Commonwealth (Racial Relations)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th May 1949.

Alert me about debates like this

1.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

The discussion I am fortunate enough to be able to initiate today concerns what has, in my view rightly, been described as the problem of the century: the deep and difficult problem of the relationship between the races of mankind. In many parts of the world, in Asia and in Africa, there is a ferment of often rather raw nationalism. Millions of people are suddenly awakening to race-consciousness and political self-consciousness, and the attitude towards these developments of the Western Powers which claim to have reached some political maturity may be, in the true sense of the word, epoch-making. It may make an epoch of harmony and true progress and partnership, with a rich diversity within a fundamental unity, or it may perpetuate and aggregate existing divisions and difficulties.

Quite clearly, various Departments and Ministers are concerned with the different aspects which I shall touch upon. I understand that the Secretary of State for the Colonies is actually on his way back from South Africa today, so that he, clearly, could not have been here. I must add that I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of state for Commonwealth Relations for taking the trouble, at some personal inconvenience I know, to be here to answer the Debate.

The recent success of the Commonwealth Conference, so largely due to the statesmanship shown by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and by the other Dominion statesmen who were present, proves that there is a real potency in the idea and the practice of treating men or peoples as equals and as partners. It is not a sentimental outworn myth. The real myth is the attitude expressed in some parts of the world as the doctrine of "white supremacy," and in other parts as the doctrine of Apartheid—the idea that the races of men are intrinsically different from each other and that some are inherently superior to others. This idea must surely be clean contrary, not only to Christianity but to everything that anybody can possibly mean by that much over-used word "democracy." This myth should have died in the holocaust of the Chancellery in Berlin. Unfortunately, it still persists here and there.

We must not, of course, under-estimate the difficulties of dealing with it, or fail to understand the historic reasons that have led to these prejudices becoming enshrined in dogmas of society; but, none the less, we must deal with it. Its persistence in some parts of the Western world provides the Communists with their best and their truest propaganda, but that is not, of course, the chief reason for tackling it. It has to be dealt with for its own sake, because it is in itself objectionable.

Of the two attitudes which I have described—the attitude of partnership and inter-racial co-operation, on the one hand, and the attitude of segregation and separation, on the other—the British Government are committed strongly and irrevocably to the former. I believe that we in this country have the opportunity and the experience to contribute to the world-wide solution of this problem by our example and leadership in the world, by our actions in the Colonial Empire and in the United Nations, and also, to a much lesser degree, of course—because it does not arise in such a widespread or acute way—by our administration in this country.

If I may deal with that last and smallest of the three aspects first, I would refer to the troubles that there have recently been in Cardiff and elsewhere about employment for British subjects from overseas who are barred by some employers because of their colour. I rather wish that the Minister of Labour would be as tough with such employers as the Minister of Food is with catering establishments which try to impose a racial ban.

The House will remember that some little time ago, as the result of an incident at Rules Restaurant in London, the Minister of Food announced that he would withdraw catering licences from all establishments pursuing a policy of racial discrimination. I wish the Minister of Labour likewise would decide to boycott, as it were, such employers and refuse to provide them with substitute labour if they refuse to take suitable coloured men. I am bound to add that, unfortunately, such incidents are not always the fault of the employer. There was one recent incident in Cardiff, about which I have exchanged correspondence with the Minister of Labour, who confirms that a small woodworking firm in Cardiff, employing 37 men and 17 women, notified vacancies to my Local Office recently, for which two men of colour were submitted and engaged. The firm were quite pleased with these two workers and asked for two more, but, unfortunately, when they were engaged the other employees objected to their commencing work unless separate canteen and other facilities were provided for them. As the employer was unable to do this, he cancelled the engagement of the two coloured men in order to avoid a dispute at the works which might have led to a stoppage of work. That seems to me, on the face of it, to be a most scandalous incident in which, so far as one can judge, the misguided workers were entirely to blame. One can, of course, understand the natural fear, on the part of workers in this country, of the importation of cheap labour from overseas to undercut their wages; but that cannot have been the motive in this case, since there is reference to separate canteen facilities being the point at issue.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Does my hon. Friend know whether the trade union was approached, whether these men belonged to the trade union, and, if so, whether the trade union took any action in the matter?

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

I do not know offhand, but I will discuss the matter afterwards with my hon. Friend. I am still in correspondence about it with the Minister of Labour.

I mention this domestic incident because all these incidents, such as the cases in which landladies refuse to let rooms to coloured men, all have their repercussions throughout the Colonial Empire. In the Colonial Empire, too, the enlightened policy of the home Government in Whitehall is often in conflict with the retrograde prejudices of people on the spot. I do not necessarily mean Colonial Office employees. I mean business men, settlers and others. I see that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has been in trouble this week in Northern Rhodesia. He appears to have made a speech at Salisbury in which he referred to the rights of Africans. He said: It is clear that for the economic well-being and social development of the territory the European must have a permanent place. Then he said: It has been British policy, while safeguarding the interests of the African, to encourage a degree of European development. But because he also said in the same speech that there must be some control over permanent white settlement in Northern Rhodesia and that African rights must be guaranteed, there was a storm among the local white inhabitants. One of their spokesmen at once announced that this very moderate statement was "unacceptable." He was formerly a professional boxer, and is now, I gather, a Councillor; he certainly did not pull his punches. He said: If the British Government wants to carry out the Creech Jones policy it will have to send troops to do it. The European community will not recognise the supremacy of African interests. I can only say that I hope my right hon. Friend did not allow himself to be bullied by these white savages, and that he will make a statement on this position in Northern Rhodesia as soon as he possibly can after his return today.

Both in the Colonial Empire and at home it is largely a question of education. There is one general reflection about this that I should like to make. It is not original: my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) has said something very similar. It is this: We in this House, perhaps when we are appealing to the country next year, and especially those of us who are in the Labour movement, have to try to educate the people of this country in the possibly unpopular lesson that we have no right to expect a very much higher material standard of living in this country until there has been a drastic improvement in the standard of living of millions of people overseas in the Colonial Empire—people to whose exploitation, often ruthless exploitation, in the past the people of this country owe their relatively high standard. That is not always fully realised, and I think it is our duty to teach that lesson.

One useful medium of education may well be the Colonial Exhibition which is to be held next month in London. I have been sent a good deal of preliminary publicity about it. It is a series of exhibitions rather than a single exhibition. There are to be demonstrations of scouting in the Colonies. In one of the exhibition halls temperature and humidity are being arranged to give the public a momentary sensation of the atmosphere in which many servants of the Colonial Empire carry on their work. Colonial stamps will form a special feature of the Exhibition, and visitors will see full-size models of many Colonial peoples. It is not indicated whether they will be well-fed or whether they will be suffering from malnutrition.

My only fear about this admirable exhibition, as it will no doubt prove to be, is that it may be somewhat too falsely optimistic in the general suggestion that it will convey. Can it possibly dramatise the vast extent of the problems of health, nutrition, education and so forth which confronts us? Certainly it is legitimate that it should indicate the progress that is being made, but I think it ought also to indicate what we are progressing from as well as what we are progressing to. In fact, there ought to be a few "black spots" in the Exhibition.

