union of South Africa would adopt principles that would make it easier for her to stay in the Commonwealth with general good will, I would agree. I think that we are entirely justified on this issue of the territory of South-West Africa, in asking Her Majesty's Government to do precisely what the Amendment suggests—and I do not know whether the hon. Member for Farnham was in his place when some of his hon. Friends supported this Amendment. It asks the Government to take action in the United Nations—in other words not on every occasion to abstain when this matter is raised—and also to have consultations, which by their very nature would be private, at 705 the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.
That seems to me to be a reasonable request to make of Her Majesty's Government. I hope very much that we are to have the pleasure of a speech from the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway). His name is subscribed to the booklet to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred. Not only is the hon. Gentleman's name subscribed to it, but so is the name of another very much respected hon. Member who sits opposite but who is not in his place at the moment. There are also other names that are very well known to all of us in this House who have taken any interest in the affairs of South-West Africa—
§ Mr. Christopher Chataway (Lewisham, North)
It has not been my intention to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, because I have such confidence in the Government that I feel certain that it will be pushing against an open door for me to reiterate the arguments made from this side urging that the ideas contained in this pamphlet should be the basis of Government policy.
§ Mrs. White
I am delighted to hear that because, if the hon. Gentleman's interpretation is correct, the Government should accept the Motion—but perhaps he has still a little work to do in persuading some of his hon. Friends.
This pamphlet makes very clear the opinion of the very distinguished group of persons sponsoring it. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Farnham has had the opportunity of reading it, but, if not, perhaps he can obtain a copy from his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North. I will simply read the conclusions printed in heavy type on the last page. It is said:Britain has a special responsibility.Indeed, yes, because the mandate, let us not forget, was in fact entrusted to His Britannic Majesty's Government, and it was devolved on the Union of South Africa. But this document says that we have a special responsibility.
It then goes on to make three firm recommendations that Britain should—Declare her general intention of assisting the international community to establish international rights in South-West Africa, and make it clear that she will not support South Africa at the United Nations.706 Further, that Britain should—Immediately declare her intention of supporting any decision of the International Court which it might be asked to give on the issue of South-West Africa.That is categorical, is it not? It goes on, thirdly, and very properly, to say that Britain should—Make herself available for negotiations with South Africa through the Commonwealth, or other informal channels.In other words, what we are suggesting, at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference.
Therefore, we have on the record three clear recommendations from a body of persons of experience, some of them of very great experience indeed, in African affairs, including, I repeat, two hon. Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House, and other supporters of the Government outside this Chamber.
We are not asking for more than these recommendations suggest, and, therefore, I hope very much that the hon. Member for Lewisham, North, is right in thinking that the Government are to accept the Amendment which we have put upon the Order Paper. After all, those of us who have taken an interest in this sad territory feel that humanity at large owes something to the people of South-West Africa. There is no part of Africa that has a more deplorable history at the hands of Europeans than South-West Africa. There is no part of the country that has been treated more abominably under the German occupation, and the stories of that time are more hair-raising than those from any other part of the whole continent of Africa, in regard to the way in which the people of South-West Africa were treated.
Having, as they believed, freed themselves from that appalling, cruel and bestial tyranny, the people of that territory thought that they would be under the direct protection of His Britannic Majesty, at that time King George V. They found gradually that that was not the case, and that they had been placed under the power of the Union of South Africa, which has so ordered things in its disregard of international obligations that it has been impossible for the people of that country to make representations themselves directly to the United Nations or any other body.
707 I will not weary the House by referring to the history, which is well known, I am sure, to all of us, but I think that what we are asking for in the Amendment should be acceptable to anyone who has studied the position in the territory.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
I am reminded tonight of the debate that we had on 8th April last, when the House unanimously came to the conclusion that the only way in which peace and tranquillity could be achieved in South Africa was by establishing complete equality between all peoples in that country.
The tenor of the speeches from the other side of the House tonight indicates that the winds of change have been blowing very strongly in the Conservative Party, and, quite frankly, I welcome this change in opinion on that side of the House. I congratulate, particularly, the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) and his hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) and Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) on the part that they have played in bringing about a change of outlook in the Conservative Party on this question.
The Times has referred to the "theft of a mandate" when speaking of the territory we are discussing. I refer also to the rape of a country. Not only have the people of South-West Africa been denied their political rights, but they have had stolen from them the economic assets of their territory under the policy of apartheid and the policy of allocating the wealth of the country very largely to the European minority of about 69,000 people out of a total population of just over 500,000.
