§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I beg to move, to leave out "£10" and insert "£5".
I want to make it clear at the outset that, in moving this reduction, I have no desire to leave one of the Monckton Commissioners stranded beyond the flood waters in the summer palace of the Paramount Chief of Barotseland, although those of us who have experienced the hospitality of the Paramount Chief—including the Minister of Power, who is present, and my right hon. Friend—would not feel that it would be too hard a fate if Parliament, in its wisdom, decided that he should be left there because there were not sufficient funds to bring him home. But, in the long run, we think that we should be right in allowing the Government to dispatch a money order, or whatever is 1136 appropriate, to bring him back from beyond the flood waters.
At a time when events are moving so rapidly in Africa, we should give some consideration to what effect those events will have on the Monckton Commission. The purposes of that Commission were as set out by the Prime Minister in the Motion which he commended to the House some time ago, namely,to advise the five Governments, in preparation for the 1960 review, on the constitutional programme and framework best suited to the achievement of the objects contained in the Constitution of 1953. including the Preamble.There is no doubt that since the Prime Minister announced these terms of reference in the House, on 21st July last year, there have been many rapid changes on the continent of Africa. The tremendous decision by the Belgian Government to set free the Belgian Congo is bound to have its effects upon the work of the Monckton Commission.
We understand that it has already resulted in an approach being made to the Federal Prime Minister by certain interests in one of the Provinces of the Belgian Congo to link up with the Federation itself. How far these approaches will be taken we do not know, nor do we know how far they represent the wishes of the people in the Belgian Congo. But it is clear that this decision is bound to have a tremendous reaction throughout Africa. We would all wish well those Africans in the Belgian Congo who will soon be launched upon the most tremendous experiment ever conducted in the territory.
The second event that has undoubtedly influenced the work of the Monckton Commission is the Prime Minister's visit to Africa. [Interruption.] I do not know what the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) is muttering about. Fortunately, the noble Lord does not have to decide whether something is in order or not. I realise that he has an Amendment on the Order Paper, and that no doubt he wants to get to it, although I doubt very much if he will do anything about it when he gets there, if previous experience is any guide. He and his supporters are just like a lot of chocolate soldiers. They think that they have got 1137 hard centres until the Tory Whips appear, and then they find that the filling is just marzipan.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Even so, I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you would agree that I have been provoked for the past two minutes by mutterings from the Front Bench below the Gangway.
The Prime Minister's visit to Africa and his speeches both in Lagos and Salisbury have undoubtedly had a good deal of influence on the work of the Monckton Commission and the terms of reference with which it is charged, and, even more recently, in lands contiguous to these territories, an agreement, which we welcome, has been come to on the question of the future of Kenya. We believe that that is fraught with hope for the future, too.
To go back to the question of the Monckton Commission and its terms of reference, they have been outpaced, as we see it, by the course of events today. All the events I have described have meant that what might have been— although we did not think so—arguable as being a worth-while task last July is really no longer worth while, unless the Monckton Commission is ready to take a much wider view of the task that has been set it by the terms of reference which we have been asked to agree, and for which this money is being expended.
We think that it is not only events outside the territories of the Central African Federation which have outpaced and outdated the Monckton Commission, but statements made inside the territory of the Central African Federation. We think that we know where the Prime Minister stands now, as a result of his speeches in Lagos and Salisbury. We are not quite certain. One journalist rather unfairly described him as being at his most evasive and ambiguous best when speaking about the Federation. But we think that we have got it fairly well tied down.
As we understand the Government's attitude in regard to the terms of reference, it is that the three territories making up the Federation may not break up. None of them may secede. That is why the terms of reference say that the purpose of the Monckton Commission is to 1138 review the constitutional programme and the framework best suited to the achievement of the objects contained in the Constitution of 1953. The Prime Minister seems clear about that. What he also seems clear about, from his speech in Lagos, especially, is that the three territories may not go forward to full independence until all three of them, and the peoples of all three, are ready so to do.
In these circumstances, I think that all of us can understand that the people in Southern Rhodesia, especially, who were very close to Dominion status, feel that they have been robbed by this curb that has been placed upon them, because there is little doubt, I suppose, that this Constitution, which is now being reviewed, might mean that they would be unable to get full Dominion status. There is equally little doubt from what the Prime Minister has said that they must wait for Dominion status until the two Northern Territories express an opinion that their people are ready to go ahead with them to full Dominion status.
We know from the events of the past that, so far from their being anxious to go forward with Southern Rhodesia to attain full Dominion status, it really was quite different. A majority of the people —not a majority of the votes, but a majority of the people—wish to break up the Federation. They do not wish to be associated with it at all. We have been told by the Prime Minister that it is not the view of the Government that the Federation should be broken up; at any rate, not as far as the Northern Territories are concerned. But how do we explain what Sir Edgar Whitehead said in connection with the Monckton Commission? His views are that, in certain circumstances, Southern Rhodesia will have to reconsider her position in the Federation. He lays down these conditions. Some of them do not—
§ Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
On a point of order. With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I should be grateful, Mr. Speaker, if you could give us some guidance as to the scope of this debate, and whether we can talk about the policies or likely policies of the Government in future, or whether we are restricted and strictly limited to the discussion of certain specific Estimates for 1959–60 which we have before us this afternoon. If there could be any guidance as to how 1139 far this debate can range, and the subjects which are permissible and not permissible, I think that it will be of very great help to all the other hon. Members who propose to take up some of the points which the hon. Gentleman is now putting forward.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
May I make a further submission to you, Mr. Speaker, on that point of order, on three grounds? The sum to which the hon. Gentleman referred —£40,000—is but a tithe of the total Supplementary Estimate, and if the Supplementary Estimate is to be debated, and the Vote has been tabled, the debate ought to range widely over those larger items such as Subheads S.3 and U, relating to the Federation of Malaya and Basutoland, and all those other matters besides the Monckton Commission. That is the first ground of my submission.
My second submission is this. If it is to be allowed on this particular item of £40,000 it should be strictly related to the use to which that sum is to be put, that is to say, the travelling expenses of the Commission, the costs of the attendance of witnesses, and the entertainment allowances which the Monckton Commission will have to undertake or discharge, the things of that kind.
Thirdly, I should like to make the submission that the hon. Member is out of order on the ground that he is enlarging on the higher policies connected with the work of the Monckton Commission, which would be the subject of debate on a special Motion, if that were put down, and that this is very narrowly confined to the expenses of the Commission.
§ Mr. Callaghan
May I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that I am only asking satisfaction from the Government, because they are asking the House to justify the expenditure of £40,000 on the Monckton Commission. I am questioning whether, in fact, the pace of events in Africa has not made the work of that Commission less useful than it would otherwise be, and that, in fact, the terms of reference of the Commission should be much wider to guard against that. That does not need a change of policy, but only a change in the terms of reference.
§ Mr. Speaker
I take the view that, this being the first occasion on which 1140 the Monckton Commission arises in connection with a Vote, I cannot stop the House discussing the whole question of policy underlying the Monckton Commission in this debate. What the noble Lord was submitting to me about the right of the House to debate the whole field in that connection is also true. The Chair has no power to stop it.
§ Mr. Eden
May I take up a further point on that point of order? Would it not have been possible to have called Amendments to reduce the Vote on specific subheads in order to restrict the debate to those subheads? If that cannot be done, how is it possible to restrict the debate to one particular subhead in the Vote?
§ Mr. Speaker
The House cannot do that on Report, as the hon. Member will appreciate, because we are considering the whole sum reported in the Resolution.
§ Mr. Callaghan
—when the rebels have to appeal to be taught how to use their arms. If they really want to rebel, they should take a few lessons before they come here.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The difference is that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) carries his to a logical conclusion, whereas the hon. Gentleman opposite will not do anything anywhere. I do not consider that he will dare to vote—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Let us get back to this particular matter. Wide as the discussion may be, it really cannot comprise these delightful matters to which the hon. Member refers.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I agree. There is such a call on rebels; that is the only difficulty.
I was about to say, if I may now be allowed to continue—hon. Gentlemen opposite may leave the Chamber if they wish—that the real issue with which we are faced is that Sir Edgar Whitehead has himself 1141 laid down certain conditions in which he thinks it would be necessary for the Southern Rhodesian people to secede from the Federation.
If the Monekton Commission may not consider this question at all—and we understand from the pronouncement of the Prime Minister of the Federation and our own Prime Minister that it is not allowed to do so—how is it possible— because the Federation is there to stay— for one of the territories to state a number of conditions on which it is willing to remain in?
If it is possible for Southern Rhodesia to do that, equally it must be possible for Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia to do the same. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I do not see how it is possible to have this both ways. Either all the territories remain in, and must remain in, or all the territories are free to contract out.