That brings me to one aspect of the problem of the development of Africa which has not yet been fully understood. I referred just now to malnutrition. Those who have read and studied the Northcott Report, the African Labour Efficiency Survey, will no doubt have been startled and shocked as I was by the disclosures therein of the prevalence not merely of malnutrition but of what is called in this Survey "malignant" malnutrition. To laymen, such as myself, I suppose malnutrition has always seemed to be a condition which could probably be put right, as it was, for instance, when the German concentration-camps were liberated, by a few weeks or months of good feeding. This does not seem to be the case with malignant malnutrition. For instance, the Northcott Survey reports that several hundred East African soldiers were examined intensively, not only for the recognised signs of malnutrition, but, in addition, special attention was directed to those organs and functions which were known to be affected by acute malignant malnutrition. The disquieting result of those examinations was that after a whole year of good Army food the unusual clinical signs of malignant malnutrition were still present. That was after 12 months' feeding on an Army diet which was thought to he adequate in every known constituent, with the possible exception of a slight deficiency of Vitamin C. This kind of malnutrition is, therefore, apparently, not curable on any short-term basis. In passing, I may say that this is, of course, one answer to those few remaining apologists for colour discrimination and the colour bar who talk about the inherent "laziness," "shiftlessness," and "irresponsibility" of the Negro. In almost every case in which there are such attributes, they are found, on examination, to be attributable either to social disabilities or to malnutrition or to both. But how quickly can this curse of malnutrition throughout Africa be dealt with, and through what agencies. Time is not on our side.

The crux of this problem—and this is where I come to the direct responsibility of my right hon. Friend—is perhaps the attitude adopted by the Government's representatives in the United Nations Organisation when aspects of the problem arise there in relation to parts of the Commonwealth. Of course, the problem does not manifest itself uniformly or with the same intensity in all parts of the world. I have often heard hon. Members speaking about the colour bar in the Southern' States of the U.S.A., but it must be pointed out that, deplorable as that may seem to us to be, there is a considerable body of liberal opinion in the United States, headed by President Truman himself, which is fighting that discrimination; whereas in the Union of South Africa, for instance, segregation is official policy. In view of the larger considerations which I have outlined, I want to suggest to my right hon. Friend that the United Kingdom representatives in U.N.O., whether in the General Assembly or in the special Commissions, should boldly side with those nations which condemn the practices of segregation and which oppose any extension of such practices to people who are at present not fully subject to them.

It is, of course, the clear principle of trusteeship—a principle very dear to us, which we observe in our Protectorates, for instance—that the primary considerations is the welfare of the indigenous population, of the ordinary people of the territory; but the doctrine of Apartheid has been defined by no less a person than the South African Minister of Labour in these words: It means that there will never be social equality; that non-Europeans will never have the same political rights as the Europeans; and that the Europeans will always be baas (boss) in South Africa. That doctrine is surely contrary to the principle of trusteeship and I therefore suggest that our representatives at U.N.O. should always oppose the incorporation in territories administered according to such a doctrine of any peoples who are not yet so incorporated.

The case of South-West Africa is the principal case in point. As the House will be aware, South-West Africa was mandated to South Africa by the League of nations. In recent years the position has been that the General Assembly of the United Nations has three times passed resolutions—in three successive years—inviting and recommending the Union of South Africa to hand over this territory to trusteeship. On each of those three occasions, I am sorry to, say—and I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to enlarge today on the reasons for this—the United Kingdom representative has voted against that proposal.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I think I am right in saying that they abstained.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

I am sorry if I made a mistake, but this is my information as to what occurred on the last occasion. I have the exact details here and I will read them to the House. The last resolution was at the United Nations General Assembly in Paris in 1948. The clause in question was: The General Assembly therefore … maintains its recommendations of December, 14th, 1946, and November 1st, 1947, that South-West Africa be placed under the Trusteeship system and notes with regret that these recommendations have not been carried out. The result of the roll-call was:

Against the above paragraph: Turkey, Union of South Africa, Australia, United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, France, Greece, Iceland, Lebanon, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Peru. Abstentions: Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Honduras, New Zealand, Panama. For the resolution: 32 countries—all the remaining countries in the United Nations. I am sorry if I have got it wrong somewhere, but perhaps my right hon. Friend will explain, because it seems quite clear that the United Kingdom voted against that resolution.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I do not want to interrupt, my hon. Friend's speech, but on the occasion of which he speaks an Amendment was proposed to a resolution which, I think, was before the Committee. I thought he had been referring to the main resolution which was finally adopted by the Assembly, on which occasion our delegation abstained.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

It is agreed, then, that on this particular resolution we voted against the proposal that: The General Assembly therefore … maintains its recommendations … that South-West Africa be placed under the Trusteeship system and notes with regret that these recommendations have not been carried out "?

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

I gather that one of the arguments which have been held to justify our representatives in taking that attitude is that there is no legal obligation on the Union of South Africa to hand over this mandated, or formerly mandated, territory to trusteeship. I have here a letter from our representative on the Trusteeship Council. When he was asked by a correspondent to raise this matter in the Trusteeship Council, he replied: By the terms of the Charter, the Trusteeship Council is empowered to concern itself solely with the affairs of territories which have been placed under Trusteeship. There have, in fact, been two occasions when the Council concerned itself with other matters; the first, the drafting of the Statute of Jerusalem and the second the examination of the Report for 1946 on South-West Africa which the Union Government had sent to the United Nations for their information. But I should emphasise that the Trusteeship Council concerned itself with these matters only on the direct instructions of the General Assembly. I am quite sure that our representative is correct in that statement, and, therefore, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend if it would not be possible, as in the other two cases, for the General Assembly to give such instructions to the Trusteeship Council, and, if so, whether our representative would support such a step in the General Assembly, or even, as I would wish, initiate it.

This argument from the fact that there is no legal obligation on the Union Government to hand over the territory to Trusteeship, and no obligation on the Trusteeship Council to consider it, does seem rather to overlook the fact that the question of legality is itself a matter of dispute. My right hon. Friend will undoubtedly be aware of the weighty revision of Professor Oppenheim's "International Law" conducted by Professor Lauterpacht, of Cambridge, in the course of which, in the seventh edition, volume I, page 204, he says: Although according to its wording the Charter imposes no clear obligation upon States which were Mandatories under Article 22 of the Covenant to place the territories in question under Trusteeship, it is clear that an obligation to this effect closely approaching a legal duty follows upon the principles of the Charter. Again: The majority of the Trusteeship agreements provided that the territories be administered as integral parts of the administering Powers. I quote this especially, in case my right hon. Friend should feel disposed to ride off on that familiar argument about integration—which is, as is well known, what South Africa is proposing to do formally—because Lauterpacht says: It was made clear at the time that the phrase ('administered as integral parts') does not imply any claim to sovereignty over trust territories. I do not want to waste any more time on the purely legalistic aspects of this matter, but I would just point out that with the passing of the South-West Africa Act by the Union Government we are faced, in effect, with a fait accompli. I would also point out that all the five African tribal chiefs in Bechuanaland have addressed the most earnest petition to the British Government imploring them to oppose the incorporation, not only of the High Commissioner Territories, but of South-West Africa itself, because they feel themselves increasingly being encircled and surrounded by what they regard as almost hostile territory. I do suggest today that we should take the initiative in, or, at any rate, support any proposals that there may be, for referring the whole of this problem to the International Court of Justice, and in implementing the General Assembly resolutions.