I will give some examples to show how the policy of apartheid works in South-West Africa. Last year, in Windhoek, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said, riots took place which were almost completely disregarded by the Press. These riots came about as a result of the Government's policy of removing from Windhoek the African location and putting it some way out of town in an area which has became known officially as Katutura—which, ironically enough, is Herero for "We 708 have no permanent home". The authorities did not realise, when they endorsed the use of that name, exactly what they were endorsing. The Herero people, one of the tribes in the territory, do not accept the policy of apartheid and object in every possible way to their forcible removal to the new locations which were established for them.
I ask the House to consider the human misery created as a result of the transfers. First, there is the extra expense involved for families moved from their homes where the average rent was about 3s. 6d. a month to houses where the rent was £2 a month. That has to be borne out of an income which, on average, is only £10 a month, a very big burden indeed when there is added to it the cost of transport, about 6d., from the new location to the town where the people have to work. Also, one must remember that it has been estimated that the basic income needed to maintain a subsistence standard in the area around Windhoek is about £27 a month.
These African people are being denied the opportunity of obtaining an income to keep themselves and their families alive. Yet the territory is not the poorest of the continent. For instance, it is much wealthier than Tanganyika, the mandated territory for which we are responsible. The average yearly income per head of population in Tanganyika is £20 a year. In South-West Africa, the value of exports alone is about £45 million a year, which works out at an average of about £80 per head, man, woman and child. But the African people do not share this relative prosperity, because the main value of the economy of South-West Africa goes to the European minority living there and to the European companies investing there. The African people are regarded as cheap labour by the European settlers and by the European companies exploiting them.
One of the reasons why we press this Amendment tonight is our hope that, if the mandate can be taken away from the Union of South Africa and given to another Power, it will be possible to initiate policies in the territory which will give the African people a fairer share in the wealth which is being created. The whole policy of the South 709 African authorities is to limit the extent to which the African people can participate in the economic activities of the territory.
I should like to refer to the Report of the United Nations Committee on South-West Africa, dated 3rd September last. Paragraphs 253 and 254 show only too clearly how the African people are discriminated against in the economic sphere. The Europeans are given the benefit of credits, of facilities in marketing arrangements, in the allocation of land and in educational facilities. In all these spheres the Europeans are given the advantage whereas the Africans are given hardly any facilities.
In paragraphs 256 and 257 reference is made to the help given to the territory during the drought last year, when about £2,600,000 were provided for alleviating the distress caused by the drought. Yet most of that money went to the European minority. A small part of it, measured in tens of thousands of pounds, went to the African population in the form of subsidies for mealie meal and other such help.
No genuine assistance is given to the African population to build up their incomes. They are left to scratch an existence on their overcrowded native reserves, or forced to find employment with the European companies or mines, or on European farms, where their wages are deplorably low. The allocation of land is one example. Most of the cattle in the territory are owned by Europeans. The Africans have only a small part of the total head of cattle in the territory.
The situation in the territory after the riots last December was full of tension and fear, but, strangely enough, it was not between the local white population and the overwhelming African population. It was between the African population and the administering authority. There is a remarkable quotation in the Report to which I have referred from a speech made by the local Member of Parliament, Mr. Basson, who is a former member of the Nationalist Party. He was a supporter of apartheid, but now takes an attitude which is far more objective than that of his former associates in the Nationalist Party. This is what he said in a speech in the South African Parliament on 9th March last: 710The question I should now like to put to the Government is not whether it has taken sufficient security measures to protect the public against any further outbursts. The fact of the matter is—and I should like to emphasise this—that the public itself was never threatened. The best possible relationship exists between the natives and the public. The resistance was directed at the authorities. It is, therefore, not a question of public safety which is causing us concern, but what the Government intends doing to penetrate to the crux of the difficulties and to resolve them. I think that it is generally accepted that it is the task of any good government not only to punish and to suppress disorders, but also to create conditions which will prevent such disorders. We want general peace and order to be restored in South West. We do not want tanks and machine-guns, with which one can, after all, not solve anything, to become a permanent part of the life of South West.The South African Government are not responding to that appeal. They are building up their military might in this territory. They are flying against the united voice of the rest of the world, with the exception of countries like Portugal, whose actions in Mozambique and Angola do not bear examination. They are building their military might in these territories with the intention of still further suppressing the African people of that mandated territory.
I have a great deal of respect for the hon. Member for Farnham, but he must realise that the situation is becoming so desperate that it is a question of choosing between action Like expelling South Africa from the Commonwealth and imposing economic sanctions in an attempt to bring the Government of that territory to their senses or inviting civil war in that country, with the possibility of having an Algerian situation with, perhaps, China or Russia bringing in military aid from outside to build up a rebellious force. We do not want that.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
I do not wish to argue with the hon. Member. I am sure that he would agree that our intention is the same, but that we differ over methods.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Yes. But we must avoid war at all costs. We do not want civil war in the territory. It would do no good at all. We do not want the races to be involved in the sort of conflict that is now the suffering of Algeria, bleeding France to death. We do not 711 want South Africa to become a battlefield in the cold war. We do not want East and West pouring in aid to build up the military forces on both sides.
