§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, the debate this afternoon is still fresh in our memory, in spite of this extremely interesting and dramatic interruption. I could not help wondering more and more as I listened to the three speeches which have been made on this subject of federation in Central Africa whether, when the speakers had finished, there would be anything left of what I had originally intended to say. But if there is, it is because my approach to this problem is rather different, and not because I differ in any essential from the views that have been expressed. This is the first debate in either House of Parliament on the proposed federation set out in this White Paper, and as Parliament is the sounding board of public opinion at home I think it is significant—and I have no doubt that the Government will take note of the fact—that Labour opinion, Liberal opinion and opinion in the Church of England take the same view, in broad outline about this matter.
My main excuse for taking part in this debate, and for venturing to think that what I have to say may possibly interest your Lordships, is the accident of office during the post-war years. It happens that since the war I have been concerned as a Minister with the preparation or 614 practical working of three federal Constitutions for new nations emerging from dependence on the United Kingdom. I was twice at the India Office while India was trying to establish the Constitution set out in the India Act, 1935. At the Burma Office I had to prepare for the association of Upper and Lower Burma in the present Union of Burma which, of course, is a federal union, and later on, at the Colonial Office, I had an opportunity of discussing the federation of the British West Indies with responsible people in every territory. I certainly do not claim—I should not dream of doing so—that, as a result of this limited experience, I am anything like an expert on the federal system of government. But I think I can fairly claim some degree of sympathy with any Minister whose official duty it is to "sell" a federal Constitution, and also a good deal of appreciation of the quality of really Job-like patience which is required for this hazardous undertaking. I hope that at any rate I have gained some independence of judgment and sufficient objectivity to venture to ask others for the careful consideration of my views.
I am sure your Lordships will agree that independence of judgment in dealing with these important issues of Commonwealth or Colonial policy is just as desirable in all Parties now as it has ever been. I am sure it would be a disaster for the Commonwealth and the Colonies if such issues as we are discussing this afternoon ever became Party shuttlecocks. I hope it will be understood, therefore, that if we disagree with noble Lords opposite about their policy for Central Africa, we do so from an honest conviction that they are mistaken, and not because we have any rather silly ideas about its being the duty of the Opposition to contradict the Government.
There is another rather common misconception about the attitude of Labour supporters to problems of Colonial or Commonwealth policy which I should like to mention. It is sometimes said, and more often implied, that the Labour Party is biased in favour of indigenous Africans and against European settlers. That may be true of individuals (there are prejudiced individuals in every Party), but it is certainly not true of the Party as a whole, or of Party policy. We recognise that Europeans who have made their 615 homes in Africa have just as much right to work and live there as the Africans who themselves, at one time or another, were mostly settlers in Africa. We realise just as clearly as anyone that the progress we all want to see in Africa will depend on the growth of good will and greater understanding of both sides.
Anyone who wants to form an opinion about the future of these mixed societies is bound to ask this preliminary question: "Have I tried to read the mind of Europeans and Africans, not merely by studying their problems but by placing myself imaginatively in their shoes?" Even so, it is extremely hard for us to appreciate all the difficulties, because the circumstances are so very different from our own. The first lesson I have learned from my experience of these federal Constitutions in the Commonwealth is that they are just the right thing for small social groups or territories, of small size and in geographical propinquity if they have reached the stage of self-government. They are far more satisfactory than any attempt at solitary independence. Indeed, federation is the only way in which self-government in any real sense can be achieved. Most of our present Dependencies will, I hope, decide to follow in the footsteps of those Commonwealth countries which have reached independence by way of federation. The desire for a closer political association of this type has long been evident in the British Caribbean and it may well become more pronounced in British South-East Asia as well as in British Africa as time passes. I therefore share the view of the noble Lords opposite that we should continue to commend federation as the ultimate goal in Central Africa. I am glad there is no difference between the Parties about this and that the late Government were as willing as the present Government to initiate preliminary discussions and administrative arrangements.
As a result of this preparatory work, we have detailed proposals before us this afternoon for the federation of the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland. If these proposals are approved by all concerned, they will become the Constitution of a new self-governing State in Central Africa. Many of your Lordships, especially those who have spoken, have already formed their conclusions about this matter. My 616 own view, and I say it as a convinced supporter of federation, is that the Government would do well to withdraw these proposals now and not to ask for a verdict upon them at this stage. I do not think either that opinion in Central Africa is ready for federation or that federation is desirable so long as these three territories are at such different levels of social and political development. I believe that everyone who wants federation in the long run would rather see these particular proposals withdrawn now, before it is too late, than turned down or imposed. And those are the only alternatives to withdrawal. It would be a great pity if they were turned down later. It would be a tragedy if they were imposed.
May I give my reasons for taking the view that these proposals are premature? I think it is generally accepted that one of the essential conditions for the effective working of any federal Constitution is its acceptability to public opinion. I invoke in aid a passage from the book of our leading authority on the federal system of government, Professor C. K. Wheare—I quote from his book on Federal Government. He states:To begin with, the communities or States concerned must desire to be under a single independent government for some purposes at any rate. That is essential. Unless they are prepared to go as far as this, the question of federal government does not arise. If they are not prepared to submit themselves to an independent government … then they have not achieved the first prerequisite of federal government. A league, an alliance, a confederation, may be appropriate for them, but not federal government.What Professor Wheare is saying is, quite simply, I think, that the desire to federate is the essential prerequisite of federation. It is the absence of this desire to federate in some of the communities in Central Africa that, to my mind, vitiates the Government's present proposals. If anyone doubts the validity of this general truth, he has only to look at our own efforts at Constitution-making in Whitehall. Any Constitution, however good it may be in theory, will not work in practice unless it is based upon consent.
A Sunday newspaper which supports the Government quoted the 1935 Constitution of India as an example of the successful working of an imposed Constitution. But in fact, this Constitution never worked while it was imposed, and India did not become a federation 617 under British rule. In spite of constant pressure from the India Office—and as I was there for a part of the time, I know what our policy was—in spite of our constant efforts, the federal part of the 1935 Constitution remained a dead letter. It could not be operated because the Princely States refused to come into the Federation. This Constitution (I am sorry to contradict an authoritative correspondent of the Sunday Times) is the best possible example of a brilliantly conceived federal structure which failed to work so long as public opinion was against it. The essentials of the 1935 Constitution were implemented, not by the British Government while it controlled India but by an independent Government of India when that control had ended. India became a Federation by borrowing the provisions of the 1935 Act for its own Constitution in 1949. By 1949 federation had become acceptable to India opinion.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I was speaking of India and not referring to Pakistan. I agree with the noble Viscount that part of the arrangement was that Pakistan and India should become separate States. Consideration of India, in the sense of an Indian continent, perhaps led to a misunderstanding on the part of the noble Viscount.
May I give an example of one part of the Commonwealth where a Government has publicly acknowledged that federation must depend upon public opinion? We have told the West Indian territories that they can federate only if the local inhabitants have decided that they want a Federal Government. Federation has not yet come about in the West Indies because the principle has not been endorsed by all the island and mainland territories. It is true that most have endorsed it, but the territories of British Honduras and British Guiana have decided to stand out. I cannot help regretting that the Government have not pursued the same policy in Central Africa. They might have told these territories, too, that we are not going to do what people living in the territories always fear—foist a Whitehall Constitution upon them. The Government have said that these proposals 618 in the White Paper are subject to the approval of the local Legislatures and Governments, but not that they are subject also to the approval of the local inhabitants. I hope the noble Marquess will set my mind at rest, but so far as I am aware there has in the Government statement been no statement that these proposals are subject to the approval of a majority of the local inhabitants of these territories. It was obviously assumed by the officials in their Report of March, 1951, that federation in Central Africa would depend on the consent of the local inhabitants as well as on acceptance by the local Legislatures and Governments. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote the following passage from the Report, Chapter III, paragraph 35:We have constantly borne in mind that whatever is proposed must be designed not only to promote the well-being of the territories and their inhabitants, but also to be acceptable to the inhabitants and to the Governments and Legislatures concerned.This matter is causing a good deal of alarm and anxiety to many people who are concerned about Central Africa, and I should be grateful if the noble Marquess could possibly set our minds at rest. It is not too late for the Government to say that they will not push through these proposals against the wishes, so far as they can be ascertained, of the majority of the local population. It would be a great relief to many people if they could say that. I understand the present position to be that they have not said that they will impose federation, but they have also not denied it. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that they may do it.
I think we can be quite certain that federation, or any other form of closer political association in Central Africa, would break down sooner or later without the support of both the major communities, African and European, in all these territories. All the evidence we have suggests that any federation based on these proposals would find many opponents in both camps. Southern Rhodesia is, of course, more articulate than the two other territories. The White Paper has already been debated in the Southern Rhodesian Parliament and discussed in the Salisbury Press. Mr. Stockil, who was quoted by my noble friend Lord Ogmore, and the Opposition in Southern Rhodesia dislike these proposals heartily because, they say, they 619 are too favourable to the Africans and would rob Southern Rhodesia of the independence which it enjoys under its present Constitution. And even the usually pro-Government Press of Salisbury is against federation in its present form.
I ask the Government whether it is wise in these circumstances to risk a rebuff on a referendum. If Sir Godfrey Huggins wins the referendum and Southern Rhodesia enters the Federation, the new State might have a short life. Nothing could prevent secession when Mr. Stockil and his friends win an election in Southern Rhodesia. In fact, of course, no Constitution in a democracy can be stable or permanent without the support of every major Party. No one blames noble Lords opposite for the reception of their proposals in Southern Rhodesia. It is their desire to be fair to the Africans which has made them seem unfair to the European. I do not believe anyone, not even a genius, could devise a Constitution which both communities would accept at the present time. The trouble is that there is too much suspicion and distrust between the races. The underlying fear on both sides should be allowed to heal before federation is pressed further. Time has always been the best healer in these racial antagonisms, because it allows mutual respect to grow from shared experience.
Every indication we have had of African opinion shows that the politically-conscious African is against federation, root and branch. The African representative body in Nyasaland, the African Protectorate Council, has voted against it, and the African representatives from both Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland refused to take any part in the Lancaster House Conference which drew up these proposals. It was a great pity that the Africans declined to state their case, and I know it was not for lack of encouragement by Her Majesty's Government. It does not matter, from the point of view of making federation a success, whether the Africans have good or bad reasons for objecting to it. The plain fact is that federation is chose jugé in the African mind and that no ingenious constitutional safeguards or official exhortations will make the slightest difference. This attitude on the part of the African population seems to me the most decisive reason 620 for proceeding no further with these proposals at the present time. I ask the noble Marquess to consider the desirability of not having this Conference in October and of trying to induce everyone to wait until the times are more propitious.
This is not the occasion for discussing the detailed constitutional proposals in the White Paper, many of which are admirably suited to the economic and administrative requirements of Central Africa. But there are three political provisions which, if I were an African, would make me reject this Constitution out of hand. The first, to which the right reverend Prelate referred, is the lack of adequate African representation in the Legislative Assembly, where only six Africans will represent, with their European colleagues, a population of approximately 6,000,000. Another difficulty is that this is a rigid and not a flexible Constitution, and it is unlikely that African representation will be increased in the future by a widening of the present narrow franchise. This can be done only by a two-thirds vote of the Legislative Assembly, which is predominantly European. The intention, of course, is admirable, but the rigidity of the Constitution, which is intended to protect African interests, will in effect prevent Africans from increasing their representation at the centre to keep pace with progress in their education and political capacity.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Would the noble Earl prefer a more flexible Constitution and protection for African interests?