My right hon. Friend will be well aware that these proposals do not come only from a few cranks or Left-Wingers. The deputation he saw a couple of months ago was an influential and representative deputation with Liberal as well as Labour Members of Parliament in it, and an Independent Member of Parliament, and representatives of many humanitarian and religious as well as political bodies. I do most earnestly ask him to reconsider his opinion on this matter, if he will.

Closely related, of course, to the problem of South-West Africa is the problem of the High Commissioner Territories, which is once more topical because the South African Minister of Defence has stated publicly that the incorporation in the Union of those territories is essential to the strategic defence of Africa. We have had repeated assurances in this House from my right hon. Friend that the Government would not assent to any such incorporation without consultation with the peoples of the Territories. I just wonder what exactly is implied by that, what form of consultation there will be, and whether it will be more thorough than the consultation which took place in South-West Africa some little time ago? The current issue of the United Nations Association organ, "United Nations News," contains some graphic descriptions of the "absolute farce" that that referendum Was—to use the words of a missionary with nine years' experience in South-West Africa and the Bishop of Damaraland has written: To those who know South-West Africa the significance of the figures is quite different from what appears on the face of them. The 30,000 who were against annexation by the Union are the only natives who have any idea of the meaning of the matter at issue. These 30,000 are the Hercro, and others within the Police Zone who have been in contact with Europeans and live under European law and administration. They practically unanimously expressed themselves as against annexation. My right hon. Friend may also be aware that this proposal which I am putting up has now been officially embraced by the Executive Committee of the United Nations Association, which is, as he knows, an influential, all-party organisation. With reference to the High Commissioner Territories, what many of us would like to see would be their transfer to the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office because they would then have the beenfit, not only of probably considerably greater welfare arrangements, but also of Colonial Office personnel, trained in the idea of partnership with Africans, rather than the present personnel who, though I make no criticism of them personally, come for the most part from the Union of South Africa, and, inevitably, bring their outlook with them.

One of the gravest and most difficult of all these cognate problems is the problem of detribalisation, which is probably inevitable to some extent in the evil vortex of Johannesburg, or in the better conditions of the Groundnuts Scheme. But, in reference to the High Commissioner Territories, I would point out that Chief Tchekedi's enterprising leadership in Bechuanaland does show that the tribal system can still work. My right hon. Friend may be aware that—I think this month—Sir Evelyn Baring is going to open a fine new secondary school, which has been built largely through the initiative of Chief Tchekedi and his people. Would it not be possible even now to make a gesture to this fine and intelligent African, and to invite him to come to this country to discuss his people's problems and prospects, as he himself has so often asked to be allowed to do? I hope that my right hon. Friend will even now consider asking Chief Tchekedi to come here.

All the missionaries I know, and all the official spokesmen of missionary organisations in England and elsewhere, oppose the incorporation of the High Commissioner Territories in the Union. This is a special interest of the Church throughout the world. The Churches in South Africa have taken the most forthright and courageous stand about it, and my right hon. Friend has, I know, personally met one clergyman, the Rev. Michael Scott, who has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the African people, and in particular the Hereros; he is now awaiting a visa, which has been refused to him, to go to America for the opening next Monday of the Human Rights Commission, to which he has been invited as an observer by an officially recognised consultative body of the United Nations. I do not know if my hon. Friend could possibly put in a word in the right quarter to expedite that visa.

I apologise for detaining the House so long, but there is, after all, plenty of time today. There are two aspects of this problem, the practical and the moral. The practical aspect is this, that there are inevitably repercussions throughout Africa of policies such as the policy of Apartheid, and of action such as the "integration" of South-West Africa in the Union. Inevitably, there is a conflict between what goes on in that part of the Continent and our own Colonial Office policy elsewhere. Inevitably, the great schemes for the development of Africa, which depend so essentially on the co-operation and the goodwill of Africans, are hampered when the news of what is going on further south comes through.

I would only instance, as one example of such a conflict, the terrible conditions of the thousands of workers from Nyasaland, people within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, who had to appoint a special representative in Johannesburg to look after their interests and welfare because of the appalling poverty, squalor, and general chaos in which they were forced to live. Now, it is not enough to say that our Colonial policy, of which we are, rightly, increasingly proud, will seem all the better by contrast, and that therefore we at any rate will keep the goodwill of the Africans. If we appear to acquiesce publicly in policies which seem to them intolerable, we shall forfeit a large part of that goodwill.

There is another aspect of the practical side. The more liberal-minded businessmen in South Africa are themselves beginning to realise that it is impossible in the 20th century to build up a stable and prosperous society on the basis of domination of one race over another; they are beginning to realise that at the present time South Africa is a bad investment. Has my right hon. Friend had any discussions or negotiations yet about a loan to South Africa? He will no doubt be aware that the recent discussions in Washington of a loan from the United States to South Africa were a failure and broke down, and that the attempt by the Union Government to raise a loan domestically was also largely a failure.

It may be that an approach will shortly be made to His Majesty's Government in this country. We have no right whatever to interfere in the domestic arrangements of the Union of South Africa. Indeed, if I had made any suggestion of so doing, you Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would have pulled me up at once. But we have the right at all times in the United Nations—and especially, I think, if South Africa asks for a loan—to make our views clear; we can indicate our sympathy with the liberal minority opinion in South Africa; and the time may come when we shall have to consider whether continued defiance, by a member of the Commonwealth "club," of the club's basic principles might not necessitate expulsion.

That brings me, finally, to what I regard as the supreme consideration. Our democratic professions will be largely futile, and will seem hypocritical, and we shall never have a truly peaceful world, until our human society, including this great association of free nations—more or less free, as they are at present—is patterned after that Divine Commonwealth in which there is neither Greek nor Jew, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither bond nor free. To that end I have that we are today making some modest contribution.

1.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

I am quite sure that all those on this side of the House, and I believe those on the other side as well, will appreciate the excellent speech that has been made by my hon. Friend. In rising to support all that he has said and urged, I am quite certain that he will receive the most sympathetic attention of the Minister. In the early part of his speech he referred to the very significant conference held recently by the Dominion representatives, out of which there has emerged, we hope, a new and richer conception of Commonwealth. We all know that there are those who are perhaps a little cynical about the nature of that Commonwealth; there are equally those who want it to fail; and there are others perhaps who are rather alarmed at this new garment, but who dare not say so. I was very glad indeed to notice quite recently that the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister of India had dinner together. Certainly when we thought of that we were a little heartened, both by the actual fact itself and by the remarkable development that has taken place in the minds of statesmen, and in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition in particular.