The sort of measures which we propose—bringing the United Nations into the picture, making South Africa account for herself and then, if she fails to do so, taking positive action to bring her to her senses—are better than allowing the situation gradually to get worse and inviting the other countries to come in and stir things up.
What Mr. Basson said deserves our consideration. He was a member of the Nationalist Party and is the Member of Parliament for Windhoek. He does not represent the Africans for they had no part in his election. He was elected by the Europeans but the Government of South Africa, however, are not responding to his request.
It is in these circumstances that the British Government are called upon to take positive action. We want them to do something now in the United Nations which they have never done before. We want them to take positive action there and also to support the case which Liberia and Ethiopia are taking to the International Court.
Before I conclude, I wish to ask the Minister of State to clarify one aspect of the problem which is of great concern to the people of Bechuanaland. I was there in September. They feel strongly about this whole question. They are watching carefully what is happening in the mandated territory. They are watching carefully what Britain is doing in relation to the problem, because they are worried about their own future, particularly when South Africa becomes a republic and they find that their own status is called into question and there is the increasing danger that South Africa will take steps to absorb Bechuanaland and the other Protectorates in the same way as South-West Africa has been absorbed.
The question concerning the people of Bechuanaland is the use of military facilities in their Protectorate to enable the South African authorities to move forces across the Protectorate into the mandated territory. According to the South African Minister of Defence, there is now a route through the southern part 712 of Bechuanaland which is regarded as the opening to the South-West African territory for the use of the military. It is quoted in the Report to which I have referred and it is a matter of considerable concern. I ask the Minister of State to make clear that there is no question whatever of Her Majesty's Government allowing the Union of South Africa to have military facilities in the Bechuanaland Protectorate or access through that Protectorate for her military forces.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
I think there has been broad agreement in the House that the intolerable position in South-West Africa should be brought to an end. The Amendment is couched in moderate but definite terms. I therefore urge the Government to give most serious consideration to the request that is being made from this side of the House. There is considerable feeling in the country both about the position in South-West Africa and the policy which the Union of South Africa has been pursuing in that territory, as well as the attitude of Her Majesty's Government at the United Nations when the question is brought under review year by year.
It is not only in our own country that that feeling is apparent. There is also in the Continent of Africa itself, in various parts of the Commonwealth and indeed throughout the world, judging from the voting at the United Nations, a very deep feeling about the way in which the mandate is administered by the Union of South Africa.
Perhaps I may be forgiven if I make a personal reference on this problem, because I was one of the Ministers responsible for bringing the old mandate system to an end and inaugurating the trusteeship system. We were concerned with creating a trusteeship system which profited from the experience of the working of the mandates. When the mandate system was inaugurated it was generally felt that no victorious nation should claim any territories which had passed into its possession as a result of conquest. There was a feeling, as expressed in the mandates, that everything possible should be done to promote the moral wellbeing and the social progress of the people brought under any such system. The administration was to be conducted as a sacred trust of civilisation
713 At the time it was thought that this system owed a great deal to the Prime Minister of South Africa, General Smuts, but South Africa was perfectly within her rights technically, though I do not say within her moral right, in determining that she would not pursue the mandate status so far as it affected South-West Africa. She could make a choice when we introduced the trusteeship system. I discussed the matter with General Smuts. Being a responsible Minister, trying to bring the trusteeship system into operation, I felt that it was most desirable that all the mandated territories should come into the trusteeship system. General Smuts, although he was the author of the mandate system, thought otherwise.
I said that, in the circumstances, perhaps he would make it clear to the world that if he could not accept the trusteeship system at least he would see that the territory of South-West Africa was administered in the spirit of the mandate, that it should continue a sacred trust of civilisation, and that the avowed purpose set out in the mandate should continue to be pursued. General Smuts agreed and made a public declaration to that effect. It is as well that that history should go on the record.
What has really happened? Those pledges have been largely forgotten. Indeed, they have been brushed aside by the administering authority, the Union of South Africa, and instead, steadily over the years the Union has de facto annexed South-West Africa and made it for all practical purposes a fifth province. The political arrangements of South-West Africa are now integrated into the Union and it is a province administered by the central Government of the Union and no longer as a mandated territory.
In South-West Africa there is being pursued a policy which is quite contrary to the whole spirit of the mandate. Apartheid is the general term for the policy which is in operation. There is the fiercest discrimination between black and white. There is a segregation of the black man from European living. No political rights are permitted to the African for his participation in the common life of the country in which he lives. A great deal of his land has been alienated.
