§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
The welcome announcement just made by the Colonial Secretary no doubt brings into our mind, although the right hon. Gentleman did not explicitly mention it, the possibility of the Republic of Cyprus joining the Commonwealth. This, of course, is for her to decide, and I need say no more about it except that if she does it will add another member to a very rapidly expanding Commonwealth. This rapidity of expansion, some have suggested, brings with it problems which are rather difficult to solve.
It has been pointed out, for example, that the Prime Ministers' Conference, which is what we wish chiefly to discuss today, is already large and that, with the addition of many more members, might perhaps become unwieldy. Someone has also asked whether it would be entirely appropriate to give to representatives of small independent countries, 39 such as Sierra Leone, British Guiana, British Honduras, or Cyprus herself, should she join, a parity of representation, or a frequency of representation, equal to that already given to the very large nations and the very rich and more powerful nations within the Commonwealth.
In considering the set-up of the Prime Ministers' Conference we have at least to take note of that possibility today. I do not propose to say any more about it, because my own view is that these are minor difficulties which can be solved without much trouble. Certainly, we welcome the continued expansion of the Commonwealth. We welcome the increasing numbers of independent nations which are freely deciding of their own will to join that society.
The biggest and mostsignificant expansion in the Commonwealth took place when the Labour Government were in power. The decision then taken freely to hand over power to the former Indian Empire and Ceylon was historic, and so, of course, was the decision of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, despite all that had gone before, to join the Commonwealth. These decisions not only trebled and possibly quadrupled the population of the Commonwealth, but rapidly transformed its character. It ceased to be mainly European in make-up and Christian in religion. It associated together peoples of many races and religions as equal partners and before long associated republics with the monarchies.
Since then there has been further, recent expansion. The accession of Malaya, whose Prime Minister came to the Conference last year for the first time, is a highly important addition to the Asian group, because of that new nation's successful association of Malays with persons of Chinese descent; and the contribution to the last Prime Ministers' Conference made by the Prime Minister of Malay was certainly a notable one. Personally, I think that his presence there was very much to be welcomed and I was glad that he said what he did and spoke out as freely as he did.
The accession of Ghana was a portent. It is to be followed this year by the 30 million people of Nigeria and very soon after by 1½ million from Sierra 40 Leone. As the Secretary of State for the Colonies well knows, there are many others in the queue and they are becoming impatient. It is in Africa that the major decisions about the Commonwealth will be taken, and taken very soon.
If the Commonwealth is to continue to expand, those decisions will be even more important than the historic decision of 1947. What sort of Commonwealth will it be? What do we want it to be? On 4th May last, about 60 right hon. and hon. Members joined me in putting on the Order Paper a Motion which declared, or asked the House to declare, that… the Commonwealth cannot endure unless all its members recognise and guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms irrespective of race, colour, or creed.…That is my view and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends who signed that Motion.
A few weeks later, in their final statement after their Conference, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers said:the Commonwealth … is a multi-racial association,and they referred to… the need to ensure good relations between all member States and peoples of the Commonwealth.One may truly claim that though, of course, the Prime Ministers did not endorse that Motion in detail, they were thinking along the same lines.
They also agreed to make a further study of the proposition made by Senator Cooray, of Ceylon, that there should be a Commonwealth court not only for the settlement of disputes between member States, but also for the protection of individuals within the Commonwealth from their own Governments. Senator Cooray told me—and I think that he must have also said it at the Conference although, of course, he betrayed no confidences—that he regards the principle of the rule of law as the United Kingdom's most valuable legacy to the States which we have encouraged to become independent.
The Government did a good thing when they adhered to the European Convention of Human Rights. I was present on the occasion when this was celebrated 41 with some very important and distinguished speeches, one from Viscount Kilmuir, the Lord Chancellor. I remember very well how pleased everybody was that Great Britain had acceded and had brought into this association, into the coverage of this declaration of human rights, all her associated dependent territories. It is true that the Government did not go all the way with the Convention, but they approved the idea of the Convention and agreed to use the Commission, if not the court, set up by the Convention.
If the Government can do that for our dependent, associated territories, and as they realise that those territories are rapidly becoming sovereign and independent members of the Commonwealth and that, therefore, the Convention can no longer apply to them, and if they also agree that it is a good thing to have a declaration of human rights and a method of investigation of breaches of that declaration and for its enforcement, then, if all this is good when these territores are dependent, is it not also good when they become independent?
Many Commonwealth States have Bills of Rights in their constitutions. I think that all of them would recognise, in association with Senator Cooray, the value of the rule of law and, also, that it is perhaps the most valuable of all the traditions which they have assimilated as a result of their connection with this country. Would they not welcome the establishment not only of a court, as Senator Cooray has suggested, but the association of that court with a declaration or a convention of human rights?
The idea in Senator Cooray's plan is that the court should discharge some of the functions hitherto discharged by the Privy Council which, for various reasons into which I need not enter, no longer apply to some of the independent countries of the Commonwealth. The Privy Council, though, does still handle some cases where individuals have a grievance against their Government and are able to plead the principles of British law in supporting their case.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, when I asked him about this suggestion some time ago, when it was first put on the Order Paper, was somewhat cool. He thought that it would not suit the loose and informal association which exists between Commonwealth 42 countries. I was glad that, later, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, was much more warmly inclined towards it in Answers in this House. I hope that we can conclude that this idea of a declaration, possibly a convention, of human rights, associated with the establishment of a Commonwealth court will be seriously studied. One can ask no more than that. There may be difficulties with the proposal, and the Commonwealth nations may not want to have it, but I hope that it may be made clear today that a serious study is intended and, indeed, has already started.
Some hon. Members, when asked to sign my Motion, supposed that it was motivated only by events in South Africa. That was a mistake. It was not, although it obviously must have been in everyone's mind when we put it on the Order Paper, the declaration of the Prime Ministers, at their Conference, about the Commonwealth being a multiracial association followed hard upon the paragraph in their statement which recounted the conversations they had had with Mr. Louw, the South African Minister for External Affairs. Those discussions were among the most important of the whole Conference.
A short time before the Conference took place this House declared unanimously that the repression in South Africais threatening the security and welfare of all races living in the Union of South Africa and good relations between members of the Commonwealth.Unfortunately, that is still true today. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State, in answer to a Written Question of mine, told me last Thursday that one United Kingdom citizen and one British-protected person are still detained.
In a second Answer, specifically directed to the case of that one United Kingdom citizen, he said:Dr. Letele is still detained under the Emergency Regulations. The High Commissioner and members of his staff have visited him. The High Commissioner has repeatedly pressed the South African authorities to release Dr. Letele or to inform him what offences are charged against him."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1960; Vol. 625, c. 144.]Our High Commissioner repeatedly asks what charges have been preferred and repeatedly presses for Dr. Letele's release. He gets no reply whatever. It 43 is clear that the South African Government, in regard to the continued detention of these British-protected and United Kingdom subjects, are flouting the opinion of the House of Commons and treating our own Government with contempt. We want to protest today at that attitude.
The South African authorities have announced that within the next two weeks they will release at least 1,200 detainees, but they will still be holding 400 without charge and without trial. They will still be dividing them into three groups. Some of us were present a few days ago at a talk by Miss Stanton, who was released and came back home. She said that the detainees were divided into three groups—the Europeans with blankets and sheets, the Asians with blankets only, and the Africans with no sheets or blankets and lying on very uncomfortable straw mattresses. That has been South Africa's practice throughout its life—to divide its citizens into three classes: first, second and third.
In addition to the 400 treated in that way, whom they call "detainees", they will still have in their gaols, or concentration camps, or whatever they call them, 8,600 others whom they describe as "idlers", large numbers of whom must be persons who have found it impossible to work on the land in the so-called Bantustan, which the South African Government tell us they are creating, because of the scarcity of land which is provided for them there and their inability, under the laws of South Africa, to obtain land elsewhere. Therefore, they are described as "idlers", and it is little wonder that some of them have no doubt behaved badly.
The events in Pondoland have proved that the South African policy on Bantustan cannot even secure the adherence and loyalty of those living in the Bantustan areas who have land on which to live, and severe riots have taken place there.
It is not only the Liberals and the Radicals who protest. It is not only courageous bishops like Mr. Joost de Blank, the Bishop of Capetown, or of outstanding Liberals like Dr. Centlivres, the head of Capetown University, who protest against these things. Nearly all the major industrialists in South Africa have done the same. I have armed 44 myself with a list of persons which was published in The Times on 29th June. I did so in case I was challenged. I will not bother to read all the names. I am sure that hon. Members have read them already.
In spite of these protests, some moderate but some more determined and outspoken, the pass laws have been restored and arbitrary police action continues, as has been reported by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) to the International Commission of Jurists in a document which will no doubt be published shortly.
The police State continues in South Africa and the Government, which The Times describes as "a group of diehards with their backs to the wall", are preparing a Publications Act—it is at the moment only a Bill—which will make it much more difficult for newspapers to tell their readers in South Africa, and still more difficult to tell the outside world, what is actually happening.
I am informed on very good authority that the Government of South Africa have not told their citizens that the Prime Ministers' Conference decided that, if the voters there should decide for a republic in the coming referendum and South Africa still wished to remain in the Commonwealth,the South African Government should then ask for the consent of the other Commonwealth GovernmentsIn other words, she is holding a referendum now, being still associated with the monarchy in this country, to decide whether she may become a republic. If she becomes a republic, she has to go back to the Prime Ministers' Conference and ask once again for its approval to her return to the Commonwealth.
Will not the unanimity rule apply in this case? There have been times when one has been inclined to criticise the unanimity rule when perhaps it was working against what one wanted to see happen. However, the unanimity rule remains. In addressing the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations as "the right hon. Gentleman" for the first time, I congratulate him on his elevation to the Privy Council. I should like him to tell us whether it is correct to assume that the unanimity rule will apply in this case. It is most important that the voters in South Africa should know this. I 45 believe on very good authority that they are being denied this information.
This means that every member at that time— not before—will have to indicate whether the situation and Constitution in South Africa are such that he can approve its entry into the Commonwealth. At least one member has already indicated what his opinion is at the moment. That is the President of Ghana. I am sorry to make a rather long quotation. but it is important that it should be made publicly and put on the record here so that efforts can be made to make it better known outside. This statement was made by the President of Ghana at the United Nations Organisation in Dublin—it must surely be the "United Nations Association"—on 18th May. 1960. He said:Whether a country decides to be a monarchy or a republic is in my view an internal matter …After some words which I will omit because they are not germane to the immediate point he continued:"The case of the Union of South Africa, however, appears to us to be in a class by itself. It is planned that those who form the vast majority of the people in the country should be denied for all time any say whatever in the system by which they should be governed. It would be impossible for us to agree to any change of status which is avowedly based upon such a principle.If in addition to this, the new regime which we are asked to recognise is based upon principles declared by the Security Council not to be in conformity with the obligations and responsibilities of the Charter of the United Nations, then we would he failing in our obligation to the United Nations if we did anything which might suggest that we approve or condoned the regime in question.Coupled with this, the recognition of a Republic of South Africa would involve the recognition by Ghana of the present regime in the mandated territory of South West Africa which is in itself an affront to every principle for which the United Nations stand.That is the opinion of the President of a full Commonwealth country whose change of status to become a republic was approved and accepted by the Prime Ministers' Conference last May.
The South African Government cannot be ignorant of this statement. If they are, their intelligence service must be very much poorer that I think it is. Certainly, they must know what the Prime Minister of Malaya said, because he said it very loudly indeed. They must also know, though we do not know precisely, what 46 Mr. Nehru, President Ayub Khan, and Mr. Walter Nash said.
Yet in The Guardian today it is reported that Dr. Verwoerd, the Prime Minister of South Africa, said on Saturday:I am convinced that if South Africa decides to become a republic within the Commonwealth and puts that request to other members of the Commonwealth, the influence of Britain, Australia and Canada would see to it that South Africa is retained within the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Marquand
This is a quotation. An additional country may have been mentioned. If there were no change meanwhile in the philosophy and administration and in the laws of apartheid within South Africa, would those countries use their influence to see that South Africa was retained? Could they if they wanted to? What has the right hon. Gentleman to say about that? We must have an answer. Has any pledge been given? What convinced Dr. Verwoerd? That is the word he used—I am convinced that … the influence of Britain, Australia and Canada …We are asking only about the attitude of our own Government. We have no right or authority to ask for the opinion of Australia or any other nation mentioned.
I should not like it to be thought that I am asking for a decision in advance that South Africa's request be refused. Up to now we on this side of the Committee have said that we did not want to see the 10 million Africans, 1½ million coloured persons and 500,000 Asians living in South Africa deprived of such protection as citizenship in the Commonwealth can give them. We did not want to expel South Africa and I am not suggesting that this afternoon, but the South African Government are on trial at the bar of humanity.
The whole Commonwealth is waiting to see whether, in view of the representations which were made to her representative at the Prime Ministers' Conference—and, we understand, made very strongly—in view of the forthcoming discussion which will take place in the United Nations, South Africa intends to announce a change of policy. It is only when we have heard that that we 47 might possibly—and I do not say that we will—change our minds about the matter of South Africa's renewed membership of the Commonwealth.
It is quite clear from what I have said that if there is no change whatever, the restoration would be quite repugnant to the other African members of the Commonwealth and we can be perfectly sure that it would be equally repugnant to the African States which are shortly to join the Commonwealth.
The matter has been taken to the Security Council under Article 34 of the Charter. As we know, the Security Council sent its General Secretary to investigate. His report has not yet been received, but Ghana has given notice that in the Security Council it will again raise the question of South Africa's conduct in South-West Africa. That conduct in South-West Africa, as the whole Committee knows, has already been denounced by the United Nations committee which deals with these things asa flagrant violation of the sacred trust which permeates the mandate and the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.I therefore ask whether Her Majesty's Government do not agree with the statement of the President of Ghana thatIf the nations of the world can offer to the oppressed peoples of Africa some positive hope of action, then it is, of course, possible to counsel moderation and restraint. One can only counsel moderation and restraint or ask for that tolerance and forgiveness which will be necessary in an Africa of the future, if one is, at the same time, advocating a positive policy which will bring to an end the oppression and injustice which is at present occurring.I do not think that our position could be better stated than that. We need a positive policy to try to bring to an end —or to make a great beginning in bringing to an end—the oppression and the police State system which exists in that country, the discrimination between citizens, the whole set-up of apartheid.
In view of all that has happened and in view of the possible request of South Africa to return to the Commonwealth, we are entitled to say that those things must be changed before we can consider these matters. I hope that we can have an assurance that when the report of Mr. Hammarskjöld and the reference by Ghana of the South-West African case come before the United Nations Her 48 Majesty's United Kingdom representative there will vote, on this occasion, not according to protocol, but according to principle. Will he be instructed to represent the feelings which the House indicated in the Resolution which we passed on 8th April? There can be no doubt that peace throughout Africa is threatened by the existence of a police State in South Africa. There can be no doubt that the administration of the mandate in South-West Africa is not an internal matter.
The Prime Ministers declared that the achievement of world peace and security was their primary objective. No doubt, their views on how to ensure that are closer today than they have been in the past. Events in Tibet and on the Himalayan frontier of India have contributed to that. At the same time, the Prime Ministers must have agreed that their chosen instrument for bringing their opinions to bear must be the United Nations. To maintain the authority of the United Nations is surely a major Commonwealth agreed policy and a major means of maintaining peace, the peace of the world which is their primary objective.
They must, therefore, uphold that authority in Africa as well as elsewhere, for the good will of the whole of emergent Africa, is at stake. The Secretary of State for the Colonies has done much at Lancaster House to win that good will for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Let the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs do the same in New York.
I had it in mind to say something about the findings of the Prime Ministers about the economic problems of the Commonwealth. No doubt some of my hon. Friends will be able to do that; so to avoid accusations of speaking for far too long I will now sit down.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. C. J. M. Alport)
I should like to say how grateful I am to the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) for his courtesy to me personally. The appointment to the Privy Council is of particular significance for an hon. Member and I am honoured and grateful that it should have fallen on me.
49 The right hon. Gentleman concentrated most of his speech on the problems raised by current South African policy. I shall try later in my remarks to answer some of the questions which he put to me.
I think that I should emphasise to the Committee that quite apart from the close attention which was given informally to the question by the Prime Ministers, they discussed a wide variety of subjects—political, economic and social—of major significance not only to the Commonwealth, but to the world. Indeed, any attempt to assess the value of the Conference which did so merely in terms of the South African issue would get the whole Conference completely out of perspective.
This was the tenth Conference to be held since the war and in some respects the most important. In world affairs, for instance, as the communiqué demonstrates, there was a greater identity of views among the Prime Ministers than, perhaps, on any previous occasion. I know that his colleagues in the Commonwealth fully share the disappointment which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister feels, and which we all feel, at the outcome of the Summit Conference, as well as at the blow to the hopes of people everywhere for peaceful progress which has resulted from the withdrawal of the Soviet countries from the Disarmament Conference at Geneva.
But those setbacks in no way alter the significance of the collective views of the Prime Ministers about the urgent need for action to reduce world tension and promote peace. Indeed, the close understanding and support which my right hon. Friend received from his colleagues was of immense encouragement to him and will continue to be available, I am sure, in respect of any new initiative which may be taken to produce concrete progress in international affairs.
I know that hon. Members will have had full time to study the communiqué which was issued at the end of the Prime Ministers' meeting and about which I propose to say something. Hon. Members are aware that the details of the confidential discussions which take place at these meetings are not divulged. The reasons are perfectly clear. The Commonwealth is not a legal entity. It 50 is not rigidly bound by pacts and treaties. No votes are cast at this or any other Commonwealth meetings.
Thus, when the Prime Ministers come together they do not pass resolutions, nor attempt to arrive at formal majority decisions. It is not, therefore, proper for one Prime Minister alone to seek to interpret the detailed views of his colleagues. For the same reason, the communiqué itself represents a summary of the general sense of the deliberations which took place. As a result, the headline hunters, a phrase coined by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), are inevitably cast down and disappointed.
Having made these reservations, I must at once emphasise the true and enduring value of these meetings. It is, I think, briefly this, that the Prime Ministers' Conference provides a forum in which the acknowledged leaders of the continually growing group of sovereign independent States can meet together to discuss, freely and frankly, in confidence and with confidence, both the world's and their own collective problems. There is no such other forum in the world, or one which has such widespread influence, untrammelled by the usual paraphernalia of agenda, resolution and vote.
Among the matters that were discussed, the Committee will have noted from the communiqué that economic subjects, with which the right hon. Gentleman did not deal at any length, provided a major field of interest. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies will say something about the possibilities which lie ahead of us of providing, in relation to our resources, some of the requirements of the newly independent or emergent countries in Africa. I am sure, however, that the Committee will welcome the reference contained in the communiqué to the possibility of co-operative action among members of the Commonwealth for assisting in the economic development of those countries.
We, as well as the other older Commonwealth members, who have progressed a long way towards the creation of highly - developed industrialised systems, clearly have a special obligation to help those who are only at the beginning of the road. Quite apart from any other Commonwealth considerations, we have a direct interest in the increase 51 of the standard of living in the less developed Commonwealth and in the consequent increase in demand for goods and services which will eventually expand the total volume of Commonwealth trade. There is sometimes in these modern days a tendency to forget that our trade with Commonwealth countries accounts for 42 per cent. of our imports and 45 per cent. of our exports, and it is the expansion of this trade which in the developing Commonwealth offers splendid opportunities for the future.
It is natural that at present our thoughts and sympathies should, as I said, be directed primarily towards the newer members in Africa. but we should not, I think, forget in this Committee the needs of our great Commonwealth partners in Asia, and I am thinking particularly of India and Pakistan. I was, therefore, glad to be able to announce on Thursday last that Her Majesty's Government had made an offer to the Government of India of a further loan of £10 million towards the current needs of India in connection with the second and third five-year plans and that we would consider, together with our colleagues in the international financial consortium, what further assistance could be made available to India during the initial stages of the third five-year plan when that begins.
Within the next few days I hope that discussion with the Government of Pakistan will be completed with regard to the offer of assistance related to its plan for the modernisation and expansion of its industries. I am sure that the Committee will agree that we would have a continuing interest and concern today, so far as our resources permit, to play a fair part in helping those two great countries in their economic problems.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the subject of India, would he say whether there is any truth in the report which has been made public in India that the Indian Government are now considering reducing the amount of preference India gives to British goods in order to enable a bigger market to be provided in India for European goods from the E.F.T.A.?
§ Mr. Alport
I have no information on that, but I shall willingly look into any 52 report which my hon. and gallant Friend cares to draw to my attention.
I want, if I may, to turn from these general remarks, although they emphasise important features of the Conference, to the narrower question of the position in South Africa and the situation created as a result of recent events there. This situation, which arose some weeks before the Prime Ministers assembled, undoubtedly imposed a severe strain upon Commonwealth unity. The views of the Government and of this House have been clearly established on a number of occasions, and other Commonwealth Governments have, in one way or another, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, made it plain where they stand in regard to the policies of the South African Government.
The machinery of the Prime Ministers' meetings is by design flexible enough to meet the needs of these new and changing circumstances. Dr. Verwoerd had, prior to the Conference, as the Committee may remember, agreed to meet his colleagues informally to hear their views in exchange for his exposition of his own policies. Let me say that the attempt on his life which prevented his attendance was something which was deplored by everyone and particularly, I think, because it prevented him from personally having an opportunity of assessing the climate of opinion in the Commonwealth at first band. It would be tragic if, as a result, the Union's policies during this critical time were to be based on a false assumption with regard to the attitude of fellow members to developments in the future.
At their meeting the Prime Ministers were conscious of the grave implications which would be created by any departure from the established principle that the Prime Ministers discuss only at their meetings matters which all are ready to discuss. As Mr. Diefenbaker said in a statement that he made to the Canadian Parliament shortly after his return to Ottawa:I took the view that notwithstanding the depth of feeling on this racial issue it would be wrong and damaging to the spirit and fabric of the Commonwealth partnership if a majority of the Commonwealth Governments, finding themselves allied in condemnation of one or more of their number, were to constitute themselves as a court of judgment.This is the view which was taken by all the Commonwealth Prime Ministers and 53 fully accords with the principle which Mr. Diefenbaker referred to again on the same occasion:the principle of non-interference, which is one of the elements of the Commonwealth association.As the Committee recognises, the Commonwealth, having no formal constitution, depends for its continuing existence, together with the advantages which it brings to its members, upon their willingness to consider ways in which their own policies can, where necessary, be reconciled with the wider interests and susceptibilities of the Commonwealth as a whole.
In the communiqué, the Prime Ministers emphasised that the Commonwealth is a multi-racial association and expressed the need to ensure good relations, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, between all member States and peoples of the Commonwealth. The paths along which the various Governments may approach such an objective must, in accordance with the spirit of the Commonwealth, be decided by them individually, but from the communiqué it is surely self-evident that the objective is held by all the member countries in common?
The right hon. Gentleman, in his earlier remarks, made special reference to the possibility of establishing a code of human rights enforceable by a court based upon some Commonwealth foundation. I should like to agree with him strongly about the idea of the rule of law. Indeed, the legal connection which exists throughout the Commonwealth is one of the most important of the strands that bind us together at present, and anything clone to strengthen that would, I am sure, be of value. But the specific idea that he put forward is something which, I would have thought, offers a good many difficulties to Commonwealth countries generally. It would involve a substantial loss of sovereignty. Central institutions are not easily accepted by Commonwealth Governments and they never have been.
It was characteristic of the established tradition of these meetings that the Prime Ministers were able to reach agreement upon their communiqué without breaching the principle of noninterference. Neither did they have any reason to disguise the deep sense of disquiet which the problems created by the 54 existing situation in South Africa caused them. Therefore, the continuing traditions of the Commonwealth were maintained.
No one who has a knowledge of the historic background of the Union underestimates the formidable character of the social and political problems which have to be solved there. It would be right if, through this debate and in accordance with what was clearly the spirit of the Commonwealth Conference itself, we were to voice not only our anxieties with regard to the situation in South Africa—as the right hon. Gentleman has done—but also our consciousness that the best service we can render to all the peoples making up this fellow-member of the Commonwealth is to make it clear to them that our differences, however strong they may be, arise not from ignorance or dislike but from sincerely held views on the proper moral approach to one of the most difficult problems of our time.