One hopes that this new conception of Commonwealth—whether or not it incorporates the term "British" being quite incidental and secondary—will expand, will become implemented and integrated and a living example to the whole world. If that conception of Commonwealth is truly to be a living example to the whole world, I am sure that it must not be merely left as a declaration which in the end will be only a piece of camouflaged mockery of all that Commonwealth was intended to be. I would submit that if "Commonwealth" is to be a reality, if with the Dominions and Colonies within that Commonwealth we are to show substance to the world and not merely artificiality, if we are to indicate our consistency and sincerity, then "Commonwealth" must be interpreted in terms of common rights among all the peoples within that Commonwealth, otherwise the term has no meaning whatever, except as a hollow mockery of its nominal content.

That being so, I earnestly hope that we in this country, with every desire to make this Commonwealth a reality, will not only welcome every attempt being made within the Commonwealth to raise the status of its people and to secure the greater assimilation of its moral principles, but will indicate quite clearly to any member of that Commonwealth where we feel they are doing a disservice to ourselves and the Commonwealth as a whole. That is why I endorse the concluding words of my hon. Friend who opened this very interesting and important Debate.

Of course, we recognise that there are those inside the Commonwealth whose conception of the nature of that Commonwealth is very different from that, shall we say, accepted by those of us on these benches, and perhaps on the benches opposite as well. We believe in an essential equality; we believe in a democracy that is constructive and positive. This does not mean we believe everyone is identical, or that there must be a mere mechanical flattening of all variations, Quite the contrary, We do, however, believe in an essential spiritual equality, and because of that we strive in this country steadily to implement it, and we look forward with hope and encouragement to the same development in other parts of the Commonwealth.

However, there are those within the Commonwealth who, quite conscientiously, have no such conception of what human life should be, They have the ancient and powerful hierarchical conception of life—a conception which has a certain amount of support in the world of philosophy and anthropology, although I certainly do not accept it myself. Those who hold that conception will naturally find every possible opportunity to press for its strengthening and retention, and try to prevent the development of what to us is the truer and sounder democratic conception which belongs so much not perhaps to man's beginning but rather to his fulfilment.

This idea of a pyramid of human beings is familiar to us in the writings of Nazis and Fascists. We have repudiated that. A dreadful war took place for six years, at least partly to try to repudiate the idea that there must be, for all time, this pyramid of nations and peoples, inferiors and superiors, divided into various grades and sections. That is not to say that we do not recognise the existence of these difficulties and these existing ranges of inferiority and superiority. The democrat does not deny their existence but he works for the development of a newer and, we think, finer society out of existing circumstances.

I suggest that we have a moral obligation towards the Commonwealth to make it clear to all the members of it that, so far as Britain is concerned, we shall help firmly its progress towards the ultimate realisation of the full democratic conception of the Commonwealth. We must, without malice but with firmness, be ready to indicate to our fellow members whenever we feel that, consciously or unconsciously, they have outraged the purpose of the Commonwealth, and the means whereby that Commonwealth can exist as a reality.

Let me give the House an illustration of a rather human character. The other day a newspaper was sent to me from South Africa, and in it there was a letter from an indignant correspondent declaring that a picture which he had seen, and which had been taken in this country, showed Mr. Nehru and Dr. Malan sitting side by side. He declared that the picture could not possibly be true. It must be a lie because he was sure that Dr. Malan would never tolerate association with an Indian. Fortunately, in the editorial column of the paper it was pointed out that the picture was a photograph and that in this case it certainly did not lie.

That story gives us a glimpse of a mentality which is by no means confined to South Africa. It exists in other parts of the world. Think of the shocking effect that letter could have upon the mentality of millions of human beings whom we want to retain inside the Commonwealth. Think of the effect it might have upon millions of our Indian brothers and sisters or that it is likely to have in our African Colonies. If ever there grows up an assumption that we are endorsing that attitude, and that, although we might be reticent and diplomatic about it, we are nevertheless conniving with, if not encouraging, those who are anxious to keep permanent this hierarchical segregation of the races, I am sure that the Commonwealth will steadily disintegrate. The genuine high hopes that all Members of this House now have of that Commonwealth being a glowing example to the world would then evaporate. I do not pretend that the solution to the problem is easy. The breaking up of the human race into various communities has indeed been endorsed in their blindness by most peoples to a greater or less degree at one time or another in the history of mankind.

When I was in Nigeria recently, I was interested to find that there were divisions even there, and that one community was apt to look down upon another. I saw naked pagans there, and I found that a few Africans were inclined to look down upon them as being intrinsically inferior. This does not apply, of course, to the majority of Nigerians, but it exists in certain quarters. I mention this only to illustrate the fact that a racial problem exists even there, and to expose the danger which results from it, not only to our minds but to the minds of all the people within the Commonwealth. The problem is indeed a common human one. I am very glad, as we all are, that the new Indian Government has laid it down that un-touchability shall not be legally recognised. The ancient segregation of Indians into various casts is becoming weaker as the years pass, That decline has received a strong impetus, as I knew it would, from the decision of the Indian Government and the statesmen of the new India. We are therefore seeing this healthy development take place in that part of the Commonwealth.

One hopes that the day will arrive very speedily when all the ancient segregations that have been so shameful in India and elsewhere will disappear altogether. If we are to speed the coming of that day while, at the same time, we are tacitly endorsing in some other part of the Commonwealth, not the decline of ancient or new segregations but their intensification and crystallisation, then though we may rejoice in human development in one part of the Commonwealth we shall have to deplore the counter-balancing effect of exactly the opposite tendency in another part of it. For these reasons, which are very genuine in my heart and mind, I hope that we shall encourage our British representatives at the Assembly of the United Nations to give a lead and take the initiative.

I appreciate some of the reasons which may operate in their minds regarding difficult and delicate questions such as South Africa. There is the fact that expediency has often to be exercised. Sometimes one is in a position of having to choose not between right and wrong but between two evils. I quite understand that our representatives may have had to say "Though we should like to do this, we dare not do it because of repercussions elsewhere which may injure the Commonwealth." Though I appreciate those reasons of expediency I earnestly urge that the time for such reasons has gene by. We must look beyond immediate necessities of internal diplomatic adjustments, although there is a case for it, I know. We have to think of the whole world, not merely with a short-term but with a long-term policy.

What will be the effect of reticence or diplomatic paralysis, or of our apparent connivance at racial segregation at the United Nations and elsewhere, on the millions of our coloured brethren in various parts of the world? None of us want to see, as the era of international war fades, the beginning of inter-racial war. That indeed would be dreadful to contemplate. At the same time, we must recognise that, rightly or wrongly, there are emotions gathering now in the breasts of coloured peoples which are linked with bitterness against the white people, and unfortunately sometimes against British people. I do not justify that emotion, which is often irrational and unfair, but we know enough about human nature to understand that though man should be rational he rarely is. The task of politicians, I presume, is "to guide the irrational towards the rational. We have to face the fact that there are instincts, emotions and, if you like, understandable neurotic reactions, which are fermenting in the minds of many of our coloured brethren, and that are dangerous to us as to other races on the earth. It is no good merely criticising that and psychologically analysing it. Something much more than that has to be done.