714 In all the circumstances, the United Nations is perfectly right in the declarations which it has made from time to time, that the spirit of the mandate is being evaded in the administration of this territory. Above all, the Union has refused to participate in negotiations which have been offered by the United Nations and has set on one side the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that the territory was still subject to international supervision and that, as the administering authority, the Union of South Africa should continue to make its reports to the United Nations and that the international status of the Territory could not be modified by the unilateral action of South Africa itself.
The United Nations Report of 1957 went so far as to say:The existing conditions in the Territory and the trend of the administration represent a situation contrary to the Mandate system, the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the advisory opinions of the International Court of Justice, and the resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations.It went on to say:There is no evidence that the Mandatory Power intends to change the course of the administration of the Territory or to bring it into conformity with the Mandates system.That is a damning indictment of the administration by the Union of this territory.
We are therefore entitled to ask the Government to pursue a somewhat different attitude from the one they have pursued at the United Nations during discussions on this territory. My hon. Friends have referred to the decisions which have been taken by the United Kingdom delegate, the abstentions on certain resolutions, and the general support which from time to time has been given to the case made by the Union of South Africa.
I do not want to go over that ground, but if this matter is being reconsidered in the light of the representations that are being made, and in the light of the reference to the International Court of Justice, may I remind the Minister of State of the views of the people of the territory, as recently presented at the United Nations. There is a grave fear 715 that reference of this matter to the International Court will again delay any definite action in respect of the territory.
It has been suggested that the General Assembly should be invited to suspend its supervisory functions and that petitioners should cease to petition because the International Court has been seized of the matter. To leave the South African Government free to continue its unrestrained oppression and misrule would be to make a mockery of the United Nations and of those rights which the judgment of the International Court is being asked to vindicate.
The representatives of the African people have informed the United Nations that they do not want action in regard to the conditions at present operating in the territory to be delayed simply because the matter is going before the International Court.
If we follow the policy pursued so far by Her Majesty's Government it will add little to the reputation which this country has acquired in recent years in colonial administration. The present policy tends to smear our reputation in some of our dependencies and in the under-developed areas. It causes confusion in the minds of Africans who have been watching the situation carefully and who feel deeply about the policies that are being pursued by the Union Government in this Territory as well as in the Union. It also causes confusion amongst other nations. World opinion has been expressing itself with complete solidarity. Why cannot Britain do the same? The British Government should give a definite lead. Why should Britain run away from what she often regards as her rôle, that of giving moral leadership to the world?
I urge the Government to review the instructions they have given to their representatives at the United Nations. There are alternative ways of handling this problem. I am not competent to go into the legal intricacies, but surely we put ourselves at a grave disadvantage if, when a vital issue of this kind is before the United Nations, we abstain from voting or give what appears to be moral backing to the Union of South Africa.
If it is argued that we are obliged to do that because the Union is at least a 716 free nation inside the Commonwealth, I would ask the Government to respect the views of the other Commonwealth nations, such as Ghana, Malaya and Nigeria, all of whom feel equally strongly that South Africa is pursuing a particularly wicked and vile course in this territory. I therefore urge the Government to follow up the resolution passed a few days ago, from which the United Kingdom abstained but which was agreed to by the great body of the Fourth Committee at the United Nations, that an end should be brought to the present policy operating in the territory, which can be referred to by the comprehensive term of "apartheid." At the same time it was agreed that an investigating commission should go to South-West Africa in order that a beginning could be made by the United Nations to form the basis for a constructive policy for that territory.
Unfortunately, I gather that the United Kingdom representative again abstained from those proposals. I urge that at least the United Kingdom should show some initiative in the Committee and should strive to adopt a constructive line of action. It has been suggested that without even waiting for the verdict or the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice we should urge the United Nations to bring into operation in this territory the remedial work which can be done by the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations in respect of health and social conditions, and the entire social policy which is now generally adopted, and also, since the mandate is held in the name of the Sovereign, we should propose that a Commonwealth administration should take the place of the South African one.
I urge the Government to accept the Amendment and thereby agree that the intolerable situation in South-West Africa should be brought to an end, so far as it is within our power to influence this development, and that we should take a constructive line in the United Nations in order to do something to redeem the present dreadful position of the inhabitants.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. C. J. M. Alport)
It is always a pleasure to speak after 717 the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), because we know that he has followed this problem very closely and personally. I hope to be able to reply to some of the points he raised, but I want, first, to comment upon his reference to voting on the resolutions put forward in the United Nations. This comment applies not only to his speech, but to the speeches of other hon. Members opposite. They asked why we opposed one aspect of these resolutions without taking the whole of the resolutions into consideration. The fact is that whatever may have been the various characteristics of the resolutions put to us, there were certain parts of them—and they were all long ones—which we found it impossible to support.