I now turn to a very important point which the right hon. Gentleman raised, namely, the future referendum in South Africa. So far, I have referred only to the informal exchanges which took place on the South African issue, but the Committee will be aware from the communiqué that formal discussions took place with regard to the procedure for South Africa's application for continued membership of the Commonwealth if she should become a republic. It is perhaps not fully appreciated in this country and elsewhere that there is a necessary distinction to be drawn between the position of South Africa, as at the time of the Conference, and that of Ghana. Following precedents previously established, the people of Ghana had already pronounced by referendum in favour of the adoption of a republican constitution, while at the same time expressing their desire to remain in the Commonwealth. The referendum in South Africa, on the other hand, has not yet been taken. It follows, therefore, that the collective view of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers on this matter could not be given without a danger that it would have a direct influence upon a decision which can properly be made only in South Africa itself.
When the time comes for the proposed referendum to be completed, if it is in 55 favour of a republic the future relationship of South Africa with the Commonwealth will then be a matter for the Commonwealth Governments to decide, in accordance with a request that the Government of a republican South Africa may make. This is in line with established practice with regard to questions relating to the constitutional evolution of the Commonwealth.
It would not be proper for me to speculate now on what decision the Commonwealth Prime Ministers will take when the question is formally put to them—if it is—because this is a purely hypothetical case. Looking back at the history, development and flexibility of the Commonwealth, I do not think that anyone, in a hypothetical case, can give any decision or any indication of what decision might be arrived at.
§ Mr. Marquand
The right hon. Gentleman referred to "the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' collective view." I take it that he is now saying that in the hypothetical circumstances of there being a vote on the referendum for a republic, when the matter comes before the next Prime Ministers' Conference it is the collective view which will have to be obtained.
§ Mr. Alport
It is always the collective view of the Prime Ministers on any matter which comes before them which has to be obtained, and the collective view is the one which has always prevailed on similar issues in the past.
The republican issue in South Africa is essentially a constitutional one and will no doubt be dealt with by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers as such, but it is conceivable that a situation might arise in which the political and economic relations between one or more of its members with the rest of the Commonwealth reached a climax of friction and dispute. If that were the case there is no precedent to guide us, and the solution, once again, could be found only in the combined statesmanship and wisdom of the Prime Ministers of the day.
I can go no further at this time than to say that the Commonwealth is not dependent upon treaty, or based upon the relations between Governments; it is an association of peoples linked by common interests and by historic affini 56 ties of uncalculated strength. Such things, which have taken long years to create, cannot easily be destroyed in a day.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there is a great deal of difference between a referendum which is taken and voted on by all the people living in a country—as was the case with Ghana—and a referendum taken in connection with a very limited electorate, as will be the case in South Africa? Does not my right hon. Friend further agree that this point ought to be driven home to the people of South Africa before the referendum is taken?
§ Mr. Alport
I cannot say—nor would it be right for me to attempt to say—what view would or should be taken in regard to that constitutional problem. But there is one aspect to which the right hon. Gentleman made reference to which I will turn briefly, and that is the position in South-West Africa.
§ Mr. Callaghan
But everything that the Minister of State says on the South African position itself is of supreme importance. At the moment, those who will vote in the referendum in South Africa are under the impression that the British Government will use their best influence —whether there be any change of policy or no—to keep South Africa inside the Commonwealth if she becomes a republic. Can we have a clear indication from the Minister of State whether such an assurance has been given to the South African Prime Minister?
§ Mr. Alport
I am being asked a question on a matter upon which it was the view of the Prime Ministers' Conference —including my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom—that no decision could possibly be made prior to the decision resulting from the referendum; otherwise, it would be an interference in the internal conditions in South Africa. To the extent that that applies generally it would presumably also apply specifically to an individual member of the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Alport
These are very difficult points, and it would not be right for me at present to commit myself on a hypothetical issue, nor would it be right for the Government to do so.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties, and I do not want to press him on this matter, but it is important. We have a situation in which Dr. Verwoerd is telling his electors that he is in possession of information which the Minister of State has certainly not given us this afternoon. I think that I am putting it correctly when I sad that.
§ Mr. Alport
I have had nothing except Press reports of Dr. Verwoerd's statement, but as I understand it he was speculating upon what he conceived to be the situation. I am not entitled to speculate tin this matter at this juncture.
Because it is a rather important matter, which will no doubt he discussed on a number of occasions in the future, I want to say something about the South-West African issue. The Committee will, I think, agree that it is one of the most difficult issues with more than its fair share of legal obscurities.
The view that the original South-West African mandate, with the obligations involved, still exists and should be supervised by the United Nations in the place of the old League of Nations has been supported—as I think the right hon. Gentleman and others will know—by the International Court in an Advisory Opinion given when the Party opposite were in power in 1950. That Opinion the United Kingdom Government accepted as a whole. The Opinion did not, however, sustain the widely held view that the Union Government has a legal obligation to place the Territory under the United Nations trusteeship.
We have always thought that the only possible way of securing a practical and satisfactory solution for the longstanding dispute—that is, a solution in the interests of all the inhabitants of the Territory—would be to secure co-operation both of the Government administering the Territory and of the United Nations. That has been the guide which we have followed throughout the long discussions which have taken place at the regular sessions of the General Assembly. It is for this reason that we and preceding Governments have done our best promote negotiations and to oppose measures which would make them less likely.
I need hardly remind the Committee of the support we gave at the General Assembly of 1957 to the proposal to set 58 up a Good Offices Committee or, for that matter, of the distinguished contribution made to the work of that Committee by Sir Charles Arden-Clarke who was its Chairman during the two years of its existence. As I have explained, we have throughout this issue done our best to secure the co-operation of the Union as the administering Power, on the one hand, and the United Nations, on the other, in order to get a practical solution. Therefore, we deeply regretted, as I think did many others, that the Resolution at the 1959 General Assembly was couched in such terms as to make serious negotiation difficult and indeed that it tended to prejudge the outcome of the negotiations which it proposed.
As to the future, we can only decide what course is likely to offer the best chance of promoting the practical solution which we seek in the light of the circumstances at the time the question is again considered by the General Assembly. Suggestions have been made that the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth have some special responsibility for the South-West African Mandate. It is true that the mandate was expressed as being given toHis Britannic Majesty to be exercised on his behalf by the Government of the Union of South Africa".But this was simply the formally correct way of saying that it was given to the Union Government, which was at the time a fully independent Government within the Commonwealth. Our position does not differ in any way from that of the other ex-members of the League of Nations or the present members of the United Nations.
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 would 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 59 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.
The second question is whether a referendum determining the future constitution of South Africa taken among the voters of South-West Africa as well as in South Africa itself ipso facto changes the international status of the Territory. So far as I understand it, again that would not be the case. I hope that will help in their consideration of the subject right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who apply themselves to this issue.
The Committee will be glad to know that I am coming towards the end of what has been, I am afraid, a rather long intervention. Another part of the communiqué which we ought not to allow to pass without reference is that on 1st October this year Nigeria, a great African country, will achieve independence. As we know, Nigeria has expressed a wish to remain within the Commonwealth. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary will be introducing the necessary legislation in due course.
The Prime Ministers' Conference agreed on Nigeria's membership, and, when the time comes, we shall have a chance of expressing our good wishes to this new and important addition to our members. But I do not think that anybody underestimates the difficulties which an independent Nigeria will face. Although, to use the words of Saint Paul, we are all "members one of another" in the Commonwealth, political independence within the Commonwealth is absolute, or as absolute as is possible in a modern world. It will be no less complete with Nigeria when the time comes than it is or has been for Canada or India. If there is any assistance or help we can give to this new country that is a matter for future decision.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
In this matter of granting a new Constitution to Nigeria, it has never been clear to me what is the position of the Queen. Is the Queen in fact head of the Nigerian Republic, or is she acknowledged as head of the Commonwealth, or is she Queen of Nigeria?
§ Mr. Alport
I think that in the Constitution that will operate in Nigeria from 1st October onwards she will be Queen of Nigeria.
When I said at the beginning of my remarks that the recent Prime Ministers' Conference was one of the most important of the whole series, I was not using the familiar formula of our election campaigns. All of us—anyway, I have been guilty—have at one time or another assured our audience that the particular election campaign in which we were engaged was the most important of the generation or perhaps of the century. Indeed, I remember on one occasion, years ago, hearing a speaker claim that a particular election was the most important since Moses. I thought at the time that his claim was a bit farfetched, but I may have misheard it.
The reason for the importance of the 1960 Conference—here I come back to the opening remarks of the right hon. Gentleman—is that it marks the emergence of a Commonwealth in which the distribution of influence is fairly balanced between the old Commonwealth and the new and in which the powerful forces generated by the latter must be reconciled and accommodated in the established framework of Commonwealth relations. The attention which the Prime Ministers gave to the economic and political problems of Asia and Africa is a measure of this new orientation. If the Commonwealth is to survive intact during the next generation it is essential that this should be clearly realised. In this fact lie many of the problems ahead of us, as well as our hope and belief that the Commonwealth will in the future continue to play a major role in world affairs.
The communiqué refers to the decision to set up a working party to help in the evaluation of ideas in this field. However, the decisions which eventually will have to be made can be made only by the Prime Ministers themselves. But some of the questions we have to consider and which have eventually to be settled are those which, for instance, are created by the attaining of independence particularly by those countries who have not yet achieved the administrative apparatus, political stability or economic resources which enable them to enjoy the full advantages of development in this complex technological world. How far, 61 for instance, can we find an imaginative solution for the future relationship within the Commonwealth of the small isolated dependencies whose desire for self-government is just as real as in the larger ones but which, for geographical or other reasons, might find it difficult to stand alone? How far can the Commonwealth help to avoid the break up of established political units under the impact of tribal or provincial patriotism? How far do we need to adapt our existing methods of consultation and co-operation to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth during the next ten years?
I have no doubt that in the process of finding answers to these questions we in this country can and will be expected by our friends to play a major part. I am sure that the value of this debate and of subsequent ones, which no doubt will follow in our Parliament, will depend upon the frankness and imagination with which these questions are discussed. At no time has there been a greater need for realistic and adventurous thought on Commonwealth affairs or a more powerful challenge to the creative abilities in the political field of the Parliament and people of Great Britain. One thing alone is essential. We must allow neither our own internal problems nor the dangers and urgencies of the international scene to cloud our judgment or to sap our determination to continue as a major power in world affairs.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) in offering congratulations to the Minister of State. It is a timely tribute to his long public service and to the great responsibilities which he discharges towards the House of Commons that he should now be a member of Her Majesty's Privy Council.
In 1933 I was privileged to be present at a conference in Toronto at which one of the great Prime Ministers of Canada, Sir Robert Borden, took a leading part. He had been one of the architects of the nationhood of the self-governing countries of the Commonwealth. At Paris in 1919 he had secured their admission to the League of Nations as independent members with full and equal rights and it was from this that international recog- 62 nition of their nationhood swiftly followed. At that conference in 1933, Sir Robert quoted Mr. Gladstone. I remember it very well:May it be our endeavour to corroborate the Empire's essential unity, the inspiring unity of its infinite diversity."It was no doubt with the same hope in mind that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom said a few weeks before the Summit meeting that:Americans and Russians have far greater strength and wealth, but Britain will be able to speak—and I hope lead—not merely from her own position as a single island, but as the centre of this great community"—the modern Commonwealth. I was at the Peace Conference in Paris as a member of the Foreign Office when Sir Robert Borden achieved his epoch-making success. I was at the Commonwealth Relations Office when India, Pakistan and Ceylon were building up their independent Governments and taking their place for the first time in the meetings of Commonwealth statesmen. As a result, I have always believed —as the right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend have said—that the Commonwealth could retain a unity; a unity which would make it a leader—the greatest leader—in world affairs.
But on one condition, and one condition alone. That is that the foreign policies of the members of the Commonwealth should be based on common principles, common principles of law and morality, which they all accept and faithfully apply. In fact, they are all bound in law by such principles, the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. If Britain wants to lead, she must lead in the faithful application of those principles: in observing the obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force in all our international relations, and to secure the peaceful settlement of all our disputes; in seeking the general and drastic disarmament without which the United Nations institutions can never work as they ought to; and in promoting general international co-operation in every way.
Among the many aspects of United Nations work, disarmament is now what Mr. Khrushchev called it in Berlin, "the problem of all problems". I hope the leader of the Government delegation at the next United Nations Assembly, whoever he may be—we are told it may be 63 the present Colonial Secretary—will make it his business to put forward a bold and comprehensive plan by which the present disarmament deadlock can be broken. If he does, he can be very certain that he will have the unanimous support of the Commonwealth, and he can restore to the Commonwealth, not only a real unity in itself, but also a power and influence in international affairs which many people thought four years ago might have been irreparably lost. Conversely—and it still needs saying, for it is fundamental—the Commonwealth will not easily survive another violation of the Charter by any of its leading members of the kind we have seen in recent years.
There is another danger to the Commonwealth on which the right hon. Gentleman touched and on which I want to give a rather different view. It is a danger of which I had personal experience at the C.R.O. That is the danger that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, when they meet, as they met in May, may shirk all controversial issues, even if those issues should affect the basic principles upon which their whole partnership is built. This, in my view, came very near to happening over apartheid in May. I was disturbed when the Sunday newspapers said on 1st May, before the Conference had begun, that, as a result of the efforts made by the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), it was "almost certain that South Africa's racial policies would not form part" of the formal agenda of the conference. I thought this very dangerous. I thought, with the Leader of the Opposition, that if the racial issues in South Africa were not discussed, it would make a farce of the proceedings and a mockery of the word "Commonwealth". I was still more disturbed by the first communiqué, issued on 3rd May. It said:The representative of the South African Government emphasised that sole responsibility for domestic policies within South Africa rested with the Union Government.The meeting reaffirmed the traditional practice that Commonwealth Conferences do not discuss the internal affairs of Member countries.Mr. Louw expressed his readiness to meet other heads of delegations informally for discussions of this problem.Arrangements are being made accordingly64 Everyone remembers that this attempt to do what the Guardian called "muffling up" the question of apartheid was a dangerous failure. Mr. Louw's informal discussions and his disastrous Press conference on 8th May so inflamed the Prime Ministers of other Commonwealth countries that they insisted on discussing the whole matter in full conference, and for the last few days they discussed very little else. The final communiqué still said that these discussions were "informal", which I venture to think was a perilous pretence.
It went on to say thatthe Ministers emphasised that the Commonwealth itself is a multi-racial association—words which have been quoted before —and expressed the need to ensure good relations betwen all Member States and peoples of the Commonwealth. The Times assured us that Mr. Louw was "bitterly opposed" even to these anaemic phrases. But we should deceive ourselves if we thought they gave satisfaction to the Prime Ministers who had condemned apartheid.
My right hon. Friend quoted something of what they said, and I will repeat it. Some of them explained that the communiqué had been agreed only because unanimity, including Mr. Louw, was needed. Prince Abdul Rahman of Malaya did not hesitate to say thatunanimity was out-of-date".He said thatthis had been the last time—note the words—that a full gathering of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers could avoid coming realistically to grips with race discrimination in South AfricaThe Prime Minister of Pakistan said that he would have liked to seea much stronger form of words".He went on,We feel very strongly that this apartheid, enforced with all the modern weapons of war against defenceless and unarmed citizens, will do an immense amount of harm. Unless some human solution is found, it will set alight the best part of Africa."President Nkrumah said,The warning has been written in blood for all to read—if the Commonwealth has any meaning it cannot and must not let this situation drift until a revolution of desperation creates another Algeria on our Continent."65 Mr. Diefenbaker, at an earlier stage I admit, said thatthe equality of all races and peoples is a basic principle that must be accepted by all the Commonwealth.The Guardian declared, in its final review of the Conference, that Mr. Louw hadcreated the determination in a number of Commonwealth leaders that they will not come back to the conference again without ensuring that their hands will not be tied in this way at any future gathering."In other words, they would insist on being free to discuss apartheid, openly to condemn it, and to consider what effective action they could take about it. I think it is more than clear that what happened in the May meeting imposed a very dangerous strain upon the Commonwealth; that the attempt to "muffle up" the issue of apartheid was a total failure; and that the final communiqué was very far from being a basis upon which the future unity of the Commonwealth can be built.
I raise this matter with a full sense of responsibility, because I believe that the Government have been making wrong decisions about apartheid for many years, and that they have been casting votes in the United Nations Assembly, and making speeches, which were wrong in law, and perhaps even in morality—speeches which have done all too much to encourage the Government of South Africa in a wrong course and which have been deeply resented by other members of the Commonwealth.
In the lamentable Press Conference to which I have referred, Mr. Louw said that in the Assembly of the United Nations he had backed Britain over Cyprus, because our delegate had claimed that under Article 2 (7) of the Charter events in that island were a matter which wasessentially within the domestic jurisdictionof the United Kingdom. Of course our delegates in the early stages of the Cyprus question had made what I can only call that fatuous claim; and, in return for South Africa's vote about Cyprus, they had voted all too often with South Africa about apartheid.
Only a month before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers were due to meet, the Foreign Secretary made a speech in which he condemned the Security Council for adopting a resolution about 66 apartheid and about Sharpeville. He was reported on 3rd April as saying that the resolutionwent beyond the scope of the proper functions of the Council, and amounted to an obvious interference in matters within the internal jurisdiction of South Africa."He added the gratuitous comment thatdictation from outside, the condemnations of international organisations, boycotts and the like, do produce very often precisely the opposite result to that intended."He thus repeated the false and hackneyed argument by which the defenders of apartheid have tried so often to persuade those who are against it not to raise their voices against this grievous wrong.
I think that it was singularly unfortunate that the Foreign Secretary should have made this speech in April and should have instructed our delegate to abstain from voting in the Security Council. I think it lamentable that last November our delegate voted with France and Portugal against an Assembly Resolution which condemned apartheid and which called on South Africa to reconsider its policy—a resolution carried by 62 votes to 3, with seven abstentions.
In the light of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' debates in May, I think that it will be quite disastrous if such speeches are made and such votes cast in the next Session of the Assembly, which is to meet in two months' time. And I want to urge on the Government that their whole stand has been based on a pseudo-legal argument which helped them not at all on Cyprus, which they had to abandon over that unhappy question, and which is manifestly false in its application to apartheid. The argument rests on the assumption that the way a Government treats its citizens is "essentially within its domestic jurisdiction" and that therefore the United Nations cannot intervene, even by expressing an opinion on the subject.
Historically, I believe that assumption to be without foundation. From the Congress of Vienna in 1814 onwards, throughout the 19th century, guarantees for the equal rights of their citizens were imposed on various Governments in Europe which had mixed populations—mixed in race, language or religion. In 1919, the Treaties of Peace made 67 elaborate provision for the equal treatment and equal rights of all citizens in nine countries which had mixed populations. The Governments' fulfilment of their obligations was to be supervised and guaranteed by the Council of the League of Nations.
M. Clemenceau, writing to Mr. Paderewski, defended the treaty which Poland was asked to sign in the following way:This treaty does not constitute any fresh departure.… The Principal Allied and Associated Powers are of opinion that they would be false to the responsibility which rests upon them if on this occasion they departed from what has become an established tradition, … There rests, therefore, upon these Powers an obligation which they cannot evade to secure In the most permanent and solemn form guarantees for certain essential rights which will afford to the inhabitants the necessary protection, whatever changes may take place in the internal constitution of the Polish State.The League of Nations later required seven other countries which had mixed populations to accept similar guarantees.
The purpose was not humanitarian. The point is very important. Mr. Azcarate, the distinguished Spaniard, who administered the system for many years, said that itwas not humanitarian. It was purely political … to avoid the many inter-State frictions and conflicts which had occurred in the past, as a result of the frequent ill-treatment or oppression of national minorities."President Wilson defended the system in Paris by saying that,Nothing is more likely to disturb the peace of the world than the treatment which might in certain circumstances be handed out to minorities."This League system produced remarkable results as long as the League retained any real vitality. But it was constantly said in the League that the system ought to be applied to all Member States; and that is the origin of the provisions in the Charter of the United Nations for the protection of human rights. Look at what is said in the Charter, and in particular in Article 2 (7); and look at what is not said. Hon. Members will see that the Foreign Secretary simply begs the question when he goes on repeating that Article 2 (7) gives South Africa the right to impose apartheid and that the United Nations cannot intervene. Neither Article 2 (7) 68 nor any other Clause of the Charter says that a Government's treatment of its citizens is essentially "a matter of domestic jurisdiction." I cannot find a line in the Charter which says that. But I can find a great many which say the exact opposite. Article 1 (3) says that one of the principal purposes of the United Nations is,To achieve international co-operation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, language, or religion."Article 55 says that the United Nations shall promoteuniversal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without respect to race, sex or religion."By Article 56 all memberspledge themselves to take joint and separate action in co-operation with the organisation for the achievement of this purpose.""joint and separate action" in co-operation with the U.N. Organisation. Could a legal pledge be clearer?
But there is another fact that tells against the Government's interpretation of Article 2 (7). It has been the subject of sustained debate in the Assembly over many years, and, as I have said, last year 63 Governments upheld the interpretation which I have given, seven abstained and only France and Portugal voted with us. That is the considered and decisive verdict of the overwhelming majority of the United Nations.
But leaving aside all these historical arguments and the modern debates which I have recounted, is it not simply common sense to say that apartheid must be a matter of international concern?Apart from its immorality",said Mr. Nehru while the May Conference was going on—apartheid is a danger to world peace."How can a policy beessentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the Unionif it may send Africa up in flames, and disastrously affect the many new African nations, some on the border of the Union, which have just won their independence, and some of which will be admitted to membership of the U.N. by the Assembly in two months' time?
I hope that the Government will reconsider their policy and will abandon their past arguments and votes before the next 69 Assembly meets, and that they will join with the other members of the Commonwealth in supporting the resolution that will quite certainly be put forward and carried on this subject. Such a vote by Britain might have a real, and perhaps a great, importance in promoting the movement of opinion by which the policy of apartheid may some day be changed.
Another matter will come before the Assembly in September, a matter on which both my right hon. Friend and the Minster have touched—the Union Government's mandate for South-West Africa. I view the resolution adopted by the Assembly last year in a different light from the right hon. Gentleman. I think that it was necessary for the Assembly to condemn apartheidas a flagrant violation of the sacred trust imposed by the League of Nations mandate, the U.N. Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights."I think that it was right for the Resolution to urge various practical measures by which the interests of the non-Europeans in the Territory could be promoted. I think that it was right for the resolution to criticise the conditions under which the African workers are compelled to work. Only last week two witnesses in whom I have full confidence gave me a shocking account of how the unhappy Africans, men and women, in South-West Africa are sent to work on white men's farms.
Last year the Assemby adopted the report of their South-West Africa Committee, a nine-nations body, by 56 votes to.5. Our British delegate abstained. Again, I think it is important that this year our policy should be changed, especially in the light of the legal considerations which, with great candour, the hon. Gentleman has laid before us.
Finally, I want to say one word only about the question of the South African referendum on a republic. I ask again the question so courageously and admirably asked by an hon. Member opposite. Has such a pledge to Dr. Verwoerd been given as he alleges? Have we consulted other Commonwealth countries about it? Are we sure that we ought to give it unless all the non-Europeans in the Union—the Africans, the Indians, the coloureds—are allowed to vote? They are all sub- 70 jects of Her Majesty the Queen. If they are to cease to be subjects of Her Majesty the Queen, are they to have no voice in that decision? Is it to be taken by a bare majority of a small minority of the total population? I cannot believe that that would be right. I hope that the Government will answer these questions, for, again, these are issues which will profoundly affect the future influence of the Commonwealth and its unity and power in world affairs.
I have dealt with legal points about apartheid. May I end by showing in human terms what it really means? In this week's Spectator Mr. Kenneth MacKenzie, writing from Capetown, tells the story of Mrs. Beatrice Manjati. He writes:On 1st April she was leaving Nyanga township in a friend's car to take her sick baby to hospital when they were stopped by a naval detachment guarding the gate. After a minor misunderstanding a shot was fired—' an uncalled for shot', according to the inquest magistrate last week—and the baby was killed. It was Mrs. Manjati's third child. The first two died in infancy. This one was called Mosuli, which means in Xhosa 'He who wipes away the tears'. This sort of thing can happen anywhere,"says Mr. Mackenzie. I wonder if it can? But he goes on:What disturbs me is that since 1st April Mrs. Manjati has had no apology, no offer of compensation, no communication of any sort from the Navy, from the Defence Department or from anyone in authority."Surely the Government will set aside their legal doubts and, with the other members of the Commonwealth, will do their utmost in the United Nations Assembly to bring an end to a policy which can cause such inhuman tragedies as this.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Longbottom (York)
As I rise to address the Committee for the first time, may I crave the indulgence of hon. Members and express the hope that they will extend to me the courtesies which by tradition are normally given to hon. Members speaking for the first time. I hope that the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), whose sincerity in all matters I have always respected, will forgive me if I do not follow him too closely in his argument as, otherwise, I might delve into the forbidden territory of controversy.