Speaking for myself—and now I am referring to the technical matter and not to the merits—it seems to me quite clear that Sir Edgar Whitehead has spoken the truth, that, whatever legal forms may contain these three territories at the moment, those forms will be sustained only so long as they have the assent of the people. As we have seen before with written constitutions, they can be unwritten as quickly as they are written, and unless the federal machine can secure the support of all the territories whatever may be written in the constitution can be as easily unwritten.
I believe that we were right when we said before, and that we are right today, that if we are to spend this £40,000 properly and expeditiously, if all the witnesses coming before the Commission are to spend their time in a worth-while way and all the expenses are to be paid, it would be far more useful and worth while for the work of the Commission to include discussions on other forms of association between the territories. At one stage we thought that the Prime Minister was coming a little nearer to us when, on 24th November, he said:I want to make it clear, as I tried to say, that the Commission can, of course, hear any evidence of any kind on any subject. The right hon. Gentleman"—that is, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition— 1142says, 'can it consider other forms of association?' I would have thought that the phrase which I tried to interpret in the terms of reference"—and then the right hon. Gentleman quoted—'considered the whole field of redistribution of powers in either direction' is a pretty wide one and really covers the point at issue, other forms of association being covered by those 'powers' whether greater, or changed, or smaller, which really do affect the answer."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 213.]It was possible from that to assume that the Prime Minister was endeavouring to convince us that it could consider other forms of association. But we now know from the later comments of the right hon. Gentleman, and from the views expressed by the Federal Prime Minister, that, whatever the view of the Prime Minister himself, the Federal Prime Minister would not have agreed to this Commission going to Africa had he thought it was free to consider the break-up of the Federation or any alternative form of association.
The remarkable thing is that some of the newer members of the Commission advocated precisely this; at least one did, Mr. Wellington Chirwa, from Nyasaland, who has recently been appointed to the Commission. On 25th January, after conferring with the Colonial Secretary, he declared that the nearer the Federation was to break-up the better it would be. He suggested that the terms of reference should be changed to allow the Commission to advocate secession for Nyasaland.
Equally, Lord Shawcross, another nominee of the Government to the Commission. I see that he is described in the Central African Press as a Socialist and it is suggested that the reason he adopted the position he did was that, of course, the Socialists had to appeal to the groundlings. That is rather unfair to Lord Shawcross. We know very well that it is something the Prime Minister himself would never dream of doing. The Federation Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia both protested about the remarks of Lord Shawcross about the Monekton Commission in a B.B.C. television programme— that he would not hesitate to recommend the abolition of the Federation if he was convinced that it was the wish of the majority of Africans.
1143 On 14th January, Sir Roy Welensky and Sir Edgar Whitehead found it deplorable that Lord Shawcross, a member of the Commission, should have seen fit to publicise his views on the Commission's work before its sittings had begun and should have done so in a manner which seemed to them at so complete variance with the terms of reference.
How right we were in this matter. This question has dogged the Monckton Commission ever since it set out. We asked for a clear answer to this question before the Commission set out, and before we took up a position, because we were anxious to participate if the answer was clear. We asked for a clear answer to the question: would the Commission be allowed to consider other forms of association? At first, the answer was, "Well, we are not sure." Then the answer was, "No, certainly not." Sir Roy Welensky has always been certain that the answer was,"No, certainly not", and now all the time, individual members, and the Commission itself, are being pressed by this question.
In our view, the spending of £40,000 on this Commission to do this job is a case of spending money unnecessarily when we know what the answer will be before the Commission reports. The Commission could have done a really good job, in my view, had it been allowed to consider the possibility of these other forms of association between the territories. The simple truth is— this is what I think that we as a House must face—that if the Government are asking us to give them this Vote they are in a dilemma, because their policy in Kenya, Somaliland and in other territories in Africa is to ensure that the Africans themselves are free to take over the Government of their country as soon as they can.
I am not saying that this is wrong. On the whole, I think that it is right, although I am bound to say, also, that I think that it is also fraught with dangers. But these are dangers which we ought to face. Indeed, we cannot avoid them. Regarding the Rhodesias, we are in a different position. Sir Edgar Whitehead and most of the Europeans in the Federation have made clear— certainly in Southern Rhodesia—that if the two Northern Territories, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, secure African 1144 Governments on the lines of Governments of other territories they will secede from the Federation.
What is Her Majesty's Government to do? Here is their dilemma. It seems to me that the Government have got themselves into a position where either they will have to break faith with the Africans to whom they have pledged themselves, or they will have to break faith with the Europeans who believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Federation was set up to protect them against exactly this sort of happening. I think that here the real difficulty goes back to the decision in 1953 to establish the Federation against the will of the Africans.
In Africa itself, the Government's policy seems to show signs of lapsing into sanity. We are glad that this should be so. But I beg the Government not to allow this lapse to be overtaken by Sir Roy Welensky's difficulties with the Europeans in Central Africa. I wish to say to the Government, and to the Europeans living in those territories, that so long as they insist that those territories must remain linked together in their present form, so long will the attention of Africans be focussed upon that to the exclusion of other problems which in many ways are more important. The economic problems of Central Africa, particularly of Nyasaland, the educational problems, all these need a solution. But attention is diverted from them. Now it is focussed—it is bound to be focussed—on this political issue the whole time, because the Government still insist on sticking to it.
I know that the intention is, and it has been said, that this territory shall remain a Central African Federation, that it shall be a bastion against the onrush of African nationalism from the North. It has been more recently stated by Sir Edgar Whitehead that it is also to be a bastion against the onrush of European nationalism from the South. Those, I think, are in many ways worthy objectives. I would most dearly love to see a federation or an association between these territories in which black and white were living together freely and harmoniously because they believed that it was in the interest of all the people in these territories that they should do so.
1145 If we are to achieve this end, as I should love to see it achieved for the sake of the Africans and of the Europeans in these territories, we cannot go on, as the Monckton Commission has been charged to do, with the present policy of saying, "We shall ignore the overwhelming weight of African opinion about the form of association, or whether there should be any association at all." It may seem strange, coming from me, but I believe that there are certain elements in the Federal Government, from which I would not exclude the Federal Prime Minister, who genuinely would like to see a partnership. I think it possible that he would, but at the moment he is at the mercy of many of his own supporters and unable to move in the direction in which he would like to move.
In those circumstances, whatever may be the feelings of Her Majesty's Government, they ought to give a lead on this issue. The best lead they could give would be to say to the Monckton Commission, "You are free to consider any form of association you think appropriate in the circumstances you find. You are free to make any recommendations about whether it is possible to hold these territories together or not. We give you responsibility to review the whole situation."
If the Government did that, I believe that this £40,000 would be well spent, but, as they are not doing that, we on this side of the House come to the conclusion that however worthy the motives of the Commission, and however able its members may be, we fear that they will not come back with any solution which is likely to commend itself—as they are supposed to do—to the great majority of the people in those territories.
Of course, we do not oppose the spending of the money—as I have said, we should not like to have one Commissioner left out there—but we do not think that the Commission is likely to advance the solution of the problems. The Government themselves will have to take decisions on this matter, come out of their masterly and ambiguous evasiveness—to use the words of newspaper correspondents—and recognise that we cannot chain people eternally to a legal form. Some day they will break 1146 loose if we do not free them from their chains beforehand.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphry Berkeley (Lancaster)
The trepidation which I would normally feel in addressing the House for the first time is increased to a feeling of positive terror in view of the many points of order which were raised by some of my hon. Friends a few moments ago. I hope, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that I may ask not only for your special indulgence, but perhaps even for their special indulgence, to help me through this very difficult phase.
The first point I wish to make about the Monckton Commission is one which I have not seen generally commented upon. It is that in the various comments, spoken and otherwise, about the composition of the Monckton Commission I do not feel that sufficient general acknowledgment has been given to the Government for, in my view, their imaginative appointment of Sir Charles Arden Clarke as a member of that Commission. I have been fortunate enough to travel reasonably frequently to West Africa. I can testify, as anybody who has been much in Ghana can, to the complete affection for him from the people in Ghana and the confidence in him of the people of West Africa.
When one bears in mind that he was responsible for summoning Dr. Nkrumah from prison to the office of Chief Minister, one can take it for granted that he will not be afraid of any unorthodox recommendations in his participation in the work of the Commission. I believe the appointment of men such as he to this Commission will mean that it will carry a great deal more weight, as it should, among African opinion than otherwise it would have done.