We have to try to encourage our coloured brethren and to help them to break through the aura of suspicion, resentment and fear. One way to do this is to make it clear to the world as a whole when we meet in the councils of the United Nations that we shall do our utmost to see that those coloured races are treated as human beings and are recognised as equals along with the white races. That again, is not enough. We must not employ fair words that are only too often accompanied by poor or foul deeds, or express sympathetic adulation of high principles that are left in the sky and never come down to earth. The one means by which we can impress upon those millions of our dark-skinned brethren that we really mean what we say when we talk to them as brethren, and that our own Christian faith is not merely a cult or a habit but a living reality, is to prove it by our deeds.

We must stand quite firm at the United Nations, and on other occasions when we have a similar opportunity, as believers in the equal rights of coloured men with the white peoples, whatever be their race. This is bound to mean disturbance somewhere. It is certain to mean in some parts of our Commonwealth a good deal of head shaking and angry resentment. We must not be undiplomatic or tactless about it, but equally we must not be mealy-mouthed. We must make it clear that this is the stand we take and that we do so in the best interests of the Commonwealth as a whole and the ideals it should embody.

I therefore plead with my right hon. Friend to let us know where that is in being within the councils of the Commonwealth. He should urge the acceptance of the principle of common rights for all the subjects and citizens of the Commonwealth. I know that the Declaration of Human Rights has been discussed and more or less nominally adopted over a wider sphere; we also know that it is not always thoroughly understood or properly applied. We must go on with our work in trying to get it integrated and implemented, but meanwhile we have this splendid opportunity of setting an example to the wider world than our own Commonwealth.

If that is so, surely we can at least consider whether it is possible, in order to make the Commonwealth a reality, for us to press upon the Commonwealth the acceptance of common rights for all the subjects and citizens within the Commonwealth. More than all the fair words which might be expressed, that would make it a reality. That would show the world that although the Commonwealth has changed its form somewhat, it is nevertheless a reality as never before. If we can do that, we can then go forward and say proudly and gladly at the United Nations Assembly, "Here is the example we are making. Here is our stand. No longer can you accuse us of insincerity or inconsistency because within this mighty Commonwealth we have now made this stand. We want you to recognise that any attempt made by the United Nations more firmly to establish this principle in the world will meet with our constant and undeviating support."

A few days ago I met a South African subject bearing a distinguished name which would be known to all of us. He had come here for the first time in his life. He had also been to India for he is an Indian although a South African subject. One thing which impressed him more than anything else was the amazing kindliness of the English people. Having been a resident in South Africa, he did not dream that there could be such not melodramatic or extravagant but simple normal kindness. He was accepted here as a human being. He sat in my garden last Sunday and talked, and I could tell that he was moved by the fact that his treatment here was so drastically different from the treatment he had received in South Africa. There he was looked upon as an inferior person because he had a coloured skin. There he had to consider all the while the flaunting superiority of the white man. There he had to accept the assumption that because he had a coloured skin he was intrinsically a different being not entitled to the same rights.

To his surprise he found that it was entirely different here and that if he walked along the streets, went into restaurants or came to the house of a modest Member of Parliament, there was no such psychological segregation or repudiation. He found that he was accepted as a man no matter what the colour of his skin was and no matter what was his race or creed. He and his friend said that they had discovered that the Englishman was not as they had so often found the white man in South Africa to be.

That human illustration moves me considerably because I hate to feel that anywhere in the Commonwealth there are men and women who feel that they are doomed to permanent inferiority as a kind of lower order, such as Hitler tried to make a large section of our fellow human beings. I want to see the Commonwealth, now shedding the elements of domination, rising to great heights and presenting an inspiring example to the world. I plead with my right hon. Friend to say that he is willing to support the principle of human rights for members of the Comonwealth and that he will do what he can to see that our representatives at the United Nations show the world that they mean what they say when they talk of democracy, and that they mean to apply it as far as they can, not only to those who are white but to all of God's creatures on this mortal earth.

2.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East

As I listened to the eloquent speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) and West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), I had it within my heart to wish that the Debate had not taken place at the tail end of a very busy week and in a comparatively thin House and that we could disregard precedent and tradition and send it out over the radio. Then the millions of citizens who are responsible in a very great measure for the state of affairs which has been so well set forth, would realise just how pressing is the problem of racial relations, not only within the Commonwealth, but over the face of the globe, and how important is a solution in view of the urgent necessity to maintain peace and assist the folk of the world along the paths of progress and brotherliness.

It is not sufficiently appreciated in this country that we are tarred with an unpleasant brush by many critics. We in Great Britain do not deserve that tarring. The average person in the ordinary little house in the ordinary little street in village or town just does not know what the colour bar means. I will give a personal illustration which has guided me in my thoughts about this ever since my boyhood. I was brought up in a street of some 60 families, and I can asseverate that it was not until I returned home as a student on vacation from college that I realised that one of my neighbours was of a colour different from my own. He and his family were so much integrated into our community and accepted by it that it never struck those people that he was anything but their very good friend and neighbour. When I go to the home of my parents, it is obligatory on me, in order to maintain my place in the little community in which I was born, to make a state visit to that neighbour. While it was true that the street was extremely pleased when I became a Member of Parliament, an even greater triumph was when that Negro neighbour of ours rose from being a journeyman to be master of his own business, therefore acquiring a position in the aristocracy of the street. That is the approach of the ordinary person to this problem if there are no economic bedevilments and no political preachments to change his points of view.

In that same city, of which I am proud to be a native—the ancient city of Plymouth, which has the one blot on its escutcheon that it was very largely responsible for making England the principal factor in the slave trade—a very wonderful thing has happened. The chairman of the housing committee of that city, the son of a Sierra Leonean, is a coloured man, and he has refused the honour of sitting in the lord mayoral chair, which was once occupied when it was a mayoral chair by Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins, in order that he may continue his great work for the people of Plymouth in rebuilding the city for them after the terrible damage of the blitz. Nobody in Plymouth has anything but normal respect for the gifts of such a great public servant. They do not think of him in any way as something curious. I had to show them that it was a point of pride for the people of this city that there should be this distinguished example of the brotherliness of peoples there.

One of the greatest professors of our Northern universities is a distinguished Colonial who is giving a great deal of educational service to this country. All of us know of people going normally to black, brown and yellow doctors who do not regard their colour as anything strange. Chinese from Hong Kong and Negro doctors abound. We do not close either the professions or professional practice against them in this country, and we carry out the precepts which have been adumbrated here today. It is true that occasionally there is a throw-back, as in the Cardiff case, but the House will agree that it is due to an economic ill and not to a change in. the habits of our people in avoiding any semblance of the colour bar.

So much we may claim for ourselves when we regard it as so normal that we do not see that we have to make much of this as a law. If, as is true, all the other nations of the Commonwealth look towards us, they should not only be able to see, if they look hard enough, how we in Britain regard this problem, but we owe it to them that we should underline our attitude and invite them to see how our practice differs from their own, where it does so.