71 I have the honour to represent the City of York, a city which is rich in the traditions of the history of this country and a city which has given its name to England's greatest county and to its greatest cricketers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] A statistical study of the present cricket league table will prove my point. It is also a great privilege to have followed such a distinguished predecessor as Mr. Speaker.
The merchants of York were trading abroad as early as the fourteenth century, and since then York has had close commercial ties with many countries, none more so than with West Africa upon which York depends mainly for cocoa for its manufacture of chocolate. In this context, I think it would be right to mention the increasing urgency for far wider commodity price stabilisation agreements not only to safeguard the primary producer but also the manufacturer.
The calling of a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference is a matter of congratulation in itself, for it provides an opportunity for frank and forthright discussions without recourse to rigid rules and fixed agendas and in an atmosphere of independence and yet of understanding which is perhaps unique in the council chambers of the world.
Of course, we have our differences and our disagreements—no civilised country at this time could fail to be horrified by the racial policies of the South African Government—and we are right and correct in our duty to express them as frankly and as fully as we can. But the very backgrounds and beliefs and the very continents from which so diversely come the peoples of the Commonwealth ensure that we do not see everything in the same light. However, we can at least discuss our differences in a spirit of basic loyalty and in the knowledge that far more unites us than divides us, which is the fascination of the Commonwealth and the fascination of its Conferences.
When the Prime Ministers' Conference meets here in London hon. Members have a chance to meet Commonwealth leaders. But why does the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference meet only in London? Would it not be possible for it to meet some time in New 72 Delhi, in Canberra or in Ottawa to give the politicians and the peoples of those territories a chance to see what the fascination of Commonwealth Conferences really is and how much basic understanding lies and exists in a Commonwealth atmosphere?
Not having an agenda is a great advantage to the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth, but perhaps some slight disadvantage in that we do not know entirely what they discuss. There is one subject upon which I hope the Commonwealth Prime Ministers touched. If they did not touch upon it at the last Conference, I certainly hope that they may do so next time they meet. It is a coincidence, I am sure, but a significant one, that we should be meeting on 4th July, when the independence of the United States is celebrated, and that we are meeting a week after Ghana and Somaliland became Republics and the Congo Republic became independent. The inevitable pattern of the 1960's, and rightly so, will see the independence of most Colonial Territories, at least this side of the Iron Curtain. However, independence is not the end of the struggle but the beginning of a new one. All too often the sole preoccupation of politicians in territories seeking independence is what they would all refer to as "the struggle for freedom", and, indeed, the basic slogan of most of their political parties is "Freedom".
But this freedom brings responsibilities. If hon. Members would put themselves for a moment in the position of their opposite numbers in newly independent territories, they would have to ask themselves and examine the following questions. What is the basis of our political ideology now that freedom has been won? What is the kind of political and social society that we desire? What form of co-operation are we to have with our immediate neighbours? What form of political and economic asociation are we to have in our continent? What are to be our relations with the West and with the Communist world? Are we to build a society based upon the European pattern, a society based upon the Communist pattern or a society for ourselves? Above all, on what foundations can we find for ourselves a place in a rather power-drunk world? All these are immediate and vital decisions 73 Surely, above all, it is a time for leadership and leaders to guide a society in which citizenship and a community spirit are at hand.
The Albemarle Report stresses the vital need for youth work in this country. But if it be true of this country, how, much more is it true abroad? Young people of my generation are achieving positions of authority out of all proportion to their age and experience. It is my privilege to have been for many years involved in international youth work and to have represented British youth organisations at many international conferences. I have seen the incredible lack of effective youth organisations teaching citizenship and community spirit in the Commonwealth. Yet I have also seen the great work which such international organisations as the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides are doing on limited resources. There are many examples which one could give of the work being done. Perhaps one is the newly formed Voluntary Service Overseas, in which there are sixty-five young people just after leaving school who have gone out into the Commonwealth countries to help to build up effective youth organisations in those Territories.
This country leads the world in its structure of voluntary youth organisations, and we have a tremendous practical contribution to make to help other countries in the Commonwealth, a contribution which would be of far greater value than the money which would be spent upon it. I realise that the Government are aware of these problems. Two years ago they set up a Committee under Field-Marshal Sir Gerald Templer to study this problem, before which I gave evidence. The Committee produced a comprehensive Report, but nothing has since been heard, and I know that the situation is causing anxiety to many voluntary bodies.
A Commonwealth Youth Trust sponsored by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers could provide the finance, coordinate resources and call on the experience of so many organisations that a really effective drive to establish youth work in the Commonwealth could be made. I urge that this should be given consideration before the Commonwealth Prime Ministers meet again.
74 I am not suggesting that this would be a panacea for all our ills, but I do suggest that with the training of leaders, with the development of the responsibilities to the community and with the teaching of citizenship to the young people in the Commonwealth, we should be providing many Territories with a far better chance to stand on their own feet and find a solution to their problems.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
It is always an ordeal for an hon. Member to address the House of Commons for the first time, but I think that very few hon. Members can have come through that ordeal with quite as much success as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Longbottom). It is no mere form of words when I offer him the congratulations of, I am sure, all hon. Members in every part of the House upon the very clear and forthright maiden speech he has delivered. It will, I think, have been evident to us all that he brings to our debates most valuable first-hand knowledge of Commonwealth problems. He represents a famous constituency. There have been many eminent men associated with York, from Dick Turpin to Mr. Speaker, and I am sure that the hon. Member will be a worthy successor to them all.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State—perhaps I might join in the congratulations offered to him—said, when speaking about South-West Africa, that the attitude that would be adopted by Her Majesty's Government would depend upon the circumstances which would prevail when the matter came to he considered by the United Nations. I hope that we shall have some elaboration of that before the debate ends. This matter will certainly be raised, and raised in a very acute form at the next meeting of the United Nations.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) referred to the speech made in Dublin by Dr. Nkrumah after the Prime Ministers' Conference—a speech which, quite inexplicably, was scarcely reported at all in the British Press. I believe that it was a speech of very considerable significance. My right hon. Friend quoted one passage from it, and I should like to quote two other passages. First, Dr. Nkrumah said:So far as Ghana is concerned, the most important single issue before the United 75 Nations at this moment is that concerning the mandated territory of South-West Africa."A little later, he went on:It is clear to the Government of Ghana that since thirteen Resolutions of the United Nations have had no effect on the Union of South Africa, the passage of a fourteenth Resolution in similar terms would not be likely to have any greater effect than the previous thirteen. It appears to me, therefore, that it is the duty of Ghana to propose to the United Nations a new policy in regard to South-West Africa."When the matter is raised by Ghana before the United Nations, we, on this side, would like to know what will be the attitude of Her Majesty's Government in this country.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) reminded the House a few minutes ago, whenever the general question of apartheid has come before the United Nations. Her Majesty's Government in this country have always taken their stand on—or, rather, have taken refuge behind —Article 2 (7) of the Charter, which prohibits the United Nations from intervening in matters that are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State. Indeed, when we debated this matter on 7th December last, we were referred once more by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to Article 2 (7) of the Charter.
That argument might conceivably be held valid—I do not for a moment say that it is, because in entirely associate myself with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South—in relation to the internal affairs of the Union. It cannot possibly have any validity whatever in relation to the mandated territory of South West Africa.
I say that in case there is any dispute, and I say it on three grounds. First of all, it is quite clear from the terms of the Mandate itself that the administration of the territory was never intended to be left to the unfettered discretion of the Union Government. Article 7 of the Mandate says:The mandatory agrees that, if any dispute whatever should arise between the mandatory and another member of the League of Nations relating to the interpretation or the application of the provisions of the mandate, such dispute, if it cannot be settled by negotiation, shall be submitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice provided for by Article 14 of the Covenant of the League of Nations."76 Quite clearly, therefore, the administration of the Mandate was, from the first, intended to be a matter of concern to all the founder members of the League of Nations. They were entitled to negotiate with the Union Government about it. They were entitled, if negotiation got them nowhere, to take the matter to the International Court.
Secondly, of course, we have the ruling, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, of the International Court in 1950. It is perfectly true, as he said, that the International Court held that the Union was not bound to place the mandated territory under the trusteeship of the United Nations, but, of course, that Court reached another conclusion to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer. It said that if the Union did not elect to place the territory under trusteeship, then they must continue to fulfil all the obligations arising under the Mandate, including the obligation to accept the supervision, formerly of the League, and now of the United Nations.
Thirdly, it follows from Article 73 of the United Nations Charter. I do not think that it is always realised that the obligations of countries which have dependent peoples over whom they rule or for whom they have any responsibility are clearly and categorically defined in the Charter, and have been accepted by every member State of the United Nations, including South Africa.
What are the obligations on the mandatory? Firstly, there is the obligation under Article 2 of the Mandate to promote to the utmost the material and moral well-being of the inhabitants of the territory. Secondly, there is the obligations under Section 73 of the Charter, which is…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."There might, I suppose, be some possible dispute as to what constitutes the material and moral well-being of the people in a particular territory, but I submit that there cannot be any dispute whatever about the application of Section 73 of the Charter. No one could conceivably suggest that those obligations are being carried out today. We 77 have, therefore, the proposition, which will certainly be raised at the United Nations—and a proposition which, I submit, is quite clearly established—that the Union Government are in breach, probably, of their obligations under the Mandate, and, certainly, of their obligations under the Charter.
I want now to refer to a matter that has already been referred to once or twice today. That is the speech made by Dr. Verwoerd last Saturday, when he said:Should South Africa decide to remain a member of the Commonwealth after becoming a Republic, I am convinced that the influence of Britain, Australia and Canada and even India, which is now politcally adult, will ensure that we retain our membership."I want again to ask the question—and I hope that we shall have a more specific answer either today or, at any rate, before the end of the Session—on what was that based? Has any sort of assurance been given to Dr. Verwoerd that would entitle him to make that speech in the Union last Saturday? Secondly, has there been any consultation on this matter with the Governments of the Asian and African members of the Commonwealth, either during or since the Prime Minister's Conference? Thirdly, have Her Majesty's Government in this country considered what the position will be if South Africa becomes a republic, either inside or outside the Commonweatlh?
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the terms of the Mandate, and said that he was advised that it would make no difference if the form of Government in the Union were changed—I hope that I do not misrepresent him—and that the position of the mandatory would remain as it was before. There may he two views on that. After all, the Mandate is not a Mandate simply to the Government of the Union. It is expressed to be toHis Britannic Majesty to be exercised on his behalf by the Government of South Africa."The Mandate is not to South Africa but to the Crown, to be exercised on behalf of the Crown. If South Africa were to become a republic within the Commonwealth, it is at least open to question whether the Mandate would still be valid, but if South Africa were to become a republic outside the Commonwealth, I submit that the matter is really beyond argument. What was 78 clearly intended was that a Government of the Commonwealth should exercise the Mandate on behalf of the Crown. It could never have been envisaged when the Mandate was drawn up that it should be exercised on behalf of the Crown by an alien Government.
I have raised these questions because I believe they demand an answer, if not today at any rate in the near future. These are all matters which almost certainly will arise when the United Nations meet next September. They will be raised by one or more Commonwealth Governments. We ought to know before the House goes away at the end of July what is going to be the attitude on these matters of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
One of the least satisfactory aspects of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference seems to me to be the communiqué. If it brings out much detail of the discussions that go on, then it probably inhibits people from expressing their opinions too much, and if it does not, it produces a lot of platitudes like the current communiqué contains which read as if they contain no real substance.
The interesting thing about the communiqué and the Conference as such has been the concentration on the problems that are facing South Africa. The hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) and the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) concentrated on the subject of apartheid and on the problems that are facing South Africa generally, and discussed whether South Africa should be re-elected, as it were, to the Commonwealth if she becomes a Republic.
It seems that the other vital points which have arisen in or have been ignored by the recent Conference have been ignored by this Committee. Like so many other people—in fact, I imagine like every hon. Member—I have no brief for apartheid as such. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations, about the tragedy not only of the attempted assassination of Dr. Verwoerd—personally I am against political assassination—but also of the disappointment that Dr. Verwoerd was not able himself to be 79 present at the Prime Ministers' Conference and understand how strong is the point of view of other leaders throughout the Commonwealth and how strong is the feeling about the policies that South Africa is pursuing at the moment.
This concentration on South Africa tends to ignore the other very important aspects of the Conference. One of the most useful features was the view that Mr. Nehru was able to bring of his conversations with the leaders of Red China. The worries that he obviously had when he was over here subsequent to his meetings were able to be transmitted to the other Prime Ministers, and, as such, I feel that they did a lot of good in alerting people in other parts of the world to the problem which will become the major problem of the Commonwealth and, in fact, of the free world during the next decade; that is the position of China in the Pacific, in Africa and in the Middle East.
The other aspect that has not been mentioned yet and which I think is of extreme importance is the prospect of what will happen to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference when the numbers of the emergent territories reach the enormous proportion that they will in the next five years. In five years' time, according to Mr. Menzies' estimate, there may be twenty emergent, self-governing territories in the Commonwealth. It is all very well to have discussions, and to have talks among a few people. A lot can be achieved; there is no need to vote. Points of view can be stated and conversations can take place behind the scenes and in the conference room. Everybody gets a chance of expressing a view.
If the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference becomes even larger than it is at the present time, we must look at the organisation and decide what we should do to keep it from getting completely unwieldy and becoming a sort of little United Nations on its own. The trouble about all that is that the moment one tries to plan something one has to set up a constitution or some sort of organisation, and that immediately causes one to run into all sorts of difficulties. One may get procedural difficulties which would kill stone dead the informality which makes the Prime Ministers' Conference at present so very successful.
80 However, I think there is something to be said for considering the idea of regional Prime Ministers' Conferences—for instance, attended by people concentrated around the American continent, in Africa, and then possibly in areas in the Far East where we get Australia, New Zealand, Malaya, Singapore, and various other slightly different areas, so that there could possibly be some arrangement whereby the Prime Minister of the Metropolitan Dominion, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, could attend these different regional conferences and act as the key and link between the different areas.
Mention has also been made, but only briefly, of funds for development throughout the Commonwealth. I seem to remember that this is not a new topic in a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. Hon. Members will remember that following one of the Commonwealth Conferences, the Commonwealth Development Finance Company was set up. I am not sure that a look at the members who have contributed to the C.D.F.C. does not give a warning about any grandiose schemes which may emerge from a conference like this.
I think the C.D.F.C. has an opportunity of doing a very good job and that it can be of considerable benefit to all the members of the Commonwealth. It is rather interesting, though, to see who has subscribed to it: South Africa, New Zealand, the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland, India, Malaya and Pakistan. I am particularly interested to see that Australia has not contributed. Possibly Australia interprets this suggestion that it should subscribe to the C.D.F.C. rather in the same way as we have interpreted the best endeavour clause in a recent wheat agreement. I think that it would be far better than all the communiqués if the countries that have not contributed to the C.D.F.C. were to make some effort.
I come now to my last point, and I wish to say how much I regret that there does not seem to have been at this Conference a discussion on the rôle of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the liaison between the different countries in the Commonwealth. My own solution, of course, is that the Commonwealth Relations Office should be abolished. I 81 have never been able to understand what it does. All the High Commissioners have access to Government Departments, and, as far as I can see, the Commonwealth Relations Office at the present time is so taken up with the philosophy and psychology of independence that it is frightened to take any positive action to help and to lead these new emergent territories.
I am aware that there was a feeling on the part of one Prime Minister from one of the newly emergent countries, a feeling which I think was regrettable, that he would not allow any skilled trained person to remain in his country if ht had been a member of the Colonial Service. The fact that he took that attitude is some measure of the failure of the Commonwealth Relations Office at the present time. I think that the Colonial Office—and I am not trying to pit one against the other—with the emergence of Somalia, recently, set up an interesting experiment. Here, despite the fact that the country is actually becoming independent—completely independent, and not just self-governing—there is a small cadre of the British Colonial Service remaining there which is going to help to get over the amalgamation between Somalia and Somaliland. Some of them are to remain on contract after the six-month period for the amalgamation. They are to do so owing to a number of circumstances, and I think it is quite an idea that the workings of that Commission should be studied with a view to seeing if something on a small scale cannot be done on those lines with the emergent territories.
Finally, I want to sound a warning about the next Conference, where the older Dominions are likely to find themselves in a minority. At the same time, I want to sound a warning about keeping the Commonwealth together. It seems to me that it will mean a positive effort on the part of the Commonwealth Relations Office and of the Government in this country to keep the Commonwealth going. Sentiment is no longer enough. Those of us who heard an English crowd cheering a Pole against an Australian at Henley on Saturday will realise that sentiment is not now enough. It is not sentiment that matters in holding the Commonwealth together, particularly when there are second and third 82 generation people who migrated to Commonwealth countries.
It will then be self-interest, and what we have to do is to look at that self-interest to see how we can make ourselves mutually dependent and consequently work together, so that we can keep this chain of countries, which I think is a stabilising factor for world peace, together and in consultation in some way for the next couple of decades, because that will be a fairly awkward time for change for the Commonwealth as a whole.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
My two right hon. Friends the Members for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) and Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) have dealt so competently and comprehensively with the matter which is closest to the hearts of most of us, namely, the situation in South Africa, that I would not wish to take up too much of the time of the Committee in dealing with that very difficult problem. I think that there is very little difference on this matter between the two sides of the Committee. On both sides, we feel a complete abhorrence for the doctrine of apartheid, and we are deeply disturbed by the situation in South Africa, not only because it affects people of all races in South Africa itself but because of its repercussions on the unity of the Commonwealth, which we all want to cherish.
I would add that recently I had the privilege of meeting Miss Hannah Stanton, a former member of my own college at Oxford. I was particularly interested in her, and, frankly, somewhat surprised to discover that in her work in South Africa she had been as unpolitical as any person could be. From a distance, one might suppose—and that is what one might have done oneself in similar circumstances—that she had been engaged in quasi-political activities in the course of her missionary work. That has not been unknown in missionary work in some parts of the world, but, as far as she is concerned, there was no such element in her activities. One might call her a political innocent.
The fact that she was arrested, and subsequently released because she was a British subject—and if she had not 83 been, I believe that she would still be in detention—is some measure of the state of affairs in the Union of South Africa, where such a person could be detained without trial on what must have been the flimsiest possible excuse.
Having mentioned that, I should like to turn to some of the other matters about which we in the Commonwealth shall be thinking. I was very much interested in what the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) said about the possibility of some different kind of organisation as the number of members of the Commonwealth becomes larger and larger. Again, I think there is a consensus of opinion on both sides of the Committee on this matter, because we on our side have been thinking in terms of some possible regional organisation of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. The difficulty of having a larger number means that unanimity will be more and more difficult to achieve, except on the broadest issues. When one admits anything in the way of voting, that leads to lobbying and the lining up of one group against another and so on, which is something we all wish to avoid. Therefore, it is possible that some sort of regional organisation for some purposes at least would be very fruitful.
Frankly, I thought that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the United Kingdom Prime Minister should act as liaison officer was not very good. I should have thought that each conference might at least elect its own chairman, and we should then have to make some other arrangements about the coordination of the work. It seems to me a somewhat unfortunate suggestion. Clearly, much thought must be given to this matter, which is now becoming a matter not of political theorising but of urgency.
I have recently been reading some of my late father's papers. Some hon. Members will know that he was in the Cabinet Office for many years. I came across correspondence between him and the present Lord Casey, at that time a young man at the beginning of his political career, in 1923 or 1924. They were considering in rather more theoretical terms whether something in the nature of a Commonwealth secretariat might be advisable. That suggestion has been discussed now and again rather academic- 84 ally, but within the next five or ten years it will become something of real importance. The suggestion is that there should be some machinery, probably a little more elaborate than at present, but, one hopes, not too bureaucratic, for keeping the members of the Commonwealth in touch with one another.
That brings me to a point which was touched on very slightly by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Longbottom), whose maiden speech we all very much enjoyed. He reminded us that we are speaking on 4th July. That is not without significance. One of the things which concerns me very much in considering the countries in the Commonwealth which are emerging to independence is their political structure and the political legacy which we leave when we retire from them.
Are we not somewhat complacent with regard to these countries before they reach independence? When they become responsible legislatures, we send a delegation from this House—I have been a member of one myself—and we present a Mace. We send a copy of Erskine May, most beautifully bound, I was about to say, in Morocco, but I am told that it should be called Kano leather. We send one of our most learned Assistant Clerks at the Table on a peripatetic tour of these legislatures to assist with points of order and procedure and the interpretation of Erskine May.
We seem to think that that is about all that is required. But is it? When we consider the countries which have already achieved independence, can we be entirely happy that the pattern of Westminster and Whitehall is exportable? For instance, we look to the Sudan, Pakistan, Ceylon and, perhaps with a sideways glance, Ghana. India, perhaps, has inherited the legacy more completely than any other country. But when we begin to look into the future and to ask oneself about some of the countries which within the next decade, or probably very much sooner, will achieve independence, surely one must ask: is our political pattern here adequate for the conditions which will prevail in some of these countries?
This brings me back to 4th July. I am not at all certain that, tiresome as we may find the American Constitution in many respects, the founding fathers were not altogether foolish in thinking out some system of checks and balances 85 within their own political system. I was very much interested to hear the other day someone who many of us know is actively engaged in Tanganyika refer quite spontaneously to the possibility of looking at some of the provisions of the American Constitution. These might provide these emerging countries with something which is so badly needed, namely, a strong and well established executive, which will feel itself sufficiently secure to be able to assure the fundamental freedom of the individuals in the country without feeling that its own political life is menaced.
I doubt very much whether our political pattern in this country, if it were transplanted without alteration, would give that kind of security which I think the Governments of these emerging countries find themselves in need of, both for political and economic planning reasons. The whole idea of an opposition, which naturally we on this side of the Committee feel very keenly about, is foreign to many of these societies. I think that considerations of this sort should be very much more openly and freely discussed before the countries reach final independence. We have perhaps been either a little complacent or a little hesitant about frank discussion of some of these problems. I think that it would be very much healthier if, instead of merely sending out Erskine May and a Mace, we had much fuller and more profound discussion, not only of the basic democratic principles which we wish to have preserved, but of the possible different methods of political organisation by which they may be sustained.
I have here the White Paper concerning Sierra Leone. It is interesting to note that in this White Paper there is an annexe on fundamental rights. It is very encouraging to find that this sort of provision is to be embodied in the Constitution of Sierra Leone. This may well happen in other countries. I had a long conversation some time ago with Mr. Tom Mboya of Kenya, who acts partly under the influence of American thought. He said, "We ought to have something of that kind in our Kenya Constitution."
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)
That is to happen. It is part of the Lancaster House agreement on Kenya.
§ Mrs. White
I beg the Committee's pardon. I should have said that a more formal point has been reached. This discussion was before those more formal decisions had been taken. I have no doubt that some such provision will be made in other constitutions in future.
That raises the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East to which a not very satisfactory reply was made by the Minister of State. The point was that one may have a Bill of Rights, but where is the supreme court to uphold it? Can one in a fairly young state rely upon there being complete assurance that the rights which are safeguarded on paper will be safeguarded in practice?
Is there nothing to be said for an attempt to set up a Commonwealth supreme court to which, obviously, countries would have to adhere voluntarily? It would not be a condition of membership of the Commonwealth. I should have thought that some countries possibly would welcome this. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is not exactly a suitable body unless it were very much enlarged by judges from other Commonwealth countries. That might be an evolutionary way of reaching a British compromise of tradition with novelty. I think that something of that kind should be frankly discussed and not merely put on one side because it seems a little difficult and might not appeal to all countries of the Commonwealth. Such a body would bring great comfort to some of the minority populations—I am thinking, for instance, of the Asians in Uganda—if they felt that when independence came it would be possible to take an appeal to a supreme court, not necessarily within their own territory. We ought not lightly to dismiss this idea as impossible or impracticable.