Those of us who, from time to time, have visited different parts of the African continent—and no one knows more than I do how difficult it is to generalise about that continent—must be deeply conscious of one characteristic which has pervaded every part of Africa to which I have been. That is the intense preoccupation of the African with symbols and with words. We see it in West Africa in the obsession with the need to get a new constitution and in Central Africa with the obsession over the word 1147 "federation". There is no doubt whatever in my mind that this word "federation" in Central Africa has done a great deal to destroy the confidence of the ordinary African in the future development of that territory. Whether or not some form of association can be maintained and the actual word "federation" dropped, I do not know, but I am sure that the Government and the Commission will be aware of the very real importance which Africans attach to actual words.
Similarly, because they attach an importance to symbols and because Africans in the Northern Territories see Salisbury as the Federal capital, they tend to think that federation and partnership mean what happens at Salisbury at the present time. Any of us who has been to Salisbury knows that there are racial practices in existence there which are not tolerated in the Northern Territories and which we would not tolerate in a civilised society. I am well aware of the fact that many of these racial practices will go. Many have gone since I was in Salisbury less than a year ago, but so long as they exist—and they are much more than pinpricks—I do not believe that the African people will attach any reality to the meaning of the word "partnership".
I am quite convinced that in Nyasaland what is needed is a rapid and imaginative political advance. I am equally certain that it is a chimera to assume that one could negotiate in Nyasaland with anybody in the last resort other than Dr. Banda. I am certain that that is a fact the Government recognise as well. I was extremely interested in the observations made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). He drew what I am sure is the correct conclusion, that in the last resort and on the final day each of these territories must be given the opportunity to decide whether it wishes to remain inside the Federation, or to contract out.
But, with due diffidence, I came to precisely the opposite conclusion to that which the hon. Member reached, because I cannot see why that decision must be taken now and I therefore cannot see why that decision must be within the terms of reference of the Monckton Commis- 1148 sion. After all, if Nyasaland were set along the road to responsible self-government tomorrow, if her pattern of evolution were anything like the pattern of evolution in Ghana, it might take six or seven years before complete independence were reached.
Is it not more sensible for us to say to the people of Nyasaland and their leaders, "We propose to give you an imaginative advance. We propose to set you along the road towards internal self-government. Do not bother about federation now. The time for you to decide about that is when we are about to withdrawn from your territory as the protecting Power. Let us see, in the next six or seven years, whether we can work out an acceptable scheme of association between the territories."
Short of the right to discuss the question of the breaking up of the Federation, the Monckton Commission has been given very wide powers indeed. After all, probably as important as the right to discuss the break-up of the Federation is the right to discuss various amendments which may be made in the individual relationships between the territories and the Federal Government. As I understand, the Monckton Commission has full power to review the relationship of each territory with each other territory and also the relationship between each territory and the Federal Government, and I think and believe that this could include considerable amendments, perhaps giving greater powers to the territorial Governments which, in the short run, might satisfy those territories and make them—particularly the Northern Territories—wish to postpone a final decision about federation until the moment arises for our withdrawal as the protecting Power.
I have occasionally felt that members of the Labour Party, when they rightly feel concerned about our responsibility for the African population of Nyasaland, sometimes tend to overlook the very great moral responsibility which we have for the African population of Southern Rhodesia. When they talk glibly about breaking up the Federation, certain hon. Members opposite tend to ignore the fact that if the Federation were broken up tomorrow, and if Southern Rhodesia felt it necessary to join the Union, we should be handing over the 2½ million Africans of Southern Rhodesia to the 1149 policies of apartheid. We should bear that in mind as a tremendous responsibility and a brake upon our eagerness to try to achieve a quick and easy solution. If anything of that kind were to happen, it would be calamitous not only for the Africans of this territory, but also for the whole structure of those countries in South and Central Africa.
Hon. Members have been more than kind to me and I will not detain the House longer, but before I sit down I should like to stress that it seems to me of tremendous importance that, as far as we can in the coming months, we should try among ourselves to think of these problems in perhaps a slightly less partisan way than has been done over the past year or two. I was tremendously struck by what I was about to describe as the moderation—although moderation is not always thought to be a complimentary term in these days—of a speech which I heard the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East make in a debate on the reply to the Address within a few days of my being elected to the House.
I felt that the approach which the hon. Member then made augured very promisingly for closer co-operation between the parties. I noticed at that time, and I have refreshed my memory since, one sentence which he used which caught my imagination. He said that the real task of the present Government was to restore Africanconfidence in the good intentions of the Conservative Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1959; Vol. 612, c. 668.]I hope that the hon. Member thinks as I do—that the Prime Minister's speech in Lagos, and later his speech in Cape Town, and also the remarkable achievement of the Colonial Secretary over the Kenya Conference, show that tremendous strides have been made over the last three or four months and that, given good will and lack of partisan behaviour and hasty words, the road is clear for the kind of co-operation which will solve these difficultites—a solution for which we have all been hoping for the past five or six years.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
It is with genuine pleasure that I follow the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) and thank him on behalf of 1150 the whole House for a quite remarkable maiden speech. He has made a very valuable contribution to our debate today. He has brought to the House a great deal of experience, and we hope that he will contribute still further to our debates, because his was the sort of contribution which we need on this subject, above all. I quite sincerely congratulate him. We look forward to hearing him again many times.
The hon. Member for Lancaster expressed the hope that we should have a bipartisan approach to the problem of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. We on this side of the House who have taken a particular interest in this subject have done so without any party political axe to grind. We take an interest in the position in Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and, indeed, of all the people there, Africans and Europeans, because we are genuinely interested in having peace and understanding between all the communities who live in that part of the world.
We are deeply conscious of the fact that it is in the House that the decisions about the future of Rhodesia and Nyasaland will be taken. In approaching the problems of the Federation, I re-emphasise what was said today by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan): we are interested just as much in the future of Europeans as we are in the future of the Africans who live in these territories.
I must, however, make one comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Lancaster, because I felt that his reference to the position of Africans in Southern Rhodesia was based upon a false premise. He said that the reason for continuing the Federation, presumably even in its present form, was to ensure that we continue to have some influence over the position of the 2½ million Africans living in the Colony of Southern Rhodesia. We should have that power and influence even if the Federation completely collapsed, because Southern Rhodesia continues to be a Colony.
If the hon. Member for Lancaster would like a distinguished reference to back up my opinion, I refer him to the book of his hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is to reply to this debate. He will find there, in quite illuminating detail, the powers which are exercised by the Government of this country over the 1151 legislation of the Colony of Southern Rhodesia. Even if the Federation were to break up completely, it would be beyond the powers of Southern Rhodesia to go into the Union of South Africa, even if the Union would accept her, which is a matter of considerable doubt, unless approval was given by the Government in this country.
§ Mr. Callaghan
My hon. Friend seems to me to have stated the point exactly. May I also remind him that Sir Edgar Whitehead is coming here next month to have discussions with Her Majesty's Government about the removal of these restrictions on the powers of the Southern Rhodesian Government in relation to the Africans there as a condition of the continuation of the Federation?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Yes. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing up that point at this stage, because I wanted to refer to it myself in considering the problem before us today, namely the work of the Monckton Commission. It is certainly in all our interests that we have an objective approach to the problems of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
I want to say, at the outset, that I am not opposed to federation itself. I have never said that the Federation should be broken up. I believe—I think that this is the opinion of all my right hon. and hon. Friends—that if federation between these three territories in Central Africa is to succeed it must be a voluntary association between free peoples and must not be imposed on any of these peoples against their will.
I have spoken to many Africans. They are in favour of the theory of closer association between individual States. Indeed, at a conference in Accra, at the end of 1958, and more recently at the conference which took place in Tunis, they have emphasised and re-emphasised the importance of a union between African States. One thing which the Africans are trying to learn from the mistakes of Europeans is that they do not want the Balkanisation of their Continent. If we help them to establish the proper conditions for federation, I am confident that they will accept federation between Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia if it means that it is a free association 1152 of these peoples and is not imposed on them.
One way of achieving that end would be for a constitution to be established in Rhodesia and Nyasaland which would give power to a wider circle of people than is at present the case. I am sure that I carry with me even hon. Gentlemen opposite when I say that virtually all the power in Central Africa today is in the hands of the white minority. This is the reason why the Africans are opposed to federation—because the power is in the hands of a minority which numbers less than 3 per cent. of the population. They fear that if that minority has all the political power in an independent federation as well as the economic privileges which it now enjoys it will use its political power to bolster up its own position at the expense of the African majority.
The hon. Member for Lancaster was absolutely right when he said that the Africans in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are frightened by what they find in Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia. That is the case. What the people of the two Northern Protectorates know is that the main political power in the Federation as at present constituted is in Southern Rhodesia, and it is in Southern Rhodesia that the most vicious racial laws have been applied.