So my first suggestion is that it is the duty of the people of this country to realise how important is their personal attitude. I am happy to see when I go home in the evening, the night shift going on duty at one of our great factories, the A.E.C. Amongst the busy throngs hurrying to work are people of colour from our Colonies, equally and happily seeking their nightly task with their white colleagues. There is not the slightest discrimination nor, indeed, the slightest imagination that there should be discrimination, which is an even finer thing.

I want to underline something which was said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton. We have to remember that racial discrimination can work in many ways. It may be brown against black as in the West Indies. It can even be mainland territory against island, a superiority complex, as of British Honduras against Jamaica, which is bedevilling at the moment any speedy beginning to the implementation of the Evans Report. I would also point out that, where autonomy has been granted to some coloured countries, racial discrimination against the whites can and does obtain. Haiti is a case in point, and it is difficult now in Jamaica. All other things being equal, it is hard for the white man to secure a job as against the brown man—

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

In the Government service.

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East

Yes. That is a state of affairs which I am sure we deplore equally.

Where do our powers lie with regard to the most obvious and distressing case of racial discrimination within the Commonwealth at the moment? I have looked into the question of the law with as much care as my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon, and he knows that I differ from him slightly on this point. Primarily it is not a matter of a legalistic remedy because a big mistake was made when the United Nations Charter was drawn up. The trusteeship provisions of the Charter were splendid in conception and, as far as they went, magnificent in phraseology. Where countries have been put under trusteeship a great step forward has been made. I am sure the House will agree that it was a fine thing to do and that it will lead to excellent results. The one thing the United Nations failed to do was to erect any bridge between the old League of Nations and the new United Nations. Owing to that omission alone, South Africa has such a strong legal case that it cannot be challenged.

The opinion of Professor Lauterpach is interesting, but when I was trying to make up my mind as to how it would be likely to influence the judges at the International Court, who would be guided entirely by the present state of international law, I came to the conclusion that the suggestions of the professor would carry as little weight as my own on legal points with those rather dry jurists, who would simply administer the law as it is and as they know it. If they were to act as I am sure they would, they would have to say that the United Nations legally had no power whatever to compel any former mandatory Power to place its mandate under trusteeship. I regret that. I am sorry that no bridge was erected, but I am impelled reluctantly to the conclusion that there is no legal way of forcing South Africa to follow the example of this country and of her sister Dominions of Australia and New Zealand, who placed their former mandated territories under trusteeship.

Photo of Major Ernest Bramall Major Ernest Bramall , Bexley

If this bridge does not exist, how has South Africa acquired any status at all in South-West Africa? What is their deed of title?

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East

The deed of title is the same title that I might have to a house, the original owner of which has died and with whom I had originally entered into an agreement to acquire the property. What South Africa holds is a mandate which came to it under the League of Nations, it is true, but which originally came to it as a result of the cession by a group of Powers which no longer exists as a corporate entity. One of the great Powers, Japan, which originally placed this territory under South Africa is no longer a great Power and there is no connecting link at all. The United Nations did not think back far enough, did not think ahead far enough, as to possible trouble when it wrote in the trusteeship clauses. So an entirely voluntary act is required of a Power holding a former mandate to place that territory under the Trusteeship Council.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

The resolution which I read out merely "recommends," and my point was that it seems a pity that we should not join in recommending something which morally is so clearly desirable.

Photo of Dr Mont Follick Dr Mont Follick , Loughborough

But under the League of Nations, did not Japan totally disregard the terms of the mandate in regard to mandated islands?

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East

Indeed she did, but that is quite another matter. What I am trying to answer is the suggestion that there still may be some legal force to compel South Africa to place South-West Africa under trusteeship. I suggest that there was a gap, a hiatus, between the suicide of the League of Nations and the coming into being of the United Nations which makes it impossible legally to enforce upon South Africa what we may regard as her moral duty, to follow the example of other holding nations and place South-West Africa under mandate.

I was coming to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon. We are, outside the United Nations, in another family and a more closely knit family, the British Commonwealth. While it is true that each Dominion is a sovereign State, on certain questions those sovereign States get together and seek each other's advice and assistance. I think it would be possible, and it probably has been done, that the other sovereign members of the British Commonwealth could indicate their wishes to the Government of the Union of South Africa in this matter—

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East

Privately, as my hon. Friend says, because most of the good work is done by just that private family association. A great many of the rather wonderful decisions which have recently been arrived at were the result of private conversations as between brethren, over a considerable space of time. I am trying to stress the family attitude of the nations within the Commonwealth. We do not expect the mother in a family to send in a requisition to father in writing or typescript every time she wants a new hat. She indicates her desire, very often obliquely, and gradually wears down any resistance there may be and presently emerges resplendent in one of the new creations. Similarly, a small boy does not indent to his mother for 1s, to buy sweets now that they are unrationed. So, in the British Commonwealth of Nations, a great deal more is done by that private, unconventional, intimate approach as between Minister and Minister and Government than is done formally at Imperial Conferences.

I suggest that the time is ripe for His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to face this very important issue. The Government cannot continue to work in one direction and to speak in another by two different voices. We must appear to the world, and more particularly to all the peoples of the Commonwealth, to have a single policy on which we are united and which shall be unconditionally declared. It is, therefore, a pity to talk about the possibility of expulsion of one member of the Commonwealth. First, I wonder under what legal machinery it could be done. I do not think it is possible to do it. Each of the self-governing members of the Commonwealth is an independent nation, the association is a voluntary one, and it is a voluntary one under a symbol as regards most members of the Commonwealth, which is outside and above the Government of the United Kingdom or the Government of any single individual unit of the Commonwealth. I think we ought to dismiss from our minds at once any idea of a sanction being possible and legal in the way of expulsion of a member of the Commonwealth which does not follow in its racial policy the policy of this country and of most of the other Dominions.

I am a great believer in moral force and in the compulsion of environment. It must be agreed that we have put our own house in order on this matter. Wherever an individual odd incident occurs, the forces of good in this country converge and, as my hon. Friend pointed out, Ministers intervene, there are protests, trade unions can be called upon to defend a right course and the trouble is ironed out speedily. But let us not, for the sake of the continuation of this excellent spirit, underline too heavily these occasional aberrations. Let us point to what is normal and good rather than what is abnormal and bad.

I am afraid it is the fault of some of us concerned in this matter. We find a parallel in the arguments on the institution of marriage and tend to forget the many thousands and millions of happy marriages and concentrate attention on the many fewer unhappy marriages, until we have writers in the popular Press using great staring headlines, "Is Marriage a Failure?" and answering in the affirmative, while we know, from our own experience, that that is untrue. In the same way, I suggest that our best course is to make sure that we do not speak with two voices and that on every occasion we criticise by implication and by saying, "This is our policy, this is what we do," and, therefore, "This is what we think is right." Eventually, if enough of us do that—the Commonwealth is practically unanimous now, there is the one major offender—I think that the force of numbers and the consciousness of the moral condemnation of the rest of the world will help to remedy what I must agree is at the moment a very sad picture of racial relations in one part of the Commonwealth.