There is one other point of very great importance for the political development and stability of emerging territories and for the protection of democracy in their societies, and that is the public service by which they are sustained. Anyone who has read the book written by a former Member of this House, Mr. Kenneth Younger, entitled "The Public Service in New States ", will share my anxieties in this matter. He points out the deficiencies in our past record in 87 trying to maintain for these newer countries the services of experienced administrators. The record of complacency and misjudgment and the dire influence of the Treasury upon the Colonial Office are such that one cannot be other than uneasy about it even in the future.
How important it is for a new country when it reaches independence to have a first-class administration is expressed vividly by Mr. Younger when he states, at page 72 of his book:In Ghana"—it applies equally to other countries—where the exodus of overseas officials was greater than the Government would have wished… the major difficulty arose from the new burdens imposed on the service by the dynamism of the new government."That is only to be expected. As Mr. Younger says,This pattern is likely to be repeated elsewhere. A new state will naturally wish to signalize its independence by accelerating development to the limit of its resources and often beyond. Ministerial decisions can be taken rapidly and each one sets a fresh task for the administration."This is the important point for the political salvation of these countries and for the safeguarding of democratic standards:If this period of creative endeavour ends in frustration for want of a governmental machine to carry the burden, the new state's political stability and its capacity for democratic development may well be endangered."That puts the problem extremely clearly to all of us. It is because I am so much concerned about it that I cannot help reminding the Committee that our efforts in the past to safeguard the individual colonial civil servants, on the one hand, and to provide their services for the Government, on the other hand, have been fumbling to a degree to which we should be ashamed. We pride ourselves on being experienced in the art of government, but anybody who looks at the matter knows the sort of steps taken in Ghana, Nigeria and Malaya to encourage the best people to leave rather than to stay, because the financial provisions meant that any man who had any concern whatever either for himself or for his family could hardly fail to leave the service.
In Malaya, there was a point when a man could get£11,000 tax-free if he left and very much less if he stayed. In 88 Nigeria, similar provisions were made when the Eastern and Western Regions attained independence several years ago. It was not until about two years ago that Her Majesty's Government began to catch up with this problem. They started a Special List B and various other devices, none of which worked very well. We failed lamentably to preserve the best of the services for those countries.
I should like to carry the point a little further. It was touched upon by the hon. Member for Maldon when he referred to the Commonwealth Relations Office. Many of us are uneasy as to the kind of relationship between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. The Commonwealth Relations Office now seems to be recruiting some of its key people from the Foreign Office. One does not mind that, but one cannot help having a horrible feeling that we are again, as we did with the services in the territories, simply muddling through.
It would be interesting, when the Colonial Secretary replies to the debate, if he would let the Committee know exactly what his conception is. We hear a great deal about the psychology of independence. One fully appreciates that a country which has attained political independence does not necessarily wish to be reminded all the while that it was once dependent by having in its service people who were formerly in positions of high authority but who have been superseded on the attainment of political maturity.
Is there, however, any reason why we should not make the greatest possible efforts to use the experience of these people, possibly in other territories or places? Are we fully satisfied that that is being done? From what one knows of the past of the Commonwealth Relations Office, it has few people who have experience of the kind of work which still goes on in countries which have attained independence. One does not solve all one's social and economic problems overnight. The problem that was there at 31st December is still there on 1st January. The people who have been working on that kind of problem can still offer useful service and expertise.
If they do not get that service from us, these territories will get it from else- 89 where, and, very likely, much less satisfactorily. They may get it from Iron Curtain countries. We have just had a sharp reminder that that help can be offered, perhaps not very effectively, but it might become more effective in the future in certain parts of the world. We also get it much less disadvantageously, but, nevertheless, not fully satisfactorily, from for example, the United States.
Far be it from me to decry the valuable help which the United States gives in many parts of the world. I had an interesting experience in the House of Commons only ten days ago, when I addressed nearly 100 young American students who were going out for a year's work in various territories in West Africa, not just the British territories, but the French territories as well. They decided at the last moment that the Congo would not be the wisest place to visit.
Those students are spreading themselves throughout the African and Asian world. Good luck to them. One needs as much intelligent and selfless help as one can get, but it would be a great pity if we in any way abdicated in the sense that we did not make certain that we were offering the best possible assistance to countries with whom we are linked by history and by common service in the past.
I feel that we might have had a real Commonwealth overseas service, not just from this country, but from other countries of the Commonwealth. Possibly, that will be discussed later this evening; it has been discussed many times in the House of Commons and many of us are still not satisfied that something more imaginative could not have been done on those lines. Similarly, we are not satisfied, on this side at least, with the economic arrangements for countries which emerge into independence. The only reason why I do not propose to discuss that tonight is that I hope to be able to do so on Thursday evening.
We have a tremendous challenge, as, I am sure, all of us feel strongly, in this growing Commonwealth of ours. Time has not been long for some of the territories, but it is likely to be shorter still for some of the others. That is why I repeat my hope that we will be frank and thorough in our discussion of these problems concerning the economic, the 90 administrative and, above all, the political pattern which should emerge in these countries.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I should like to confine the burden of my remarks to a point touched upon by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), who pointed out the number of dependent territories which were now rapidly assuming sovereign status in the Commonwealth and might rightly attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, and the complications that this could create in the future. At present, we have 10 Prime Ministers attending the Conference. By the time of the next Conference there will be at least 13. The figure of 20 has already been quoted for five years' time.
It seems that there are two problems. One is that the Conference is getting unwieldy, and the second is that the still dependent territories of the Commonwealth want and should have a say in the formation of Commonwealth policies. Only the sovereign States have this at the moment. It seems to me, therefore, that we have two alternatives. One is that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference becomes much larger and turns into a sort of United Nations, with a large number of countries putting forward their points of view and with, perhaps, only a small number having responsibility for carrying out the decisions made. Inevitably, we should thus create a first eleven and a second eleven, which, I think, would be most unfortunate and would create the sort of drawbacks which we already see in the Security Council and in the General Assembly of the United Nations. Some form of similar division may well occur in further Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences if they continue to increase in size.
The other alternative is some form of regionalisation, a matter already touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison). It seems to me that if the Commonwealth were divided into, say, three regions, which I would suggest, for the sake of discussion, would be the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific, we could then hold regional Prime Ministers' conferences between the Conferences of the Prime Ministers of the sovereign, independent States, which might be referred to as the 91 "Summit Conference" of the Commonwealth. These regional conferences would be attended not only by the sovereign, independent members in the region, but also by the Chief Ministers of the still dependent territories within the region. This would have the advantage that such regional Commonwealth conferences would form a preliminary to the "Summit Conference" of the Commonwealth.
They would help in the creation and evolution of real Commonwealth opinion, and would provide an outlet for the still dependent territories to have their say in the formation of Commonwealth policy. They would mean very much more to the man in the street in Fiji, or Hong Kong, or Mauritius, because at present the Prime Ministers' Conference tends to talk about very important subjects, such as East-West relations, the hydrogen bomb, and so on, which, perhaps, do not mean very much to the man in the street in those particular territories.
If, however, there were regional conferences interspersed between the "Summit Conference" these conferences could often be held on a functional basis, for example, meetings of transport Ministers, or Ministers for agriculture, and they would, therefore, discuss matters of primary importance to the people of the area. They would be understood as such, and, therefore, the whole idea of the Commonwealth would be enhanced among the peoples of the component members of the Commonwealth throughout the world. They would also help, I believe, to create a real form of Commonwealth opinion.
There has always been resistance to permanent Commonwealth machinery at the top level, and I think that if we had regional conferences there might well be on acceptance of regional machinery which could also be used to channel aid not only from the Commonwealth, but other sources. I have in mind something similar to the Colombo Plan. I believe that this system of regionalisation would enable this country to draw help from other sovereign nations of the Commonwealth when dealing with problems of the still dependent Commonwealth, and it would, therefore, do much to draw the sting of colonialism which 92 exists today in dealing with the problems of, for example, Kenya and Basutoland.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will give attention to these problems which, I think, are of very great importance. Either the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference becomes a first and a second eleven, or some form of regional machinery should be interposed between the present two-yearly or three-yearly Prime Ministers' Conferences.
There is another aspect of this problem to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee, and that is the problem faced by certain nations on becoming independent States, such as Somaliland, the Somali Republic as it now is, which may wish to have close links with the Commonwealth but which perhaps, anyhow at the start, may not wish to be a full member of the Commonwealth, but wish to enjoy independence first and then perhaps to return to the Commonwealth club.
It seems to me that there should be some form of external association for countries like Somalia, possibly the Sudan or Norway and other foreign countries outside the Commonwealth, which, on some occasions, may wish to have some closer association with the Commonwealth but not membership. I would suggest that such an external association would not include Commonwealth citizenship or consultation over Commonwealth policy, and obviously, not membership of the Prime Ministers' Conference, but would include such other matters as membership of the sterling area, trade preferences, access to Commonwealth technical organisations, and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Here, I think, we have an example in the Sudan, which, while it had a Parliamentary system, was still a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association even though a foreign Power.
They would also have better facilities for technical aid, for administrative personnel, labour permits, and so on. I believe that there is a requirement for some form of external association for these countries between full Commonwealth membership and that of a completely foreign country with no relations with the Commonwealth. I believe that 93 this will do much to cement the Commonwealth together, particularly when we are faced with the problem, which we shall soon have to face, in West Africa. Ghana has already a link with Guinea, a foreign country—and we may face other similar associations, for example, between the Gambia—and the Mali Federation. It seems to me that we should be thinking on some such lines as these, which would allow countries joining other countries and, therefore, quitting the Commonwealth to remain in association with it, or to allow countries now foreign to have some external association with the Commonwealth, an association which does not now exist.
I would also warmly support those hon. Members of the Committee, on both sides, who have suggested, some indirectly, that we need a different organisation at Westminster to cope with our expanding Commonwealth. I suggest that very careful study should be given to the amalgamation of the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office, and that some form of integrated Civil Service, which would be available to countries, both independent and sovereign, within the Commonwealth, should be set up as soon as possible.
It seems to me that we have got to set our own house in order in this respect, because for a country to make a change from one Department to another at the very critical time when it is moving from a dependent to a sovereign status is bad for that country and may weaken its wish to remain part of the Commonwealth. I believe that the amalgamation of these two Departments would do much to help, and the evolution of the Commonwealth there should be some form of integrated administrative service which could be used by all the members of the Commonwealth.
There are just two other issues which I should like to mention very briefly. The first is the problem of the multiracial States in the Commonwealth. Looking at the Continent of Africa one sees that Britain now is by far the largest colon al Power in that Continent and that the still dependent territories are grouped in Central Africa or in East Africa. The main difficulty lies in the problem of the multiracial State, that is, the territories which are regarded as "home" by two or even three races.
94 Speed of advance is, I think, the main difficulty, and I believe that it is this issue of speed which probably divides the two sides of this Committee. We all want to see all the dependent territories, including the multiracial ones, independent, sovereign members of the Commonwealth and represented at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference as soon as possible. If we go too slow along the path to independence we stir up African emotionalism, which is today an extremely potent force not only in these territories but in other African nations throughout that great Continent. If we go too fast we may find a drastic lowering of standards.
In fact, standards could drop to such an extent that the British civil servants might refuse to serve a rapidly emerging, predominantly African Government. That would be a disaster, because those administrators and technicians could not be replaced from other parts of the Commonwealth, or, indeed, from other parts of the Western world. We could find standards falling so much that the European minorities and even the Asian minorities may refuse to continue in that country, and this would certainly, in a country like Kenya, lead to the collapse of the economy and, therefore, to a reduction in the standard of living of all the peoples in the country.
It seems to me, therefore, that Britain must hold on to the reins of Government in those multiracial countries until nonracial Governments and nonracial administrations and, therefore, nonracial political parties have become effective. I think that we must make it clear to these countries that we all wish them to become independent, sovereign members of the Commonwealth as rapidly as possible, and make them realise that their progress to sovereignty is purely in their own hands. They have got to convince their minorities that they need have no fear and that when they proceed on a nonracial basis their independence will be granted.
I hope, also, that the Commonwealth nations can help. Why is it that we in this country have to take upon ourselves the burdens and difficulties and sometimes the odium of tutelage? Could not India, Pakistan and, indeed, Nigeria, which now appreciate that speed is not the thing that really matters in independence but rather a solid basis of stability, 95 help us in this problem and so help to reduce the rather old-fashioned sting of colonialism?
As I read it, the communiqué of the Prime Ministers' Conference made it clear that should South Africa become a republic it would then apply for permission to remain within the Commonwealth. On the other hand, as has been quoted in the debate today, the interpretation of the Prime Minister of South Africa was entirely different. He virtually said that South Africa, as a republic, would remain within the Commonwealth. Why did he say that? It was clear from what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said earlier today that my interpretation of the communiqué was the correct one and not that given by the Prime Minister of South Africa. Why, therefore, did the Prime Minister of South Africa go to these lengths?
I visited South Africa recently and I was told that just before the emergency regulations were brought into force the National Government estimated that they were about 100,000 votes short on the referendum. They were going to conduct a campaign for a republic and to convent the extra voters that they required to win the referendum they must win over a number of English-speaking South Africans. These could be won over if they were clear that South Africa as a republic would remain in the Commonwealth. Therefore, there were political reasons behind this version of the communiqué given by Dr. Verwoerd. It would be most unfortunate if his interpretation were not refuted in this Committee and a clear picture were not put before the people of South Africa—not only the Afrikaners, but the English-speaking South Africans and the majority of Africans themselves, none of whom would wish to see their country cut off from the Commonwealth and dominated by the present Nationalist Government.
The majority race have very little opportunity of putting their point of view. It is particularly important, therefore, that the fact that there is no guarantee for the republic remaining in the Commonwealth should be put clearly before English-speaking South Africans who may hold the balance in this matter. Recently, South African Ministers have 96 talked about a chorus of hate from this country. I am sure that no one in the Committee, and very few in this country, hates that beautiful country, South Africa. I certainly do not, nor do I hate any race in that country. But I do almost hate the present system of government there, which is a dictatorship by a small minority. I say that without intending any disparagement of the Afrikaner nation. After all, Sir De Villiers Graaff and Dr. Janie Stietler, who lead the two Opposition parties, are both of Afrikaner stock.
We disapprove of the system of apartheid because we feel that it is immoral. It has no place in our expanding Commonwealth. It is, therefore, of great importance that this Committee should declare to the mass of people in South Africa the right interpretation of the outcome of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' thoughts on this matter and show how this contrasts with Dr. Verwoerd's assumptions.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations has successively received the congratulations of hon. Members on being sworn to the Privy Council, with which I associate myself, but he has also had questioned the whole basis of his job and whether it should be continued at all, with which also I should like to be associated, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that this is perhaps one of the most important Commonwealth Conferences ever held. One aspect of particular importance is the friction which undoubtedly existed and still exists as a result of the multiracial basis of the Commonwealth today.
We have moved a long way since Lord Durham was sent out to Canada in 1838, but we have not moved entirely from the position taken up then. I understand that one of the first things he did was to pack off eight leading members of the rebellion to Bermuda, without trial, which I gather created a precedent. Five months later he resigned, but now we are a little more delicate and send people to the House of Lords.
We have tried every constitutional experiment. It is not generally known that in 1936 we had two territories in 97 the Commonwealth which were recognising different monarchs. The Union of South Africa recognised the accession of King George VI, while this country still recognised Edward VIII as King. The reverse applied in the Irish Free State.
The most important matter arising from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference is the questions which we now have to try to answer—for example, whether the rapid growth of the Commonwealth will change its character. The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) touched upon this subject. In future years there may well be twenty to twenty-five members of the Commonwealth. President Nkrumah has suggested a minimum population of 2 million. I do not believe that population is necessarily the right criterion. I agree that there must be far more regional conferences and it would be very wrong to have a two-tiered Commonwealth in which certain people were allowed to come in as permanent members and some as nonpermanent members. I am not very attracted by the idea of an observer status being given to certain territories which may have internal but incomplete self-government, but there may well be something in having a colonial consultative assembly so that some problems may be discussed by people who have reached approximately the same degree of political evolution. I also think that we should consider holding an Imperial Conference similar to that held in 1897.
§ Mr. B. Harrison
I find that point about a consultative council very interesting. Does the hon. Member envisage that it would deal with economic development and not with anything that had to do with international political affairs, or does he think that it should deal with political affairs as well?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I would say that there would be two matters. First, I suggest a colonial consultative assembly as a sounding board for the imperial British Government, who would still be responsible for the destinies of the Colonies. It might be a very useful way of trying to formulate policy. Obviously there would be resolutions on various affairs and on the views which the territories held about other emerging territories. It would be a useful opportunity for those 98 Colonial Territories which have not reached self-government to express their point of view and to work out a common policy.
As for an Imperial Conference, the last one of that nature was held in the last century and there were present not merely representatives of Governments but also of Oppositions in proportion to their strength in their Assemblies and Houses of Parliament. That, I think, would widen the political interest taken in the Commonwealth, not merely by the heads of Government in the Commonwealth territories, but by other leading people who are possibly at the moment in the Opposition.
This leads to the next point—that the functions of the Colonial Office and of the Commonwealth Relations Office more and more are seen to overlap. The Commonwealth Relations Office, strangely enough, administers, in the case of the High Commission Territories in South Africa, territories in the same way as the Colonial Office. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, for his part, is engaged in negotiations of a very important constitutional nature—with great skill, if I may say so with great respect—and, in that regard, is partly laying the foundations for the future members of the Commonwealth. I suggest that there are now three functions common to both Departments—economic, diplomatic and constitutional.
I believe that the first thing to do is to combine the Commonwealth Relations and the Colonial Offices. I hasten to assure the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State, however, that this automation would not put either him or the Colonial Secretary out of a job, because I have another suggestion which would keep them both fully occupied. This is that the division should not be, as it is at the moment, based on status—that is to say, a Colony or a self-governing Dominion—but instead should be based upon geographical areas, rather as the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) suggested.
I am not a great lover of the Stuarts. But Charles II, when he arrived back in this country in 1660, brought many appendages with him. One was the French idea of having Secretaries of State who had particular geographical 99 spheres of interest; for instance, a Secretary of State for the north and another for the south. The sort of division I visualise would have a Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and, under him, a Secretary of State dealing chiefly with Africa and another dealing chiefly with Asia, Australasia and North America.
Such an arrangement would also have the advantage that we would be able to create a Commonwealth service, combining with it the existing Colonial Service. In that way, we would give a very much greater feeling of security to people who are at present in the Colonial Service. Many of these people have given a lifetime of service in various territories, and many in places like Tanganyika, Nigeria and Uganda, are very worried about what the future is to hold for them. If they felt that there was a Commonwealth service which was interchangeable they would have a greater feeling of security. I hope that this service would be recruited not merely on a British but on a Commonwealth basis. If it also blended with the foreign service in this country, that would be very beneficial to both services and make some of our Foreign Office officials slightly more in touch with reality than they are at the moment.
It would also be possible to create some sort of Commonwealth development fund. I shall not elaborate on this because it will be mentioned on Thursday. The hon. Member for Maldon mentioned the Commonwealth Development Finance Company, but I believe that this is purely a commercial organisation. I would like to see the Colonial Development Corporation expanded so that it could also serve areas in the Commonwealth.
Mention has been made of the possibility of a Commonwealth court, and the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) re referred to the remarks made by Senator Cooray. I would warmly support the idea of a Commonwealth convention, a sort of charter, setting up basic rights. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council might well be a suitable basis upon which to work. Two criticisms are always made of the Judicial Committee. The first is that it is principally composed of English and Scottish 100 Law Lords, although occasionally there is a representative from Ceylon, and sometimes from Canada and Australia, but it is by and large exclusively British. The second point of criticism is that it always sits in London.
We might well examine the idea of the Judicial Committee going on circuit around the Commonwealth in the same way as Her Majesty's judges go on circuit in this country on assize. Obviously, if the Committee went on circuit, at least two-thirds of its members would have to be drawn from the country it happened to be visiting at the time.
I turn now to economic policies. It is ironic that, despite the tremendous independence which is always mentioned as existing between members of the Commonwealth, the economic policy which this country will follow in the next five or six months will probably have a greater effect on the Commonwealth than at any other time. The Commonwealth Prime Ministers mentioned that they were concerned at the economic division in Europe, and so they might be, because we read today that Australia has waived her preference in regard to various products—such as cheese and meat—in order that Britain can more easily meet her commitments in the European Free Trade Area.
Whatever me may say about Commonwealth trade, the trade which the Commonwealth countries have with the Common Market countries is growing and is of considerable importance to them. Canada now exports 30 per cent. of her wheat to Common Market countries; Ghana sells them 30 per cent. of her exports; 87 per cent. of Australia's exports to the Common Market is in wool, but £16 million worth of foodstuffs were sold in 1955–57. So it goes on in country after country in the Commonwealth. The effect of Britain's exclusion from the Common Market and of the agricultural policies which the Common Market will follow—which will mean a 40 per cent. increase in agricultural production in five years and an attempt to become self sufficient—will mean that that market will be shut to Commonwealth countries.
I believe that it is vitally important for the Commonwealth that this country should go into the Common Market in order to try to get the best possible terms it can for the Commonwealth countries. 101 The way in which Australia wanted to lower the margin of Imperial Preference in 1956, the way in which New Zealand wished to lower it in 1958, and the present Australian move, show that the benefits of Imperial Preference are on the way out and declining. It is much more important for the Commonwealth that we should have a wealthy and expanding economy in Europe able to get the best possible terms for them.
§ Mr. Thorpe
It is not for us to decide, but I would unhesitatingly say "yes". I believe it would be the finest thing possible for the Commonwealth to go into the Common Market. It would probably be the most powerful economic bloc in the world in six to seven years' time. Certainly the exclusion of the Commonwealth and ourselves would have a very damaging effect on Commonwealth trade.
There are certain questions which we must ask ourselves. Do we say that there are certain Commonwealth values? Do we recognise that there are circumstances in which Members of the Commonwealth are so out of tune with the spirit and principles of the Commonwealth that it is no longer right and proper for them to remain inside? I believe that there are. Mention has been made that this is a multiracial Commonwealth. I would interpret that by saying that each member country should have a multiracial policy. I reecho what the hon. Member for Haltemprice said. I hope that it will go out from this Committee to the Nationalist Government in South Africa that in the event of South Africa becoming a Republic as a result of a non-representative referendum being taken, there is no guarantee whatsoever that we should be prepared to keep her within the Commonwealth—none whatsoever. Not only that; if I interpret the right hon. Gentleman correctly, it is wrong to say that there was even a declaration of intention with regard to Britain's voting at the next Conference. 102 No doubt the Colonial Secretary will be able to confirm that.
There has been a lot of thinking about the Commonwealth in recent months. I read a recent publication, of which the hon. Member for Haltemprice was one of the authors, and I agreed with much of it. The one remark which I found somewhat interesting was "that the Commonwealth has another merit which Conservatism teaches us to appreciate— it actually exists." I thought at the time that possibly this was an advantage. It reminded me of the philosophy of, I think, Berkeley, who said that unless he was able to see something or unless it existed in his mind it did not exist at all and was a figment of the imagination or something that was supernatural.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I can assure the hon. Member that that was not the view of the electors of North Devon. It is of benefit to members of the Commonwealth that they are at least visible, having as we do a Conservative Government in this country.
Let us realise that there will be friction. There will be a move to exclude South Africa, possibly by the Asian and African member States. Do not let us try to pretend that the problem does not exist. There will be the great problem of the dependencies which will want to join the Commonwealth. I hope that we shall move further from the rhetorical questions which the Minister of State gave us and have from the Colonial Secretary the answers to them.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. C. M. Woodhouse (Oxford)
It was foreseeable and natural that a good deal of the time of this debate would be devoted to the tragedy and dilemma of South Africa. However, as has already been pointed out, South Africa was not the only subject which was discussed at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.
I should like to return for a moment to a passage in the Prime Ministers' communiqué which has already been mentioned and which is, by a curious chance, sandwiched between the two paragraphs referring to South Africa's desire to 103 become a republic and South Africa's racial policies. The paragraph says:The Ministers reviewed the constitutional development of the Commonwealth, with particular reference to the future of the smaller dependent territories. They agreed that a detailed study of this subject should be made for consideration by Commonwealth Governments.These are the very same territories which are collectively covered by the Colonial Office Report published last March—The Colonial Territories, 1959–60. Not all the territories dealt with in that Report are small, of course, and several of them are in the process of ceasing to be dependent. At any rate, all the territories referred to in that paragraph of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' communiqué, whichever they may be, are covered somewhere or other in the Colonial Office Report.