If the Constitution of the Federation were altered to allow a wider electorate, perhaps on the lines of the first election held in Tanganyika, which was such a considerable success—for instance, with the qualification of £150 income per year—it would enable many more Africans to participate as electors and would give them confidence that the Federation was a structure which could protect them as well as the white minority.
Our main reason for having the debate today is to consider the work of the Monckton Commission. As the Central African Examiner has so rightly pointed out, the Commission is a way out of the Tories' dilemma. The Tories are trying to adjust their sails to the winds of change. They have brought in Lord Monckton to help them in this job. Unfortunately, they have given Lord Monckton an almost impossible assignment. He is a very able and distinguished man, and is carrying out this assignment with incredible success when 1153 one considers the burdens which the policies of the Government have put on him.
However, we cannot escape from the fact that the present constitution of the Monckton Commission was the result of a most unhealthy compromise. It was originally proposed that there should be a Parliamentary Commission from the House of Commons to investigate the position in Nyasaland. Then the Federal Prime Minister objected. He did not want any sort of Parliamentary Commission investigating the future of the Federation. Therefore, after a number of journeys by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, the proposal was put forward for the Commission as at present constituted.
We on this side of the House objected not only to the terms of reference, but also to the composition. We felt that it was packed from the start with a great many pro-federationists appointed by the Governments directly concerned. Then there was the most ridiculous restriction on the members appointed by the Opposition. The Opposition were told—it was an insulting direction —that only Privy Councillors could be appointed from this side of the House. Yet, with not a word of explanation, when the Opposition declined the invitation because they considered that the terms of reference of the Commission far too restrictive, non-Privy Councillors were appointed in their stead, in particular Mr. Aidan Crawley.
The work of the Commission has got off to a very false start, but even now, with all the efforts of Lord Monckton to keep his unwieldy team together, the Government themselves are guilty of failure to establish the political conditions for the success of the Commission's work.
I want to refer to six counts on which the Government have failed on this score. First, there is the question of the terms of reference to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred. Even at this late stage, we ask the Government to amend the terms of reference to allow the secession of Nyasaland or Northern Rhodesia to be recommended by the Commission. By holding to the original terms of reference and the gloss put on 1154 them by the Prime Minister, opinion in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia has been alienated.
We now have the position that most of the Africans in the two Northern Protectorates are refusing to appear before the Commission. The United National Independence Party of Northern Rhodesia, the African National Congress also in that territory, and the Malawi Congress of Nyasaland are refusing to give evidence. If the Government want a genuine inquiry into the position in Central Africa they should enlarge the terms of reference so that these representatives of African political parties may have a chance to put forward their point of view, and not be tied in by these very restrictive terms of reference.
It is interesting to note that, to some extent, Lord Monckton himself has extended the terms of reference by saying that he is prepared to hear evidence from all sides, even that in favour of the secession of Nyasaland from the Federation. If Lord Monckton himself is prepared to go that far, will not the Government back him up by allowing him complete freedom of suggesting or recommending secession if the Commission should feel that the evidence it receives during the course of its inquiries justifies that course?
The next count on which the Government stand condemned is the continuation of the state of emergency in Nyasaland, which has continued now for over twelve months. In terms of civil rebellion in the Protectorate, there are now no grounds for the continuation of this state of emergency. Surely it is intolerable for the Monckton Commission to go to Nyasaland, in these circumstances of political suppression which the Devlin Commission itself called, in a memorable understatement… no doubt only temporarily, a police state.Temporariness has stretched to well over twelve months.
We ask the Government to tell us how long this state of affairs is to continue. Is the Colonial Secretary to allow the Federal Prime Minister to dictate to him the terms on which our own British Protectorate is run? I seriously suggest that these problems are completely germane to the work of the Monckton Commission on which we are 1155 being asked to spend a large sum of money. We suggest that the journey which the Monckton Commission is proposing to start in Nyasaland next Monday is pointless unless, by their policies in that Protectorate, the Government allow the Commission to have the political conditions which will enable it to succeed in its work. Those conditions do not at present apply, because the Government have allowed this state of emergency to continue for so long. They continue to keep Dr. Hastings Banda in gaol—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
Order. I think that the hon. Member is going far beyond the Monckton Commission now.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I am trying to demonstrate that it is quite wrong of the Government to ask the House to approve £40,000 of expenditure for the Monckton Commission unless they are also prepared to establish in these Protectorates political conditions that will allow the work of the Commission to be successful—
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Yes, I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends will return to the subject in greater detail later, but it is one of the counts on which we suggest that the Monckton Commission's work is being made fruitless, particularly in Nyasaland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East also referred to the statements recently aired by Sir Edgar Whitehead and by Sir Roy Welensky. These, also, are handicapping the work of the Monckton Commission at present, and I ask the Minister of State to tell us whether any protest has been made either to Sir Edgar Whitehead or Sir Roy Welensky about Sir Edgar's statement in relation to the secession of Southern Rhodesia if certain conditions are not met, and about Sir Roy Welensky's reference to the position of Katanga and the likely federation of that Belgian Congo province with the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
We understand that a protest has been made to the Foreign Secretary by the Belgian Ambassador here in London. Are we to understand that that protest 1156 has been referred to Sir Roy Welensky, in view of the fact that statements such as this are undermining the work of the Monckton Commission at this crucial time?
I want now to refer to two questions that have cropped up very recently. These are the two final counts on which I criticise the Government for failing to establish the political conditions in which the Monckton Commission can succeed. The first relates to the use of defence forces in Nyasaland. No doubt this will be dealt with at greater length in the next Vote to be considered, but I felt that the Colonial Secretary was most evasive in his Answers to Questions last Thursday—
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Then I hope that the subject will be developed when we come to the next Vote, because it is of very great importance in the present situation in Nyasaland. Hon. Members will remember that twelve months ago the people of Nyasaland were greatly concerned when Federal troops were flown in from Southern Rhodesia—
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)
I seek only clarification, Sir Gordon. I am very ready, if it be in order, to deal on the next Vote with any points that may be raised on this particular matter, but, answering Questions a short time ago, I told the House that the movement of troops was not a matter that affected the Northern Territorial Governments, but was essentially a Federal responsibility. If it be a Federal responsibility, then, with respect, I do not see how it can come into the next group of Votes—but I may be wrong.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
As the Governors of the two Northern Territories are completely responsible for internal defence, 1157 the troops of the Federation can move into the territory only at the invitation of those Governors—
§ Mr. Stonehouse
We would, however, on the next Vote, like to know why these troops are being moved into Nyasa-land—
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Then I will only say that before the Colonial Secretary comes to the next Vote he should read a very amusing leading article in The Guardian, which refers to the possible defence of Nyasaland against the Ufti.
Finally, I want to refer to the discussions currently going on, which will be continued in London, between the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Edgar Whitehead, and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. I submit that if these discussions are allowed to reach the point of fruition, that will definitely change the whole character of the problem which the Monckton Commission was appointed to investigate.
I believe that it is most unwise, at this time, for the Government of Southern Rhodesia to be engaged in discussions which will enable Southern Rhodesia to be completely independent of any control regarding legislation affecting Africans in that territory. It would be absolutely wrong if, at this stage, progress is made on that issue before the Monckton Commission has completed its Report.
We are raising these matters concerning the work of the Monckton Commission, not to embarrass, but mainly to strengthen its work. Had the Government accepted the perfectly reasonable proposals that we made from this side of the House about the composition of the Commission and its terms of reference, it would have been possible for Opposition Members to have played a full part in the work of the Commission. We still press the Government to see the wisdom of the extension of the terms of reference of the Commission and particularly to do something to improve the political conditions in the two Northern Protectorates so that the work of the 1158 Commission can be successful. Without those attempts, the work of the Commission will almost certainly be abortive.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (Nottingham, West)
I must ask the House to extend its traditional tolerance to a Member attempting to address it for the first time. This would be a very moving occasion for me in any case, but it has been made even more so by the two hon. Members who have spoken immediately before me. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) is an old opponent of mine who routed me in a by-election a little over three years ago. Only last weekend I revisited his constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) is my closest friend, and I hope that it will not be thought presumptuous of me if I join the hon. Member for Wednesbury in congratulating my hon. Friend on his very fine maiden speech.
I wondered when I tried to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether this might not be a rather too controversial subject on which to try to make a maiden speech, although I am very pleased to sec that the degree of controversy between the two sides of the House seems to have subsided somewhat.