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I would prefer no Constitution at the present time. That has been the burden of my speech this afternoon.
The second objectionable feature is the subordination of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to Southern Rhodesia in the Legislative Assembly. Southern Rhodesia will have seventeen out of thirty-five seats, a number that bears no relation to its share of the total population of the area of the three territories. This, again, is I think a constitutional platitude: that a federal Constitution should always maintain a fair balance between the federal units at the centre. This is secured usually by means of an Upper Chamber, but there is no provision in this Constitution for a Second Chamber, and 621 representation in the single Chamber is heavily weighted, as I have mentioned, in favour of Southern Rhodesia.
These elaborate safeguards for African interests, excellent as they are in intention, are seriously open to objection by Europeans—we have heard the European objections—as well as by Africans. To the Europeans those safeguards will mean that these Dependencies can never expect to achieve full Dominion status. We must understand the European as well as the African point of view about this matter, because naturally they feel that they want to reach Dominion status like every other dependency of the United Kingdom, and they will be denied this because, under the proposed new Constitution the Home Government will always claim the right to veto legislation dealing either with the African population or with amendments to the Constitution. From the African point of view, these safeguards will not inspire confidence because Africans will fear that the first strong Federal Government will assert its independence and natural desire for Dominion status by by-passing the African Affairs Board and ignoring the protests of Whitehall. It cannot be denied that this might happen. No paper Constitution is likely to withstand for long the pressure of the European demand for freedom from interference by Whitehall and for equal status with other self-governing countries of the Commonwealth. From the African point of view, paper safeguards are no substitute for their own political competence.
I have heard only two arguments for rushing through a Constitution of this kind which would be bitterly resented by many Europeans and most Africans in all three territories. One is that immediate federation is the only method of preserving the British way of life in this part of the world. But, surely, recent events in South Africa have made it most unlikely that Southern Rhodesia will want to joint the Union in the near future. We all see, with sadness and bitter regret, that race relations are deteriorating in the Union and that relations between the British and the Afrikaaners are also getting more and more difficult. Indeed, the Union itself seems sometimes to be in danger of falling asunder. I cannot believe that, in those circumstances, there are many Southern Rhodesians who will want to joint their southern neighbour.
622 The other argument that one hears is that the economic development of the three territories requires central planning and common services. This is undeniable. It is obviously desirable that such matters as railways, civil aviation and postal and telegraph services should be managed by a single authority. But we already know from experience in other parts of the Commonwealth, and in fact from experience in Africa, that all the advantages of common services and co-ordinated economic development can be obtained without political union or even federation. May I ask your Lordships to consider some examples which I propose now to give of that general statement? In the Caribbean, a Regional Economic Committee is starting this year a Trade Commissioner service for the whole British West Indies with Canada and the United Kingdom. This is a service which this Committee is carrying out on behalf of all mainland and island territories in the West Indies, which are very much more widely scattered and separated than the three territories with which we are dealing this afternoon.
In Africa, there is the example of the East Africa High Commission, which manages many affairs, such as transport and communications, for the East African territories. I hope the Government will seriously consider, and ask the three Governments in Africa to consider, the possibility of establishing a Central African High Commission on the lines of the organisation already operating so successfully in East Africa. If these Governments are genuinely anxious for closer administrative and economic association, they can have it with very little delay indeed and without any alteration at all in their present political relationship.
I also hope that the Government will give careful thought to the difficulty of legislation. I refer to legislation here at home, a matter that has been mentioned already by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. They have said that a Bill would have to be passed. This Bill would be an enabling Bill to give Ministers a general power to set up a Federal Government for the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland. The new Federal Government will then be given their specific powers and a specific constitutional structure by Order in Council, and this Order in Council, or several 623 Orders in Council—I am not quite sure whether several would be required—will not be subject to approval by Parliament. That is the procedure. Parliament will therefore be asked to accept or reject the broad principle of federation. If it accepts, it will have no power at all to alter any of the specific constitutional proposals. These matters will be wholly withdrawn from Parliamentary control, and of course they include the safeguards to which many people attach so much importance. I feel sure that there are many people in both Houses of Parliament who would prefer the procedure adopted by the Conservative Party in 1935, which submitted the detailed Constitution of India to Parliamentary approval in the terms of the Government of India Bill. I do not think that anyone will deny that many improvements were made in that Bill during its passage through Parliament. Many will feel, and quite justifiably, that the procedure suggested by the Government is inviting them to abdicate some part of their Parliamentary responsibility.
To deal with the second aspect of legislation here, your Lordships will remember how worried we were in 1947 about the possibility of Conservative opposition to the India Bill. We were very anxious indeed about it, but Mr. Churchill, whose views about Indian self-government we all know well, is far too big a man not to be able to change his mind when the interests of the Commonwealth require it. He did so in this instance about self-government for India, and I profoundly hope that he may be willing to do so again. Everyone was glad when the India Bill was passed with the support of all Parties in Parliament and of public opinion throughout the country. How different would be the atmosphere of controversy surrounding a Bill to carry out these proposals! Labour and Liberal opinion on one side would be ranged, in all probability, against Conservative opinion on the other. This would lead inevitably to an unsatisfactory relationship, when the Opposition here is in power, between the United Kingdom Government and the Government of the new Central African State. Moreover, the cleavage between Africans and Europeans within the new State, which this new Bill would greatly aggravate, would be worsened by the tendency of 624 Africans to glance over their shoulders at politics in this country.
I have been speaking for far too long, and I apologise. Before I close, I should like to add a few words of a personal nature. Ever since I took my seat in your Lordships' House about twenty years ago, my chief interest in public life has been the Colonies. I have followed Colonial policy as closely as I could under a succession of Governments, mainly Conservative, and I have never felt anything but happy about the future, because it seemed to me that we were making steady progress in all directions. So, my Lords, for the first time in all these years, I feel intense anxiety about the future of these territories. This anxiety is due to my fear that we may be about to commit an irrevocable mistake.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, we were told here last week, in the discussion upon another Motion, that many debates in this House are academic and have no relevance to the urgent issues of the day. Your Lordships will probably remember that. I do not propose to reopen that discussion to-day; it is certainly not the occasion. But there is one thing about which I am sure we all agree—namely, that the subject of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, which is now under discussion, the scheme for Closer Association in Central Africa, does not come into that category. It is vitally important and it is of very considerable urgency.
I do not propose this afternoon to go at any great length into the past history of this question. As your Lordships know, it has already been discussed on numerous occasions in this House. We all know that Government after Government, of all Parties, in the last twenty years, have tried to find means of linking Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland more closely together. We all know the reasons which prompted them to pursue this policy—reasons based, above all, first on the importance of building up a strong British bloc in that part of the world, which is something I hope we are all agreed upon, and secondly, on the economic interdependence of the three territories themselves.
No one, so far as I know, would dispute the desirability (certainly Lord 625 Ogmore did not) of facilitating the supplies of coal from Wankie, or from the newly discovered deposits of the Sabi Valley in Southern Rhodesia, to the great copper fields of Northern Rhodesia. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, stated it very fairly in his speech this afternoon. And equally, I imagine, no one doubts that if the swiftly flowing waters of the Zambesi gorges could be harnessed to provide hydro-electric power for the three territories, both to the North of the river and the South of the river, it would be to the benefit of all. All of them would share in the prosperity which would be created. There is also the question of investments to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, very properly referred. Finally, I imagine that everyone who has any personal knowledge of that part of the world will agree that the free flow of labour across the boundaries would be to the advantage both of the men themselves and of the three countries from which they come. That, I imagine, is common ground among us all. It has certainly not been disputed in any of the speeches which have been delivered this afternoon, and I certainly would not dispute it myself.
But, my Lords, up to now, as we know, every effort that has been made, with the greatest good will, to bring about this closer association has been shattered on the rock of native policy. Successive efforts of Governments have, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has just said, failed to remove the fears both of the Africans themselves and of Parliament in this country, that closer association cannot be achieved without some loss of the rights and liberties which the African population have hitherto enjoyed. But if I my say so, with all deference, to their eternal credit the late Government refused to be deterred, and they decided to make yet a further effort to produce a scheme which would satisfy the legitimate aspirations of Europeans and Africans alike.
The method which was adopted, as Lord Ogmore has already said, was to appoint a Committee of officials, with full knowledge of local conditions, from the Departments concerned in this country, and from Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, to produce a Draft Scheme which would form the basis for a further examination of the subject. In due course, as we know, that Com- 626 mittee reported. They rejected the amalgamation of the three territories, on the ground that it was unlikely to be acceptable to the Governments of the Northern territories—and I think that was perfectly true. Equally, they rejected a proposal for a loosely knit league, if I may so describe it, under which the territories would retain their full independence and would delegate certain functions to a central body appointed by themselves. That was one of the propositions that was put before them. They rejected that because they were driven to the conclusion, from which I certainly would not dissent, that a loose arrangement of that kind would lead only to continued friction and would make efficient administration almost impossible. Finally, they came down on the side of the middle course, which is a Federation under which the Central Government would be granted certain specific powers and the remainder would be left as before, to the territorial Governments.
I do not say that their Report was accepted, but I always imagined that in principle it was generally blessed by all Parties in this House. Certainly during the time I have been here I hardly ever remember a debate in which there appeared such broad unanimity. But the late Government announced, and I think quite rightly, that they could not reach definite decisions until there had been full time for the provisions to be discussed, both here and in Africa, and for opinion to crystallise. And so in due course, as we were told this afternoon, the Conference to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore referred, met at Victoria Falls to examine the proposals of the Committee. That Conference, unhappily, reached no conclusions. Indeed, at first sight, it served only to show how wide were the differences which still existed. But, my Lords, I believe, taking a longer view, that that Conference, though it was not a success, may have been of use in bringing those differences into the open; and, at any rate, it did produce an agreed communiqué which proclaimed certain broad principles that have been of considerable value in our later discussions.
At that point, as your Lordships' know, a change of Government took place in this country. As so often happens here on great issues of Imperial policy, 627 however, a change of Government did not lead to a change of policy. The Conservative Government took up the task where the Labour Government left it; and within two months of assuming office, in spite of other urgent questions facing them, of which your Lordships are well aware, a meeting was called between the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (who was my predecessor, Lord Ismay), the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, the Governor of Northern Rhodesia and the Governor of Nyasaland, to examine the criticisms which had been made at Victoria Falls, and to see how, if at all, they could be ironed out. And three months later, in May of this year, just about two months ago, another Conference was held in London, in an attempt to achieve a further advance.
It is, I think, proof of the value of those earlier consultations, both at the Falls and in London, that this Conference was far more harmonious and fruitful than the earlier one. I agree entirely with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that it is a matter of regret to us all that the Africans of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland felt unable to attend, even as obsevers. With all deference, I would say that they have made a mistake, because after all, a completely non-co-operative attitude, and unwillingness even to listen to the arguments which are being put forward by others, can never strengthen one's case. But I do not agree with what was said by one or two speakers this after-noon, that the absence of the Africans of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland by itself made that Conference futile. I do not agree about that for a moment. I do not suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said it. But, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—with whose speech I am going to deal a little later—did say that he thought we ought to withdraw from everything now because there was no co-operation from the Africans and so on. But Africans from Southern Rhodesia did come and, if the House will believe me, they played a very useful part; and in other respects the Conference was fully representative.