The remarkable thing about the debate has been the way in which, except for the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot)—to whom I offer my sympathies at his recent loss, since he is a neighbour of mine—and the lawyers amongst us, everybody seems to have fought shy of the legal implications of this problem. Yet I doubt very much whether it is possible for the whole of the attitude of the United Kingdom Government, or, indeed, the problems of South-West Africa, to be understood unless there is some conception of the legal complexity of the matter.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said that whatever the law—I think that I am quoting him correctly, I hope so—it is the spirit of the mandate that matters. Of course, the spirit of the mandate is extremely important; nobody denies that for a moment. But in a situation such as this, where the legal position is so much at issue, I do not think that anyone can ignore the legal aspects of the problem.
I was asked by the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) whether we supported the initiative of Liberia and Ethiopia in the reference to the International Court. Perhaps I may quote to him what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Smithers), who was our delegate at the Fourth Committee. In the speech that he made there he said:On the other hand, when the Governments of Liberia and Ethiopia filed proceedings before the Court, this seemed to us to be a practical 718 and constructive step, which could further clarify the legal position and which could establish another point of certainty in a confused situation.There has never been any doubt about our attitude to that, although we realise, as I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman realises, that it will be very difficult from the point of view of the Court submission. It is a difficult proposition.
The hon. and learned Gentleman asked what attitude we would take to the views of the International Court when they were announced. I think that the attitude we would take would be similar to the attitude of the Labour Government of 1950 when, it will be remembered that the decision of that Government—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was the delegate on that occasion—with regard to the advisory opinion given by the International Court with respect to South-West Africa was given to the Trusteeship Council after the opinion had been studied by Her Majesty's Government. I should think that any hon. Member would regard that as being a reasonable and responsible approach to that matter.
I have said—I do so with great temerity—that I should like to look at some of the legal aspects of the problem. I do not underestimate in any way the importance of the spirit of the mandate, the spirit of the carrying out of international obligations by those who have undertaken them. But, as I have already emphasised, I do not think that we can ignore the legal relationship.
The basis of our interpretation of the legal position is the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, given in 1950. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that he would be able to make my speech for me, and I have no doubt that he would do so with great success. But, were he standing at this Dispatch Box, I think that he would be saying very much the same sort of thing as I am saying, and that he would be carrying forward the decision made by the Government of the day with regard to the acceptance of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.
Let us consider what that advisory opinion was, or rather, what are the deductions which we can make from it. They are these: firstly, that the mandate is still in force; secondly, that the Union 719 Government continue to be subject to the obligations imposed on the mandatory Power by the mandate and that the supervisory role has passed from the defunct League of Nations to the United Nations; thirdly, that such powers of supervision should not exceed in extent the supervision practiced under the mandate system; fourthly, that the Union is not under any legal obligation to place the Territory under the trusteeship system of the United Nations.
The hon. and learned Member asked me why it was that, despite the fact that all other countries had handed over their mandates to the United Nations, to receive them again on a trusteeship basis, the Union of South Africa had not done so in respect of South-West Africa. It is perfectly true that they have not followed the practice we followed in this country, but it was the opinion of the International Court, in 1959, that they were not under an obligation to do so.
The fifth deduction is that the competence to determine and modify the international status of the territory rests with the Union Government acting with the consent of the United Nations. That may not be a full answer in the opinion of the hon. and learned Member, but I think that it is the answer as we understand the legal position to be in regard to any question of the determination or modification of the international status of South-West Africa at present. That being our view of the legal position, we have in the past, inevitably—
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the United Nations does not have the legal authority to initiate changes in the mandatory arrangements in South-West Africa?
§ Mr. Alport
What I am doing is making a deduction from the opinion given by the International Court of Justice—the highest legal court—which, as far as I am aware, is the best legal opinion on the subject. This being our view of the legal position of South-West Africa, we did, in the past, have some reservations with regard to the legality of the South-West Africa Committee, set up under the United Nations General Assembly, which has interpreted its functions in certain directions to extend 720 its supervisory function beyond the precedents set by the League's Mandates Commission when it was in existence.
I think it right at this point to establish this view of ours since it has a direct bearing upon our decision in regard to a vote in the current session of the Assembly on certain of the resolutions relating to South-West Africa which, as hon. Members know, have just been debated in the Fourth Committee. Perhaps, here, I might also refer to two other legal matters which, the House may recollect, I referred to in my speech on 4th July. I will summarise the view that I expressed then. I fully accept from the hon. and learned Member that it may not be the last word, but it is the best information available to me at the moment. We do not accept the suggestion that references in the wording of the mandate to "His Britannic Majesty" qualifies in any way the fact that the mandate was entrusted to the Government of the Union of South Africa.