I have lived and worked in Africa, and I spent the recent Parliamentary Recess visiting the three territories of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. This is a subject in which I am particularly interested. I can well understand the very strong feelings which have frequently been expressed on this question of federation, because clearly the future of Central Africa must be one of the most important problems facing this country and, indeed, the world in the next few years. What I have never really understood is why that controversy has so often seemed to centre not so much around the future of the Federation as on the Monckton Commission itself.
I listened with interest to the restatement of the criticisms of the terms of reference of the Monckton Commission by both the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and the hon. Member for Wednesbury, but while I would personally have preferred to see rather wider terms of reference and would have preferred to see the Commission able to recommend within its terms of reference the break-up of the Federation, 1159 if it thought that inevitable and unavoidable, I nevertheless have never been in any doubt that the present terms of reference are adequate for the Commission to play a tremendously important rôle. I am also satisfied that if the Commission, or a minority of it, came to the conclusion that Federation was unworkable, it would in fact be able to make its feelings clear.
When hon. Members have criticised the terms of reference agreed to by the Government, it is fair to point out— and, indeed, it was recognised in the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East—that more than one Government was a party to the agreement to set up the Federation. Some hon. Members in discussing Central Africa are a little inclined, on occasion, to disregard the realities of power in that part of the world.
Another reason why, despite my reservations on the terms of reference, I have full confidence in the value of the Monckton Commission is the fact that it is an Advisory Commission and, as the events of the not-too-distant past prove, Governments of the day do not necessarily regard reports on Africa, from however distinguished a quarter, as Holy Writ. Whatever the Monckton Commission may report, there still have to be held the 1960 talks and afterwards the whole matter will have to be thrashed out in this House. Therefore, I would hope the whole House, having expressed its reservations in some cases, will support the work of this very distinguished Commission, for I am certain that it has a useful rôle to play.
What is most needed in Central Africa today is reassurance. Roosevelt said of the United States in the 1930s that they had nothing to fear but fear itself. When I was in Central Africa I felt that that was true there, too, for there is a great fear both by Africans and by Europeans. It seems to me that the Federation has very great advantages, both economic and political, and if we could make it succeed it would be the best possible thing for that part of the world.
The economic advantages are not really seriously challenged. One has only to read the Jack Report on Nyasaland to see what a parlous state that country would be in if it did not remain part of the Federation. But it is not only true of 1160 Nyasaland. Southern Rhodesia, too, gains great economic benefits from its membership of the Federation. The symbol of the economic value and success of Federation is the Kariba Dam, because it is clear that not one of the three Governments acting alone could have raised on the world market the very large sums of money needed to finance the Kariba Dam. Only the existence of Federation made that possible. The dam makes the Zambesi a uniting link instead of a dividing frontier which otherwise it undoubtedly would be.
The political advantages of Federation, too, which I am sure will be brought to the attention of the Commission, are very great. We must all surely wish to avoid a political polarisation between a black nationalist North and a white nationalist South. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster mentioned what I regard as a vital point in our approach to this problem—the future of the 2½ million Africans in Southern Rhodesia if Federation were to break up. Whatever criticisms one may have of some of the racial practices of the Europeans in Southern Rhodesia, the Europeans at present are very loyal to Britain and the British connection. But if the Federation should break up, the emotional shock to them might well have the effect of driving them politically into the camp of the Union of South Africa, if not actually into the Union itself.
The hon. Member for Wednesbury referred to the reserve powers and seemed to suggest that this was not a real danger. With respect, I do not believe that in that sort of situation the reserve powers would be worth the paper on which they are written, and any hon. Member who attacks the Federation should bear that fact very much in mind. There is no doubt whatever that the fact that Southern Rhodesia has been a member of the Federation for the last few years has had a tremendously liberalising effect upon the policies of the Southern Rhodesian Government. I did not meet a single African in Southern Rhodesia who wished to see the Federation break up.
Another thing which particularly struck me in my conversations in Southern Rhodesia was that the best elements, the most far-seeing and liberal-minded elements, among the Europeans 1161 in Southern Rhodesia supported federation. It was only the reactionaries, both European and African, who were against it. If it broke down, the Zambesi would become the frontier of the two Africas, black and white, and it would be an armed frontier. The consequences for the future of peace in that part of the world would be serious indeed. How much better it would be if we could create a multi-racial partnership. There are many influential elements in Southern Rhodesia working to that end.
I am fully aware of all the difficulties which the Monckton Commission will have put before it. There is no doubt at all that African opinion in the two Northern Protectorates is at present overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of federation. Also, there is growing European hostility to the idea in Southern Rhodesia. The Africans fear that federation is a device for perpetuating European political domination. The Europeans fear that it is a means whereby they will all too quickly be subjected to inoompetent government. I believe that the Commission may well be able to make recommendations which will help the Government to meet both these fears.
I myself found the degree of racial discrimination in Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia extremely disturbing. I do not believe that it is defeasible for a moment, for instance, that a leading member of the Asian community to whom I talked—a civilised man by any standards and, indeed, a rich man— should be unable when driving from Salisbury to Lusaka to be served with tea at any hotel on the road. I do not believe that it is defensible that there are no Africans on the footplates of the railway engines of Northern Rhodesia, because of the opposition of the European unions, while there are African engine drivers throughout the Belgian Congo and Tanganyika. I am sure that no hon. Member of the House would support that kind of thing.
That sort of discrimination is politically foolish and morally wrong. It seems to me that it can best be overcome through the existence of the Federation and, if it is done away with, any hope of progress in Southern Rhodesia will come to an end at once. What the Commission must do is to devise means which, if put into effect by subsequent agree- 1162 ment, would ensure that, while the liberalising influence continues in the South, the discriminatory practices can by no possible means spread to the North. Indeed, the removal of these discriminatory practices is at present even more important than any political or economic advances in that part of the world.
It is important to bear in mind, I believe, that Southern Rhodesia is moving in the right direction and moving fairly quickly. In the short time that I was in Southern Rhodesia, about three weeks, two hotels became multi-racial, and I met many people of all classes and outlooks who recognised that, in the changing conditions of Africa, this kind of discrimination could not continue.
The economic achievement of the Europeans in Southern Rhodesia for the Africans is an extremely fine one. About 80 per cent. of all Africans in Southern Rhodesia receive a primary education, a higher proportion than is to be found anywhere else in the whole of Africa. The expectation of life of an African at birth in Southern Rhodesia is 48 years, compared with only 40 years in Nyasaland. This is an example of the great rôle for the benefit of Africans which Europeans can play and have been playing. If we can overcome some of the political and social problems, then, I feel, the Europeans will have a wonderful contribution to make in Central Africa.
In Nyasaland, there are three main fears among Africans. First, they fear that their land tenure rights might be endangered. Secondly, they have felt that federation is slowing up their rate of political advance in comparison with adjoining African territories. Thirdly, of course—this is a factor which we must never overlook—there are the personal ambitions of some of the educated African leaders. I believe that here, too, the Monckton Commission can play a very valuable role.
For my part, I believe that, if federation is to be saved, it is necessary to have a considerable reduction in the Federal powers and a corresponding increase in the territorial powers. Of course, the Federal powers are already a great deal less than is commonly assumed. One of the difficulties in discussing Central Africa from this country is that, since we have a unitary Government here, 1163 very few people realise how a federal government works and how comparatively limited the Federal powers are already. There are certain Federal powers such as those governing prisons, hospitals, and European education, which could revert to the territories, leaving the Federal Government little more than foreign affairs, defence, Customs and the Post Office. I think that such a change might help to restore confidence among Africans in Nyasaland.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster that rapid constitutional advance is necessary in Nyasaland. I do not believe that this can usefully be achieved unless Dr. Banda can be persuaded to be associated with it. I did not meet Dr. Banda and I heard many criticisms of him, but, rightly or wrongly, he is at present regarded in Nyasaland as the one Messianic figure, and I think that it is an illusion to imagine that any other African leader will emerge to replace him. He should be given responsibility. Then we will see whether he is of the calibre to fulfil it, and, incidentally, so will his African supporters.
I believe that it would help to win support for federation if the Federal capital were moved from Salisbury. In African minds in Nyasaland, there is, unfortunately, a tendency to confuse the Federal Government in Salisbury with Southern Rhodesia and with the Union. Africans do not see them as three separate entities. Indeed, with the best will in the world, it is difficult to see how, with the Federal capital in Salisbury, it is possible for Federal Ministers and Federal civil servants not to be unduly influenced by Southern Rhodesian considerations. The Federal Parliament House and the Territorial Parliament House are side by side, with adjoining doors. The Ministers and civil servants all meet in the Salisbury Club for drinks at lunchtime and dinnertime each day. They read the same local newspapers.