After, I think, about three weeks of extremely intensive effort, the Conference 628 came to full agreement on a Draft Scheme on the basis of the officials' plan, amended to meet the comments and criticisms made since. It is that Scheme—incorporated in the White Paper—that is under discussion to-day. I would say plainly to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and others, that the Government believe it to be a sensible and workable scheme. The draft Constitution which is enshrined in the White Paper is necessarily long and complicated. It covers thirty-seven closely printed pages, and if I tried to expound them all this afternoon, I am afraid that I should try your Lordships' patience quite beyond endurance. I propose, therefore, to confine myself mainly to those parts which contain (if I may use such a word here) the "guts" of the scheme—I should have liked to say those parts to which the speeches of previous speakers have been devoted, but during the whole of the debate so far, no speaker has mentioned the Scheme. There were one or two offhand comments by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Chichester, but everyone else who has spoken has studiously avoided it. It seems to me that it is very important that the House and the country should know what this Scheme is, and I propose, if I may, to say a few words about it.
First, I should like to say a word about Chapter 2, which deals with the division of legislative powers between Federal and Territorial Legislatures. This Chapter is divided into three parts. The first part deals specifically with the division of legislative powers, to which I have referred. First, there is to be a federal list—what is described as an "exclusive list"—which includes all the subjects which are to be entrusted entirely to the Federal Legislature. Then there is a concurrent list, which contains subjects which can be dealt with either by the Federal or the Territorial Legislatures. If any case of disagreement arose, the Federal law would prevail. Lastly—and there is no list of these—come all the other subjects, which will be within the purview of the Territorial Legislatures. These will remain as at present within the province of the Territorial Legislatures and, in the case of the Northern territories, will still be under the direction of the Colonial Secretary. That is not affected by the Scheme for federation.
629 Chapter 2, Part 1, also gives effect to a pledge—and I would commend this to the attention of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who, I thought, made a rather Cassandra-like speech, if I may say so. It gives effect to a pledge made at the Victoria Falls Conference that land and land settlement questions, which are very important to the natives in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, will remain, as at present (subject to the ultimate authority of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom), the responsibility of the Territorial Government and Legislature in each territory. So they are completely safeguarded. Part 2 of Chapter 2 enumerates those subjects which are to be allocated respectively to the exclusive list and to the concurrent list. All the others remain, as I have said, territorial responsibilities. I would emphasise to your Lordships that these territorial responsibilities include practically all the matters which are of vital interest to the ordinary African people—native administration, local government, primary and secondary education and trade unions. All those things are left where they are, and are the responsibilities of the Territorial Legislatures. Health comes in the concurrent list.
Then there is Chapter 2, Part 3, which is concerned with the form and method of election of a Federal Parliament. These questions of form and method of election are matters of machinery which are clear and which I need not elaborate this afternoon, except to say that the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, spoke very strongly about the representation of Africans in the Federal Chamber. They said that there were not enough there. They said that there were too many representatives of Southern Rhodesia. The answer to that is that at present—whatever may be the case in the future—Southern Rhodesia is undoubtedly the most highly developed of the three territories and will be the senior partner in this Federation—and if you have a Federation that is bound to be the case.
There is this further point I would make on their criticisms. In Southern Rhodesia there is a common roll of voters, a form of electoral system of which I am sure both the right reverend Prelate and the noble Earl would 630 approve. And although it is true that there is a property qualification, Africans can qualify and there are numbers of them who could, if they wished, vote for the election of ordinary elected representatives in addition to those representatives who are going to be chosen to represent purely African interests. It is a curious fact that though there are large numbers of Africans at present in Southern Rhodesia who could vote, only one in ten has taken the trouble to qualify. I was very surprised to learn that; and no doubt your Lordships will be equally surprised. I can only conceive the reason to be that they are not very politically-minded, and that the great majority are fairly satisfied with the treatment they are getting. There is, at any rate, no reason why they should not vote. I take it that as the general prosperity of the Federation grows—and, after all, that is one of the main purposes of creating it—more and more Africans will be able to qualify. One would hope the balance would swing to a greater degree towards the Africans so that later the lack of balance would not be so great.
I should like now to come to Chapter 5, which deals with the measures for the protection of African interests. This is really the most important chapter of the whole scheme. As your Lordships know, the proposal that was put forward by the committee of officials was that there should be a Minister for African Interests who was not to be elected like other members of the Government but was to be appointed by the Governor-General. This proposal for what came to be known in informed circles as a "cuckoo Minister" became the subject of extremely severe criticism. It was, I believe, the one great weakness in an otherwise extremely able document. For one thing, I believe it to have been constitutionally unsound. It is surely utterly wrong that one single member of a Government should not be democratically elected like the others but should be appointed on quite a different basis. The point was very well put, if I may say so, by Mr. Dugdale, the Minister of State at the Colonial Office in the last Government in a debate in another place on March 4, 1952. He said: (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons; Vol. 497, Col. 255)Whatever Minister in any Cabinet could possibly survive under those conditions? He will have a dual loyalty, a loyalty to the people 631 who appointed him and a loyalty to the Secretary of State in this country to whom he will be responsible. It is an intolerable position and goes beyond the system of collective responsibility. Indeed it goes quite against it, and I consider that it is so unworkable that the Minister would himself before very long disappear because his position would be quite untenable.That is a very clear and convincing statement with which, I am sure, the great majority of us would entirely agree. I quote it only because I understand there are sections of opinion in the noble Lord's Party which now and again hanker after a "cuckoo Minister"; but I think they have been blown over the water by their own Minister of State. Moreover, in my view, such a Minister would be in an extremely weak position if he came into conflict with his elected colleagues, and so the protection which it was hoped would be given to Africans by this scheme would be largely illusory.
For those reasons, the "cuckoo Minister" has now been discarded and has been replaced by a strengthened African Affairs Board. I am quite certain that that is a far better proposal from every point of view. The Board is to be composed of seven members, two from each territory—one European and one African—and a Chairman who is to be nominated by the Governor-General, not on the advice of the Federal Government, but on his own discretion—that is, of course, under the ultimate discretion of the Secretary of State here.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Marquess a question on constitutional priority. I understand that a Governor-General never takes directions from the Secretary of State here and, if necessary, goes straight to the Fountain-head. He is not responsible to any Secretary of State here. In effect, he is a Viceroy.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think it is perfectly right, for example, for the Governor-General to reserve a Bill for Her Majesty's pleasure, which means, in fact, that it comes back here. That can be done. And I should have thought it would be all right for him to make an appointment after consultation with the Secretary of State, to make certain that he had the right person. The real difference is whether he will appoint on the constitutional advice of his 632 Ministers or on his own discretion after consultation with the Government at home. The point is really this: that if he appoints the Chairman of this Board on the advice of his Federal Ministers, there is no certainty that the Chairman will be absolutely independent. It is better that the appointment should be one over which the Federal Prime Minister and the Federal Government should have no control.
§ LORD OGMORE
I do not disagree with that at all—not in the slightest degree. I only ask the noble Marquess whether this is a new departure in constitutional practice, because I understand that a Governor-General has no contact with United Kingdom Ministers. Certainly that is so in the great Dominions.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It is not at present; that would mean a constitutional change which would have to be passed by the United Kingdom Government. Constitutionally the position of the Central African Federation will be the same as that of Southern Rhodesia—exactly the same.
This Board—and I commend this point to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester—has three main functions. The first is to make representations to the Federal Prime Ministeron any matter within legislative or executive authority of the Federation as the Board may consider desirable in the interests of Africans.And these representations have to be considered by the Federal Government. In his speech, the right reverend Prelate said, unless I misunderstood him, that there was no provision for the Board to initiate proposals for the benefit of Africans. That simply is not accurate. If he meant that the Board ought to be able on their own, and outside the Government, to carry out legislation, then I would say that that is utterly and constitutionally impossible.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, may I intervene to say that what I said was that the Board had power to make representations and objections to a Bill, but they had no authority to advance Africans by legislative 633 measures or have their representations quite certainly attended to and given some sort of legislative consideration.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I fully appreciate now what the right reverend Prelate had in mind; but the Board cannot override Parliament. What they can do is to make recommendations to Parliament from an independent position. But we could not have a Board with any wider power.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
Recommendations are different from representations. If the Board have power to make recommendations, I would be satisfied.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We may consider making that verbal change when the next Conference comes along. Meantime, if they have anything which they think of advantage to Africans, they have power of their own volition to put it before the Government, and I think that is what the right reverend Prelate has in mind. If a Territorial Government so requests, the Board can give the Government assistance in the study of matters affecting Africans. These are what I may call the two initiatory powers. Thirdly, and from the point of view of most of us who are considering this scheme, far the most important, before a Bill is introduced into the Federal Assembly a copy must be sent to the Board, unless, first, the Governor-General signifies that it is not in the public interest that the Bill should be published before its introduction—the obvious case is the Budget, which we know can never be heard by anyone but the Cabinet before it is actually introduced—or, secondly, that the Bill is too urgent for a copy to be sent to the Board before introduction—the best example of that is a sudden and dangerous crisis in the affairs of the Federation. If the Board are of opinion, after examination of the measure they have received, that the Bill is a "differentiating measure"—that is, that the Bill either by words or by implication differentiates to the disadvantage of Africans—they can send a notice to the Federal Prime Minister giving reasons for the objection. I am sorry; maybe many of your Lordships have been into all this fully before, but not a single speaker has mentioned these points and I feel justified in going through them again.
§ LORD OGMORE
As this is the second time the noble Marquess has mentioned this point as a criticism, may I say that I specifically said that these matters of detail would be dealt with by my noble friend Lord Lucan. If every noble Lord has to raise every point in his speech, then speeches will become insupportably long.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I sympathise with the noble Lord, but the fact remains that a great many criticisms have been made of this scheme and particularly that it will never be acceptable to Africans. I want to show the House why it ought to be acceptable to Africans, and for that purpose I must go into some exposition of the proposals.
When notice of an objection has been received by the Prime Minister, the following procedure must be followed. First, when the Bill is introduced into the Federal Assembly, a notice of the Board's objection has to be laid on the Table so that everybody knows that there has been an objection. Secondly, if subsequently, in spite of that objection, a Bill is passed, a notice of that objection has to be laid before the Governor-General and the Bill must be reserved for signification of Her Majesty's pleasure, unless the Governor-General is satisfied that the Bill is not a differentiating measure—even then the objection of the Board has to be reported to the Secretary of State and the decision of the Governor-General has to be subject to his disallowance—or unless the Governor-General is satisfied on representations made to him by the Prime Minister that it is essential in the public interest that the Bill should be brought into immediate operation. Except in these two extremely limited and, I should imagine, rare cases, the Bill must therefore be reserved for signification of Her Majesty's pleasure. This means, in plain words, that it must be referred to the Secretary of State in London and a final decision rests with Her Majesty's Government here.
The importance of this provision will be clear to everybody in your Lordships' House. It means that this independent Board have the power, subject to the approval of the Governor-General, to insist that any measure which in their opinion differentiates against Africans shall be referred back to London for a final decision. I submit to your Lordships 635 that this is a tremendous safeguard for Africans. I believe that any objective person would agree that it has brought about the strongest safeguard which could be devised, and it is, indeed, very satisfactory that not only the Northern Rhodesian and Nyasaland Governments, but the Government of Southern Rhodesia, too, agree to it.