The Report lists forty-three of them this year, and they differ greatly in size, population and viability. Last year the corresponding list in the Colonial Office Report totalled forty-five. Two years ago it was forty-seven. It is certain that a year from now the number will be fewer again. In fact, with the numbers going down every year it is ceasing to be realistic to talk of the Colonial Territories collectively at all— to talk, as the Report does, of the territories' collective exports and imports, their collective balance of payments, their collective sterling balances, and so on, as though they formed a single economic unit, when if they are so treated there is no longer any basis for comparing one year with another. Anyway, there in that list are to be found all the territories with which the Commonwealth Prime Ministers were dealing in that context.
What is to be the long-term future of those territories? Until a few years ago it could be taken for granted in the House of Commons that a negative answer of a sort could be given quite firmly to that question. For the majority of them, at any rate, total independence was simply out of the question. I do not think that a few years ago there was any very great difference between the two sides of the House with regard to what I might call the irreducible remainder of these Colonial Territories. I do not want to revive old controversies, least of all on the day when the House has been told of the successful conclusion of the Cyprus 104 negotiations, and if I refer to the dispute begun six years ago, which is now so happily closed, I do so only to illustrate the basic agreement of principle on that irreducible remainder of the smaller dependent territories.
Even when a former Minister of State for the Colonies declared the principle that the House of Commons had always agreed that there were certain territories which by the nature of their particular circumstances could not look forward to independence, that statement was, of course, hotly disputed in regard to Cyprus, and the Cyprus case has now been terminated, but as a general statement of principle it was not then disputed.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) commented on that occasion that there were small territories in the Colonies to which at any given stage, so far as it was possible to foresee, the grant of Dominion status would be meaningless because of their circumstances. "So far as it is possible to foresee" the right hon. Gentleman said six years ago. How far is it now possible to foresee? Certainly, the prospect has greatly changed, and these are precisely the territories to which the Prime Ministers' communiqué was referring. Do we still believe that in some cases ultimate full independence is impracticable, and do they still believe it?
Every year or two a few more of the Colonial Territories are struck off the list and change their status. So far, this has happened mainly to the larger and more prosperous ones. Nigeria achieves what used to be called Dominion status this year. The Federation of the West Indies will do so before long. Somaliland has just achieved independence. Cyprus will next month. Sierra Leone will next year. Singapore has had full internal self-government since last year. British Guiana will have it next year; and so on. More than half the other territories on the list are at different stages in the process of constitutional advance. How far can it go, and what is the ultimate goal when we get right down the list?
Naturally, those which have already stepped off the escalator which moves from the Colonial Office to the Common-wealth Relations Office are generally those which have the best chance of 105 standing on their own legs and, in particular, of doing so economically, but, even so, there are exceptions to it, such as Somaliland, which will be a very poor country indeed. The further we look down the list the more unlikely it becomes that the territories can be self-supporting in a true sense, at least without a sharp drop in their standard of living.
Of the forty-three territories on the list today, if we look at Appendix II of the Commonwealth Office Report for this year we find that fewer than half had a favourable balance of income over expenditure or broke even in the last year. In parenthesis, we might single out for special commendation the extra-ordinary case of the Turks and Caicos Islands, which for the last five years have succeeded without exception in exactly balancing their income and expenditure. But that is very exceptional, and we cannot overlook the fact that very few even of those achieved a constant surplus in the last few years without some kind of subvention.
Among the few are those with especially fortunate circumstances, like Brunei with its oil, Hong Kong with its transit trade and its extraordinary development in manufacturing industry since the war, and Bermuda, presumably thanks to the tourist trade. Even some of those have fallen back from time to time and barely one quarter of the whole number of territories are self-supporting in the sense of consistently balancing their income with their expenditure.
Even when they have achieved a balance, they are often able to do so only with the help of subventions in one form or another from the United Kingdom taxpayer. United Kingdom contributions, through the Vote for Colonial Services, last year amounted to £23.6 million, even leaving out of account the movement of capital which brought the figure to more than £100 million. Of the relatively few Colonial Territories which had a surplus, several received a United Kingdom subvention in one form or another which exceeded their surplus, and they and almost all the others received grants in one form or another, for instance through Colonial Development and Welfare funds.
What will become of those contributions when those territories are launched 106 on full independence? Theoretically, they will cease to qualify for C.D. and W. funds. Perhaps more important in the long run, what will become of their entitlement to be considered for investment projects of the Colonial Development Corporation, whose Annual Report has just been published? This contains a reminder that the C.D.C. is debarred from making new investments in territories which have emerged from colonial status, but it can remain with its existing investments and even, with the necessary Ministerial sanction, invest further money in them.
Those stipulations are likely to have one obvious effect. It is that the C.D.C. will refrain from undertaking new projects at the last minute in territories very near to independence and with an uncertain future. That is exactly what we find in practice. For instance, the C.D.C as only one current project in Singapore, one in Sierre Leone, none in Cyprus and none in Somaliland. To put it very lightly, those are not favourable omens.
It has been comforting to be told that other independent countries of the Commonwealth can be expected in future to rally round and help in this process of finding investment funds for the small territories, but we must not forget that the majority of the independent members of the Commonwealth are themselves, in an absolute sense, under-developed countries.
I want briefly to turn to one other uncertainty about the smaller territories, and that concerns the problems of defence, both their defence and the more general problem of defence. Obviously, not one of them can defend itself on its own—that goes without saying—but nor can any of the rest of us. On the other hand, some of them are still vital links in our own and our allies' defence system. If they were independent, would they agree to enter into agreements for defence with ourselves or our allies? If they did, they could simultaneously assure their own protection and a measure of economic support as well, but precedent suggests that they may be reluctant to enter into such arrangements and precedent also suggests that such arrangements, if made, may well not last.
Several independent members of the Commonwealth in the past have removed 107 British bases which were held under treaty. The Republic of Ireland did so when it was in the Commonwealth before the war. Ceylon and South Africa have both done so since the war, while others, like India, Ghana and now Nigeria, have never agreed to have British defence bases or installations.
It may be argued that the base on Cyprus provides an example of the way in which base agreements can be entrenched in the basic agreement on independence, but entrenched clauses have been known to be disentrenched in other Commonwealth countries before now. If our agreement on the bases in Cyprus is to be maintained—and I hope and believe that it will be—then I also believe that it will not be so much because of agreement on bases being entrenched in the constitution of Cyprus as because it is virtually impossible to conceive a situation in which both the Turkish and Greek Cypriots would simultaneously want to get rid of us. It is very unlikely that these exceptional circumstances will be achieved anywhere else.
Those are some of the uncertainties which overhang the smaller territories in the future and, now that their future is to be studied in detail, there are many questions to be answered. Some of them have already been aired before the Committee this evening. First, what is their ultimate constitutional status to be? Is full internal self-government a final status, or an interim stage on the way to something else? What sort of governments are they to have under their constitutions? How many more Common-wealth Prime Ministers will join the Conference?
It is not only that question which arises from the enlargement of the Commonwealth. There is also the question of whether all countries will be put on the full distribution list for information from the Commonwealth Relations Office. There is also the question of whether their representatives at the United Nations are to be included in the confidential briefings of Commonwealth delegations in New York.
If that is not to be done, then we shall have something like a two-tier or three-tier system in the Commonwealth, and that is something which has always been 108 repugnant to us in the past. Finally, there is the question of how they will survive economically and how, if at all, they will fit into the allied defence system.
I am very glad that these questions, in the words of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' communiqué, are to be the subject of a detailed study for consideration by Common-wealth Governments. I add just one comment. It would be most valuable if that study were not confined to officials and experts from the United Kingdom alone. After all, our own experts never stop studying these problems. We need fresh minds and fresh eyes and we need the participation of Commonwealth representatives in the study of problems which are bound to become, more and more, problems of their own as well as problems of ours. It would be healthy for us and good for the Commonwealth as a whole if the Government servants and experts of the Commonwealth countries themselves were to take part not only in the consideration of the results of the study, but in the process of making that study itself.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
In spite of the peace which always pervades the Chamber at this time of the evening, throughout the debate there has been an awareness and almost a flicker of excitement about the problems of the newly emerging countries, the newly independent and developing countries in various part of the world. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) has just given us an extremely thoughtful and stimulating speech on the important questions which are outstanding. Many of us are still asking those questions and cannot give the answers.
I was particularly interested in his last comments and in his approach to the way in which we should tackle this problem. He said that we should look not only to experts from this conutry who have experience of the Colonial Office and perhaps other administration of an academic kind, but that we should spread the study to seminars which would include people from the developing countries themselves and from other parts of the Common-wealth. Such a suggestion could yield only good.
109 Because of our insular state and our own knowledge and background we are rather inclined to be somewhat divorced from the conditions which obtain in most developing countries. Throughout the debate, there has been an address to the problems contained in the administrative and organisational arrangements of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. I could not go all the way with the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr B. Harrison), who spoke of the failure of the Commonwealth Relations Office. We have many things of which to be proud especially of the way in which High Commissioners and Deputy High Commissioners and other servants attached to the C.R.O. have been able to fulfil their functions.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the changing situation has created an area of no-man's land between the Colonial Office and the C.R.O. I would follow the hon. Member for Oxford in his concern about the economic arrangements that are being made as these countries develop to self-government, and as the Colonial Development Corporation becomes no longer applicable to help in those territories. I would hesitate to go very far into the constitutional arrangements between Government Departments, but we are concerned that the essential thing is that there should not be a slip down between two Departments and that economic aid should be left merely became neither Department can accept full responsibility for it.
This is particularly important in the early stages of development as a country newly attains its independence, and during its teething problems it is vitally important that there should be no lack of understanding and support coming from this country and no hiatus between those engaged in helping either through the Colonial Office or the C.R.O.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) discussed future Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences and a number of hon. Members have pursued the line of the need to break down this huge problem on to a regional basis. I share with the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. J. Thorpe) distaste for establishing first and second-class States within the Commonwealth or one, two, or three-tier organisations, but, nevertheless, I feel that there is a great deal of room for the 110 establishment and development of organisation on a regional basis to deal with problems in South-East Asia and Africa, for instance, where there can he a participation of the people in the countries in these regions in dealing with common problems and trying to resolve difficulties not necessarily peculiar to their regions but of particular importance to the area concerned. The establishment of further assistance on the Colombo Plan basis has already gone some part of the way by the setting up of the Economic Commission in Africa.
I should like to say one or two things on the highlighted question of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference which achieved the headlines, as the sensational invariably does. That is the terrible problem of apartheid in South Africa with which the Commonwealth is faced. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have expressed their abhorrence of apartheid. I think that there is no division of opinion on it. We have, however, to be extremely careful that in trying to maintain even the smallest member within the family or the most awkward child as part of the family we do not estrange those representative of the 400 million Indians, 80 million Pakhistanis and those from Ceylon and elsewhere who have very strong feelings on racial discrimination and the colour bar. This should be one of the primary things in our minds in the months ahead in our discussions and as, perhaps, the problem emerges in times to come.
I regret that at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference it is always the differences and conflicts which catch the imagination and make the headlines, whereas the constructive work going on in other parts of the world does not. The constructive day-to-day work does not catch the imagination of the public.
I am also concerned with the question of apartheid from a constituency point of view. The hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) shares this problem with me. We both serve on a committee for racial integration in the Borough of Willesden. We have, roughly, one in nine immigrants coming from the West Indies into my constituency. In building up understanding in this country with immigrants coming from Africa and the Caribbean we are hindered when events 111 occur such as those that took place at Sharpeville, and by the kind of reactions that occurred in Notting Hill and and adjacent areas over South Africa, and apartheid.
While welcoming the progress made in this direction—if one can say that progress was made—in the Prime Ministers' Conference, we are looking for much more tolerance and understanding throughout the world in regard to racial problems, and I hope that the force of public opinion which we on this side of the Committee have tried to make known not only in words, but by economic sanctions, will make itself felt in South Africa, so that we can avoid the division of a country into first-class and second-class citizens on the basis of the colour bar.
I share with my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) the wish to see some form of a Bill of Rights. We should have a clear statement. I accept that merely by establishing a Bill of Rights we have not solved the problem, but at least we could have a public declaration and attestation of faith in certain principles. We should then be in a position to see whether we were able to follow through with other provisions, and whether we would be able to build within the Commonwealth some kind of Commonwealth Court of Justice, such as The Hague Court has in international affairs. That could be a subject for further debate and discussion.
I should like to see this Committee and those responsible within the Ministries grapple seriously with this question. First, could we have a Bill of Rights for individuals within the territories within the Commonwealth and, secondly, could there not be by mutual agreement, either through the machinery which we have by joining together in Prime Ministers' Conferences, or by other machinery that might be established, action to make those principles operative within the territories of the Commonwealth? It is not an easy problem, but most problems that are worth while solving are never easy.
I regret that I was not in the Chamber to hear the maiden speech of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Longbottom). I can assure him that I shall read it with 112 great interest tomorrow, as one does read most maiden speeches. I am sure that he will feel much happier now that he has "got it off his chest", although I would remind him that second and third speeches are far more difficult than the first. The hon. Member raised a problem in which, I think, the Committee should be interested, namely, the need for development in the Commonwealth of youth education, youth services and youth training.
I was very interested, a number of years ago, when the World Assembly of Youth which previously, like most international organisations, had settled for its international conferences in Europe, decided to take its conferences to Singapore. One result of that was to establish a youth leaders' training school in Asia. I had the privilege, a few years ago, of inspecting this school, which is outside Colombo, in Ceylon, and seeing the work done in that centre to give some measure of training to those working for young people, both in the villages and towns of Asia, in the same way as we do with our youth services through local authorities and voluntary organisations. I was also interested in the amount of support coming from America and this country for the establishment of that centre.
But the essential thing to remember in watching experiments of that kind is that we cannot transplant our experience in youth services, which is built up against the background of an industrial economy and conditions with which we are familiar, to places like Delhi, Lahore, Karachi, or Colombo, because in their circumstances the needs are different. Therefore, the development of youth work and training, and the understanding of youth problems in these countries must spring from their own culture rather than ours. In this country, youth services have tended to be dominated by work in the East End of London and in the slums. We seem to think that the average youth is a delinquent. We look first to the Teddy boys and only afterwards to what kind of services we should provide for the average youngsters, coming from normal homes.
Asia does not have this background of social service work upon which to base its youth work. I hope that some 113 interest will be taken by voluntary organisations and other sections in this country in the desirability of establishing ties between youth organisations in Asia and Africa and those here.
The last point to which I wish to refer is the most important one which was raised by my right hon. Friend in connection with technical assistance. With him, I welcome the information that £10 million is going to India. But it is part of the job of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference to see that the right kind of attitude goes with that assistance. We must see that aid goes to the right places, at the right time, in the right kind of way.
The outstanding problem facing the under-developed countries remains the demographic problem. There is a tremendous rise in population. For every minute that I speak another 80 mouths are coming into the world to be fed. One of the neatest illustrations of this fact was given by the late Professor Boeke, of Leiden University. He drew a graph, and pointed out that if we had a hosepipe 19 yards long, one end of which was on the ground, and we raised it by two and a half inches at the other end, that represented the rise in population since the beginning of recorded history. But if we looked back over the last generation represented by the last inch of that 19 yards, we would see that it suddenly spurted up by six feet. The graph has a gradual rise for thousands of years and then there is a sudden spurt to a tremendous height. That is a measure of the population problem which the underdeveloped countries face today.
Just after the war the impact of D.D.T. in Ceylon was enormous. It was not a question of the birth rate rising, but the death rate falling very rapidly. India, by her two five-year plans, has managed to keep pace with this tremendous rise, but she can continue to do so only if she receives help from other countries which are more fortunately situated economically. In this matter of technical assistance, as in youth work, we must be aware of the different circumstances that exist in various countries. We are so used to thinking in terms of industry and an industrialised urban community that we find it almost impossible to think in terms of an Asian or African village, 114 where 80 per cent. of the population is engaged in agriculture, and the great majority live on a subsistence basis. It is not a market economy; the peasant eats the food he grows. Even remembering that background, hon. Members on this side sometimes fall into the error of thinking in terms of trade unions when we should be thinking in terms of cooperative societies, agricultural, credit and thrift, marketing, etc.
Many hon. Members in this debate have considered what kind of assistance we should give to the emerging Governments. My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) made a very reasoned plea that assistance should not stop at a bound copy of Erskine May and our good wishes; we must recognise that if we replant a Westminster Statute in a hot climate the flowers we get may be a little more prolific; certainly, they will be more colourful, and not half so respectable, in some cases, as they are in this august Chamber, with all its traditions. Nevertheless, when we consider the way in which these countries will develop their own flavour of Parliamentary institutions—their own approach to the way in which their executives will govern their people—we shall find that we have a lot to give them if we approach the matter from their point of view rather than our own.
One of my most difficult experiences when engaged in technical assistance work in Asia was a feeling of frustration with my colleagues from the Point Four or I.C.A. administration of America, who sometimes came into the work with the idea that all they had to do in underdeveloped countries was to copy the pattern that existed in the Middle West of America, or in Texas. They seemed to think that agricultural problems could be solved merely with more tractors and more mechanisation. Many such solutions had no relation to the pattern of life or the culture existing in the places which the Americans were trying to serve.
We must approach these problems from the point of view of the countries concerned, and especially with some understanding of the terrific problem which faces them when, as is very often the case, a large section of the community is illiterate and is still living on a bowl of rice a day, at subsistence level 115 but where, at the same time, the leadership within the community has experienced the best that Western civilisation can offer and has attained high academic degrees at the best universities in both America and England. The conflict that arises is that between the desire to move very quickly from a feudal society into one which has all the benefits of civilisation and the need to move surely. They are in a hurry, naturally, when they see the standards which exist in their own kacha huts and compare them with what is available in the Western world. They are, naturally, anxious to develop quickly.
At the same time, this conflict arises from the fact that if a country is to build soundly, on good foundations, it is often necessary to take a considerable time, to make sure that what it is building is the right thing to build. It should not hasten if, in the end, it builds constitutions or governmental structures which are not able to stand up to the test of time, and to the generations which follow.
Therefore, when we are seeking to give technical assistance we must understand that those whom we are trying to assist are faced, on the one hand, with the necessity for quick development—the people want to see a literate community within their lifetime, to see people having three meals a day; to see the extension of hospitals, health services and education—and, on the other, with the knowledge that if they proceed too quickly it is only too likely that the structure will not stand, and that the good beginning made will not continue.
India has been a model pattern, in attempting by her successful five-year plans to build a democratic State. She has been engaged in one of the greatest experiment in history—trying to jump from a feudal system to a welfare State without going through the intervening misery of an industrial revolution. This is a great adventure in India, which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are watching with interest and to which they should give their maximum support.
In spite of the highlight of the dissension that arose in the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference concerning South Africa and apartheid, 116 we have watched the adventure of the 43 territories mentioned by the hon. Member for Oxford and the emergence of many countries from a dependent state to that of independence. I envy the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He is in office during a period of history which must be a constant challenge to him, but must be very rewarding as he takes, one after the other, the decisions which lead to emerging independence in Africa and the Caribbean.
It is similar to the exciting period experienced by many hon. Members on this side of the Committee—unfortunately, not including myself—in 1947, when the Labour Government at that time took the gigantic stride forward of giving independence to India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. For hon. Members on this side that period must have been just as exciting as is this period for the Colonial Secretary. We share with him some of that excitement and feeling of anticipation, and that has been obvious throughout this debate. We also share with him the feeling of terrific responsibility which rests on our shoulders, a responsibility which we shall bear in the two or three years lying ahead. Hon. Members on this side will do their best to see that the results conform with the high ideals which have been advanced during the debate today.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
I hope that I do not stand between hon. Gentlemen who have given a great deal of thought to these matters, and have produced prepared speeches for this debate, and the timed rising of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I did not come to the Committee prepared to rise to my feet and catch your eye, Sir Herbert, but I have been emboldened to do so by the high quality and great interest of the speeches made in this debate and not least by that of the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt).
This great concourse of nations, the British Commonwealth, has no future at all in a turbulent world unless it is based upon compassion, tolerance and compromise. In the last few months I have been very shocked to listen to speeches from hon. Members opposite and to read articles in the Press pleading the merits and cause of black Africa, come what may, and showing a great passion 117 for extremism and for a fierce pace of change. I have wondered whether the results of all these things would not be directed in the end towards tearing the British Commonwealth apart.
This conviction I have that the future of the Commonwealth must rest on compassion and tolerance has prevented me once or twice when I should have liked —perhaps with a few of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee—to have stuck a stake in the ground and made things more difficult for the Government than in fact they have been made. But I observed in the debate today a greater degree of understanding, much more of a spirit of inquiry and questioning, and I hope that this will shortly be reflected in some of the journals to which I have referred of the radical Left; notably, those two which always seem to me to be edited somewhere on the lost continent of Atlantis—the Observer and the Economist. It may be that in the next few weeks we shall see their articles reflecting the new tone which is apparent from the other side of the Committee.
If I can start with a word about South Africa, I will invite the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East to be a little more forthcoming than was his colleague the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand). I think that the Labour Party—I was disappointed that the Liberal Party did not seem to be prepared to do so—ought to say what it felt should be the line of the United Kingdom when the difficult moment arrives and we are presented with the request of South Africa, following her referendum, or whatever the procedural process will be, to remain in the Commonwealth while becoming a republic.
The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East was extremely tentative. He said that the Labour Party had been very careful not to say more than that it would be a pity if South Africa left the Commonwealth, because of those millions of Africans and hundreds of thousands of Europeans who would be denied the benefits that Commonwealth membership confers. But I think the Government are entitled to ask for something a little broader than that. There is no party point in this. The whole atmosphere of the debate has shown that on this great issue of the future of the Commonwealth we are something of a 118 Council of State. It is the United Kingdom purpose which has to be defined, and I think that the Labour Party should endeavour to assist the Government in reaching a just and equitable conclusion.
§ Mr. Shepherd
Is my hon. Friend assuming that the decision, if a decision be required to be taken, will in fact be the decision of the United Kingdom? I should not have thought that to be the case.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I was at that moment coming on to the point.
Some of my hon. Friends and myself put a Motion on the Order Paper the other day which, in effect, asked the Government to admit South Africa to membership of the Commonwealth as a republic on a simple application. We were careful not to ascribe this procedure to any new outsider republic or kingdom that might ask to join the Commonwealth, but simply to deal with those who are already members of it and who wish to make a change in their status up or down—if one can define a republic as "down" and a kingdom as "up".
Our thinking was really based upon the realisation that these are transitory matters. In one period of five years, or in a decade, one part of the Commonwealth may be—and has been in the past —in a state of violent uncertainty and change, and possibly in a state of civil strife and unrest. Who are we to say, in this particular period of five years, when South Africa is undergoing great internal stresses, that the idea of compassion which alone keeps the Commonwealth together should not apply to them; and that, because they are in this situation, and making an application for a change of membership, we are to listen to those other and much newer members of the Commonwealth who say, "Nay" to that?
Malaya and Ghana look as if they would like to say, "Nay". Has not Malaya been in a state of civil strife and unrest—while it was a Colony certainly —and is everything so pacific and certain about its future as a single and resplendent new member of the Commonwealth that we can be certain that no internal alarms and excursions will return to it? It may not be on the question of racial strife between black 119 and white, as in South Africa, but it may be on a tribal basis. It may be on a religious basis. If Malaya is allowed to say no to South Africa remaining in the Commonwealth as a republic, may not some other member of the Commonwealth say no to a change in the status of Malaya if she goes through some internal difficulties?
I must be careful what I say about Dr. Nkrumah. He is now, since two days ago, a head of state. Let us not use tendentious terms; let us just say that he keeps part of his opposition in prison. May there not be repercussions in Ghana from these serious and anti-democratic events? How do we know that the situation is so stable in Ghana that it may not be riven with internal strife and tribal rioting within a matter of five or ten years? Why should Dr. Nkrumah dictate whether South Africa should remain in the Commonwealth as a republic?
I hope I carry the Committee with me to the extent of realising, as some of my hon. Friends and I who put down the Motion to which I have referred realise, that we should have tolerance and compassion about the affairs of these countries in their difficulties and be brought to the conclusion that membership of the Commonwealth should be not by veto, not by a majority decision, but by good feeling, understanding and internal private discussion in Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences, through the Commonwealth Relations Office, by visits and inquiries and so on. By these methods the best solution will at last be found. Let us therefore have no mechanics for excluding members of the Commonwealth, or for changing their status by a majority vote or refusing a desired change of status by a majority vote.