If there were a quite separate Federal capital, perhaps at Livingstone, the old capital of Northern Rhodesia, on the borders between Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia and on the line of rail, this might help. It is worth reflecting that other great Federal States such as Australia and the United States faced 1164 this kind of problem in their formative days and in both cases came to the conclusion that it would be better to start with an entirely new capital separated from the existing centres of power.
In my view, a Bill of Rights could usefully be written into any new Federal Constitution. Among other things, it would embody two principles. First, it would embody something along the lines of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which would make racial discrimination positively illegal. The difficulty at the moment is that, although many of the political leaders of the Federal Government and, indeed, of the Southern Rhodesian Government, have the best possible intentions, they cannot go faster than their European electorates will at present permit them. If there were, as in the United States, actually written into the Constitution certain provisions which made racial discriminatory practices illegal, then the opponents of these practices would not have to take the matter through the polling booth; they could appeal to the Supreme Court. This, I believe, might be welcomed by some of the European politicians in Southern Rhodesia. They would be able to avoid the need for taking unpopular decisions.
On the other hand, I think that there should also be written into the Bill of Rights a protection against the future expropriation of property. It is very important for us all to remember that, while in the short term the problem in these multi-racial communities is how to give the Africans the rights which we believe should belong to them as their education improves, in the long run the more difficult problem will be to protect the rights of the European minorities. That, I am sure, will be exercising our minds most in the future.
Of course, I recognise that we may fail in attempting to make federation a success and that, whatever the conclusions of the Monckton Commission, it may turn out that federation cannot be made to work. It may be that nothing can save the Federation. It may be that African and even European opinion has passed the point of no return in its opposition. But surely we all have an obligation to go on trying while there is still hope, because this Federation 1165 seems to me to be the most daring, the most difficult and the most hopeful experiment taking place in Africa at the present day.
It is only seven years old—and what is that in the span of man's age-old struggle to learn to govern himself with dignity and decency? When we think of the early years of the United States, with all the difficulties that it had to overcome, including a civil war, the events of the last seven years in Central Africa have been extraordinarily placid and extremely hopeful for the future. This is not a problem confined to Central Africa. It is not a problem of black versus white. Racial strife is one of the most terrible problems that the world faces. In Europe only a few years ago we had the ghastly story of Hitler and the Jews. We have racial problems in Ceylon and in the Belgian Congo and in many other parts of the world. It is quite wrong to give the impression that this is a problem of black versus white.
Africa is the continent of tribalism, and the Africans, above all, should appreciate the problems facing Europeans in this situation. If federation could be made to succeed, I believe that it would crown our endeavours in creating our multi-racial Commonwealth. This Commission, in my view, has a great contribution to make, and I believe that it may well come to rank in our imperial history with the Simon Report on India and the Durham Report on Canada, to the lasting benefit of all the peoples of Central Africa.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
I have very great pleasure indeed in offering, I am sure on behalf of the whole House, my very warm congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. Tapsell). His was a maiden speech which betrayed none of the signs of nervousness which are normally coupled with such an occasion. I am certain that the whole House listened with great interest to an extraordinarily interesting and illuminating contribution to our debate, and I am sure that we shall listen with equal interest on future occasions when my hon. Friend addresses the House.
I wish to make only a very short speech. Before I start, may I say that I hope that perhaps somebody on the 1166 Opposition Front Bench will pay some attention to what we on this side of the House have to say.
I was glad to find buried rather deeply in the rather restrained speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) a more than merited contribution to Lord Monckton, because I was sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—and in view of some of his earlier remarks, I must express my regret that he is not on the Front Bench now—did not appear to be at all willing to give the Commission a chance. His speech was full of the remark, "How right we were". He said it two or three times.
I very much doubt whether this kind of self-congratulation is the sort of thing which we in this House can use with advantage at the moment. We are faced with a very difficult problem. On this occasion, would it have been too much to ask the hon. Gentleman, and other hon. Members who sit behind him, to have given just a word of blessing and support to the Monckton Commission in its very difficult task, instead of harking back to the old arguments about its terms of reference, which we all know the party opposite did not find acceptable? We know their reasons. They have been expressed many times.
I would not have intervened in the debate had it not been for the speech made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East which, I think, was singularly ungenerous in that he failed to give the Monckton Commission even a word of support in its difficult task.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
I cannot believe that the hon. Member heard my hon. Friend's speech. He made a conciliatory speech and his reference to the Monckton Commission was that he wished that its terms of reference could be changed so that it could do a constructive job.
§ Mr. Peyton
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has followed the point which I am trying to make. All that I was saying was that it would have been much more welcome and appropriate if the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, instead of saying, "How right we are to object to it", could have said on this occasion, now that the Monckton Commission had started on 1167 its work, "We give it full support and encouragement and wish it every success". Had he limited himself to that, I think that he would have made a most effective contribution.
There is only one thing that I want to say, and I say it very seriously. Perhaps I could put it in the form of a plea. It is so easy and tempting to lecture people who live thousands of miles away on how to deal with a very difficult problem with which they feel themselves, with some justification, to be entirely familiar and fully experienced.
I remember the last time I was in the Federation that again and again ordinary decent Europeans, many of them with very liberal sentiments, were anxious to see the progress of their country along lines which hon. Members in this House have constantly called for. How often have such people said to me, "You are a British M.P. You have come out here to tell us how to handle our problems." I think that we could be a little more sparing in our advice to people who live so far away and who are on top of one of the most difficult problems facing the modern world.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Would not the hon. Member agree that, time and again, speeches have been made from his side of the House lecturing the Africans in Central Africa on what they should do?
§ Mr. Peyton
With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not agree. If speeches are made from this side which can be said to be lecturing the Africans, I think that they are equally wrong with those which I am now commenting upon, which seek so often to lecture the Europeans in Africa, who, as I say, are faced with an intolerably difficult problem, as we all admit.
All I wish to say is this. I am extremely sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East is not in his place because, again and again, he has wagged a lecturing finger from the Dispatch Box opposite. He has gone out to Africa, to the territories with which we are now concerned, and he has wagged a finger at people—and some of his colleagues have done the same—until those who should now be turning a ready ear to useful advice from here are sick and 1168 tired of the sort of dictatorial advice which too often is based on lack of knowledge.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
There are five points that I should like to make briefly before we leave the subject of the Monckton Commission. I shall not hark back to the past, to use the expression of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton).
First, may I say a word about the terms of reference? I felt that the terms of reference, looked at through lawyer's eyes, were too restricted, but I think that what was most unfortunate was their lack of clarity, particularly in the gloss put upon them. I had the feeling that that lack of clarity was deliberate and that there was the intention that the terms of reference should mean one thing in the Federation and something rather different in this House. That was an unfortunate start to the work of the Commission. I only hope that the Commission's work will not be handicapped by that unfortunate lack of clarity in the terms of reference.
Secondly, the Commission cannot undo the past. It is very sad that there is this loss of faith in Nyasaland in particular in the protection of Britain and the British Crown. At one time, the Nyasaland people were the most loyal of subjects in our Colonial Territories. There is no doubt that they have been greatly disillusioned by what has happened over the last seven or eight years. I do not think there is much hope for a multi-racial partnership until we recover some of that lost faith.
Thirdly, I believe that there must be less, not more, power for the Federal Government. I hope that that is one of the aspects of this problem which the Monckton Commission will consider. One of the reasons for the troubles that have arisen in recent years has been the extent of the powers handed over to the Federal Government rather than retained by the territorial Governments.
Fourthly, I believe that too little attention has been paid to the possibilities of economic as opposed to political association. I do not accept the view that it is not possible to have economic association between the three territories without the political power being transferred 1169 to the Federal Government. I do not think that we have always sufficiently recognised British responsibility for the economic development of Nyasaland, part of which we—and when I say "we" I mean this country as a whole—have been willing to pass over to the Federal Government.
I therefore very much regret the speech reported in The Times today by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations at Luton on 14th March, in which he is reported as having referred to Nyasaland as the slum of Africa.
§ The Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. C. J. M. Alport)
Like my noble Friend the Secretary of State, I have seen that report, and I think that it is not really an accurate representation of what my noble Friend said. He said something which has been said many times in the past in answer to a question which was put to him regarding the future, namely, that there would be a danger of it becoming a slum if it did not have the economic advantages which came from its association with the Federation.
§ Mr. Wade
I am glad to hear what the Minister says, but, even so, I think that it was a little unfortunate to use the expression "the slum of Africa". It does not alter the fact that for seventy or eighty years Britain has been responsible for the economic development of Nyasaland, and, if conditions today are such as to justify that expression, Britain must surely accept some responsibility.