There is one other important amendment to the proposal of the officials' committee which I should like to recommend to the House. It is to be found in Chapter 9 of the Draft Scheme, and relates to the amendments to the Constitution. Under this provision, any Bill for the amendment of the Constitution has first to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the Federal Legislature; and secondly, cannot be assented to by the Governor-General himself, but must be reserved for Her Majesty's pleasure—that means that it must come back to London. Moreover, Her Majesty's assent to a constitutional Bill must be signified by Order in Council, and if any Territorial Legislature objects to it, or if under Chapter 5 notice of objection has been laid by the African Affairs Board, it has to be laid before Parliament here. A draft of the Order in Council must be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and must stay there for forty days before it is finally presented—that is the ordinary Negative Resolution procedure with which your Lordships are familiar. This is intended to, and I think will, ensure that Parliament retains complete control over any constitutional amendment that is in the least controversial. I can imagine that in a new Constitution there might be some mere matter of machinery which everybody would agree was an unimportant affair. In that case, if it was agreed by everybody—if the African Affairs Board did not object, and the Territorial Legislature did not object—and if it had the two-thirds majority, I do not think it would be necessary for it to be laid before Parliament here. But that would apply only in those circumstances; in all other circumstances it must lie for forty days.
There is one other point, about which I have been asked a great number of questions, on which I should like to say a few words. There is reference throughout this White Paper to "a Secretary of State." I am constantly asked: Who is 636 meant by that, and why is that rather equivocal phrase used? The answer is this. As your Lordships know, constitutionally in this country all the Secretaries of State can perform each other's functions, so that, in any case, I feel that it is a right phrase. Moreover, in this case there are two Secretaries of State who are immediately concerned—namely, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The official channel for the Federal Government will be the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. But, obviously, on any matter of importance he will have to consult the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and if, unhappily, there is a violent difference of opinion (I hope there never will be) between the two Secretaries of State, the matter will then be referred to the Cabinet. I would add that in all I have said in this context I have referred only to the relations between Her Majesty's Government and the Federation. In the territorial sphere the Colonial Secretary will still, as before, deal with affairs of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations with the affairs of Southern Rhodesia. So much for the main provisions of the Draft Scheme. I hope that I have not wearied your Lordships too much, but it was important to explain these rather difficult constitutional provisions.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked me, quite properly: "Will there be legislation to give effect to the agreement if it is reached; and if so, will Parliament here be able to amend it?" I cannot give the noble Lord a quite definite answer to that, because I understand that it is not yet certain whether or not a Bill will be necessary. But I hope that noble Lords in all parts of the House will realise that there will be real, practical difficulties if there is any question of detailed amendment of this Scheme by Parliament here. For if it is amended by Parliament in London, power to amend will have to be given to the other Parliaments concerned; and the result of the amendments by the various Parliaments may be such as utterly to destroy the agreement reached with so much difficulty between the Governments in question—in fact, it would almost certainly destroy that agreement. We should then have to start all over 637 again from the beginning. On that sort of basis I do not believe that closer association would ever be achieved. Personally, I do not believe for a moment that if noble Lords opposite were sitting on this side of the House, and we on the other side, they would ever agree to any such proposal. I feel that it would be utterly impractical. It is one thing to submit an agreement for approval, if indeed that was decided upon—and, as I say, no decision has yet been reached on this matter—but it is quite a different thing to agree to an amendment by each Parliament concerned.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel (I may be speaking wrongly here), quoted the precedent of India, and said: "Look what a constitutional thing it was. The Government of India Bill came before Parliament here, and it was amended and improved." We could decide whet we did as to the constitution of India; but we cannot compel Southern Rhodesia to accept amendments if she does not want them. That is beyond our power constitutionally. I should be very much surprised if the noble Earl, holding the views he does, would even wish to compel and override the Legislatures of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Therefore, I do not think the analogy that he drew was an accurate one. As I say, no decision has yet been reached, but I have explained to the House, as best I can, the difficulties which I see in the proposals.
I do not say that this Scheme cannot be improved; indeed, I hope that further improvements may be devised before the next Conference. I shall await with great interest the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. For up to now, except for one or two suggestions made by the right reverend Prelate—I am bound to say this—there have been no suggested amendments of substance from either the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, or the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. I had hoped—wrongly, as I see now—that this meant that the proposals in themselves were regarded as satisfactory. I think I can claim that they represent a fair balance between European and African interests, and that they provide very complete protection for the Africans, such as has never found a place in any of the former schemes for the closer association of these territories.
638 I suggest that it is for us to "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the scheme, to judge of its merits, and to expound them both here and in Central Africa itself in the crucial months that lie ahead. Then, in the autumn days, when it is proposed that there shall be another Conference, they can be crystallised into a final scheme. Then, and not until then, will the time for final decision come. There is no question of hustle, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, feared. I do not want to hustle, any more than he does. I think we have taken a considerable time over this scheme; we are giving another breathing space, and we propose to take advantage of that breathing space to expound the scheme in all the areas immediately concerned.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not think I can answer that question at the moment. I do not think it will be referred to Parliament before the next Conference, because obviously it will not be a complete Scheme. I am very ready to consider that, and I am willing to look into it. At the present stage it is very difficult to look beyond the next Conference. I am certainly not going to make—and I hope the House will not expect me to do so—any firm statement or commitment about what Her Majesty's Government do in circumstances which are still quite unknown and which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, himself said were very uncertain. The great thing now is to get the three Commissions to report immediately—that is, the Judicial Commission, the Finance Commission and the Public Service Commission—and then to hold a further Conference to see what comes out of that. In this House or in another place it is always possible, even if the Government do not desire it, for members to insist upon a debate. But you will not find us chary of discussing this question. We are anxious to give it the fullest ventilation.
In the meantime it is, I submit, our great responsibility, in whatever part of the House we may sit, to examine the provisions of this Scheme without prejudice and to try to form our own conclusions on them. It is not enough to say that the Europeans or the Africans do 639 not like it and, therefore, that it is not worth considering it any further. There is far too much of that kind of talk going about now. It is for us, if we are worthy to have an Empire at all, to give them a lead, and that is what I hope will be the attitude, not only of those on this side of the House but of noble Lords opposite when they have completed their examination. I understood the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, to say at the end of his speech that the Africans must be persuaded. But he also said that his own Party proposed for the time being to come to no conclusions and in effect, to "sit on the fence."
§ LORD OGMORE
I must object to that. What I said was that this White Paper had been out only a fortnight, and that although the Party were very seriously considering the matter, they had not made up their mind. That does not mean that they will "sit on the fence." That they certainly will not do.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am delighted to hear it; but I hope they will make up their minds, because it is very important that, after consideration, they should agree to this Scheme. I want it to be united advice which is given to the African. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, did not say the same thing as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. He said that he hoped we should drop the Scheme now. He said that the Africans did not like it, that he was very uncertain about the Europeans, and that it was not the slightest good going any further.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made it perfectly plain at the start of his remarks that there is no official policy in the Labour Party in relation to this latest scheme for federation. While federation is accepted in principle, at this stage no decision has been taken about the Scheme which the noble Marquess is now outlining to the House. Therefore, we are all free to express our own opinions.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I take it that the noble Earl's advice will be that the thing should be dropped.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That is clear. The exact advice which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, is to give 640 is wrapped in mystery. With all deference, I would add that unless we take the view—and I am sure that no responsible person does—that the Europeans in Central Africa can do without the Africans, or the Africans can do without the Europeans, it is surely clear that ultimately some scheme must be devised which is based on, if I may quote a very famous phrase used by a French African Governor,the harmony of the black and white keys.It really is not a question to my mind, if I may say so, with all diffidence, to the right reverend Prelate, of the paramountcy of the African or the paramountcy of the European. I repudiate both those principles. It is a question of a partnership between the two, each partner being essential to the other. Nor, I profoundly believe, is that impossible.
There seems to be a strange belief in this country, held mainly by people who have very little personal experience of this part of Africa, that directly an Englishman goes from here to Central Africa he ceases to be an honest, decent, citizen, and becomes a sort of Simon Legree, bent only on oppressing and exploiting the African population. What nonsense, and what pernicious nonsense, that is! It is contrary to all our traditions and to all our experience. Do not let us be ashamed of our record in Central Africa. There is no finer chapter in our whole history. As I know the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, recognises as much as I do, we have brought to the primitive people of those parts a peace, justice and security that hitherto they have never known. Nor is that true only of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It is equally true of Southern Rhodesia. Sometimes one hears in this country almost severe criticisms of Southern Rhodesian policy towards Africans, often by people who have never been in Southern Rhodesia at all, and which seem quite incredible to those who have. The picture these critics draw of racial antagonism and repressive Government policy is a pure figment of their imagination. I detected, or thought I detected, a suggestion of that sort of thing in the right reverend Prelate's speech.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
No, that is not quite correct. I forbore 641 from quoting actual details about colour bars and other things which the Chiefs and delegates included in their letter to The Times.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not think it is enough for the right reverend Prelate, with all his great name, to come here and, basing himself purely on a letter to The Times, make statements of that kind.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
I did not base myself only on the letter to The Times. I based myself on information from missionaries, delegates, and many quarters.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Perhaps the noble Lord would wait and let me say what I was going to say. I can assure your Lordships, as one who has seen at first hand the relations between Europeans and Africans in Southern Rhodesia (I have been there numbers of times), that they are of a warm and friendly character. I have seen it for myself, and there are others here who have seen it equally. That relationship could exist only on a basis of mutual affection and respect. Indeed, the Southern Rhodesian Government spend considerably more at the present moment on African services, on health, on education of the Africans, on irrigation, on soil conservation and so on, than the Governments of the other two territories. The reason is this. The Southern Rhodesians, just like ourselves, are intensely proud of their British traditions. They regard themselves, as we do, as trustees for their African fellow citizens. Make no mistake. Were the British to abandon their trust in this part of the world, those countries would go straight back to the condition in which we found them, until they were gobbled up by others far less enlightened than ourselves. That is a hard fact which both the Africans themselves and we in this country ought to realise and face. If political and social progress is to continue in those territories, it will be through the guidance and the leadership which men and women of British stock can give, here and in the territories themselves. That is the strong conviction 642 which inspired the colonists who went there forty or fifty years ago, and that is the conviction I firmly believe and which, I personally know, inspires them now.
In the famous inaugural Slade Lecture, which was delivered by John Ruskin, speaking of Britain's mission in the world, and the spreading of her beneficent influence on the Colonies which she founded, he used these splendid words:These colonies must be fastened fleets, and every one of them must be under authority of captains and officers; and England, in these her motionless navies (or in the true and mightiest sense, motionless churches, ruled by pilots on the Galilean Lake of all the world) is to expect every man to do his duty.Among those most deeply moved by that noble passage was, I am told, a young undergraduate—Cecil Rhodes. He never forgot it. It became the inspiration of his life and he carried it about with him to the day of his death. Such was his faith and such, I hope and think, is still our faith. It is in that faith, that firm, living, courageous faith, that I commend these principles to the House, not only for their intrinsic merits, which I think great, but, it may be, as a model, a British model, of yet wider applications, of that great principle of brotherhood between races which they enshrine for the uncharted years that lie ahead.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, the speech we have heard from the noble Marquess has been a most impressive one. He has gone further, I must say, than he should have gone in defending the present situation, the present customs and beliefs in Southern Rhodesia. One has only to read the speeches of that great statesman, Sir Godfrey Huggins, to find some discrepancies between the observations expressed by the noble Marquess and those by the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. I notice in the last speech he made that he said that under the conditions which prevailed in a large number of the countries of the world where the vast proportion of the population is backward, the only thing is for the Government to be in the hands of an educated and intelligent minority, provided that the test is education and intelligence and not colour of skins.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
I was going to say that the test of education and intelligence is evidently reserved to the speaker, and those views seem to me to be inconsistent with most of the principles that have governed our Colonial policy all these years. A refrain has run through almost all the speeches we have heard this afternoon and that is fear, distrust and suspicion of the two races—of the white and the black races in Africa. That is a thing we cannot get away from. It may be true, as the noble Marquess says, that it is not enough to say that if Africans oppose a measure, it should not go through. I say that it is not enough to say that such and such a measure is necessary on political or economic grounds, regardless of whether or not it attracts the consent of the great majority of the people.