As I said on that occasion, the use of the words "His Britannic Majesty" is a formally correct way of saying that the mandate was given to the Union Government—given to the Union Government as a fully independent member of the British Empire and Commonwealth. It is in our view a misunderstanding, both of Commonwealth and United Kingdom constitutional practice, to deduce from the use of these particular words the idea that any special rights or responsibilities in respect of South-West Africa were conferred upon Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, or, indeed, on the Governments of any other part of the independent Commonwealth. The fact is that our legal position in relation to South-West Africa in no way differs from that of any other member of the United Nations which was also a former member of the League of Nations.
Secondly, and here I come to a point made by the hon. and learned Member, by the same token there are no grounds, in our view, for the opinion that a change of the status of the Union of South Africa from a monarchy to a republic in any way changes the legal position or obligations of South Africa as a mandatory Power responsible for the administration of that territory.
The hon. and learned Member asked whether there would be any change if, 721 in fact, South Africa were no longer a member of the Commonwealth, but were a republic outside the Commonwealth. I should like to think further about that, but my immediate impression is that it will not affect the situation in the least.
§ Mr. D. Foot
I thank the right hon. Member for the sympathy which he expressed a few moments ago. Does he not agree that the only ultimate arbitrator on this question must be the International Court?
§ Mr. Alport
It may well be that that will provide a different opinion from our own, but at the moment what I have stated is clearly the situation.
It is also important to bear in mind that however strong the feelings may be on one side or the other, nothing can be gained by not being fair. It is worth reminding the House that the terms of the mandate conferred upon the Union Government full power of administration and legislation for the territory of South-West Africa as an integral part of the Union of South Africa, with the right to apply the laws of the Union to that territory. That is our view of the general legal position.
Let me say a ward about United Kingdom policy over the past few years. It has always been our view that any practical solution which would serve the interests of the inhabitants of South-West Africa could be brought about only by the Union Government, as a mandatory power, and the United Nations, in its supervisory capacity, working out by mutual agreement arrangements which would enable both to carry out their respective rôles in co-operation and harmony. Our policy at successive sessions of the United Nations General Assembly has been to encourage negotiations towards this end and to bring about a climate in which such negotiations could make progress.
Indeed, the culmination of our efforts in this direction was the part played between 1957 and 1959 by Sir Charles Arden-Clarke as the United Kingdom Member and Chairman of the Good Offices Committee. I do not know whether many hon. Members have had an opportunity to study the reports of the proceedings of this Committee, but if anyone has, he will, I am sure, be 722 quite clear that every possible effort was made in the existing circumstances to find a way of approaching a solution to the problem through the Good Offices Committee.
I turn to the most recent proceedings which have led to the reference to the International Court. It was a very great regret to us that the Good Offices Committee, which seemed to be making substantial progress at one time, did not succeed in finding a solution. As a result of that lack of progress, it has been decided by Liberia and Ethiopia to initiate proceedings against South Africa in the International Court of Justice.
I will summarise the scope of the application which has been made. They charge the Union with numerous violations of the mandate, including failure to promote the material and moral wellbeing and social progress of the inhabitants; practising racial discrimination, suppressing rights and liberties; refusing to transmit petitions to the United Nations; and failing to submit annual reports. The application asks the Court to declare that South Africa has a duty to remedy these violations and to make the necessary orders to effectuate these determinations.
The House will appreciate that with the filing of this application a new situation has been brought into being. The South African representative at the Trusteeship Committee moved that the whole problem in all its aspects should now be considered as sub judice and that, therefore, it would be improper for the Committee to discuss it. This point was made by the right hon. Member for Wakefield.
It has been our view that, while the sub judice principle applies, it should not be interpreted as excluding all forms of consideration and thus placing in suspense the supervisory functions for the whole duration of the Court proceedings, but that it would be lacking in respect to the Court, and might prejudice the Court proceedings, if the Assembly were to pronounce substantively on the matters contained within the application while the Court was considering that application and had it before it.
723 For this reason, my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester, our representative, appealed to the Committee to exercise restraint in dealing with this matter. It should be noted by the House that this appeal was fairly widely supported by other members of the Committee.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
Have the South African Government stated that they will accept the jurisdiction and decision of the International Court of Justice with regard to the submissions of Liberia and Ethiopia?
§ Mr. Alport
I am sorry; I am not able to tell the hon. and learned Member what will be the eventual decision of the South African Government upon that. Nor am I responsible for that decision.