The fifth point that I want to make, which is all too obvious, is this. Federation cannot be imposed by force. It may be too late, but it cannot succeed without good will. It is almost a law of political evolution in Colonial Territories that, if one does not come to terms with moderate Nationalist leaders, sooner or later one will have to give way to extremists. I do not know whether one would call Dr. Banda a moderate or an extremist, but I urge that an attempt be made to come to terms with Dr. Banda. I very much regret that a man like Sir John Moffat was not allowed to meet Dr. Banda and discuss the political situation. Surely a man like Sir John Moffat would have been very 1170 helpful in bringing about a solution. As I say, it may be too late.
I do not want to see the Monckton Commission fail. I wish it well, but I am certain that it will come to one conclusion—that federation cannot be imposed by force.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
We are discussing this enormous subject on the peg of a relatively small Vote of £40,000, but I feel that the House should remember that, if by mischance federation fails, in years to come there is no doubt that an enormous sum of money will be required from the taxpayers of this country to support Nyasaland and to prevent it falling into the condition described by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in his speech at Luton. It would not be a question of £40,000, but of between £5 million and £6 million, if not more.
As hon. Members know very well, since Federation there have been great economic developments in Nyasaland which have been largely paid for by revenues raised from other parts of the Federation.
§ Mr. Wade
I should like to make this clear. Throughout our discussions on federation, I have always taken the view that Britain should be prepared to undertake expenditure that in the past has been borne by the Federation. In other words, if we proceed on what I would have thought would be a wiser course, I accept what follows, namely, that £3 million or £4 million, or whatever it may be, would have to be borne by the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
It is very good to hear that the hon. Member accepts that. I dare say that a great many people in this country would accept it, but I doubt whether very many people know that that is one of the likely consequences if federation collapses.
Economic advances have been made in Nyasaland since federation—for example, hospitals and schools have been built—but there is no doubt that only a small proportion of this has been paid for by the revenues raised in Nyasaland, if one works out the sum properly. Once an economy has been geared up to expect higher and better things, it cannot be allowed to collapse. 1171 The consequence of these revenues not being drawn from Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia—
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
Surely the hon. and learned Member knows the difference between a fact and an argument. It is merely a question of ascertaining the fact whether it is Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
The hon. and learned Gentleman gives his opinion as a fact, but I do not accept it as fact and, therefore, it is a matter of debate. I am saying that, to a certain extent, Nyasaland has been on the back of the Federation as a whole. That being so, and if the Federation breaks up, there is no doubt that we shall be investigating expenditure, not of £40,000, but of many millions of pounds. That is something that we must face and consider and which I hope we should want to avoid, although, at the same time, I have no doubt that we shall honour that obligation with as much readiness as the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) has indicated.
I was very impressed by both the maiden speeches made from this side of the House, as I am sure was everybody who heard them. I was particularly impressed by the reminder which my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. Tapsell) gave us of the higher standards of life that the Africans enjoy in Southern Rhodesia and almost in every part of the African continent, of the higheT expectation of life, of the great advantages in housing and health and in all the things that are essential not only for economic advance but for political advance.
Many times from these benches I have on African matters somewhat criticised the fact that political advances have 1172 sometimes outstripped what one might call the taking of responsibility in executive and in Civil Service positions by the Africans. It always seemed to me that one of the reasons of the success of the independence of such great countries as India was the fact that there was a Civil Service ready to take over when independence arrived, something which has not begun to happen in most of the African territories.
That seems to me to be a very dangerous and a very bad state of affairs. It is, of course, quite cheap and fairly easy to extend the franchise and to give votes, because those things do not cost very much. But to put Africans as they should be and now have a right to be in positions of responsibility in the machinery of Government is much harder. Yet without this any independence is likely to be a mockery. Executive responsibility depends directly on a higher standard of education than they have previously had. That, in turn, depends almost certainly upon a high state of economic prosperity.
It seems to me that in many ways the priority in timing is all wrong and that in Nyasaland we have not the condition for, much as we now want it, a strong constitutional advance. There are no Africans who are accustomed to responsibility in the Government machine to be found at low levels and there are practically no graduates and no people with a proper secondary education. How in these circumstances can we expect a sufficiently wide constitutional advance on the political level and in votes and suffrage to be a success? One of the reasons why we have not got that is because of the economic condition of Nyasaland, which is very backward, but which, as a result of federation, has taken a good many leaps forward.
Surely one must realise, as many of the African leaders realise, that they need the European there as much as possible. The contrast, for example, between the attitude of some of the leaders in Nyasaland whom the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and I met there two or three years ago, with the views in Tanganyika, is very great. When we discussed economic matters and the future exploitation and development of their country we found the contrast to be remarkable. Mr. Julius Nyerere, who, 1173 after all, is a neighbour of theirs, realises that, without European support, without European settlement and capital and without all the other things he cannot have the schools that he wants for his people. He cannot have the health services, the universities and all the things that go to make up a proper economy and a proper polity.
When one talks to Nyasaland leaders they do not think that at all. I suppose that proportionately they have no more European settlers there than there are in Tanganyika—perhaps a few more, but not many. Yet in Nyasaland if we said to them, "Well, first of all, there is this direct economic aid which you are getting from the Rhodesias"—I say the "Rhodesias"—and there is not only that but the fact that such European settlers who are here, the tobacco companies, the tea planters and so on are creating the wealth for your new hospitals, for your new schools and for your teachers," they would look with blank amazement, and say, "But what is that? After all, we have our trees and whether the white man is here or not the trees will still be here." Their view of an economic viable State seemed to be that provided they could grow the trees that was enough.
It seems to me that it is a very dangerous look-out if in the neighbouring country of Nyasaland to that of Tanganyika there is such a remarkable contrast in outlook between the leaders of the Africans. Certainly in Tanganyika the African leadership realises what I should have thought was obvious, that without economic prosperity there can be no education and that without education there can be no life.
I think that when we talk, as many hon. Members on both sides have talked, in a rather resigned tone about federation having, perhaps, to break up, we should realise what the economic consequence of that would be, not merely because it is unfortunate that people should be poorer than need be but because of all the things that flow from poverty in Africa. Those things are the things that we hate, whereas the things that flow from prosperity are the things that we encourage.
I want to sound this note of warning. I, like the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West, feel that we should not shirk the responsibility of subventing Nyasaland 1174 again if we have to, but it would be a frightful commentary on all our efforts if we had a good prospect seven years ago of making this area of Africa into a viable supporting community and after that part of it would have to come back again to this country with the begging bowl asking for a dole of £5 million or £6 million or more from this House even in order to tread water and even to maintain the regrettably low standard which it had achieved up to then. Before we talk about scrapping federation, let us realise what one of the consequences of doing that may be, because if we think about it we must realise that it would be a pretty pathetic end to a promising chapter.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. C. J. M. Alport)
I should like, if I may, to be associated with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) in congratulating my two hon. Friends the Members for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) and Nottingham, West (Mr. Tapsell) upon their maiden speeches. I think the House will agree that in both cases the speeches were sympathetic to the subject and most constructive and were made by those who have had personal contacts with the problems of Africa and have seen the problems there for themselves.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster was perfectly correct when he emphasised the important part which the Monckton Commission has to play in design in relation to the distribution of powers between the Federal Government and the territorial Government. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 24th November last, the terms of referencewill permit the Commission to consider the whole field of the redistribution of powers in either direction between the Federation and the territories and to advise on the timing of any programme and the character of any changes in the framework that it may suggest." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 208.]I should have thought that that was a very clear statement of one of the important functions of the Commission.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West drew attention to the Jack Report, and this is very closely relevant to the point which my hon. and learned 1175 Friend the Member for Darwen has just made. I hope that other hon. Members who are interested in the economic aspects of the problem, particularly in Nyasaland, will take the opportunity, if they have not already done so, of studying that Report. As I have said, those of us who have been occupied for some time past in trying to discuss and work out solutions to the difficult problems in Africa can feel from those two maiden speeches that we have good reinforcements in the fields in which we are interested, and we shall look forward to hearing both my hon. Friends on many other occasions.
The debate was opened by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in what I must confess, from my own experience of occasions on which he has addressed the House on this subject, was a conciliatory way. I am grateful to him for that contribution, but he drew attention to the terms of reference and, indeed, as far as I understood it, based the whole of his case upon the objections to the terms of reference as he saw them.