I look at the new scheme, comparing it with the original officials' scheme, and I think that the differences, such as they are, are not calculated to allay the suspicions of the Africans. I think that should be the test: whether the present proposals are better or worse than the original ones. Reference has been made to a Minister, whether he is called a "cuckoo" Minister, a "constitutional monstrosity" or any other term that may be applied. The whole conception of federating territories of such vastly different sizes, and differing in wealth and conditions, has its constitutional novelty and it certainly calls for some novel device to deal with it. I am not sufficient of an authority on constitutional practice to know what the rights and wrongs of the position are, but the way I look at it is this: Is the African Affairs Board, in its proposed new form, stronger or weaker than in the original one? The noble Marquess talks about it as a strengthened African Affairs Board, but it seems to me that the effect of the few amendments and alterations is undoubtedly to weaken it. The mere fact that there will be no Minister in the Cabinet directly and solely responsible for African interests, and the fact that a Chairman is to be appointed from outside Parliament and the public service, seems to me to imply a downgrading of the whole Board, and of the whole conception of the feature which is the most important safeguard Her Majesty's Government are proposing in this scheme.
644 Now as to the Board itself: we have had no explanation of the reason for changing the qualification required for members. Why are public servants excluded, and why, also, are members of the Assembly and members of the Legislatures? Doubts have been expressed whether, in countries like Africa, where we know the white population is small they could find men of the right calibre to start a Federation. Why, then, is the field of selection to be narrowed to exclude public servants and members of the Legislatures?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not want to interrupt the noble Earl, but perhaps he would like an explanation on the question of the Parliamentarians. The reason is this: it is extremely important that it should be an entirely independent Board. If you have a member who is a supporter of the Government, he would be biased in favour of the legislation that that Government would introduce. If you are going to have fairly independent views, it is wiser not to put those people into this position.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
Surely a Member of Parliament has at least been chosen by some body of the community to represent them. The possibility that a Member would be biased by his political Party views may have a good deal of weight, but, on the other hand, where are these eminent people to be found outside the ranks of public servants and the members of the Legislatures? That seems to me to be a weakening of this Board. There is another change: that the number of members of the Board is reduced from nine to six. The Secretaries of Native Affairs who, under the former proposal, were to be put on the Board, are excluded, and there remain six members, of whom three are to be African and three European. Now, in the former proposals, three were to be African and three were to be Secretaries of Native Affairs; in the case of the other three it was not specified whether they were to be African or European. Therefore, the maximum number of Africans who can sit on the African Affairs Board is now three, whereas before, if my reading is correct, it could have been six, with the Secretaries of Native Affairs—the most important people, whom one would naturally regard as being eminently suitable to serve on this Board because they have spent their lives in studying 645 the native affairs of their territories. It seems to me that the powers of the Board have been slightly modified in that, as I read it, the power of the Board is now only permissive, instead of its being a duty of the Board to submit, or certify, or give notice of, objection to every objectionable measure. The word now is that they "may" send to the Prime Minister notice of an objection.
Finally, there is this curious change in terminology from "detrimental" to "differentiating." It is a subtle difference and it may be claimed by some people that it widens the field and increases the power of the Board. But it seems to me that a measure can be detrimental to African interests without "differentiating." There may be no mention in a measure of differentiation between African and European, and yet the effect of it can be detrimental. I should like to have an assurance from the Government that that does not mean narrowing the powers of the Board to give objection.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The answer is that the word has been carefully chosen, so as to include both measures which explicitly differentiate, and those which might have the effect of differentiating against African. The wording is meant to be wider than the limited definition which I understand the noble Earl himself gave.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
I see. But it does strike one as very curious that this word should have been changed. I presume that there is some reason for the change, and it would assist noble Lords if we were told what really is the reason behind this change, Altogether, I submit that these changes, small as they are, definitely weaken the safeguards for African interests. I think they lower the prestige of the African Affairs Board and, in general, there is no question in my mind that, looked at together, of the two schemes the new one is less calculated to give confidence to the African than the old one.
In the matter of the Federal Legislature, a curious provision has crept into the list of disqualifications which prohibit the holding of seats representing African interests in the Federal Legislature and which, equally, may affect the appointed members for African interests. One of the disqualifications is that a candidate has served a prison sentence with- 646 in five years before the date of his wishing to be elected. I may be wrong, but this struck me as being something of a novelty. I am not sure, but I believe that the disqualifications from sitting in the Parliament of this country are bankruptcy and lunacy. I speak subject to correction, but I believe they are the only things that disqualify a man from election.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
Serving a prison sentence within the previous five years has been included as a disqualification for persons wishing to represent African interests in the Legislature. Why it that? It seems to me a trifle out of date. The idea that a prison sentence means that a person has been a crook and is therefore not wanted in a Legislature is surely out of date. Look around the world and you will find that there are a good many countries where leaders, very great leaders with a world reputation, have spent tears in British prisons. That is so in most Colonial countries. The politically active men are the ones who have been in prison. I think that a provision such as this should be removed, in order that the best and most active of the political Africans should be eligible.
The question of amendments to the Constitution or to the electoral law is, as has been pointed out, a subject on which the Governor cannot give assent. The amendments have to be submitted to London. That is all very well. Constitutional reform or change of electoral procedure takes place only on the initiative of the Federal Legislature. There is no power on the part of the Government of the United Kingdom to initiate or promote changes in electoral systems or in the Constitution; and it seems that that state of affairs is petrifying the present political situation. The Northern territories, which have been under the Colonial Office, are, like all these territories, on the march; their political progress takes place a step at a time. All Colonial territories are on that road. If we take two of them suddenly and put them into this Constitution it will fossilise them. The Government accept the responsibility, to some extent, for maintaining their protectorate status, but the time will come when some widening of the franchise or of the electoral system 647 will become due—certainly it would become due if they were under the Colonial Office. But are they now to be prevented from any further progress?
The submission of this scheme, as the noble Marquess told us, may be in the form of an Order in Council. I recognise that the scheme, as it has been worked out in the Conference, must have been the subject of fairly keen discussion in order to reach agreement. But it should not be forgotten that at the moment the Parliament of this country is supreme. We are responsible for the inhabitants of these protectorate countries. It seems strange that we should be asked to agree to a scheme affecting the destinies of all these people but giving less opportunity for amendment than we have in an ordinary domestic Bill.
Finally, there are no precedents for federation of territories with such enormous differences. All the classical cases of federation, Switzerland, the United States and so on, have no bearing at all on the case, because here we have a multiracial society; we have the immigrant communities, and, above all, we have this deep-seated suspicion and fear by one community of the others.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
May I ask one question? If the former Government felt like this, why did they ever appoint a Committee? They appointed a Committee to consider a scheme of closer association. Now he says that the closer association between such varying territories is impossible.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
I wish the noble Marquess had waited a moment. I said that there was no precedent for such a scheme. The conference of officials was convened because of the obvious fact that there are many advantages in closer association or federation. There are many economic advantages; there are political advantages. But there are also political disadvantages, and in such a situation, where the racial mixture is so explosive as in Africa, the Government should take the greatest care and should give weight to African opinion. We know that passions in those countries dominate everybody's actions: they preclude any form of rational thinking. So I beg the Government to make sure that the scheme will contain the maximum 648 safeguards possible, that it gives as many concessions as will convince Africans that the safeguards are valid.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT RUFFSIDE
My Lords, I venture to address the House to-day because I happened to be in Salisbury on March 4, when a certain debate took place in another place which caused a good deal of consternation out there. I am afraid that again in Salisbury tomorrow, when they read of the welcome given to this scheme by the Opposition, they will not feel very delighted about it. I must confess that I thought it was about as luke-warm a reception as could be given to anything. I am surprised at that, because, after all, this scheme is largely based on the communiqué which was issued from the Victoria Falls Conference. The three main items, which that Conference said were essential, are all included in the scheme. Moreover, the proposal for an African Affairs Board, which was not before that Conference but came out afterwards, is enshrined impartially and most particularly in the scheme. I am bound to say that I am a little surprised that anyone should be unable to say beforehand that he would give this scheme at any rate careful and impartial consideration, and go through all its details to see if he could not give it general approval. Yet the only concrete suggestion we have had is that the scheme should be withdrawn.
Where would that leave us? It would make confusion worse confounded. People would get so tired of federation coming on the scene and then being withdrawn that federation would probably be put back seriously for years and years. We have heard little about the danger from South Africa. I will not dwell on that, but one must remember that the Southern Rhodesians look across the frontier, the Limpopo; the natives in Southern Rhodesia look across it with considerable alarm. Federation, good or bad, would at least put a stop to those fears. I wonder why in this debate we hear nothing, or at least very little, about Southern Rhodesia's native opinion, when, after all, the natives there are one-third in number of the natives of all three territories combined. Surely their opinion should be considered as well as that of some others in Northern Rhodesia and in Nyasaland.
649 I was not here when the gentlemen came over to the April Conference, and it was regrettable that they refused to attend any Conference and just would not play. That was not a very helpful attitude on the part of the representatives who came from Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, but I can understand it. After all, they do not want federation; they want something else. I think their hopes are based on the Gold Coast pattern of Government. Federation would stop those hopes. I think they have been very honest and straightforward about it. They oppose the scheme because they want another one. One should not let them have a veto just because they oppose it; otherwise how should we ever progress? It would clearly be an unfair situation if the Government wanted to introduce a Bill which they thought was in the interests of the people and then said: "But we cannot do so because the Opposition puts a veto on it and opposes it." No—I think the Government should carry on with their proposals, and I dare say that, if federation were brought into being, these gentlemen who are very experienced and well-known would prove to be useful and would give wise help in the building up of the Constitution.
I do not propose to detain your Lordships very long, but I want to devote myself to this question of African opinion. There seems to be a general view that Africans, because they are black, all have one opinion. We who are white have different opinions; why should they be different from us? I think it is perfectly true that there are many different opinions amongst the natives of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. There are also differences of language. I wonder whether all your Lordships know that in Northern Rhodesia alone there are seven different native languages which can be printed, and many local dialects. I should have thought that if there were seven different native languages, there would be likely to be many more than seven different opinions, not just one opinion for all natives. I therefore think one must consider carefully to what extent this talk of wide objection really has any meaning. I do not say dismiss it, but I think one can exaggerate it, and that is what is being done this afternoon.