I turn now to the explanation of the votes. The House is probably already familiar with the general pattern of the resolutions passed by the Committee to date. There are, first, three resolutions dealing with petitions, freedom of political organisation, and disturbances in connection with the projected move of the Windhoek location, which were put forward as annexures to the Report of the South-West Africa Committee.
I have already mentioned our misgivings regarding the proceedings of this body, but these were coupled with the difficulties in our view, of pronouncing a judgment on matters pending before the Court at the particular time the debate took place. This led us to abstain from voting. The same consideration has led us to abstain upon the vote on the resolution which invited the Committee on South-West Africa to go to the territory immediately with a view to reporting to the Assembly on the conditions for restoring a climate for peace and security and the steps which would enable indigenous inhabitants to achieve a wide measure of internal self-government designed to lead them to complete independence as soon as possible.
In the case of the resolution commending the Governments of Ethiopia and Liberia on their initiative in submitting their dispute to the International Court of Justice, the reasons for our abstention were not, as I explained to the House, that we opposed their intiative, but be 724 cause the resolution as drafted pronounced that the Government of the Union had failed and refused to carry out its obligations, which was precisely the ground on which the reference to the International Court of Justice was made. Further, we were unable to accept that part of the resolution—its conclusion—to the effect that the dispute could not be settled by negotiation. It is certainly not the view of the Government that, however long may have been the delays, and however grave the disappointments in the handling of this matter, a settlement by negotiation is no longer a practical proposition.
More than one hon. Member has referred to the fact that we voted in favour of the resolution proposed by India and Ghana calling upon Specialised Agencies of the United Nations to undertake urgent programmes to assist the indigenous inhabitants and upon the Union to seek such assistance. In doing so, as I am sure will be the wish of the House, our representative referred to our appreciation of the work which had been done by the United Nations Specialised Agencies elsewhere, experience of which we have had in many of our own dependent territories.
During the prolonged controversy over the problem of South-Went Africa it has been the aim of the Government to find means of enabling the United Nations, on the one hand, and the Union of South Africa, on the other, to reach an agreement which will resolve the differences between the two. Mr. Hammarskjoeld is expected to visit South Africa in January and I hope that he will take any opportunity which arises during his visit, and which is likely to help in this difficult matter.
It will certainly be the strong desire of Her Majesty's Government to help by any action they can take to bring about a resumption of the negotiations. Indeed, whatever may be the outcome of Mr. Hammarskjoeld's visit, the Government intend to continue their efforts, which have so far been far more practical than any of the alternatives proposed, although we cannot ignore the fact that the situation with regard to South-West Africa has been altered by it becoming sub judice as a result of the reference to the International Court of Justice.
725 Turning to the Amendment, the filing of the suit at the International Court has created a new situation. I am surprised that the Amendment does not in any way give recognition to this. After all, the application to the Court follows mature consideration in the United Nations over the years of the possibilities of legal action. It is, therefore strange that, in framing the Amendment, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite should not have made any reference to a suit which has at last been launched, when the practical outcome of it still remains to be seen and may provide, along the lines of legal action, some guidance and help in the solution of the problem.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The reason is very simple. I have not been able to get access to the submissions which Ethiopia and Liberia will make to the International Court. I do not know whether they are even known in this country. Perhaps the Minister of State knows. None of the rest of us knows. If he knows what the exact submission is, I shall be glad to hear it. It would have been very unwise of me to have made reference to it when I did not know what those countries were submitting.
§ Mr. Alport
This is a very serious matter, as I think the hon. Gentleman fully realises. It should have been possible for the hon. Gentleman to have acquainted himself, not with the details, but at any rate with the general framing of the contention of the sponsors.
§ Mr. Alport
I have already outlined the general basis of them to the hon. Gentleman. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can fail to get them. The information would have been easily available to him if he had wished to get it.
The second thing about the Amendment is the alternative at the end of it, of the surrender of the mandate and its assignment elsewhere. I have already dealt with that. I have said that, as far as we understand the legal position, it is as contained in the Advisory Opinion of the International Court, 1950. That is something which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite could have considered in framing the Amendment.
726 I cannot tell the House, for reasons which hon. Members fully recognise, what will be the subjects which the Commonwealth Prime Ministers will discuss at their meeting in March. I must, however, make one thing clear, namely, the limitations upon the United Kingdom's action in this matter, which are placed on it either in its capacity as a member of the United Nations or of the Commonwealth. There can be no question of the United Kingdom being able to ensure unilaterally a solution to the problem of South-West Africa. Therefore, in that sense the Amendment does not relate to the realities of the situation.