I do not think there is really any relevance at all in the question of the referendum. They will no doubt try to make their referendum as wide as it can be. The wider it is, the more representative it is, the more we shall be pleased: but they will make it what they will make it and the House may well have to put up with a narrow referendum, if it comes to that. Even that would be better than a plain resolution within the South African 120 Houses of Parliament, dominated as they are by the Boer mentality.
I pass from that to say a word about the very interesting speech, as it seemed to me, by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White). Her message was: the Mace is not enough, the Clerk of the Parliaments is not enough, HANSARD is not enough, the whole apparatus of democracy as we work it in this House is helpful and good but it may not suffice. In other words, the question arises in one's mind—and no doubt arose in the mind of the hon. Lady as she was speaking—is democracy only skin deep in great parts of the British Commonwealth? I think we must conclude that it is. I think we must conclude that we have to some extent neglected our duty in the United Kingdom to make sure that we had good government before we gave self-government—a phrase which my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), a former Colonial Secretary and a great Colonial Secretary, used frequently before the war.
I am unhappy about Cyprus. This is not the day to voice one's anxiety about that, but there is no local government in Cyprus and, so far as I am aware, no local government in any part of the Commonwealth save in the great Dominions. Is it not by developing local government that the seeds of democracy are best sown and nurtured in a colonial system? How do we think that democracy can survive if we spend 20, 30 or 50 years in reproducing a Parliamentary form of proceeding at the top and then, under panic perhaps, or compulsion, or advice from overseas, or a shamefaced feeling that our power and opportunities are morally wrong, we withdrawn from the scene and leave this simple aparatus behind, not firmly based on anything underneath?
§ Mr. Pavitt
Does the noble Lord not agree that we have a responsibility on the question of desiring local government as the basis for national government in regard to India? Before we went there, 150 years ago, in every village there was a panchayat, a local government system. That was universal in the villages. It was destroyed during the time when India became part of the Empire and only in 1947 was it restarted. Is it not our responsibility not only to talk 121 about local government now but in the past also?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I entirely agree with the hon. Member. My knowledge of India is nothing like as good as his. I have not been there for thirty-five years. In those parts of the Colonial Empire I have visited I have noticed a kind of hierarchical assemblage of persons, which may suit the conditions of the people in their early and primitive stages, but that is not democracy as practised in this country and in the rest of the Commonwealth. To a very large extent, we are leaving these countries with that sort of apparatus still in being. Those who aspire to Parliamentary government receive it in their hands and use it, may be in a glorified tribal sense and to some extent in a totalitarian sense.
In Kenya, for example, and in Central Africa, I think we could probably count on the fingers of two hands well-known African independents, men of means and substance and with businesses and opportunities. Democracy must rest upon a great mass of independent persons leading normal, peaceful, trading lives within a capitalist, or semi-capitalist society. I do not see how it can rest on a few officials who give all the orders, tot up all the exports and all the imports, put on embargoes, take tariffs out of them and run the country under a semi-totalitarian system. Great parts of the Colonial Empire today under Her Majesty's Government, Conservative or Labour, have been far more collectivised, far more wedded to direct controls than anything we would tolerate in this country.
In other words, democracy has not gone very far in the Commonwealth. When the Prime Minister reveals to us—as I think I must say he has indirectly—his fundamental belief as expressed in his "Wind of Change" speech, that it is only by giving liberty to the Commonwealth that we can put on guard a whole mass and range of countries against totalitarian Communism, I sometimes wonder whether some of these Colonies that are now being shot off at great speed have not already inherently within their totalitarian seeds and that under their black leaders they may become the seeding bed for Communism. These are some of the questions to which I feel, in mid-career, liberating, as I am sure it is 122 right to do, a great many of these territories, the Committee should give urgent thought.
May I refer briefly to what I may call the mechanical improvements which have been suggested by hon. Members during the debate. Perhaps the right phrase for the Commonwealth is the time-honoured phrase, that like Topsy, it just "grow'd". I have been a member of many clubs and circles and groups of earnest politicians doing work on this and that form of the Commonwealth, but in my twenty-five years' experience of politics I would say that all our ideas have come to nothing. Why is this? It is because we cannot graft on to this amazing, amorphous society a piece of mechanical structure and say at any time that it will work.
Suggestions have been made for regionalisation. Where do we start making the regions? What machinery do we devise for separating them from other regions? There have been suggestions that a new hierarchic structure should be invented for the Commonwealth, with the old Dominions, acknowledging the Queen as Sovereign, at the top; those who are about to do so, underneath; and the Republics, who do not look as though they will ever do so, below that. It has been suggested that that could be associated with a form of supervisory mechanism. But none of these things works.
I do not think that twenty-five Prime Ministers, which is what we may have in five or ten years' time, is too many to come to a periodical meeting in London or in any other centre. I am told that the Governors of the forty-nine States of the United States repair annually to Washington to meet the President. He fits them all into a room. No doubt Mr. Khrushchev does the same with the 25 or 30 component members of the Soviet Union. These are great land masses. Ours is a maritime Commonwealth strung across the world, but it is quite as easy to deal with the one as with the other.
I feel, however, that we ought to look not so much at a mechanical rearrangement of controlling the Commonwealth as at what is happening at this time. It is clear that the Colonial Office will graduate down to a comparatively small status in which it will look after a few fortress Colonies and some remote 123 islands and groups of islands for which no other form of government can be devised. It may be that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary will be in higher spheres by then, but the status of his office will have sunk.
What of the Commonwealth Relations Office? At present it is rather like a Foreign Office for sending messages around the Commonwealth, and it may be that it has a long-term future in doing that. But what worries me most of all is the position of the Crown in all this. We rejoiced at the information given today that Nigeria is to acknowledge Her Majesty not only as Head of the Commonwealth but also as Queen. In other words, Nigeria will be a full Kingdom within the Commonwealth. That is the best news for a very long time.
But it puts a strain upon the Palace and the Palace officials. It should be our earnest hope that those members of the Commonwealth who mistakenly, for a period or perhaps five or ten years, have asked to be Republics, will in due time and season revert to the status which we should have liked them to have from the start. That will put an additional strain upon the Palace. Each one of these fully sovereign Royal Kingdoms has absolute access to the Monarch for all advice. The Prime Ministers are her Prime Ministers; they are nothing to do with the Commonwealth Relations Office. Is there the machinery? Should we think in terms of personalities? Should we think in terms of additional assistance—specialised, technical, highly-skilled assistance to Her Majesty in drawing up this concept of the Royal Commonwealth? I should like to leave it at that.
The British Commonwealth of Nations—these are my concluding words —is the greatest force for peace and stability the world has ever seen. It is larger than Russia in territory, it is larger than China in population, but, unlike China, Russia and the United States of America, it is no compact land mass. It is a great maritime group of nations. If the world is looking for an entity with a sense of purpose, which enshrines tolerance and humanity and compassion, and which is a force for peace, will it not rather in the end look to the British maritime Commonwealth, flung right across the world, containing every kind 124 and form of Government from totalitarianism to an absolute workaday democracy like our own?
Wherever there is strife, wherever there is uncertaintly, there is a member of the Commonwealth in touch with that situation. That does not apply to the United States, it does not apply to the Soviet Union, it does not apply to China. The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) talked at length today about the United Nations. As far as efforts and common purpose and basic understanding are concerned, the British Commonwealth is already an assembly of united nations. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to elevate any concept to the stature of the United Nations, let him look at the British Commonwealth of Nations. Si monumentum requiris circumspice.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
To follow the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) is always an unenviable task, particularly for a new Member. One is very conscious of his unique ability to evoke for the Committee the aura and atmosphere of a bygone age. He is the typical exponent of classical Conservatism. No one other than the noble Lord could possibly have described the Observer and the Economist as radical Left-wing journals.
What worried me most was that at the beginning of his speech he expressed surprise at what he considered to be the moderate tone of the speeches from this side of the Committee. He went on to say that he found himself in agreement with a considerable part of at least the manner in which they had been delivered, if not their content. My hon. Friends will generally agree that this calls for rethinking or re-examination of some of the speeches which have been made from this side of the Committee. Why should the noble Lord be surprised? Why should any hon. Member be surprised? Hon. Members on this side of the Committee are as passionately devoted to the cause of Commonwealth as are hon. Members in other parts of the Committee.
Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, including persons within the Labour Party who are not Members of Parliament, have the same deep affection 125 For the Commonwealth. They have this same peculiar sense off identity, this sense of relationship with people of different colours, different languages and different nationalities, because they are all part of the same great corporate organisation, as are members of any political party. The fact that anyone should find this surprising is to miss the very things which have caused the furore and concern which have typified the arguments about Commonwealth in recent months.
People on this side of the Committee are not apposed to the idea of Commonwealth. We believe, as the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South believes, very sincerely that in a world which is torn by strife, the existence of a large body of people of different nationalities with some sort of common heritage based on something other than imperialist ambitions, having some common interests other than exploitation, can only be a force for world peace, and that, as such, anything of that type is to be supported and extended.
The noble Lord went on to say that compromise was essential. Of course, compromise is essential if we are to maintain the Commonwealth. One can never have a Commonwealth unless one recognises that a grouping together of nations of different economic backgrounds and different social identities is bound to be a difficult thing and something over which we shall have to compromise. It worries me when I hear hon. Members talking about Africans as if the African was one type of person with one type of social background. I have heard it suggested many times that the African on one side of Africa in comparison with an African from a different tribe has far less in common socially and economically than a Londoner has with a Bulgarian. It is a fact that the capital of South Africa is further away from some parts of the Union than are the capitals of some foreign countries from London.
There is no commonness in terms of social attitude. There is a great deal of compromise. No one would deny that Pakistan is hardly a model of Western democracy at present. No one would suggest that Ghana under the present set-up is something which we would hand out to children in schools as a blue- 126 print for modern democracy. One accepts this.
There are differences within the Commonwealth. But where we cannot compromise within the Commonwealth is in mass murder. We cannot compromise in the Commonwealth on the complete denunciation of human rights. Once we accept that sort of thing, we have destroyed the very purpose of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth will cease to exist. If we compromise on things as fundamental as some of the things which have taken place in South Africa within the last twelve months, we shall find ourselves in no position to argue about things which happen in Hungary and in other parts of the world.
Surprise is frequently expressed that many of these newly-emergent territories adopt a form of government which does not come up to our standards. The noble Lord said with surprise that some of these countries have a form of government which would not be acceptable in this country. Why should it be? There is no similarity between many of the countries in the Commonwealth and this country.
One thing which I find extremely disturbing is that there should exist in 1960 among responsible, well-informed and admired politicians a doubt as to whether or not these countries should be given national independence at this stage. There is a motto in the Fabian Society; the noble Lord mentioned some of his clubs, but I do not know if he is a member of the Fabian Society. If he is, he will be acquainted with the motto about the inevitability of gradualness. One can hold views as to whether it is desirable that these countries should have independence at this stage of their development, but all this is irrelevant compared with the fact that they are going to a chieve it. To try to bottle up the great force of emergent nationalism which is showing itself throughout the world is the easiest way of ensuring the rapid advance of Communism in those countries.
Those countries, with their new Governments and with the difficulties with which they are faced, will make mistakes, but they will make their own mistakes. Many of those mistakes wilt be of considerable embarrassment to people in this country, but if we try to 127 stand in the way of this great tide of nationalism it will sweep us away and it will give those who believe in a form of totalitarian colonialism much greater opportunities than they would have had in any other way.
I want to draw attention to a very real problem. In this country as a whole we make such small effort towards an understanding of what Commonwealth is all about. It is necessary to gain a greater degree of understanding about the real meaning of the Commonwealth in this country as well as overseas. We tend in this form of debate to talk so much about uplifting our poor untutored brethren overseas. I cannot help feeling that one of the biggest problems within the Commonwealth is now, and will be for many years to come, the great problem of colour prejudice, of racial superiority, and I believe passionately and sincerely that the feelings which have endangered many of the actions of the South African Government in recent years, and the feelings in other Colonial Territories, exist in this country.
I am not adopting a "holier-than-thou" attitude, and I am firmly convinced that if the situation which exists in South Africa with regard to the proportions of the different races were to exist in this country, if ever the influx of coloured persons were to reach sufficiently large numbers so as to create a major and immediate problem, the prejudice which exists elsewhere would exist within this country among a large proportion of the population. I think it is essential to attempt to eradicate all these false prejudices, and that this is as necessary within our own people in this country as it is in any other part of the Commonwealth. We do far too little to spread the real meaning of the intentions of the Commonwealth as such among the citizens of this country.
I recently went on a tour of the United States of America and at one stage I visited our Canadian brethren. Canada was a country which I found fascinating. One of the things which disturbed me most was that their knowledge of British politics and of the detailed affairs of the United Kingdom was infinitely less than their knowledge of affairs in the United States of America. They all subscribe to the principles of Commonwealth. We all do. In this country 128 the majority of people who are politically interested—not so much Members of Parliament but probably persons who are just interested in politics—know far more about the politics of France than they do about the politics of Canada, in spite of all the varieties which exist in French politics. The same is very true in Canada.
This great Commonwealth must become a reality, and more than a series of clichés. I am sorry that the noble Lord has left the Chamber, but frankly anybody who in 1960 pins such great hopes on the fact that a country in the Commonwealth acknowledges the Queen as Queen of his country in addition to being Head of the Commonwealth is becoming dreadfully divorced from the bitter mundane realities of these affairs. These are not the things which hold the Commonwealth together today. The things which hold the Commonwealth together are the joint community of interest and the feeling of unity among the mass of the peoples. Unless we achieve that, any titular appointment will achieve very little indeed.
It is a sad thing, but it is much easier for younger political people in this country to go to Russia than it is to go to Canada. It is much easier to visit Prague or Moscow or even—until Mr. Khrushchev started complicating matters —Peking. It is much easier to go to these places than to the capitals of Commonwealth countries. Why? Because the Communist bloc has realised for many years past that it is not enough to send somebody a carefully written pamphlet to try to obtain their support. One has to get them together, indoctrinate them, and show them that unity means something more than something in a pamphlet. It means that somebody slaps one on the back and offers one a drink, and is something practical.
That is why, in 1960, it is so much easier for any person interested in politics, particularly any younger person, to find his way behind the Iron Curtain, which now is almost no longer existent in terms of exchanges, and to go to World Youth Festivals in almost any part of the Communist world, than it is to travel within the British Commonwealth. In the British Commonwealth, travel is something which he would find very difficult, unless he pays for it out 129 of his own pocket, which very few of us in these days can do, or unless he is one of the very fortunate few who manages to get away with something peculiar and frequently unknown among the bulk of the people—a small bursary, which pays for him.
The point I am trying to make is that this Government, or any Government which wants to make the Commonwealth a reality, has to ensure that the ordinary people in England will feel that they have some identity with the people in Australia; that ordinary people in Birmingham or Greenwich or any other part of the country have to feel a closer identity of interest with the hopes and aspirations of people who live in Canada or in parts of Africa than they have with people in any other part of the world. Unless we can achieve that, nothing else in the idea of Commonwealth has any real practical application to present-day needs.
I think we also have to accept the fact that these newly-emergent territories have not that automatic and blind loyalty to any association which perhaps used to be the case in a bygone age. The Union Jack is something which means nothing to them today, unless it represents or expresses practical advantages to them. There are in the world today other forces which are prepared to fight this battle for the minds of men in the newly-emergent territories without any regard to cost or to effort. It is essential for us to ensure that these territories are drawn to our side rather than anywhere else.
It is interesting to note in some African territories the great attention paid by the Soviet Union to these territories in terms of this battle for the political interests of the people in those areas. There is a great deal of argument which goes on about the Soviet Union's economic contribution in some countries, which I agree is comparatively small and frequently over-stressed. What is important is not the size of the contribution, but the type of the contribution—a contribution expressed in terms of textbooks, in terms of providing scholarships for university types or would-be graduates, to ensure the possibility of education for the high school type of graduate.
130 We need to bring to this country, not only the boy from Africa, or any other of the newly-emergent territories, who is possible university material. He is important and essential, and these are the people who will be the future rulers and future Governments. What we also have to do is to have more effect on the people who will just be—I find myself at a political disadvantage here, but I cannot think of a better term—the sort of political middle class—the high school graduate and the type of boy who would never qualify for admission to a British university, but whose education and whose future is as vital to this country as to any other.
I think we also have to face this big problem of apartheid and the problem of South Africa. It is impossible to follow the advice of the noble Lord and dismiss this by saying that if we are to hang together, we have to have compromise on all sides. If we have a Commonwealth which accepts within its ranks without question a Government which can incarcerate other members of the Commonwealth without trial, which can shoot unarmed people in numbers in the course of holding down a civil riot, which in many other parts of the world would have been done by less brutal means, even allowing for the differences of the people participating in the riots, if we accept a Government which can do all these things and it can still be a member of the Commonwealth, and we must compromise with it, then we have compromised with every fundamental principle which makes it worth while joining the Commonwealth.
One of the biggest problems at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference was this problem. This was the big issue, the important issue, and we have still not dealt with that issue. It has been said that if we persist in our complete abhorrence of these policies, if we are prepared to link ourselves with that degree of condemnation which has come from a large portion of the British Commonwealth,.we will, sooner or later, be faced with the decision whether or not we should accept the Union of South Africa into the British Commonwealth. I believe that that is a real problem, and it is one which we have to face, but I believe that if we come to that stage where we say that the Commonwealth must mean something, then to 131 a Government which does not even fulfil the elementary standards of civilised conduct in modern society we must say "You cannot join this particular association."
If we are faced with that problem, we must meet it. It is essential at this stage that we should have a Declaration of Rights within the Commonwealth, a detailed declaration, because we have now passed away from the old phase of a Commonwealth built on blind patriotism —although that may have been commendable, and I am not arguing about it—into a stage in which people band together because of their mutual interests. Unless we can show that membership of the British Commonwealth in 1960 carries with it the defence of minimum standards and a right and contribution towards the affairs of others throughout the world, unless we can show that, we shall find that the Commonwealth will be broken up, not by outside activities, not by any argument within our ranks, but eventually broken up, in the course of time because it would cease to have any meaning.
I cannot help believing that if the world finds itself in the future without the stabilising influence which can be exercised by this growing body of nations, as distinct from the Colonial Empire territories, the world will have lost a very great weapon in the cause of peace, and the British people, of all the Commonwealth peoples, will have lost something that took many hundreds of years to build up, which almost reached fruition and was lost because they had not the courage to determine the things which are so important to ordinary men and women.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)
The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) made an excellent speech. One thing which has convinced me as a result of my experience is that democracy and democratic institutions cannot possibly be acquired. They have to be learnt. I was glad that the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) mentioned the case of the sub-continent of India. I think that it has been proved that India acquired her independence by stages, through the India Act, 1919, to the India Act, 1935, 132 and by progressive advances in central and provincial self-government which paved the way for the final grant of independent status which, I think, came in 1948.
What we have to bear in mind in this extremely important matter is this. These countries have to be prepared for the occasion when they receive their freedom. On the one hand, there is the movement which says, "We must govern ourselves quickly", and on the other the restraining and moderating hand of the trustee territory of the United Kingdom which says, "Let us phase the advance". It is a matter of congratulation for many of these countries, such as Malaya, Nigeria, Ghana and others which have achieved independent status. Coming from a separate sovereign State, I fail to see any real distinction between a republic and the monarchic system. They have exactly the same powers. New Zealand has no greater power than India, and India has no less power than the separate sovereign State of New Zealand.
I regret that so much time during this debate has been spent in talking about South Africa, because, after all, the population there is 12½ million while that in India is about 365 million and in Pakistan 75 million. Other matters were discussed at the Prime Ministers' Conference and I should have thought they merit even greater attention. If we are to be persuaded that eventually South Africa may have to be expelled from the Commonwealth, I ask hon. Members to consider what will be the alternative. Is South Africa to be pushed into splendid isolation? If so, what good will that do? In New Zealand we have succeeded in reconciling both Europeans and Maoris and there is no colour bar whatsoever. I should have thought that the most effective form of persuasion, persuasion by example, was much more telling than persuasion by legislation. Exclusion would do nothing but put South Africa outside the Commonwealth. If South Africa can be kept inside the Commonwealth I hope that with the turn of the years it will find that the policy which other members of the Commonwealth have adopted is possibly the right one.
§ Mr. Marsh
Assuming that the policies of the South African Government do not change, to what extent would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to continue to 133 compromise? Would he be prepared to go on indefinitely accepting the present attitudes and policies of the South African Government within the Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Skeet
I am glad to have that interruption. The only thing which is permanent is change. We find a semblance of democracy in South Africa in that it will have a referendum and some opportunity from time to time of a general election. Over the course of time new ideas come to the surface and, as I said, there is nothing so permanent as change. Change will ultimately succeed.
The hon. Member for Willesden, West referred to India. I should like to make one or two comments on India because it is of great importance. There the average expectation of life is about thirty-four years. I am glad to find that the United Kingdom has, under Section 3 of the Export Guarantees Act, 1949, made loans totalling £75 million. Recently a grant of £10 million was made. A large part of the grants which have been made under Section 3, which total over £141 million, has gone to India and a very considerable sum has gone to Pakistan.
This is the problem in India as I see it. It is a country with a vast population and vast potentiality. Following the third and fourth year plans, India hopes to have a self-sustaining economy by the early 'seventies. It is for this country to assist it in its course. If we do not, it will turn to the United States, which is doing a great deal of work at present. If the West falters, India obviously will have to turn to the Soviet Union.
I listened with great interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh). Of the contributions from the Western and Eastern worlds, the greatest obviously have come from the United States, the second greatest from the United Kingdom. The actual disbursements of the Soviet Union come well down the list. In 1959–60, if the Government are prepared to advance overseas only £138 million, consider that a very paltry sum compared with the moneys which are necesary to sustain our Welfare State, namely, £3.3 billion per annum. People outside and hon. Members inside the Committee may may argue that we must maintain our 134 Welfare State. I quite agree with that contention. But if further moneys can be raised, I am not satisfied with the sum of £138 million, nor am I satisfied with the recruitment of an additional £300 million from industry each year, of which about £100 million goes to the under-developed territories.
Having looked at the Commonwealth myself, I can see the magnitude of the problem involved. It is a responsibility which we hold ourselves and which must be discharged. But, again, I think that we must see it realistically. Last year we had a balance of payments surplus of £145 million and it looks, on the half-year results, as though the surplus will be less than that, probably between £120 million and £140 million. That is not enough if we are to send very substantial sums overseas.
I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary one or two questions. Does he intend to utilise to the full grants under Section 3 of the 1949 Act? Will he consider it a continuing commitment to both Pakistan and India? Is he prepared also to consider that it would be far better to use Section 3 grants "untied" rather than in the form of "tied" lending as at present? It has been traditional in this country that C.D. and W. funds can be spent in any part of the world. That is of great advantage to the recipient country which may be short of foreign exchange. It is a retrograde step that grants under Section 3 should be so "tied".
The other point which should be considered when we talk of the underdeveloped territories is whether these moneys should or should not be allocated to specific undertakings such as the building of a steelworks in India or allocated for the purpose of imports from outside. One thereby has a certain check over the expenditure of these funds. I regard it as advisable to consider the matter along these lines.
The only other question which I should like to raise concerns the Colonial Development Finance Corporation, which has also been raised by another hon. Member. May we have a list of the total subscriptions which have been made by Commonwealth Governments from overseas? How much money has been forthcoming? Could it not be considerably 135 extended, as indicated by the Montreal Commonwealth Conference in 1958? It would seem to me that the whole idea of bringing into being a Commonwealth bank is now somewhat redundant and that greater use could be made of the existing machinery.
I do not wish to anticipate the debate on Thursday, but will my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary say something about the Colonial Development Corporation and whether it is possible to amplify its powers, namely, by giving it an opportunity of extending from Colonial Territories into the larger parts of the Commonwealth?
§ 8.29 p.m.
Mr. G. M. Thomson 02_Jul04_1960 (Dundee, East)
I share the discontent of the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) about the inadequacy of our aid to the newer countries of the Commonwealth. The hon. Member was, perhaps, a little complacent about our position in competition with the Soviet Union. It is true that our aid to the countries of Asia has been on a more generous scale than that of the Soviet Union, but we must not forget the kind of advantages that a totalitarian country like the Soviet Union has in its possession. It is, for example, able to make its money available at much lower rates of interest than we do with the kind of Bank Rate that a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer is operating. Under Section 3 of the Export Guarantees Act, to which the hon. Member for Willesden, East referred, the rate of interest is 6 per cent. The Communists lend money at about 2½ per cent.