650 Of course, one knows—and the past experience of every Colonial Governor would confirm it—that in every part of Africa, in every island in the West Indies, or wherever it may be, where there has been a slave trade, there is a kind of rooted, inherited distrust of anything proposed by a white man, which is very difficult to overcome. That does not mean that the natives are definitely opposed to it. They may distrust a proposal to start with, but may well come to support it afterwards. A classic example of that was in the case of the hospitals in Southern Rhodesia, where we could not persuade the natives to go to hospital until they were dying. They would go to their village and get some quack medicine, or go to the witch doctor and get something worse, and then, when they were dying, they would go to the hospital and say: "This is the place of death, and nothing else." They have changed their minds since, and now the difficulty is that, whenever they get anything wrong with them, they all want to go to hospital because they know that they can get a cure there.
We must consider a possible approach to native opinion from that angle, and quite likely, when they are convinced that the proposals are for their benefit, as well as for the white man's benefit, even if they distrust them at present they will come round and we shall find that in the end they will become quite good supporters of the proposals. If the Government really feel, as I am sure they do, that this proposal is in the interests of the natives and of the whites—all the people in Central Africa—then I think it is their duty, in spite of what opposition there may be, to go forward and carry out this scheme in the interests of the people. Personally, I am very glad that they are doing so.
I have only one other small thing to say. I am glad that at last there is a plan, because there has been any amount of wild propaganda spread among the natives of Southern Rhodesia and elsewhere. There was no plan; there was nothing definite to get hold of. Anybody could say what he liked, and people were saying all sorts of things when I was out there. I can tell a story from a district on the Portuguese East African frontier, where an acquaintance of mine heard that his boys were going to a meeting of the local tribe to discuss federation. He asked the senior boy the next day 651 what was decided. The native said "We decided we were all against federation." My acquaintance asked, "Why did you decide that? to which the answer was, "Because the speaker told us that if we had federation there would be no more blacks left in Southern Rhodesia and we should have to go either to South Africa or Nyasaland in order to obtain work." That is the sort of thing that is being said. But now that there is a definite scheme, anybody can show categorically that that sort of story is quite untrue; and in the end the truth will spread round to the natives.
I come to my last point, which I am glad to say was made by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury; so that I need not dwell upon it. I was going to refer to the proposed appointment of a Minister of Native Affairs, but the Government have, very wisely, rejected that appointment. Lord Salisbury gave the reasons for that decision and quoted the excellent descriptions of the appointment used in another place. I can only say that in Salisbury, Bulawayo and elsewhere, I found that this proposal met with the strongest opposition. Nobody seemed to know what was to be the position of this Minister who was to look after the natives' interests, and apparently was to be independent of the Prime Minister or anybody else. The appointment was viewed with the greatest suspicion, and he was regarded as a kind of "super-snooper." I am quite convinced that many farmers and others would say "If we are going to have a fellow of this sort we would rather not have federation at all." After all, we must remember that the individuals in Southern Rhodesia are going to have the last word, because of the referendum which is to take place. Once before they have given their veto by referendum, and we do not want them to do it again.
I hope that this scheme will be brought into operation, but that it will not be only after a Party fight and in a Party atmosphere. I hope that it will not start backed by just a small majority after a bitter debate in another place. That would give it a start of suspicion and mistrust from which it might take years to recover. If, after giving a calm and cool consideration to all the points which are made in this White Paper, we can come to an agreement, it will be a 652 great thing for Central Africa, and the Houses of Parliament will have played a great part in building up the future of the people there.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ EARL WINTERTON
My Lords, it is a great honour and a pleasure, in the name I am sure of all of your Lordships, in whatever part of the House you sit, to congratulate my noble friend Lord Ruffside on his first speech in your Lordships' House. It is a particular pleasure to me to do so, because we have been personal friends for over forty years. I was once his chairman in a certain constituency where he was a Member. I have sat under him in another place, where he occupied a certain position which I must not mention in your Lordships' House. I am afraid that on many occasions I gave him a great deal of trouble, though no more than I gave his predecessors. But that has never affected our personal friendship. If I may say so without impertinence, I think I speak on behalf of all your Lordships when I say that his maiden speech has, to use a banal term, brought a breath of fresh air into this debate. We had from him a point of view which has not been put forward before, except in the speech of the noble Marquess, and I must warn the noble Lords who opened this debate that, before I finish my speech, I shall have some very wounding observations to make about them—of course within the limits of decorum in your Lordships' House. I am entirely in agreement with my noble friend who preceded me that they have done a good deal of mischief by their speeches this afternoon.
I am in a unique position among your Lordships in that I have for the last forty years owned some possessions in Northern Rhodesia. Incidentally, that may give an opportunity to the noble Lord belonging to the Labour Party who follows me, to refer to me as an absentee landlord. I give him that tip in advance. During those forty years I have had the honour—and it is an honour—of being consulted on more than one occasion by individuals, and on one occasion by the unofficial members of the Legislature. I have on more than one occasion also represented their point of view, the point of view of the settlers, in another place, both by asking Questions and in 653 speeches; and I conceive that I had a perfect right to do so. I contend that Britons of European descent in any part of Her Majesty's Dominions overseas, who have not self-government of their own, are entitled to have their views put forward both in another place and in your Lordships' House. I am sure that no one would dissent from that. I speak in the capacity of one who has long connection with the country and has had a very warm friendship with many of its leading men, such as Mr. Roy Welensky, and with his predecessor Mr. Gore-Brown.
My Lords, I wish to submit only two points, though I conceive both to be of great importance. In the first place, I should like to support the point that was made by my noble friend the Leader of the House, when he said, in effect, that the interests of the European, Indian and African inhabitants of the three territories are not irreconcilable, though obviously it is not easy to reconcile them. I believe that the White Paper offers a real chance to do so. But as one having a long knowledge of these matters, I must, with all solemnity, warn your Lordships that if this opportunity is not taken, the economic progress of the territories will be retarded and, even worse, political chaos may ensue. Later I will give your Lordships, very succinctly I hope, my reasons for holding that view. My second point is that grave mischief has already been done by the fatuous and irresponsible hostility shown to the European inhabitants of the territories by certain politicians and newspapers in this country. I should like to take the second point first.
It is sometimes the overt, and at other times the covert, argument of those who hold the view (I am sorry to say that it includes a number of Socialist and Liberal politicians, and I must say that some of your Lordships this afternoon have approached very near to the same position) that the Europeans in these territories are only a minority, that if the African majority say they must not have greater self-government, they ought not to have it, now or in the future, and that we here in England know what is best for European and African settlers alike. I do not know whether the ghost of a certain noble Lord who was at one time very well known in your Lordships' House—Lord North—has revisited the 654 Chamber this afternoon. If he has done so, he will have found considerable support for his views in some of the speeches which have come this afternoon from the Benches opposite and even from the speech of the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Chichester. Lord North, as I say, would certainly have found considerable support for his views. After all, what was Lord North's principal point of view? It was the point of view which has been expressed in several speeches made in your Lordships' House this afternoon—that British Colonists overseas cannot be trusted; that only your Lordships' House and another place know what is best for them and how they should be governed.
§ LORD OGMORE
May I interrupt the noble Earl to say a word in defence of Lord North, who was a much maligned politician? It has recently come to light that he advised His Majesty King George III to grant a Constitution on the lines of what would now be described as Dominion status. The attitude ascribed to him by the noble Earl is far from being that which was actually taken up by Lord North.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I would not attempt to set myself up as a historical student against the noble Lord opposite. At any rate, I think that the noble Lord and I would be in agreement on one thing: the results of Lord North's policy were calamitous, for he lost us North America. I think the noble Lord would not disagree with that. Whatever may have been Lord North's motives or whatever he may have advised his Sovereign, the result of his policy was that we lost North America. And I would go so far as to add this, as the noble Lord has rather tempted me to make this observation: that if some of the sentiments and views in the speeches which have come from the Labour—I apologise for having used, by mistake, the word "Socialist"—Benches, from the Liberal Benches and also from the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Chichester, this afternoon, were persisted in, we should lose the support of every European South and North of the Limpopo, because those speeches were imbued with suspicion of their motives. The whole attitude reflected in the speeches was that these people cannot be trusted to deal with the African native.
§ LORD OGMORE
Really, I am afraid that the noble Earl could not have heard my speech correctly. But he must not put words into our mouths. I personally never for one moment ascribed any such motives to the distinguished settlers in Rhodesia. My main point was that the Government should not impose federation against the wishes of the Africans. That was my main point.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I do not want to enter into controversy with the noble Lord. Of course, I accept what he says. But the impression left on the minds of us on this side of the House was that the noble Lord and his colleague on the Front Bench opposite, the noble Lord behind him, and the noble Lord who in a most interesting way said that he spoke for millions of Liberals throughout the world—that is a very strong statement—
I am sorry, but I really must interrupt the noble Earl. I do not think I used that phrase. I have no doubt that I do speak for millions of Liberals throughout the world but I claim only to speak for millions of Liberal-minded people. In the speech which I made this afternoon I particularly went out of my way to pay a tribute to the white people of Africa for their work and for the high regard in which they are held by the African natives.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I accept all that the noble Lord says. It must be my defective hearing that has caused me to fall into error. I thought he said that he spoke for millions of Liberals throughout the world, and I must say that that seemed to me a somewhat tall assumption in view of the fact that the thousands of Liberals in this country cannot decide who their leader is. However, I accept all that the noble Lord said, and also all that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, opposite has said. But I would venture to suggest that, however mistaken I may have been, my intervention in this connection may be of some use to your Lordships' debate. We now know that the noble Lords do not mistrust the Europeans in Africa. That being so, what is it that they are protesting about to-day?
§ LORD OGMORE
The noble Earl really must get his hearing aid adjusted. I cannot give another explanation of my meaning. What I say is that I do not 656 think the Government should try to impose this federal proposal, however good it is—and I admit that, from my own personal point of view, it has great merits—without having a considerable body of African support. I think it will be a complete failure if there is great opposition from the Africans to-day. I should have thought that that point of view was perfectly logical, and perfectly sensible. I think Lord North would not have disagreed with it in any way. I should have thought that going against that point of view would run the Government into great difficulties and that the scheme would break down.
§ EARL WINTERTON
I make an appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. We all appreciate his knowledge of Africa and we appreciate the good work which he has done in connection with the African question. If I may say so, he should accept the fact—and it is a fact—that for over twenty years this question has been on the tapis. I myself was at Victoria Falls—of course, in a purely private capacity—and almost twenty years ago I was consulted by unofficial members who had been in consultation unofficially with certain members of the Southern Rhodesian Government about federation or amalgamation. This matter has been on the tapis for over twenty years. Every effort has been made, both by the last and by the present Government, to sound African opinion, so far as it is possible to understand what African opinion is. Though I would not for one moment accuse the noble Lord of falling into that error, there is an awful lot of hypocrisy talked in certain quarters about African opinion. My noble friend who preceded me in this debate has pointed out that in one territory seven different languages are spoken, and it is well known that strong hostility exists between certain native tribes, as, for instance, the Mashona and the Matabele of Southern Rhodesia.
It is all very well for noble Lords and other people to talk about African opinion and its right to be represented. The fact is that all you can do, all that the British Government in the past has ever done, all that this Government is doing, is to seek a method by which the interests of these Africans can, or may be, reconciled with those of European settlers. That method has got to be 657 found, otherwise I warn your Lordships that a most serious state of affairs will arise. There is need for frankness in these matters and I put this to the House. Suppose this scheme fails to go through, either on account of opposition here or opposition in another place, or because the Europeans in the territories reject it. I may say, by way of parenthesis, that some of the greatest harm that has been done to the cause of reconciliation between races in Africa has been done by certain newspapers, especially by the Observer. One would have thought that there would be hereditary knowledge in the office of the Observer as to what happened when such arguments as the Observer is now using were used by other newspapers at the end of the Eighteenth Century.