2.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Gravesend

I am very glad indeed that this Adjournment Debate has had the good fortune to begin at a comparatively early hour so that there was time for my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) to develop their excellent speeches and, in the case of the hon. Member for Maldon, an extremely detailed and well documented case. The exact hour puts me in a personal difficulty because there are things I should like to say and I hope the Minister will forgive me for having to leave without hearing all his answer.

I think my hon. Friend the Member for East Harrow may have been mistaken in his legal interpretation of the situation in South-West Africa. Although I am not well qualified to debate points of international law, I do not think the League of Nations comes into the question of sovereignty at all. As I understand it, the Mandate was not entrusted to South Africa from the League of Nations, but was entrusted to them from the five major allied Powers of the 1914–1918 war and it was with those Powers that sovereignty remained. The trusteeship or the mandateship was in the hands of South Africa subject to many important obligations such as that of making reports, etc., to the League of Nations. I cannot see how there is a legal right for South Africa to appropriate to itself by unilateral action a sovereignty which was never in the hands of the League of Nations and certainly was never in the hands of South Africa. I must pass from that point, however, because I should not be able to sustain a lawyer's argument upon it against an international lawyer. I only offer, in a layman's language, what I believe to be the correct view.

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East

Is it not the case that the League of Nations died without arranging for a successor, and that therefore there is a complete blank, so that there is no way in which any court could decide that South Africa is now responsible to a successor which was not in fact appointed?

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Gravesend

My layman's answer is that that reply might be decisive if it could be said that the sovereignty had rested in the League of Nations because had that been so then the legal death of the League of Nations might have created a vacuum in which a South African assumption of sovereignty might be the only solution. I suggest that sovereignty never rested in the hands of the League of Nations as such, and therefore any interregnum between the League of Nations and the United Nations could not affect the position and could not confer upon South Africa the right to commit a unilateral act.

I pass from that to offer one major consideration to my right hon. Friend about the whole atmosphere in which this policy has to be considered. I am sure that he and his advisers will be fully aware of all the immediate risks which attach themselves to the policy and the whole outlook which is now commended to him and to the House by my three hon. Friends who have already spoken. I need not mention what those risks are; they are all too obvious. Difficulties with our friends in South Africa, difficulties of all kinds, risks of all kinds stare one in the face as soon as one thinks of moving or continuing to move faster, more courageously or resolutely in the direction indicated by this Debate.

I would remind the Minister of the political atmosphere of the world at the time he entered this House as a result of a by-election in 1936. The great subject which dominated all others was the struggle for collective security. The Minister will remember that when he and I sat on the other side of another Chamber we were constantly urging the Government of that day to do something in opposition to the evil forces in the world and to sustain what we regarded as the good forces in the world. He will also remember that as the scene changed, as the crisis shifted from one point to another, the Government which he and I were opposing invariably answered by saying, "It is a little dangerous to do the things which you are asking us to do." I am sure that my right hon. Friend will remember the atmosphere.

Our answer, which unfortunately proved to be all too true in the end, but which never prevailed in time to prevent the disaster, was, "Unless you will courageously do these things which may be a little dangerous now, you will inevitably run yourselves, the country and the world into far greater dangers." We did not forecast the exact time in which that would happen but we knew what great dangers were piling up ahead of the world, because this country was, may I say, cursed with a Government which could not face the little dangers of doing the right thing at each particular crisis throughout those dreadful years of retreat.

I suggest that we are facing on a much bigger scale, a similar kind of situation today. If we turn aside from doing those things which may be a little dangerous now we shall certainly run into far greater dangers, and although again I do not prophesy the date or the hour at which those dangers will reach their climax that climax will come during the natural lifetime of many of us now living in this country. To show the truth of this assertion I would suggest that we too often find it difficult to remember that the whole 19th century world set-up has come to an end. In that century the white nations of Western Europe were the effective bosses of the world. The white Western standards of living were sustained on the sweated toil of tens of thousands of coloured people, who at that time, and indeed into the 20th century, for historical reasons acquiesced in the position of their toiling for us for the reward of a handful of rice a day. In the 19th century and into the 20th century it was assumed by our ancestors that personal freedom and political democracy were normal and easy institutions to sustain, and that the social gravity of the world, so to speak, was moving towards political democracy all the time.

In the 19th century there was no substantial rival ideology to our own competing for the allegiance of men all over the world. The whole of that has changed. The white peoples of Western Europe are no longer the bosses of the world. Steadily and relentlessly, coloured peoples everywhere are waking up to the fact that they need not for ever be the hewers of wood and drawers of water for people living in other countries or for people of a differently coloured skin in their own country. We are waking up to the fact that personal freedom and political democracy are not easy institutions to sustain and that the social gravity of every situation is not automatically towards democracy but that, on the contrary, the natural gravity of every situation is towards chaos or dictatorship, or both.

Finally, there is in the world today a rival ideology competing for the loyalty of men and women against the ideas, values and traditions which seem good to us. How attractive that ideology can make itself is shown in a single sentence from the Report of the Amsterdam conference of the Council of World Churches, in which it is stated—I quote from memory, but I think correctly: Those who are the beneficiaries of capitalism"— and in that world context the whole British people are the beneficiaries of capitalism— should try to see the world as it appears to those who know themselves to be excluded from those privileges, and who see in Communism the one hope of security and justice. I quote that to show how attractive the rival ideology can appear to people living in the conditions which are fairly common in Asia, Africa and in other parts. If we are to sustain our values, and those traditions for personal freedom, toleration and political democracy which are really good in our society, against the world challenge of our times, we can do it only if we deliberately do it in creative partnership with millions and millions of coloured people all over the world.

If our ideas are inspired from enthusiasm and high creative reality, then we must show that that partnership is a genuine partnership. We must show that we are willing to take risks to sustain the conception of this genuine partnership against those who do not understand the need for it. Otherwise our traditions and our values will not survive throughout the twentieth century. That, I think, is the great danger which will stare us in the face sooner or later if we are not prepared to face the small risks involved in pursuing the kind of policy which was indicated in the first two speeches which we heard today.

There is a danger in discussing the matter, that we white people of Britain may take an attitude of moral superiority to the white people of South Africa in relation to some of the things said by the hon. Member for East Harrow about the way in which we in this country treat coloured people as our brother men. I would remind the hon. Member for East Harrow that it is probably easier to do that when coloured people represent only a very small percentage of the total population than when they represent a very large proportion of the population. In speaking of this matter, we ought to show to the white peoples of South Africa that we do understand that they are facing difficulties which are greater than those we face ourselves. If we lectured them from too high a moral altitude, they would be entitled to reply that the position is pretty easy for us, because the exploited coloured people upon whom our standard of living depends are living several thousands of miles from our shores; whereas in South Africa they are all mixed within the same territory. I think it is important to be aware of the fact that the people of Britain have to make material sacrifices, or at least have to hold their hands from grasping material rewards in the next 5, 10 or 20 years, if this conception of the partnership of peoples is to be realised.

