HC Deb 07 February 1963 vol 671 cc666-70

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

47. Mr. WALL

To ask the First Secretary of State when he intends to call a conference of the five Governments concerned to review the constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in accordance with Article 99 of the Constitution.

48. Mr. HEALEY

To ask the First Secretary of State if he will make a statement on his recent official visit to Central Africa.

49. Mr. WALL

To ask the First Secretary of State if he will make a statement on his visit to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.


To ask the First Secretary of State if he will make a statement on his official visit to the territories of the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland.

51. Sir S. MCADDEN

To ask the First Secretary of State whether he will make a statement on his recent visit to Central Africa.


To ask the First Secretary of State if he will make a statement on his visit to Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

The First Secretary of State (Mr. R. A. Butler)

With permission, I will now answer Questions Nos. 47, 48, 49, 50, 51 and 58 together.

In the course of my recent visit to Central Africa I entered into consultations with the Federal and Territorial Governments, with the general objective described to the House in my statement of 19th December last.

I was particularly glad to have this opportunity of hearing at first hand the views of the new Governments in Northern and Southern Rhodesia. Differing views were expressed to me on the form which future association of the territories might take, and the conditions under which such an association might be worked out. I was, however, encouraged to find a widespread disposi- tion to think constructively on these problems.

It remains to find a basis upon which these varying points of view can be brought together and jointly considered, and I shall, for this purpose, be maintaining close touch with the Governments concerned.

I also discussed with the Federal Government and the Government of Nyasaland the detailed arrangements for giving effect to the decision that Nyasaland should be allowed to withdraw from the Federation. It has been agreed that these matters should be handled through a Working Party composed of representatives of the Federal and Nyasaland Governments under a United Kingdom chairman.

In Central Africa, we still have difficult and intricate problems. I have, however, sensed a movement of opinion which holds promise for the future. It must be our care to guide it towards the achievement of a solution which is acceptable so that it may last.

Mr. Wall

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the success of his visit? Does he agree that the future of Central Africa should now be settled as quickly as possible? Will he give consideration to calling a conference in Central Africa, under his chairmanship, of the five Governments concerned, to settle not only the future of the Federation, but of the three territories that at present make up the Federation?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. In my contact with the Governments concerned I found that they would prefer to prepare for a conference rather than to launch into a conference which might not be successful through lack of preparation. It is, therefore, my intention to take the first steps as soon as it is convenient.

Mr. Healey

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the main obstacle to any association between the three territories is the existence in Southern Rhodesia of a Government who represent only 5 per cent. of the population and who are preparing to maintain themselves in power by hanging and flogging?

Does the First Secretary now acknowledge the desire of the people of Northern Rhodesia for independence, as he acknowledged a similar desire of the Malawi people some months ago?

Finally, will the First Secretary tell the House, as he promised to before Christmas, whether he has now taken a decision on whether to publish the pledges made in 1953 by some of Her Majesty's Ministers regarding the way in which the Federation might be dissolved?

Mr. Butler

To answer the latter point first, this matter is still under consideration following upon the consultations I had with the Governments concerned.

With regard to Northern Rhodesia, I met the coalition Government of U.N.I.P. and A.N.C. and obtained their opinion on the subject of the future of the Federation and on the future of their own country, and undertook to bring that home for consideration.

With regard to Southern Rhodesia, I do not think that we should make the position more difficult, because I noticed a disposition on the part of the Northern Rhodesian Government to be ready to discuss at least economic links with the South, and I think that that is important.

Mr. Brockway

May I ask the First Secretary whether, in the discussions, there was any consideration of the bigger constructive proposal of a future federation including both East and Central Africa, when the Governments of those territories become democratic and independent?

Mr. Butler

All these aspects were mentioned to me by the Ministers, whether African or European, when I was there, but I found no particular disposition to link up with East Africa.

Mr. Russell

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is still the Government's policy to encourage multi-racialism, at least in the two Rhodesias, and would it not be a good thing to announce this?

Mr. Butler

The more the races can live together—that is the object of the multi-racial approach—the happier everybody in Central Africa will be.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is the First Secretary of State aware that pledges alleged to have been made by Her Majesty's Ministers privately in the discussions in 1953, but which were not revealed to Parliament then, have been published by one Government, who have made charges against Her Majesty's Government in connection with these pledges? Does not the First Secretary believe that the House is entitled now to a full and frank statement on this matter very soon?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. As I said to the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), this matter is under immediate consideration.

Sir G. Nicholson

My right hon. Friend, for very good reasons, has not been extremely enlightening. When will he be able to make clear the line of his thinking a little more lucidly?

Mr. Butler

Anyone who has visited Central Africa and realises the very varied and very often contradictory points of view put to him would not wish to rush in and spoil the possibility of a settlement when a constructive point of view about a future association is expressed in varying degress by all the Governments concerned. That is a distinct advance on anything we have met yet and I propose to take advantage of it.

Mr. Wade

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the setting up of a working party. Have all the parties concerned agreed to join such a working party, or indicated their willingness to do so?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. The working party will consist, in the first place, of the Government of the Federation, the Government of Nyasaland, and the British Government, and all have consented to serve.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the First Secretary of State aware that the British taxpayer is not anxious to add to his burden? Will my right hon. Friend be able in due course to make a statement of exceptional lucidity about the economic future of Nyasaland and how that country is to be viable?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. That depends upon the work of the working party which is going into these matters.

Mr. Lipton

Is the First Secretary of State aware that, however difficult and intricate he says the problems of Central Africa are, they are nothing like as intricate and difficult as the right hon. Gentleman himself?