I should therefore like to suggest, with the greatest frankness, that in certain events Southern Rhodesia might decide to join the Union. What would your Lordships' House do then? What would another place do then? Would some of your Lordships who have spoken to-day make similar speeches then? Would noble Lords opposite and the right reverend Prelate ask that Southern Rhodesia should not be allowed to join the Union? How could any Government stop it? Or the Europeans of Northern Rhodesia might decide to support the proposal for the amalgamation of their territory with Southern Rhodesia and join in passive or active resistance to the present system of government. I am not saying anything about that, except that these statements have been made by some persons, perhaps with rather extreme views, in both territories. What could the British Government do? Very little. One thing those whom the Daily Mail calls our "Native Parlour Pinks" had better realise: that any attempt to use armed force against Britons in Africa is impossible. It is just as much incumbent upon your Lordships' House and upon another place to have regard to the opinion of Europeans as it is to have regard to the opinion of Africans. It is just as important. You have to carry them along with you. I hope that I may say, without wounding anyone's feelings, that the speeches which we have heard from the Benches opposite this afternoon have not encouraged that spirit of reconciliation or good feeling between Europeans and Africans.
658 In conclusion, I would say that I have always been a speaker of individual views, and I should have been prepared to oppose this scheme if I had thought it a bad one. I know that my noble friend the Leader of the House will not think I am being effusive when I say that I appreciate the courage of Her Majesty's present Government in going forward with this scheme. I have nothing but contempt for the havering and hesitation which was shown by the late Government over the matter, a havering and hesitation which has been well expressed in the speeches from the Labour Benches this afternoon. As the noble Marquess the Leader of the House pointed out, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, had not made up his mind—the noble Lord said so frankly. Another noble Lord opposite, had most clearly made up his mind and was opposed to the scheme, as also was the noble Lord sitting behind him. On this, as on so many other matters, the Labour Party have no corporate view; and certainly the Liberal Party has no corporate view on this or any other matter. It is divided into two parts and I should have been much surprised to hear that the noble Lord who leads the National Liberals agreed with the view of the noble Viscount sitting in front of him.
I think it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to go forward with this scheme. I am grateful to your Lordships for listening with such patience to a speech which may have seemed unnecessarily vehement, but I feel strongly in this matter. Soon after I entered another place I had the honour to be the Parliamentary Private Secretary of a most illustrous man, one whom even to-day I regard as my master, even more so than the present Prime Minister—Joseph Chamberlain. The noble Marquess has mentioned Cecil Rhodes. I believe that this scheme is in consonance with the views of those two great men, who put forward views not palatable at that time, either with the beginnings of the Labour Party or with the Liberal Party—views which, above everything else, have made possible the creation of the British Commonwealth. I believe that if this scheme goes through it will be no small or mean addition to what I regard as the continual growth and expansion of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
§ 6.13 p.m.
My Lords, I have not addressed Parliament since I sat in the first two Parliaments of the Union of South Africa. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who introduced this Motion, referred to the loyalty of the native chiefs to Queen Victoria and that made me think of another loyalty which takes me back to fifty years ago. It is curious that the present Government in the Union of South Africa are putting into operation exactly the same kind of policy that was put into operation by the Government of President Kruger—a reversion of fifty years which is remarkable. I think that this reversal to Krugerism is a very serious matter. The Minister of Justice in the Union Parliament recently made a statement which I wished to bring to your Lordships' attention, but perhaps your Lordships will excuse me if I do not say any more.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, I am sure it will be the wish of your Lordships that I offer our good wishes and our congratulations on his maiden speech to the noble Lord who has just spoken. As we know, in years past he has played a considerable part in building up British administration in Africa. I should also like to associate myself with the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, the noble Earl, Lord Ogmore, and others who sat under his authority in another place, in congratulating the noble Viscount, Lord Ruffside. We are delighted that he has joined us in our debates.
This has been a peculiar debate, from one point of view. It has been a debate initiated by a noble Lord who is a member of a Party that apparently has no policy on the subject of the debate and who himself, in spite of his heart-searchings and great knowledge of the subject as the former Minister of the Department concerned, has so far found that his heart-searchings have brought him only the conclusion of indecision. I regret that the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, was not delivered before half-past four this afternoon. I say this frankly, and perhaps other noble Lords on this side of the House may agree. We heard the Government exposed to harsh criticism from the noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Rea—the latter 660 was not quite so harsh, but he was critical—and by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester. All those speeches came before that of the noble Marquess. I believe that if we had had the benefit of the noble Marquess's speech at an early time in our deliberations this afternoon those speeches from the opposite Benches might have been somewhat different.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
If it had been suggested to me that the noble Marquess should speak before me, naturally I should have been delighted to give way and hear what he had to say before I spoke.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I speak only as a Back Bencher, but I believe that I echo the feelings of some other noble Lords on this matter. We feel that the Government had such a powerful case, put so powerfully by the noble Marquess, that it is a pity that for two hours, at a time when our galleries are most full of visitors and when the proceedings of your Lordships' House are at their most active, the Government were exposed to these critical speeches. Particularly did I regret the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester, because of the inferences—of the prejudices (if I may say so without offence)—which he dragged across the issue by his mention of the colour bar.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
The noble Earl, Lord Winterton, said that he spoke for a number of British settlers in Central Africa, quite rightly. There are no Africans in your Lordships' House, and it seemed to me quite appropriate that I should express the African point of view.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Of course the right reverend Prelate is perfectly entitled to do so, but when he speaks of the colour bar, may I ask whether he has suffered under the colour bar as I have? I have suffered under the worst possible colour bar. If one goes to Liberia, as I did when I was Resident Minister in West Africa, and visits Monrovia, one has a terrible time as a white man. A white man is not allowed in Monrovia except under very oppressive conditions. After the speeches made to-day, perhaps we shall see the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords 661 supporting, and perhaps participating in, a Fabian Society expedition to Monrovia in order to alleviate the terrible conditions of the white man in that country.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
But our position has never been anything like that. As the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said, our relationship with the Africans in Southern Rhodesia is one of partnership and affection—in fact, a progressive partnership—unlike the country I have mentioned, which we wait to have rescued for us by the Socialist Party.
I desire to speak for only a few moments on one particular aspect of this matter. I feel that these are practical proposals, and that, as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said, they are sensible and workable. I would ask the critics to remember that it is not a case of this scheme or an alternative scheme to-morrow. For twenty years there have been endeavours along these lines, and it is now a position of having either this scheme, or a scheme on these broad lines, or virtually nothing. Our Colonial purpose is a common one, agreed to by all members of all Parties—namely, a gradual evolution to responsible self-government for the indigenous inhabitants. I believe it is axiomatic that responsible self-government can come only with economic independence. I believe, further, that to fulfil our ideal and aim of Colonial development, with responsible self-government for the inhabitants of the country, this scheme is absolutely essential. I would go so far as to say that, without some proposals such as these, the aim of our Colonial policy is unattainable in Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia or Nyasaland.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, suggested that co-ordinating machinery could broadly achieve the economic degree and integration necessary, and he quoted certain instances. But other instances can be quoted. Both the noble Earl and I have some knowledge of the West African Council. What a failure that has been! To achieve economic co-ordination there must be executive power at the centre, and that is what this scheme gives. I think the danger of the 662 present position is that, whether prosperous or depressed, the present three territories are unbalanced and terribly vulnerable as regards trade fluctuation. The worst example of what I would term mono-economy is in Northern Rhodesia. It is interesting to know that Northern Rhodesian revenue has risen from £3,500,000 in 1945 to an estimate of £23,000,000 in 1952. On that estimate, no less than 80 per cert. comes from copper. That is a dangerous position. Nyasaland depends on agricultural products, tea and cotton. It is dangerous that Nyasaland should depend upon those primary commodities, with world fluctuations of demand and of prices. We know that in Southern Rhodesia the high land is more suitable for cultivation by the white man, and we know that many secondary industries have been built up. Together, these three territories can stand on a sounder basis, and can withstand the economic blizzards of world depressions in a way that they cannot do individually now. At present, when an economic blizzard strikes any one of these countries (and who is to say that copper will keep its present world price over an indefinite period?) it strikes the poorest in the land first. Therefore, I submit that these proposals are part of the implementation of our Colonial policy.
I should like just to mention the enormous benefits which will come to these territories from the hydro-electric schemes. There are two great schemes, with the details of which I will not weary your Lordships. It is a romance to think of harnessing the Zambesi at the Kariba Gorge and to think of the Kafue River Scheme. These schemes will take £100,000,000 of capital in their full development, and they will provide 1,000,000 kilowatts of power. I am always puzzled by what a kilowatt is, until I am reminded that it is the size of a one-bar electric fire, before which we all sometimes shiver. These hydro-electric schemes will provide the equivalent of 1,000,000 one-bar electric fires. There must be a federal authority at the centre, with executive powers, if we are to carry through these great schemes and raise the necessary capital.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord, as I am 663 sure he does not wish to misinterpret me. My suggestion is that a regional economic authority for Central Africa should have executive powers like the East African High Commission.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I do not want to argue with the noble Earl, but I feel that the federal authority must have full executive powers, as proposed in the White Paper, for the implementation of these great schemes, and not limited executive powers, such as would be possessed by a regional association. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, at the beginning of his speech touched on the railway position. The three territories are contiguous, they are land-locked and largely dependent on the one port of Beira. There are great schemes in prospect for the development of railway transportation which will reduce by no less than 600 miles the distance of 1,700 miles from the copper belt to Beira. In all earnestness, I say to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that I believe that every executive power put forward in the White Paper is essential if these great economic schemes are to be financed and administered. Here, I believe, is the concept of great, happy, progressive and contiguous territory in Central Africa.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, quoted the late Field-Marshal Smuts. I remember once having the privilege of talking to Field-Marshal Smuts during the war, and he told me that he had a vision of Central African expansion and integration. He said that he felt the implementation of that vision would be the only way of healing the wound which the British Commonwealth had suffered through the new developments in Asia and the parting of India. I believe that this great scheme of integration and co-ordination under the federal proposals is a step along the road envisaged by that great world statesman. In spite of the debate to-day, initiated, as I say, by a Party that has not got a policy, and by a noble Lord who has not made up his mind, I trust that, having heard the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and other speakers, noble Lords opposite will finally come down on the right side, so that we can get together and hammer out an agreed scheme for the benefit of Africa for all time.
§ 6.29 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I shall speak only briefly at this stage of the debate. First, as an ordinary citizen listening to this debate, I would pay tribute to the sense of conviction that came from hearing the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, speak on this issue, followed by men obviously of great experience in these South African Colonial matters. So far as I can see, this is the right solution to this Central African issue based, as it is, on long experience. I can take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, that the building up of the Colonial life of Africa depends largely on economic development. I can take up, as a private individual, the point which the Government cannot stress—namely, the proximity of South Africa, and the need to build up the beginnings of a powerful unity, on which can be based a firm policy in relation to whatever may happen. All that I can see, and I bow to the integrity and knowledge of the Government speakers and their proposals.