§ Mr. Skeet
Does the hon. Member appreciate that although the Soviet Union certainly charges 2½ per cent. for its long-term loans, the condition is attached that the purchases must be made in Soviet territory, and a charge for servicing is added to the price of the goods in question? Therefore, the consumer or recipient, in fact, pays more.
§ Mr. Thomson
We are well aware of the political advantages that the Soviet Union has from its totalitarian system. This means that we on our side must do a great deal more.
The Soviet Union also has the advantage that in its arrangements it is able to operate bulk purchase contracts, 136 whereas we, because of the policies of Her Majesty's Government, have been increasingly departing from bulk contracts until the under-developed countries are more and more at the mercy of fluctuating prices. Over the last few years, for example, reductions in the level of commodity prices have more than cancelled out all the aid which has been given. This kind of thing causes great frustration in the countries of Africa and of Asia, a fact which should be very much borne in mind.
§ Mr. Thomson
The level of aid to the new independent countries of the Commonwealth seems to vary a great deal. The hon. Member for Willesden, East mentioned the sums of money which have been given to India. We all agree that India is one of the key areas to which to give help in present world circumstances, but did the hon. Member see the Answer which I was given the other day by the Colonial Secretary about the amount of capital which had been given to Ghana since it became independent? Ghana has received a little under £½ million from Her Majesty's Government since she became independent. As hon. Members know, Ghana has been sending delegations to the Soviet Union to explore the possibility of Soviet aid for the Volta River scheme. I hope that when that project gets to a slightly more advanced stage, Her Majesty's Government will give generous and imaginative help to ensure that Britain plays her proper rôle in that scheme.
Sitting throughout the debate, I have been fascinated by the fact that a debate which was born out of the heat and agonising dilemmas of the Prime Ministers' Conference concerning the African issue has ranged a great deal more widely than the issue of South Africa or of the South African mandate in South-West Africa. As is usual in these debates, we have had a great many attempts, particularly from the benches opposite, to give us definitions of the Commonwealth in the modern world.
The more one has heard those definitions, the more bewildered one has become. There is something about the Commonwealth which arouses all that is 137 most woolly and platitudinous in members of the Conservative Party. I am ratter reminded of the Victorian lady why enjoyed a great mystical experience about which subsequently she wrote a best seller. It was then reviewed by a critic, who commented, "Since Miss X says that she has experienced the indescribable, she might be well advised not to try to describe it." I sometimes feet that the Commonwealth, as an international institution, comes into that category.
What we roust do is to look at what the Commonwealth means, not to people in this country trying to adapt their ideas about it to a changing world but to the newer members of the Commonwealth. Unless it has meaning for them, it will not survive in the modern world. It means, above all, three things to the newer countries of the Commonwealth as far as I have been able to meet some of their political leaders.
First, it means membership of a worldwide association of countries in the front rank of the nations of the world. There is no doubt that to the political leaders of the newer countries of the Commonwealth, this is of considerable importance.
Secondly, it can only survive for the newer members if it is an association of nations that is imbued with the spirit of racial equality, particularly where any question of colour discrimination is concerned. We must face the fact this is the answer to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who made his usual stimulating but rather backward-looking speech —that the kind of internal happenings which do cause concern in the new Commonwealth are not related to issues of political liberty or Parliamentary democracy. It would, perhaps, be better if it were so, and in due course it may be so, but the kind of issues which stir the conscience of the Commonwealth, without which it cannot survive, are issues of racial equality and particularly of colour discrimination.
Thirdly, I think that the Commonwealth has to be a real system of mutual aid if it is to have practical meaning for the members of the newer countries.
I sometimes think that what is happening now in Africa is not that independence is coming too soon, but that history 138 has got ahead of us and that our neglect in past years is being shown up. It is no longer a question of whether there is to be independence and freedom for the countries of Africa or other members of the former Colonial Territories. The question now is the much more difficult question of making independence work, and that is one of the aspects about which I wanted to say a word or two.
My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) made some very interesting suggestions about trying to establish a Commonwealth public service. I am sure that that is an idea which ought to be very thoroughly explored. She pointed out, as, I thought, so correctly, that there are very real difficulties simply about making arrangements to carry over in any particular area the colonial civil servants who have served there during the period of colonial dependence. This may be unfortunate, but it is one of the facts which we have to face and one of the things which I think is of concern to the public servants who can come to serve in territories when they become newly independent. If we could have this sort of aid it would naturally induce those who are at present in the Colonial Overseas Service to remain and would do a very great deal to help the newer, emergent countries as they reach independence.
On the question of economic help, I do not wish to anticipate the debate on Thursday, for personal reasons as well as reasons of propriety, because I do not wish to make tonight the speech I should like to make in Thursday's debate. However, I think that what is required in economic development, again, is the initiation of this spirit of mutual co-operation in the Commonwealth rather than relationship directly between the United Kingdom and other countries.
I have just come back from a visit to the West Indies. What struck me in that part of the world, which is very soon now to have independence, I hope, was the fact that the colonial relationship for many years has produced a feeling of much too much dependence between each individual territory of the West Indies and the United Kingdom. In the West Indian Federation there are territories like Jamaica and Trinidad which have standards today which make them relatively 139 highly developed countries—not developed as much as this country, but compared with Africa or India, they are highly developed territories; whereas there are smaller islands in the West Indies, Dominica, Montserrat and St. Lucia which are relatively underdeveloped.
From a number of talks I had with political leaders in the West Indies I gathered that although one of the major advantages of federation would be, quite apart from any economic help which could come from this country, that it would allow the stronger units of the Federation to help those which were weaker, the immediate reaction to this was that it was an effort by the United Kingdom to pass the burden from the shoulders of the people of Britain on to the shoulders of the people of Jamaica or Trinidad.
This was the natural, instinctive reaction, perhaps inevitable in the light of history, but it is one that we have to get past if we are to make a success of independence in areas like the West Indies, and it seems to me that we could get past it best if we set up some kind of Commonwealth co-operative arrangement, which would provide genuinely useful co-operative arrangements not simply between London and other countries, but in which all the countries of the Commonwealth would contribute according to their ability, through which some of the poorer territories would pay their share, too, but from which they could draw according to their needs.
It is tremendously important to do what my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) mentioned earlier, and that is to increase the number of exchanges between different countries in the Commonwealth. I am thinking, as he was, particularly of exchanges of ordinary people rather than politicians or particularly talented scholars and university people. While I was in the West Indies I was able to see the work of the Voluntary Service Overseas organisation which the hon. Member for York (Mr. Longbottom) mentioned earlier in the debate. I met, for instance, a sixth-form schoolboy who was living, otherwise alone, with an Afro-Indian village community in British Guiana and, by all accounts, doing very fine work there.
140 That kind of young man can get on intimate personal terms with local people in a way that is very difficult for an administrator. This organisation works on a limited scale in various parts of the Commonwealth and no doubt it has had varying success in different places, but it is a good example of what could be done. The Government might explore means of doing this on a bigger scale, either through this organisation or in other ways.
I think of young craftsmen who went out from Metro-Vickers in this country in the final year of their apprenticeship to a trades school in Kenya as teachers. They also were able to get on intimate terms with the people and build a spirit of confidence among African youngsters in a way which it would be very difficult for older people to do. If this can be done, not only by sending people from this country to the Commonwealth but also by bringing people here to help with voluntary activities, it would be a very useful method of increasing understanding among the peoples of the Commonwealth.
I emphasise the need to expand Commonwealth educational activities. One of the most useful things that have happened since the Montreal Conference has been the growth of Commonwealth education schemes. I hope that this will go ahead as quickly as possible and that the Government will do what they can to expand the schemes. This is a matter in which the Commonwealth can wield the most direct influence in raising standards of living. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) asked the other day about educational provisions in Tanganyika and he was told that there were 77 university students from Tanganyika in this country. Tanganyika has no university. It is a country of 8 million people, on the verge of independence. The fact that there are only 77 university students from Tanganyika in this country is—
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but speaking from memory, I think that the figure of 77 which he quotes is confined to those who are reading honours degrees and is not the number of students, which is considerably larger.
§ Mr. Thomson
The Colonial Secretary, for the first time in my questioning 141 of him, is wrong. The figures for those reading honours degrees was 37, and there were 77 students at universities. There were 450 students altogether but that figure covered nurses, technical college students, and so on. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a supplementary question, said that the figure of 77 was one which we ought to try to increase.
The educational poverty of some of the countries which are now on the edge of full independence is certainly very great and does not cast any great credit on our record over many years in the past. The more that can be done in educational exchange and the building-up of Commonwealth educational services the better it would be in terms of creating the economic foundations and democratic foundations of independence in these underdeveloped territories.
It has always been said that it is difficult to give institutional form to Commonwealth relationship. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South indicated his complete scepticism about any effort of this sort. Educational arrangements should be joint Commonwealth arrangements. A very small liaison unit has already been set up in London to help implement this. I hope that those educational arrangements will finally blossom forth into a full Commonwealth educational service. They are merely an example of the kind of relationships that must be developed between the countries of the Commonwealth if it is to have reality in the modern world. Not only must there be a Commonwealth educational service, but also a Commonwealth public service. There must also be a Commonwealth development scheme on the basis of mutual aid and co-operation.
It is on those lines that the Commonwealth has the best opportunity of playing what I believe is its tremendously vital r—le in the future.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)
I shall have to forgo the pleasure of commenting on some of the arguments put by hon. Members during the debate, for I have no time both to deal with them and put forward my own thesis. I have heard nearly every word that has been said and I think that the debate is, without exception so far, the most unpractical contribution ever made to any debate on the 142 Commonwealth at any time and in any place.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) began with the right question. He asked: what sort of Commonwealth do we want? He then went on to talk about South Africa! We must find out what sort of Commonwealth we want and, therefore, what sort of Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference we want. We are faced now with this very large collection of nations not thinking alike politically, as the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) said. Some of them are arbitrary in outlook and he fell back, of course, on condemnation of South Africa for imprisoning people without trial. I believe that that is done in Ghana, also. He abused South Africa for shooting people in civil disobedience. But that has also been done in Pakistan and other countries. It is not only when skins are white that these things are obnoxious.
We must try and find some connecting link which will enable this collection of countries with totally different outlooks to govern themselves and to govern their relationships with each other. The only possible link is the link of Commonwealth trade. We shall not solve the problems of the Commonwealth by pouring out money by dole or loan. To start with, as has been pointed out, the interest on loans is burdensome and, in the end, it is more than these countries can face. Handing out doles is of no use whatever, and in any case we cannot afford it.
We can only afford to invest roughly what we make on our balance of trade. That is not nearly enough for all the calls on us in the Commonwealth. Inside the sterling area we can expand to a slightly greater extent because we do not run into the same danger over our balance of payments. But by no means all the Commonwealth is in the sterling area, and much of it that is may leave it before long.
We must, therefore, try to find some basis of mutual trade. For some reason known only to themselves, hon. Members opposite, when in office, abandoned the right to control our own trading destinies. It cost the United States £1,000 million to wreck a carefully built-up trading system, and it was the cheapest £1,000 million that any country 143 has yet spent. Not only that, we are even repaying it to the United States.
Having lost the right to control our own destinies, we have now lost the right to produce those inducements for building up trade between one part of the Commonwealth and another. What hon. Members opposite forgot at the time was that we were not only undertaking the obligations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but proposing to continue to honour the obligations we already had under the Ottowa Agreements, which had been in force for quite a long time. In fact, it left the United Kingdom, alone of all the countries of the world, in a position in which there was no room for manœuvre of any kind whatsoever.
This had been recognised by the Conservative Party when it was in Opposition and it spoke very firmly about it. From a member of our own Front Bench, about 1950, the words came:The Conservative Party regard all this as highly objectionable.Is it any less objectionable now, and can we not get back to the perfectly sound idea that we had at the time and start to restore our own liberty of action? Even in an election manifesto, not long afterwards, we said:We shall retain Imperial Preference and uphold the right to grant and receive such preferences so that the Empire producer will have a place in the home market…What are we doing now? All we are doing is asking the Australians to whittle away the preferences that we gave them so that we may deal with another body of persons. I have nothing against a deal with the Outer Seven. They are meritorious nations and will undoubtedly add to our trading area. But it is not right that one of our own Dominions should have to part with some of the few advantages that we give our Dominions to make that possible.
The Imperial Preference system was a useful and good one. It rescued this country from one of the major financial disasters through which it was staggering at the time. I will not say that that situation was the fault of a previous Labour Government, because that would be controversial, but whether it was the fault of the Labour Government, whether it was, as hon. Members opposite say, a 144 bankers' ramp, or whatever it was, it was a major crisis. Within two years of our adopting an intelligent imperial trading system the value of the £ sterling has risen from 3.20 dollars to 5.5 dollars and we were not having a balance of payments crisis or a dollar reserve crisis every two years as we have them now.
There must have been something in the system which enabled us to use it to control our trade. We are faced now with a hotch-potch of trading agreements. Our own internal trade is bolstered by subsidies, quotas, anti-dumping duties and a vast number of other things of that kind, when all that is wanted is a plain and simple tariff, which we used for so long and so effectively.
I ask the Government to try to get back to the conception of the Imperial or Commonwealth link between one of our countries and another. We can help the Commonwealth countries a great deal. We have a huge market here and we have a capacity for production, which is exactly what under-developed countries want. If we must have commercial arrangements—as, indeed, we must—with whom is it better to have them—with the Six countries with which we are negotiating so painfully now, which already enjoy a very high standard of living and whose rate of population expands certainly as slowly as our own, or with countries which at the moment have a very low standard of living and are, therefore, capable of almost infinite expansion?
We have already seen one or two warnings from the six countries with which we are trying to negotiate at the expense of our own Empire. M. Mollet said:Great Britain can no longer carve out her destiny or choose her own future. Which course shall she choose—the Commonwealth? No responsible British statesman will consider this a satisfactory answer.Is it true that no responsible British statesman considers that a satisfactory answer? If so, then in my view such people are not responsible British statesmen.
Some time ago, in the Financial Times, we had another warning:Certainly, there has been no change in France's attitude that the purpose of the Common Market is to rebuild the ancient glories of France on a new European foundation.145 That is a laudable ambition, but are we to take the part of the slaves who were buried under the foundations to bring good luck when buildings were put up in ancient times? We are better out of rebuilding the glories of other countries in teat sort of way. We have before us a wonderful opportunity even now. We need to regain our freedom of action. To regain our freedom of action we have to denounce the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We are still entitled to do that, mercifully, because the United States, which, in many ways, dislikes the Agreement as much as we do, although having invented it, has withheld effective ratification. I sincerely trust that it will continue to be our friend in this way and continue to withhold it to give us time to make up our minis that we shall take our last chance of rebuilding the Commonwealth, which is in grave danger of disintegration.
Hon. Members opposite have pointed to the political differences, and, of course, they exist. In many cases there are colour differences. There are nations which are barely on speaking terms with others, but they are still inside the Commonwealth. There is this one link and this one link only which can be provided to hold them together while their various policies and their various prejudices have time to settle down into one great single, single-thinking unit.
We must have some cement to hold it together in the interval while this new Commonwealth is getting its roots and bringing itself together. I agree with those hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have said that this new Commonwealth may be the decisive factor in preserving the peace of the world. But it is certainly not so now. At the moment, it has not the coherence to speak with one voice, and it has not the power to make its voice properly heard.
Those things can be given, but they can be given only by starting at the very bottom, with a financial basis to start with, with mutual trust engendered by mutual trade, and then slowly building from then on. As the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) said, the Union Jack is not a symbol of anything very much to a very large portion of the Commonwealth, but if the country whose national flag it is takes the initiative in 146 building this new Commonwealth, then the emblem which we fly over the Commonwealth may be regarded at least with respect, if not with passionate loyalty. Passionate loyalties are probably out of date, but respect and mutual advantage are not. This is our last chance of securing both.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
The speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) was rather different from the speeches on Commonwealth and colonial affairs which we have been accustomed to hearing from the burghers from Rugby. If I may say so, I did not regard it as an improvement Mr. James Johnson had a much more realistic appraisal of the situation than the hon. Member has shown tonight.
Nevertheless, the hon. Member quite clearly showed the diversity of thinking inside the Conservative Party about the future of the Commonwealth. Those who speculate about the differences in the Labour Party might analyse that speech to see how much there is in common between the views of the hon. Member for Rugby and the views and policies being carried out by the Minister of State and the Colonial Secretary, ably supported and abetted by hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Emery). There is a clear division of views and of philosophy between them. I see that there appears to be some agreement with that sentiment. I do not think that it is necessarily a bad thing. I think that these differences should be argued out and that it is quite right that they should be.
This is in some way symptomatic of British politics at present. There is a great state of flux going on in the thinking of all parties about many issues—the Commonwealth, the Common Market and other issues, including the place of the public corporation and the large private monopolistic empires being built up in this country. We shall have to return to that later. However, we have had a clear indication of the divisions that exist.
We thought that it would be useful today to give the House of Commons a chance of expressing its opinion about the Prime Ministers' Conference and reviewing what has taken place. Although the attendance at the debate 147 has been sparse, I think that the questions raised have been worth while and interesting More questions have been asked than the Minister of State answered in his introductory and quite unexceptionable speech—too unexceptionable for my liking. I hoped that he would deal with more of the questions that have been asked in a continuous stream by those who followed him.
The right hon. Gentleman has been in a difficulty. The Times has been attacking the Commonwealth Relations Office for timidity, and other distinguished organs of opinion have been saying that it lacks adventure and did not give a lead. So the right hon. Gentleman found himself delivering a speech on 26th May, following the Prime Ministers' Conference, in which he tried to set out what he thought was the rôle of the Commonwealth Relations Office. He was right to do so. I think that he made a most powerful defence of the position of the Commonwealth Relations Office in present circumstances.
The right hon. Gentleman has been attacked from behind him today by his hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) and, I think, by the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) and by other of his hon. Friends who believe that there is a very strong case for merging the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. That is not a mere matter of machinery. There is a philosophy behind this which affects our thinking about the Commonwealth. Superficially, I am very attracted to the idea myself and I put it forward from this Box three or four years ago.
I have been very influenced by the remarks that the Minister of State used when he addressed the Royal Commonwealth Society a few weeks ago about this problem. We want to look at it quite carefully before we rush into an amalgamation of this sort. What was the substance of his argument? I hope to put it fairly. The task of the Commonwealth Relations Office was to make independence a reality. The psychology of independence was such that ex-Colonial Territories tended to be very touchy in their relationship with us if they detected the slightest hint of patronage or the feeling that the old colonial system was hanging over.
148 We in this country, said the right hon. Gentleman, tended to regard the Commonwealth and the Colonies as much the same sort of thing or variants of the same sort of thing, whereas, clearly, this was not so regarded by India, New Zealand, Australia and other members of the Commonwealth. Finally, he said that the C.R.O. is a collecting house for the ideas of the Commonwealth. His actual words were:It is a Department of State entrusted with the job of representing in Whitehall the attitude of the independent Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Alport
The hon. Member has done me the courtesy of referring to a speech that I made. I think that he will recognise that on that occasion I was trying to explain, as I saw it as a result of three and a half years' experience at the C.R.O., not so much the United Kingdom point of view but what seemed most important that the House and the country should realise, namely, the point of view of our Commonwealth friends on this issue. Although some of my colleagues have not realised it, decisions with regard to machinery in connection with this matter are not entirely for us alone.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I had hoped that the Minister of State would develop his argument, because it is an interesting one, and quite defensible. He went on to say that in some respects the Commonwealth Relations Office has been acting for thirty-five years as the secretariat for the Commonwealth. His hon. Friends who have attacked him should realise that this is the real core of the Government's resistance to the idea of absorbing the Colonial Office and also the excolonial civil servants, and unless we realise that that is the core of the objection we shall not be able to remove it or deal with it.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's philosophy about the C.R.O. has been expressed so clearly before, but it is to resist efforts to combine it with the existing Colonial Territories and make one Department of it. If the right hon. Gentleman is right —and he may well be—in saying that a number of independent Commonwealth Territories would object to Colonial Territories being put into the C.R.O. for purposes of administrative convenience inside the British Cabinet and House of Commons—there is substance 149 in that argument, which I have heard expressed on more than one occasion—we should not do it. It is quite clear that the C.R.O. regards itself as more than an organ of the British Government. It is, in fact, the gathering ground for Commonwealth ideas and the organ for the projection into the Government of those ideas.
I should like to make some proposals in this matter. Why not put some Commonwealth civil servants into the C.R.O.? I do not mean ex-colonial civil servants; I mean Commonwealth civil servants. Those of us who have had the good fortune to travel in the Commonwealth know what a wealth of talent exists in some of the Commonwealth countries. If this is the rôle of the Commonwealth Relations Office in the British Government, it could be strengthened by bringing in, on loan for a few years, some of the very high-level civil servants of great distinction and authority who are at present serving in New Zealand, India, and Australia. In return, we could send them some of ours on loan. A very great gain could be made on both sides if we did something like that.
Secondly, why should the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations always be regarded as a perquisite of the party in power? I am not putting forward a personal suggestion that he should come from the party in Opposition, but I suggest that there may be statesmen in the Commonwealth who could take over such a post. I realise that a politician in the full flight of his career might find it difficult to give up his position and enter the British Cabinet. It would not be impossible, but it would be difficult. But there might be other people who could well afford to take on such a responsibility. In any case it would strengthen the conception that the Minister of State holds about the Commonwealth Relations Office if it were not regarded as a purely party job in the British Cabinet. There are more difficulties about this suggestion than about the one I made regarding civil servants, but I ask the Government not to dismiss it. I hope that they will think about it and see whether it is possible to do something on those lines.
I do not think that the Minister of State has discharged his responsibility fully, although I have agreed with him 150 so far and said that he has advanced a case which I want to hear argued further. I do not think that he has discharged his duty fully to the British people when he depicts this as the rôle of the Commonwealth Relations Office. We cannot leave it there. If this be the rôle of the Commonwealth Relations Office, if equality of status between members of the Commonwealth has reached a position where it is the job of the Minister to project the Commonwealth into the Cabinet; if this leads to a position where he must be extremely cautious in putting forward his ideas to the Commonwealth countries—because he does not want them to feel that he is tainted by virtue of past relations, about which they are extremely touchy, as the right hon. Gentleman has said this afternoon—then this is a time for adventurous and realistic thinking about this great challenge.
Who is to put forward to the Commonwealth the British point of view? I think that this is the real substance of the criticisms of the Commonwealth Relations Office made by the hon. Friends of the right hon. Gentleman as well as by my hon. Friends. If his rôle is to project the Commonwealth into the Cabinet and to be especially sensitive about putting forward ideas to the Commonwealth, because they are very touchy about their relations with us, who is to take on the jab of launching these new, adventurous, challenging ideas which may not always be acceptable in the Commonwealth discussions which go on?
§ Mr. Alport
The hon. Gentleman will realise that the process is one in which discussion of these ideas takes place in legislatures such as our own and that, gradually, they find their way into the general thinking of the people and are then reflected in the policies and points of view not only of the people of this country, but also of the Governments and those interested in Commonwealth countries as well.
I have always thought that one of the dangers at present is that this thinking tends to be confined to a small number of people. The wider it can be, the better. The more popular is the support for these ideas, the better. But the formulation starts here and it is the job of the C.R.O. as I see it, to represent the United Kingdom point of view—when that point 151 of view is fully formulated—in the other Commonwealth countries.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Now we are beginning to hear the speech which I had hoped that the Minister would make when he made his speech earlier today.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Of course it is related to the Commonwealth Conference. The whole future of the Commonwealth is bound up in the machinery used in this connection.
I do not accept the view of the right hon. Gentleman. I have not noticed that other members of the Commonwealth are particularly sensitive about putting forward their views to us regarding the things about which they feel strongly. Quite the reverse. They are forthright in what they say. I well remember that when I was in New Zealand, at the invitation of the Chatham House Conference, strictures were passed on the present Administration about the attitude of the President of the Board of Trade in his negotiations with Denmark on the question of butter. They had no particular reservations about the way they talked to us.
The Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations has these reservations. He does not feel able to go into the battle. But this country of ours is the forcing ground for ideas, the centre in which events themselves are generated. Here we have a high level of development. I agree with the critics of the right hon. Gentleman to some extent, people like the hon. Member for Maldon, that because the C.R.O. takes this view of its functions—we have to understand its case—it is not able to project the views which ought to be projected if we are to galvanise the Commonwealth into a forward movement. I have put this criticism in a moderate way. It is a criticism to which I should like to hear an answer from the right hon. Gentleman, but not by way of an interruption of my speech.