§ Mr. Alport
In so far as it lies within the capacity, the ingenuity and the statesmanship of the United Kingdom to play a constructive part in bringing about a satisfactory outcome of the South-West Africa problem, both as a member of the United Nations and as a member of the Commonwealth, it is certainly our intention to do so. Indeed, we believe that in that way we shall be able to play our part in providing, we hope, a realistic approach to the solution of the problem.
I noticed that in their speeches, the hon. Members for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and for Cardiff, South-East asked for action. I will read the former's speech tomorrow, but in the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, I did not hear any suggestion whatever of what sort of action he thought would be effective in achieving—unilaterally, by the United Kingdom—the objective that he has in mind. I am certain that had the hon. Gentleman, following the decisions of the Labour Government in 1950, been answering this debate, and wrestling with this difficult problem, as we have to do, he would have been basing his approach to it on precisely the same ground as we are now doing.
Despite the faulty wording of the Amendment, and its failure to pay proper regard to the realities of the problem, I recognise that the House is anxious about the continuing failure to find a practical solution to the problem—
§ Mr. Alport
If I may say so, I am being much more honest than the hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues, who are urging action without suggesting what can be done to obtain a successful conclusion. But they do not face the realities, as the Government must face them in the United Nations and in Africa, of the problems that lie ahead.
I am sure that the views expressed by my hon. Friends and by hon. Members opposite will be helpful to advancing consideration and study of the subject. I realise the general anxieties relating to the subject and, because of that, and in the light of the considerations that I have outlined, I do not propose to vote against the Amendment. It will continue to be the aim of the Government, in whatever action—
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask for your guidance, in view of the extraordinary statement that the Minister of State has just made. He has given us, in the most explicit terms, his view—
§ Mr. Silverman
I must make myself clear—I do not want to take a long time.
The right hon. Gentleman explained in the most explicit terms why he regards the Amendment as unacceptable, and has then gone on to say that, nevertheless, he does not propose to vote against it. Is not that an abuse of the procedure of the House, so as to prevent the true issue from being decided?
§ Mr. Speaker
If that were right, there might be a point, but listening, as I did, to the Minister, I understood him to be saying, not that the Amendment was unacceptable, but subject to criticism from his point of view. Indeed, he stated that he intended to accept it, which, in effect, is the opposite of saying that it is unacceptable.
§ Mr. Silverman
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I understood the right hon. Gentleman, as I am sure most of us did, to say that one could not ensure what 728 the Amendment asks him to ensure, that one could not take action in the sense that the Amendment asks him to take action. He is, therefore, against the Amendment, which he has announced his intention of not opposing. Surely that must be an abuse.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not propose to enter into an analysis of speeches. I shall be guided by the voice and the vote. Contradiction in that might represent abuse.
§ Mr. Alport
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman, and, indeed, the hon. Member for Eton and Slough should take such exception to the acceptance of the Amendment. I am sorry that in dealing with a serious and important subject like this, an Amendment that was presumably intended to rally the interest and support of the House should be drafted in the way that it has been drafted—HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] In these circum-stances, as I have said, I do not intend to vote against the Amendment. It is the intention of the Government to take whatever action we possibly can which can be calculated to bring about a peaceful and equitable solution of what has up to now proved to be such an intractable problem.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Before the Minister resumes his seat, would he reply to the specific point which I raised in my speech? Has he not taken action to deny military facilities to the South African authorities through the Bechuanaland Protectorate? Will he take this opportunity of saying that these facilities will be denied?
§ Mr. Alport
I can quite easily give an assurance that such facilities as exist through the southern part of Bechuanaland are of no concern or threat whatever to the integrity of that territory.
§ Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question, put and negatived.
§ Proposed words there added.
§ Main Question, as amended, proposed.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If I finish before ten o'clock, I believe that I shall be in order in speaking on this amended Motion.
This is a most extraordinary situation. For the first time for twenty or thirty years, I suppose, an Amendment has been accepted by the Government, but 729 the terms in which the Minister accepted it must be distasteful to many of his own followers, as well as to those of us on this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has done exactly what our representative did in the United Nations. He has been willing to wound yet afraid to strike. The timorous and bloodless approach which characterised our representative in the United Nations has characterised the right hon. Gentleman's speech here tonight. We believe that he will do exactly the same with this as the Government did with our Motion on the Press. If the Minister intended to accept the Amendment I wish that he could have done it in more gracious terms than those in which he did accept it.
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take action in the United Nations and in the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference to ensure that the Government of South Africa carries out the solemn obligations it undertook in accepting the Mandate for South-West Africa, or surrenders it to the United Nations so that alternative trusteeship arrangements can be made.
§ Committee Tomorrow.