I want to speak for a moment, from one angle, for the Missionary Societies, which must be taken into account. In many ways they are more in touch with matters than the administrators. It is said in the White Paper that 92 per cent. to 95 per cent. of those engaged in African education, near to the soil and the African, have an opinion which ought to be considered. So far as I can see at the moment, their considered opinion is that, arising out of this measure, there is now a tremendous loss of confidence in this country on the part of the Africans. The tradition of extraordinary loyalty of the African to the Crown is buried deep. The possibility of disturbing that is very serious. The missionary people say that the repercussions run through the sounding board, not only of South Africa but of Central Africa, India and Pakistan, or wherever you like. Whatever the Government says may be quite honest and quite true, but it will be misunderstood and will form a basis of propaganda, not only in Africa, but in the rest of the world. You may get the beginnings of sit-down strikes or Gandhism in Central Africa before it starts in South Africa. I want to put forward that angle for the consideration of the Government.
Another point made in the Council of the Churches' Report is that you cannot 665 get in touch with the African mind as a whole, with its divided tribes and lack of power of expression. You cannot, therefore, find any means of consulting it. One point made in the Missionary Report was that that means that you have to be careful that you do not disregard African opinion. That is the problem—how to combine the value of this scheme with the reconciliation of African opinion. Of course, the Government know that, and are concerned with it. I would make one humble suggestion. When you are dealing with a White Paper and an elaborate Constitution (which the noble Marquess the Leader of the House very ably expounded in all its clauses and details) such a Constitution might be misunderstood, even in a House of this ability. If you put such a Constitution in the hands of a native African population, who cannot understand the ordinary details, they will take it up and criticise it. What I would ask is that the Government, at this stage or before they bring in their final Bill, should consider the possibility of presenting some really adequate preamble—some kind of charter of interpretation—before handing it over to the Africans. A charter of liberties and of principles, which the Government stated clearly and which could be interpreted by the African and enable the African to interpret the various clauses of the Bill, would secure their confidence.
I believe that such an approach would be of immense value, and I think that the document comes rather as a shock. It comes out as a White Paper, with no preamble. Most people in England have forgotten the earlier White Papers, but the Africans have not forgotten them. They are just stupid, if you like, in opposition. I suggest that an adequate preamble might afford an opportunity for the Government to take the Africans into their confidence. It would be wise to create that confidence now. If it is sufficiently clear, it would enable the Africans to appeal to this or that clause of a Constitution of Rights laid down by this Parliament and supported by both Houses. It would mean a charter on which we might do something to create the beginnings of confidence and may be a permanent position. I put that suggestion forward with great hesitation. I am much moved by the Government and by the weight and authority and consideration behind this scheme, but I feel 666 strongly the objection that we are overriding the Africans. There are problems in this House for mutual consideration and thought, and I suggest that we should not be in too great haste, though the issue may be of great urgency.
§ 6.35 p.m.
My Lords, at this late hour, I should like to say one or two things especially for the ears of the Government, because I regret that I shall not be here for the adjourned debate on Monday. I must, with all respect, say that the course of this debate this afternoon has really been a surprise to me. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who moved the Motion which is now before your Lordships, moved to "call attention to the proposals for Central African Federation." The proposals are the proposals in the White Paper. Lord Ogmore specifically said in the course of his opening speech that he did not propose to go into the proposals themselves. The result of that is that, with the exception of the speeches made in your Lordships' House by my noble friend the Leader of the House and by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, very little has been said about the proposals themselves, and it seems to me very difficult to discuss a Motion if everybody is discussing something else. What, in point of fact, your Lordships' House has been discussing is whether we ought to have federation and, if so, when, and not the proposals for federation which are the subject of the White Paper and which are supposed to be what we are discussing.
If I must follow on that cue—and far be it from me at this late hour to go into details themselves—there seem to me two points which are extremely pertinent. The first is federation itself. The second is whether federation is a desirable thing. Those are the two essential points which have come out of this discussion this afternoon. If I interpreted aright the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and one or two of his subsequent interventions—notably one in the course of the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Winterton—I understand that Lord Ogmore is more or less in favour of proposals of this sort. If that is so (and the noble Lord moved this with all the experience he had of Colonial affairs when he was in the 667 Government last year) it is a very valuable contribution to the scheme which has been put forward. I hope that that will be remembered in subsequent debates, which I am sure will take place. What he appeared to be in much graver doubt about—and I think this also applies to the noble Lord, Lord Rea—was "When?" rather than "What?"
If I may deal with the "What?" first and come on to the "When?" afterwards, I should like to say this. I found it very difficult to follow the arguments of so many of the opponents to this scheme for federation, when the whole of the history of British Colonial administration for over a hundred years past has been directed towards the creation of larger units in one form of federation or another—and forms of federation vary vastly from area to area, as we know. Sir Godfrey Huggins, in a recent speech, referred to the growth of federation mainly in English-speaking countries. He referred to the United States, Canada, Australia and so on. It is germane to this particular debate to draw your Lordships' attention to the way federation has, as a result of the policies followed by successive Governments in this country, been extended in all African territories as well.
Your Lordships who have followed these things will realise that there are certain curious analogies between what is proposed in Central Africa and what has already taken place, for instance, in Nigeria. If you will cast your minds back a few years over the history of Nigerian administration, you will remember that we started by having a Colony at Lagos, later on a Protectorate of what became Southern Nigeria, and then at the beginning of this century an administration in Northern Nigeria. There were three separate administrations: there was the Colony of Lagos, Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria. They were separate administrations because the territories were dissimilar.
To those of your Lordships who know Northern Nigeria it is arguable that the territory that is now Northern Nigeria, part of the Federation of Nigeria, is far more dissimilar to Southern and Eastern Nigeria than any part of the Central Eastern territories now under discussion. The whole growth of administration in Nigeria has been towards 668 federation. We have got a Federation—I am coming in a minute to the question of the "When?" and the "How?".
There is a similar analogy in the Gold Coast. There is an obvious analogy, of course, in what is happening in East Africa, the growth from three separate independent administrations to a High Commissionership, which in my view will inevitably, as it ought, lead to federation of those three territories. The whole of our policy throughout has been to tend to create larger units of government, to make them stronger so that the prosperity of one territory can be shared by the other, in order to get what is referred to in General Smuts's book on philosophy—that curious paradox that the sum of the parts becomes as a whole greater and more powerful than the sum of the parts individually. That is what federation means, and that is why we have put the three pieces together and they are more than the sum of the three pieces. They grow and enjoy greater prosperity; and each tends to contribute something to the development of the others until the whole produces a development more than the sum of the separate parts of the federation. That has been the way of our administration everywhere. It cannot be wrong that that same process should be followed here in Central Africa. I know that there are a number of noble Lords on the other Benches who will agree with me there. Where they will probably disagree with me is not on federation but on "When?" and "How?".
First as to the "When?". So far as the "How?" is concerned, that is in the White Paper and that is what I thought we were going to discuss. I hope that on Monday it will be discussed in greater detail than it has been to-day. It may not be a perfect scheme, but it appears to be a scheme which is at least workable. Additional amendments may be introduced here and there, but we have a scheme. Let us agree, in the first place, that that is a scheme and that, even with certain modifications, it is a workable scheme which ought to be applied. Then we can get down to discuss what is more a subject of division between noble Lords—that is, should we do it now or ought the scheme to be postponed. The noble Earl who is shaking his head would be, I think, inclined to say that we ought to postpone it. I, for my part, think we 669 ought to do it now, and that it should be done more quickly than I felt was implied in some of the remarks which my noble friend the Leader of the House made.
In reply to an intervention by Lord Ogmore on the possibility of a further debate, and to other noble Lords on the subject of the scheme itself, the noble Marquess held out hope that we should be able to have a further debate here if noble Lords opposite wished to have it. But every month that passes crystallises prejudice and opposition which may have been trivial in the first instance, and there are only too many people in the world, here and elsewhere, whose principal object is to crystallise prejudice instead of trying to be helpful; and in so far as speeches in this House have left that impression, I find myself in agreement with Lord Winterton and Lord Balfour of Inchrye. I hope that that impression will be substantially effaced in the debate on Monday. Lord Ogmore in particular asked whether the House would have an opportunity of debating the proposals before they were carried into effect. He referred to a doubt which had been expressed in another place, whether a Bill would be necessary. I personally hope that they will be debated, but at this point I must remind the noble Lord that, with my noble friends on this side of the House, we were in a position to ask for the same facilities to discuss the new Constitution of the Gold Coast soon after the end of the war and the second and amended Constitution of the Gold Coast before the measures were enacted. For procedural reasons, we did not have the opportunity of a debate. I hope, however, that a precedent for not having a debate before the measures are enacted is there.
As to the "When?" my main criticism on a subject which I have followed for many years (though I have taken very little public part) is that these proposals are many years overdue. This subject has been under discussion for over twenty years. It would have been easier for all concerned if federation had been enacted before the war. It would have been easier if it had been done last year. It will be more difficult to do it next year. The longer this is delayed, the greater will be the difficulties to which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchyre, has drawn attention. But there is another aspect which I 670 think is overriding, so far as the economic condition of the territories is concerned. Experience has shown that if there is uncertainty, whether political or economic, capital does not become available for the development of the country or countries. We have had it in recent times—in the experience of South Africa itself. It is a matter of common knowledge that, with the uncertainties there prevalent to-day, the flow of the capital needed for the development of the Union from overseas has dried up. The stream of capital for the development of the Rhodesias is in danger of drying up. A further period of delay, during which no one knows what the relation of Southern Rhodesia to Northern Rhodesia is going to be, would operate in that respect to the detriment of both countries; and if that happens, and the economic position of both countries becomes impaired as a result of further delay, responsibility will rest solely on the opponents of the scheme, which is a progressive scheme, in England to-day.
The argument that the African population is not in favour of this and not in favour of that, or would like to wait a little longer to see whether the thing ought to be carried out or not, is exactly that same argument which is being used to oppose the further federation which has been created in and a round the world. It was the same argument which was used in the United States after the War of Independence against the federal system and the federal unification of the then few States of North America. It was used in Canada; it was used in South Africa; it was used in Australia. And if you went to Nigeria to-day you would find, as I think, a substantial body of African opinion in favour of what has been done, just as three years ago you would certainly have found that same body of African opinion opposed to it. We know the opposition in Northern Nigeria to federation of the South with the East. They made their objections; they stated their case; they obtained the safeguards which they wanted. But they have gone into a federation and now, so far as I know, are happy about it. The opinion of the majority is not necessarily right. Leadership in the world has never come from majorities. It has come from minorities, because, unfortunately, 671 the wise people in the world are always in a minority—and it is always the wise people who lead and do not follow.
§ LORD OGMORE
Would the noble Lord tell that to the Lord Chancellor, because the Lord Chancellor in the B.B.C. debate suggested entirely the opposite?
No doubt the Lord Chancellor will read the noble Lord's intervention in Hansard tomorrow. Far be it from me to make any pronouncement for the Lord Chancellor on a subject such as that, which is not germane to the debate. To say that the majority does not want something is not an argument which appeals to me. You have to make up your mind whether people in Rhodesia, Southern and Northern, who have taken the view that federation on this basis is a good thing are right and wise. If so, they should 672 be backed, irrespective of the clamour of the masses who cannot possibly understand, or even be told in detail, the very complex set-up which is enshrined in the White Paper. I welcome the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Coventry, that a preamble to this White Paper, explaining it in simple language, would be a very considerable instrument in clearing up the doubts which obviously reign in the minds even of sincere people.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Ammon.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at eight minutes before seven o'clock.