I was about to say that, in the absence of any machinery changes, we have to rely on closer liaison directly between the Ministers of the various Departments and their opposite numbers in the 152 Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Finance Ministers meet and I should like to see meetings between Commonwealth Ministers of National Insurance and Pensions, Commonwealth Ministers of Education—I know that we have had an education conference—and I should like to see meetings between Commonwealth Ministers of Labour. I think that there are many useful exchanges and points which might be made in this direction in the absence of a bold, adventurous and challenging lead from the Commonwealth Relations Office itself.
On that matter I agree with so many of the points made in the debate today. We ought to get to know each other better. In the older Commonwealth it is fairly easy. One goes everywhere and finds sons, daughters and families and cousins all over the place, but chat is true only of the older Commonwealth, and not nearly so true there as it used to be. The link is getting weaker and, although it is constantly replenished, the second, third and fourth generations of Australians think of themselves as Australian and only very remotely descended from anyone in Britain. We must maintain this link.
There is a constant trickle of experts and technicians going to the Commonwealth. In one field which I know I think that a useful job has been done and I want to draw a moral from that. That is the trade union field. Mr. Ramanujam, of the Indian T.U.C. came to our Trades Union Congress last year and there was great interest and excitement aroused by his presence and by what he had to say. He received an ovation for what he was able to tell us and the light he was able to throw on his corner of the Commonwealth. Nothing like it has happened before. Partly as a result of that, several of our trade union leaders have been visiting India and Pakistan. Mr. Willis of the printers' union, went to both India and Pakistan and Mr. Frank Cousins went to India. Mr. Collison went to study agricultural workers' problems. Mr. Harry Douglas went to have a look at steel workers' problems.
As a result of these visits, the T.U.C. is considering what organisational links for the purpose of exchanges can be made between members of the Commonwealth. I use the case of the T.U.C. 153 as in illustration because there is a clear identity of interest, but I think that the Government might try to encourage every organisation, every association, in this country to try to find its opposite number in the Commonwealth, to make contacts with it, and exchange ideas and views.
I put this proposal forward in addition to proposals which have been developed by a number of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite for the exchange of young people. That is something which we want to see extended. I flew out to Australia, when I visited that country some time ago, with two young people who were on their way to settle there. Their excitement on arrival was beyond bounds and it was a real joy to see. We want to extend these interchanges, not merely for the purpose of emigration, but also with the newer countries and they should not be confined to the field of scholarship.
We ought to be looking, especially in connection with Africa, at ways of building up inter-State links. The shortage of capital, of manpower, of skills, of knowledge about agricultural research and farming methods, of doctors and in every field we can think of means that there is no time or opportunity for individual institutions to be built in every one of these newly-independent countries. I should like to know whether it is not possible, either through the newly-emerged countries themselves, or by taking the initiative here, perhaps, to prompt them, to see if we could get an inter-State organisation set up, some machinery focused to enable agricultural research farming methods and the rest to be dealt wine on an inter-State basis.
So far as I can see, some of the existing organisations and institutions in the colonial days provided some links which are now breaking down in the first onrush of nationalism. That is extremely unfortunate. Our emphasis must be placed in the other direction.
Another question which has been raised is that of attendance at the Prime Ministers' Conference. Various ideas have been put forward, such as expanding the size of it, regional meetings, and permanent members, with the addition of alternating State representatives, like the Security Council. I do not pretend to propose a solution. It seems to me that this is essentially a question which must 154 be solved by the Prime Ministers' meetings themselves. I have sat in at only one of them—on the very corner of my chair at the very bottom of the room—and I dare not say what I think would be the right solution. But I ask the Colonial Secretary, was this discussed at the last Prime Ministers' Conference? If so, what are the views of the Prime Ministers? The Government ought not to let it drift on. This is a real problem, and although any hon. Member is entitled to put forward his own view, I would not put forward a solution, speaking for the Opposition; but I ask the Colonial Secretary: what is the Government's view and, more important, what are the views of other Commonwealth Governments about this, in order that we may see in which way their thinking is moving?
I come to the question of South Africa and South-West Africa. My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) asked some specific questions and was given some rather cloudy answers. We ought to be quite clear where we are going on this issue. Dr. Verwoerd has said:I am convinced that the influence of Britain, Australia, Canada and even India, which is now politically adult"—rather patronising words—will ensure that we retain our membership. Membership of the Commonwealth is not a matter of sentiment, but a question of serving South Africa's interests, and on that principle the matter will be decided.It ought to be said to him that it is not merely a question of serving South Africa's interests, but a question of serving the interests of the Commonwealth upon which such an issue should be decided. This is not a question—I think that the phrase was used loosely by an hon. Member earlier—of expelling South Africa. The issue was put clearly by my right hon. Friend and confirmed by the Minister of State. If South Africa decides to become a republic, she must then make formal application for admission to the Commonwealth in her new status as a republic. Dr. Verwoerd has said that he is convinced thatBritain will ensure that we retain our membership.I think that the Minister of State's replies were cloudy, but I want to tell the Colonial Secretary what I understood him to mean. I say this because it is 155 important that the South African Nationalist Party Congress should not meet under any misapprehension next month. South Africa is a police State, but there is still freedom of the Press; the newspapers are still free to report, and I hope that what has been said in the Committee today will be reported.
I understand from what has been said today that it is wrong for Dr. Verwoerd to convey the impression that he has received an assurance from the British Government that they will use their influence to retain South Africa in membership of the Commonwealth if she decides to apply. That is my understanding of what has been said, and I hope that that impression will be conveyed to those who have to make up their minds on this very important issue in South Africa.
I was not present to hear the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), but I understand that he said that the Labour Party ought to say clearly where we stand on this matter. At the moment I think that the overwhelming majority of people in Britain, if asked to reply to this question, would say that they prefer South Africa not to be in the Commonwealth. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I do not think that it is rubbish. There have been a number of expressions of opinion. The House unanimously passed a Motion on this, which was opposed by nobody at the time.
Another point is that the United Nations has asked South Africa to reform her policies and the Secretary-General of the United Nations is at this moment, I understand, entering into discussions with the South African Government on this matter. The motion was quite clear. It was a United Nations motion, and it called…upon the Government of the Union of South Africa to initiate measures aimed at bringing in racial harmony based on equality in order to ensure that the present situation does not continue or recur and to abandon its policies or apartheid and racial discrimination.Do the South African Government propose to bring themselves into line with this United Nations motion and with the earlier declaration of the Security Council? I say to the noble Lord that we ought to wait and see what response 156 there is to this request. That is the right and responsible thing to do.
Goodness knows, nobody on this side of the Committee believes that the solution to these problems is easy. When the situation in South Africa has been built up on force, when the Government exist on repression, when there is no alternative Government in sight, to destroy that Government without replacement is to go over completely to anarchy.
There are three things which the British Government could do, and I ask the Colonial Secretary and the Minister of State to pursue this course as they have never pursued any other objective. Otherwise, the future of Africa is black indeed. First, they should press for the release of the detainees. Secondly, they should press for the abolition of the pass laws which, by all accounts, are a source of great exacerbation. Thirdly, they should press the South African Government to enter at once into consultation with responsible African leaders.
Is this a solution that I am proposing? Not at all. But the alternative that I fear in my blackest moments is just revolution and anarchy. I do not know whether the situation can be saved, but I tell the noble Lord that it will not be saved by "smart Alec" questions or smooth replies. It will be saved only by all of us trying to face the facts, black as they are. If these three measures were taken by the South African Government—and the responsibility of the British Government is to press these upon the South African Government—they would at least do something to save the situation.
In the meantime, I think that our attitude has been made clear to South Africa. She is flouting the decision of the United Nations not only in relation to her own position but also, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) pointed out, in relation to South-West Africa. If we have to make a choice, there can be no doubt where the answer must lie if the Commonwealth is to have any significance and meaning at all. I do not propose, with the permission of the noble Lord, to go any further than that tonight, but it ought to be clear to anybody what I am trying to say.
Now I come to another matter. I beg pardon; I find that I have only two 157 minutes left, and in that case I will leave it over. It is a pity, for it was a very good section. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) said that the discussions on the Commonwealth gave rise to more woolly debates than he had heard anywhere else. This is true. It is intangible. It is difficult to define, yet it is real. I know this because I have experienced it my self.
When I heard Mr. Walter Nash open the Chatham House Conference at Palmerston, New Zealand, he said:The Commonwealth…forms a bridge—the only one which exists at the moment—by which the ideas and influence of Asia can be brought to bear on Western Governments and vice versa.I had a letter last week from the Australian Labour Party in New South Wales. It said:The first part of the Motion on international affairs is that the policy of the Australian Labour Party shall be based on continued membership of the Commonwealth and upon the United Nations Organisation.I had a letter from a very distinguished Canadian who, in relation to his own country, said to me:Without the idea as well as the fact of Commonwealth relationships, Canada could quite easily become solely North American, solely continental rather than international, and lose both some of her identity and some of her world-wide outlook.I know this view to be shared by some of the newer members of the Commonwealth to whom membership gives a view of the world, an opening on the world through which they can see. It is a connection which. I know, is very highly valued.
What purpose has it? First, the multiracial aspect of the Commonwealth seems to me to be absolutely vital, and must be preserved at all costs. Secondly, there is the need to build up the standard of life of the people in the Commonwealth if we are a community of peoples, as we are in our perorations. I wonder how it sounds to the people of India to hear used here the phrase "You have never had it so good"? If that phrase is used as a springboard for the action for additional assistance to those within the Commonwealth, well and good, but I fear that it was not used in that sense on that occasion.
158 That is the way, in my view, to achieve co-operative action, which the communique of the Prime Ministers' Conference speaks about. We cannot permit wide gaps between ourselves and the other members of the Commonwealth in standards of life or education, if we are a community of peoples, any more than we now permit them in our own country. This seems to me to be the test to apply. Only 50 per cent. of India's children go to school, and only 30 per cent. of the children of East, West and Central Africa go to school. The number of teachers required at the moment is 200,000 if we are to have 40 children per class.
Here is our great problem for the Commonwealth, and that Commonwealth will cease to exist when it fails to serve any of these vital purposes. That is why I am so opposed to what is happening—I shall come back to this on Thursday—in terms of some of the Government's economic policies. I do not want to touch on that now. So long as the nations making up the Commonwealth feel that this useful purpose is served, so long will it exist and be useful. It is in that spirit and with that approach that we on this side want to see the Commonwealth continue to flourish, to provide that bridge between the East and West, between Asia and the nations to which the Prime Minister of New Zealand referred in his opening remarks at the Conference.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. fain Macleod)
The only way of trying to make a coherent reply to this debate is to try to take the main themes which have emerged and to comment on them. Of course, in the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, there is scope for fifty different debates, but there are three matters which I should like to mention briefly and almost in passing, although I think each of them is worthy of a full debate.
I take the first from the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White). She asked the question which I should deeply like to debate at great length. In effect, she asked whether our Parliamentary democracy—the Westminster model, as it is sometimes called—is exportable, and whether we are too complacent in thinking it can 159 be. I think that what she said was wise. It is inevitable that new countries need and will find strong executives, and I do not think we should be perturbed about that. I think also that the pattern and detail they take will differ a good deal from the pattern which, after all, has taken us here something like 800 years to build, and again I do not think that we should be perturbed about that.
The hon. Lady also asked the question, and in some ways this is the most fundamental question of all—will there be true opposition? I can remember in a speech two or three years ago saying, and I believe this to be true, that the real discovery of British Parliamentary democracy was not the theory of government but the theory of opposition. After all, every country in the world has a Government, but not every country in the world has an Opposition, and that is perhaps the fundamental distinction that we can make between the countries that really are democracies and those that are not. That is why we in this country cherish particularly, and even in many ways above the rights of government, the rights of opposition, and we are right to do so, but it has taken us many centuries to learn to do so. I think that in time—though not as long a time as that—opposition in the real sense of the word will come too.
The second theme to which I hope we will be able to return is the question of the future of Her Majesty's overseas Civil Service. I would merely refer the Committee to the reply which I made to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Colonel Beamish) a short time ago and say that, although the hon. Lady for Flint, East was quite right in saying that we made some mistakes, no doubt, in the first schemes we drew up, I think that we can claim that we are learning from experience. We are getting a good deal of experience in this matter now. The most recent scheme, that in relation to Sierra Leone, is the best one, which is, after all, as it should be because it is built on the experience of the past. All that I will say about the future of the overseas Civil Service is that there is no single matter which occupies more of my time at present, and I know very well the enormous importance of this subject for the future.
160 The third thing—and again I mention it in passing before coming to the themes more directly related to the Conference —concerned the question of the future administrative arrangements between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations, in speaking to an audience a short time ago, put forward his view on this matter, and I was getting alarmed at one point to find that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) seemed largely in agreement with it. However, by the time that the hon. Member had finished, I found enough to differ from in both speeches to find a different view of my own. But this is an immensely interesting subject and I should like to return to it, although in another connection, when I talk about the future of the smaller dependent territories later.
I should like to turn to the question of South Africa. In one sense, it was inevitable that this debate should be dominated by the question of South Africa, and yet in another sense that gives a wholly misleading impression of what happened at the Prime Ministers' Conference. Let me first try to answer directly the question which has been put to me by many hon. Members. I should like to quote these words from the Prime Minister's communiquéé:In the event of South Africa deciding to become a republic and if the desire was subsequently expressed to remain a member of the Commonwealth, the Meeting suggested that the South African Government should then ask for the consent of the other Commonwealth Governments either at a Meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers or, if this were not practicable, by correspondence".The key word there is "then". Let me make it quite clear in answer to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East—there is nothing between us on this issue —that, as the communiquéé makes clear, this is a matter which is to be decided in time by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in the light of any application made to them. It follows that that decision has not been and could not be prejudged. It follows further that no undertakings have been given by Her Majesty's Government, nor, indeed, would it have been proper to do so.
Our attitude—and when I say "our attitude" I think that, for once, one can speak for the whole of this country and 161 not in any party way—was clearly expressed by the Prime Minister in his Cape Town speech. I should like to read three brief extracts from it. The first is that of the theme itself:The wind of change is blowing through this continent and, whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it.The second quotation is itself a quotation, because it comes from something which my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said 'to the General Assembly in September, 1959:We reject the idea of any inherent superiority of one race over another. Our policy therefore is non-racial.The third quotation which I wish to make is this:As a fellow member of the Commonwealth it is our earnest desire to give South Africa our support and encouragement, but I hope you won't mind my saying frankly that there are some aspects of your policies which make it impossible for us to do this without being false to our own deep convictions about the political destinies of free men to which in our own territories we are trying to give effect.Those three quotations are the heart of what has come to be called the "Wind of Change" speech. I think that force and much added strength was given to that speech by its timing, by the occasion on which it was made and by the place in which it was made.
There are some voices—I acknowledge that this was not put forward from the Opposition Front Bench—that are raised to say that South Africa should be, in certain circumstances, perhaps expelled from the Commonwealth. When we put this question, we want to be quite clear what we mean by South Africa. We do not simply mean that lovely, beautiful country now torn with all this trouble. We mean the people. That is what matters.
Which of the people do we mean? Do we mean the 3 million whites, many of them wholly opposed to the policies that the Government are putting forward, or the 1½ million coloured or the half million Asian or the 9½ million native people? Of course, we mean them all, and we have a responsibility to them all.
The only thing that one ought to say is this. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East passed over the point and, 162 I think, he was right to do so. I attended nearly all the meetings of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers and I am certain that the thought was in all their minds all the time that we must think long and very deeply indeed before we try to force those peoples into what would then be truly a wilderness. I believe that this is true. Our responsibility is to those people, and to all those people. On the whole, we have spoken wise words in this debate.
I should like to turn from the question of South Africa to talk briefly, without encroaching on the debate that we are to have on Thursday, about some the economic matters that were raised. In paragraph 9 of the communiquéé, reference was made to what has been taken to mean a Colombo Plan for Africa. The Committee will recall the origin of the Colombo Plan for South and South-East Asia. Although it is now a thoroughly international affair, that plan initiated from a Commonwealth initiative at the meeting in Colombo in 1950 at which the United Kingdom was represented by that great and beloved figure, the late Mr. Ernest Bevin.
The question of a Colombo Plan for Africa is something in which we are very interested, but the heart of the matter is this. Is it just to be another organisation, or will it mean new money? Amongst the Commonwealth, only the United Kingdom is, on balance, an exporter of capital. We already send abroad in the form of Government assistance or private investment or in one way or another as much as our balance of payments permits.
As hon. Members will know, there is already considerable and elaborate machinery, the C.C.T.A. and the Foundation for Mutual Assistance in Africa, the F.A.M.A. which arose from an examination held in 1957 of an idea for a Colombo Plan for Africa. If I may sum up our attitude towards it, it would be that we are very interested in the suggestion but that we hope that it will not be just one more organisation, because there are, perhaps, enough organisations for the distribution of capital. What is wanted is more capital to distribute.
I will say one word only on the question that was raised by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) and other hon. Members 163 about the suggestion put forward by Senator Cooray for a Commonwealth court. Actually the position was that Senator Cooray put forward this suggestion of a Commonwealth appeal court but that there was no discussion at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting of a Commonwealth Bill of Rights. On the question of a Commonwealth court of appeal, which has considerable attractions, this, I may say, was discussed as long ago, I am told, as the Imperial Conference of 1911, but in fact —and we must face the facts in these matters—in recent years the tendency has been almost exactly in the other direction, because appeal, for example, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has been abolished by Canada, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and, most recently, as we know, by Ghana.
There are many countries indeed who value very much the Judicial Committee, and I am certain that the decision to dispense with it is in no sense a measure of dissatisfaction with it. I rather feel that it is a general feeling that it is inconsistent—some people feel this—with the independent status of some of the members of the Commonwealth that there should be any appeal from the judgments of their own courts to any other outside body. I can see only one way of getting round this. I am not sure it would wholly succeed. It was put forward by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), and that is that the court, or perhaps the Judicial Committee itself, might go on circuit. There are obvious difficulties in that, and obvious attractions in the idea, and if it were attractive enough to enough countries, it is certainly something on which Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have got an entirely open mind.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Long-bottom) on an admirable maiden speech which we all enjoyed very much indeed. He asked the question, why the Prime Ministers' Conference always met in London. The short answer is, because that is where they want to meet. They have discussed this on a number of occasions, and I believe they invariably come to that solution.
He also, from his very considerable experience, discussed the question of a 164 Commonwealth youth trust. I know that, as Chairman of the Commonwealth Youth Council, he gave evidence before the Templer Committee to which he referred. This matter was not discussed at the Prime Ministers' Conference. Although I know it has taken rather a long time, the proposals made by the Templer Committee are still under consideration.
I wish to come to what in some ways is the most interesting of all the themes, which featured in half a dozen speeches, and which is summarised in paragraph 14 of the communiquéé:The Ministers reviewed the constitutional development of the Commonwealth, with particular reference to the future of the smaller dependent territories. They agreed that a detailed study of this subject should be made for consideration by Commonwealth Governments.The answer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East is, yes, indeed, this study is getting under way. They are in fact meeting this month. The Committee will consist of one Commonwealth representative from each of the continents. The countries concerned, I think, are Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, India, Ghana, with the addition, because they have some special problems in this field, of New Zealand. There is a real sense of urgency about this matter now.
There is one way in which perhaps one can show how it is that this is really the first time that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers have come to discuss this matter. There are at the moment something like 74 million people who live in the dependent territories and the Colonies, and 37 million of those, no fewer than half, will go on one day this year, 1st October, 1960, when Nigeria becomes independent.
Therefore, at once, all these questions become urgent. Will there be qualifications for future membership? When we talk, as we do, in the accepted terms that Secretaries of State of both parties have used since the war, about advancing towards independence, although we obviously mean that about the 37 million of Nigeria, what relevance has it for the 5,000 of St. Helena or the 3,000 of the Falkland Islands? These are problems which we must try to solve now. Should we have anything more than is regarded as adequate by the United Nations?
165 Membership of the United Nations is opento all…peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter…This is a problem which will come to the United Nations itself. When I was in the United Nations Assembly Hall a week or so ago the carpenters were already in to alter the seating for the great number of new candidates who will be coming up for the new meeting.
There is also the question whether, as this membership grows, it will be possible to keep to the unanimity rule which is more properly a convention than a rule. There is another matter which seems to me essential to keep in mind. There are at the moment ten full members of the Commonwealth. When Nigeria joins them for the first time round the Prime Ministers' Conference table the pale faces will be in the minority, as they have long been a minority in the Commonwealth itself in which there are 650 million people and of them 90 million are white. Therefore the last sentence in the Commonwealth communiquéé is profoundly true:The Ministers emphasised that the Commonwealth itself is a multi-racial association and expresses the need to ensure good relations between all member states and peoples of the Commonwealth.It is quite easy to give the size of the problem as one sees it now. There are 10 full member States, the two Federations of Central Africa and the West Indies, which makes 12, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are coming to independence, and that makes 14, and the three East African territories clearly one day will qualify for, shall we say, first division membership, or membership without any conceivable qualifications at all. That makes 17 but, there are many others that must be considered.
Indeed, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference would have had to consider the views of Cyprus at this Conference if the negotiations had gone as successfully as we had thought. The Bill which will be introduced very soon in the House of Commons will, as I said this afternoon, include a plan for Cyprus to be treated as an independent Commonwealth country until it has had the opportunity of considering the matter and it makes an application. Cyprus 166 has a population of a little over half a million. When we come to figures of this sort we are clearly a long way from the figures that Dr. Nkrumah and other people have suggested might be appropriate. Still, when all these are taken into account, there are 25 territories left, nine with populations of under 100,000 and three with populations of under 10,000.
The task of the Committee to which I have referred is not, of course, to advise on constitutional solutions. That remains my task and that of Her Majesty's Government, although it may well be that increasingly in the future, as we have done, for example, with the Monckton Commission, we shall turn to the wisdom of the Commonwealth and and I hope that we will do this—for help in solving some of the inevitable problems that will come.
I hope that we shall be able to solve these matters. We have a great advantage in that we have not any fixed mould into which we must try to pour these countries. We have shown a good deal of ingenuity in recent years. The conception of the status of Singapore may form for many territories an excellent model indeed. There is the strange conception —from the constitutional historian's point of view, anyway—of Cyprus itself, although that will probably remain a single example.
With help from both sides of the House of Commons we tried to devise a solution of integration for Malta, an immensely imaginative exercise which I am very sad did not succeed. We must try it again to find another solution for Malta. There are countries like Zanzibar and Tonga where we are in special relationship with the ruling families.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
I hope, when my right hon. Friend and his fellows in the Commonwealth are considering the question of those who are going to join the Commonwealth, that it will not matter what the size of the country is or the number of people who want to join. If they are Governments they make application in the normal way. I do not see the point of my right hon. Friend making special reference to Cyprus or to Malta. If any of these people wish to join the Commonwealth, surely 167 their applications will be submitted to the Commonwealth, and it will be for the Commonwealth to decide?
§ Mr. Macleod
That is so, but I was pointing out that, as one goes from the case of Cyprus—which, if it wishes, will be submitted to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers—down to places where the population is 5,000 or 3,000, clearly entirely different considerations of what independence means, and what membership to that extent means, do arise, and it is the purpose of the Committee to try and examine them. I think that we have had an extremely helpful debate on that subject. I do not propose to try to analyse what the conclusions of this Committee will be, but I am sure that it will study what has been said here today as it meets later this month.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. Thomson) observed that the Tories, when they discussed matters relating to the Commonwealth, became rather woolly, though his own definition of the Commonwealth, if I may say so, was not wholly clear. But I think that that is not really surprising because, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said, the Commonwealth is almost impossible to define. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B.Harrison) who said that sentiment is not enough. He is quite right, but sentiment is not unimportant either. It is a priceless thing, this Commonwealth, that has somehow been created partly by design and partly by chance from what was once the British Empire.
It is true, as my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) said, that it has just grown. But it is there and it is evolving fast and is changing all the time. I can think of no job more worth while than that that falls to some of Her Majesty's Ministers, of helping to guide and to nourish that change in the Commonwealth.
Whereupon Motion made, and Question, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again—[Mr. Bryan]—put and agreed to.
Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.