He said that great events were happening in Africa at present—in the Congo, East Africa and elsewhere—and that this had made the terms of reference of the Commission out of date. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made the Commission's position absolutely clear. On 24th November he said:This Commission is appointed to review an existing Constitution to which its terms of reference naturally relate. I am sure that it is the wish of the House that a solution should emerge acceptable to all the races in the territories concerned. The terms of reference, in my opinion, give the Commission full scope to advise us on how best that object can be achieved, but, of course, if the Commission thinks that it could not fulfil its task to its satisfaction within the terms of reference, no doubt it would say so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1959: Vol. 614. c. 215.1Therefore, it is really for the Commission—which, after all, consists of extremely experienced persons both in terms of Africa and of politics and constitutional matters—to decide whether the terms of reference can be fulfilled in accordance with what the Prime Minister said was its own satisfaction, or whether that is not the case. If the Commission feels dissatisfied no doubt it will say so.
§ Mr. Callaghan
This is a point which has concerned us more than once. Does 1176 that statement mean that it will be open to the Commission, at any time, say, in the next few weeks, before it breaks up, to come back to the Government and say, "We do not think we can carry out the terms of reference. Can you please give us fresh terms?" Or does the statement mean merely that in its final Report, when the Commission is over, it will be able to say it then? If the Commission is free to do it first, it will be very helpful.
§ Mr. Alport
The Prime Minister's words are extremely clear:… If the Commission thinks that it could not fulfil its task to its satisfaction within the terms of reference, no doubt it would say so.I do not intend to produce any gloss on what my right hon. Friend said. I do not think that there is any need to do so. That is a perfectly clear statement of the position as far as the Government see the Commission in relation to the terms of reference.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
Will the hon. Gentleman say, then, in view of that clear statement, what the answer is to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)?
§ Mr. Alport
I do not think that that question requires to be asked. The Prime Minister's statement said that… if the Commission thinks that it could not fulfil its task to its satisfaction within the terms of reference, no doubt it would say so.There are plenty of ways in which it would be able to say so. I have drawn attention to the Prime Minister's statement. It is a very clear one—if the Commission feels, as he said, that it cannot do its task within its terms of reference, it will say so. Quite obviously, it will say so to the Governments concerned.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I take it, then, from what has been said, that it is open to the Commission at any time, from now until the time when it makes its Report, to indicate that it is not able to fulfil the terms of reference?
§ Mr. Alport
I am being frank. That question is made quite clear by what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister 1177 has said—that the Commission can at any time say so if it cannot fulfil its task to its satisfaction within the terms of reference. I have repeated three times what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, so that it should be clear not only to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East but to the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas).
§ Mr. Alport
I have given way a number of times already. If the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) will allow me to continue my speech I will be most grateful.
On the other point raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, I must say that I felt with him, and have said so on many occasions, that the real object of the experiment of federation in Central Africa is to try and ensure effective partnership between the races. He put it this way—and I think I am quoting him correctly—"Living harmoniously in the territories".
§ Mr. Alport
And freely, certainly. If we can achieve that in Central Africa through federation, or if it can be achieved by those on the spot through federation, it will be a very great advance in the politics of that continent. I am glad to feel from this debate today that, as far as the work of the Commission is concerned, and the contribution it may make to the achievement of precisely that end, both sides are united in wishing the Commission well with the work it has in band.
The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) drove off a number of times and each time seemed to find that he was out of bounds, and I had some sympathy with him. It is not easy to see where this debate ends and the next one begins. I will not follow him on the various points he raised, but there is every chance for anybody who wishes to give his views to the Commission to do so, whatever those views may be.
Again, I quote what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, this time on 21st July. He said:I would say that it was clear to me that the Commission would be free, in practice, to hear all points of view from whatever 1178 quarter on whatever subject, although, of course, we thought it right to give it terms of reference which accord with what we regard as the object of the 1960 Review."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1959; Vol. 609, c. 1079.]So the hon. Member for Wednesbury should be under no misapprehension that the Commission cannot hear any point of view which anyone who wisihes to give evidence wishes to express.
§ Mr. Alport
The rule with regard to civil servants is precisely the same as with the same form of Commission in this country. They can give evidence on the work of their Departments and give any information the Commission may wish to obtain from them.
The hon. Member for Wednesbury said that there must be no constitutional changes, as far as Southern Rhodesia was concerned, during the process of the procedure of the Monckton Commission. I am not sure whether he realises that that rule, if indeed he is advocating that it should be a rule, would mean that there presumably could not be constitutional change in any other territory as well. I would have thought that that was a principle not acceptable to either side of the House. I am not sure whether he meant it that way, but I draw his attention to the logical consequences of what he was saying.
I am glad to have this opportunity of saying something about the work of the Commission to date. After all, in its narrow sense this debate is concerned with the administration of the Commission and the work it is undertaking in the Federation at the present moment. But I must make it clear that, as with the other Governments, we are only in touch with the Commission's work in so far as we have general responsibility for the arrangements being made for it. I cannot therefore give the House a fully detailed account of progress up to the present in relation to the work which the Commission has accomplished in Northern Rhodesia.
I think, however, that it would be right and would be the wish of the House that I should pay a tribute to the energy and strong sense of service which the Commissioners have shown in applying themselves to their onerous task. The conditions under which a Commission of 1179 this sort must work are inevitably arduous, and as a result four of the Commissioners have suffered short periods of indisposition, while Lord Shawcross and Mr. Justice Beadle have both been in hospital. I hope that both will be restored to full health in a very short period of time.
As the House is aware, the Advisory Commission has so far been taking evidence in Northern Rhodesia. It assembled at Victoria Falls on 15th February and went on to Northern Rhodesia on 18th February. It is at present assembling in Lusaka to continue to take evidence and go through the large amount of material which has been produced by the three parties into which the Commission was divided for its Northern Rhodesian tour.
The House will no doubt have seen some excellent photographs in the Daily Telegraph illustrating the picturesque conditions in which the work of the Commission is at present being undertaken. I agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, however, that one would not necessarily want to stay there indefinitely, and therefore it would be sad if the Opposition succeeded in reducing the Vote.
The arrangements for the Commission's work have gone extremely smoothly and it has had the opportunity of hearing evidence from a very large number of witnesses, indeed a greater number than was expected. The threat of an African boycott seems to have had relatively little effect, and the decision of the chairman, Lord Monckton, to hear evidence in private, together with the assurances of the Attorneys-General of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland and the Government of Southern Rhodesia with regard to the protection of witnesses, has clearly enabled many who wish to have their views heard by the Commission to come forward for that purpose.
A large Commission consisting of 26 distinguished members together with the necessary secretarial assistance, the extensive travelling, the accommodation and other expenses which must be involved must inevitably result in substantial expenditure. This Supplementary Estimate for £40,000 is to provide for the expenses of the Commission up to 31st March, 1960. Subsequently, however, moneys will be required to meet the ex- 1180 penses of the Commission until such time as its report is completed. I cannot, of course, say when this is likely to be, but the chairman and members of the Commission are well aware of the importance of completing their work in sufficient time to make it possible for their advice to be fully digested by the five Governments before the opening date of the 1960 Constitutional Review Conference.
Whatever may have been the controversies surrounding the appointment of the Commission, I am sure that the House will welcome this report which indicates the progress which the members are making in tackling the formidable yet important work with which they are entrusted. I am sure that the House would agree that now that the Commission is hard at work collecting evidence, the result of which will have a direct bearing upon the whole future of this important part of Africa, nothing should be done which would make its task more difficult. I am grateful therefore, as I said, to hon. Members who have spoken in the debate for the restraint which they have exercised in tackling this difficult problem.
The House will have a full opportunity of studying and subsequently debating the Commission's Report when it is published and the same no doubt will apply in the other Assemblies of the various other countries concerned. I hope, therefore, that the House will not divide against the Supplementary Estimate, since the differences of point of view have already been fully deployed in the House in recent months and are well known to the Commissioners. Once the Commissioners have started on their work it seems only right that they should be allowed to get on with the job, while I fully acknowledge that the position of the Opposition is reserved against the time when we shall all be able to examine the advice contained in the final report and consequently see precisely for ourselves what the situation will be at that time.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Gentleman referred in terms of some conviction to the opening date of the 1960 Conference. Has a date been fixed?
§ Mr. Alport
From my recollection, I think the agreement is that it will be opened as soon as possible after the 23rd October. No date has been fixed.
§ Mr. Alport
The hon. and learned Member has asked me a hypothetical question which I am afraid must have the normal answer, which is that I cannot answer a hypothetical question.
§ Mr. Callaghan
We tabled the Amendment because a great deal of discussion is going on in Central Africa and other parts about the future of these territories. We did not feel it right that the whole future of Central Africa should be put to sleep while the Commission was sitting and we felt that we should have the opportunity of expressing our views on a developing situation. But we have no desire to incarcerate any of the Commissioners even in the pleasant paradise of the summer palace of the Paramount Chief of Barotseland. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ Second Resolution agreed to.
§ Third Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.