If, three or four years from now, we have freed ourselves from the unusual American assistance, and if, five or six years after that, there accrues into our hands a great or noticeable surplus of material goods, available for whatever purpose we may choose to use it, and we use it for increasing our own standards of living, and do not devote it to the task of promoting the social well-being of the coloured people with whom we claim to be in partnership, that will in effect be a betrayal of the conception of partnership; and it will have as its consequence the world defeat of the ideas and values and traditions for which we stand. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will have the courage now to realise that greater dangers will confront us if we flinch from the difficulties which are immediate.

2.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I am afraid that I shall not be able adequately to answer all the points made in the eloquent speeches to which we have listened, but I must do my best. I am in full agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) in his account of pre-war his- tory, I do not believe that the present Government will be accused by any historian of having avoided immediate dangers at the risk of facing greater dangers later on.

My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) who opened the Debate, spoke of race relations in the Commonwealth and opened up the subject in the broadest way. I think he was right, and I agree with him that race relations are one of the vital problems that face humanity today. I consider that my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend is right in saying that the world conditions of this problem have now completely changed. Certain it is that we have difficulties to face which will not be quickly overcome. Certain it is that they will not be solved by the action of Governments alone. It depends on the conduct and thinking of individual citizens in our own and other countries where the problem arises. It is on the thinking of the ordinary citizen that everything depends; and, indeed, even the action of Governments—whether we think well or ill of it—reflects only the opinions of those for whom they speak.

It is a problem on which national and international discussion is now going on. It is, as it must be, and as my hon. Friend so rightly said at the beginning of his speech, of supreme importance to the Commonwealth and to all the peoples of which the Commonwealth is composed. The Commonwealth, as we think of it, is an association whose members co-operate to promote peace, liberty and progress. That does not mean that among the Governments of the Commonwealth there is - always complete agreement at all times and on every question. Of course that is not so; and where there is disagreement among friends it is often wise to observe restraint in public utterances. No one will misunderstand me if I say that denunciation is not the only instrument by which progress is secured. Speaking, therefore, with all suitable restraint, and remembering the constitutional position, to which I shall refer again, I shall try to deal with most of the substantive points which have been raised.

My hon. Friend, early in his speech, spoke about coloured discrimination in the United Kingdom, and the repercussions which that may have elsewhere. It is a matter of great importance. am sorry to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies and I from time to time both received information about incidents of this kind. I shall not discuss the question of employment at Cardiff, on which he is in correspondence with my right hon. Friend. For the most part, the information which the Colonial Secretary and I receive is about cases in which accommodation in hotels or boarding houses is refused, or where the owners of restaurants and inns will not serve customers who come to them. It sometimes happens that accommodation is refused because the lease or covenant contains a Clause imposing a restriction of this kind.

I wish to emphasise how much the Government regret that this kind of thing should happen at all, even if it happens seldom, and even if its actual extent be small. I am sure such action is disapproved by all responsible opinion in this country and by people of all parties and in every walk of life. Such incidents cannot fail to cast a shadow on relations with other countries of the Commonwealth, and I do not think that people in this country who practise discrimination are conscious of the deep injury which it may cause or of the enduring and evil results to which it may lead. I am glad to say that such incidents nowadays are rare and that my experience is very much the same as that of the hon. Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard).

A little while ago, I was discussing the question of hostels for university students with people from one of the Asiatic countries of the Commonwealth, and they told me that, while their men and women like a hostel as a transit camp, they preferred to spend their university life lodging with British families, because they got to know British family life and made friendships which lasted for many years. In any case, I hope that what I have said will promote on this point the purpose which my hon. Friend has had at heart.

I come now to Africa, to which most attention was paid both by the hon. Member for Maldon and by others, and I start with Northern Rhodesia. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary is on his way home and he will speak for himself. I had better not attempt to anticipate what he will say, but I think I can predict that he will not announce any change in the policy of His Majesty's Government, which has been repeatedly declared and which Parliament has approved.

I turn to South-West Africa and first, to the small point concerning the visa for Mr. Michael Scott. I have made inquiries since my hon. Friend raised the matter. Neither the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Foreign Office nor the South African Office have any knowledge either of the invitation to Mr. Scott to go to Lake Success or of a refusal of the visa. That is the information which I have, and I am afraid that as, in any case, he is not a United Kingdom citizen, I would not be able to help him in this regard.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

May I interrupt my right hon. Friend? He is of United Kingdom birth.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

But not a United Kingdom citizen.

I come now to the question of South-West Africa. I know that my hon. Friends will understand that in the Commonwealth the Governments of all the members are fully self-governing in every aspect of their internal and external affairs. What the Government of South Africa may do is a matter for their consideration and decision. They advise His Majesty the King, and that is the vital constitutional fact which I have to consider. I have to explain what His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have done in the Assembly of the United Nations, and, in order that action in the matter may be properly judged, I think it may be useful if I make two quotations from basic documents about South-West Africa. The first is from Article 2 of the Mandate under which the Union of South Africa has governed South-West Africa for so long. It states: The Mandatory shall have full power of administration and legislation for the territory subject to the present Mandate as an integral portion of the Union of South Africa, and may apply the laws of the Union of South Africa to the territory, subject to such local modifications as circumstances may require. That is very different from the "B" Mandate; this is a "C" Mandate, and it differs from the "B" Mandate, with which we were entrusted, in many ways. The second quotation is from the Resolution adopted in Paris by the Assembly in November last. It reads: The Assembly takes note of the statement of the representative of the Union of South Africa that it is the intention of his Government to continue to administer South-West Africa in the spirit of the Mandate. The Assembly takes note of the assurance given by the representative of the Union of South Africa that the proposed new arrangement for closer association of South-West Africa with the Union does not mean incorporation and will not mean absorption of the territory by the Administering Authority. With that background, I turn to my hon. Friend's proposal that we should refer the question of the validity of the South-West Africa Act passed by the Legislature of the Union, to the International Court of Justice. I can only say what I said to my hon. Friend, when he came to see me with the deputation of which he has spoken, that I am in full agreement with the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Harrow. At the Assembly of the United Nations, our delegation has consistently upheld the view that, under the Charter, there is no obligation on the Union as a member of the United Nations to place the Man-dated territory under a trusteeship agreement. I have the greatest respect for Professor Lauterpacht, I have worked with him, and I rejoiced in his appointment to his present Chair in my own university. But I cannot for my part think that this question is really open to any legal doubt.

I was once for a short time the acting director of the Mandates Section of the League of Nations, and I took some part in the drafting of the clauses in the Covenant about the Mandates and in the drafting of all the Mandates themselves. I was the leader of the delegation from this country to the last Assembly at which the League of Nations was wound up. I have examined the Charter with the aid and advice of legal and other experts who helped to draft it, and I am certain that the terms of Article 77 are absolutely plain. I cannot think that there is any legal obligation on the Union to do what my hon. Friend desires.

That being so, would it be right to lay the matter before the International Court of Justice for decision? I cannot think so. I do not think we ought to ask for a judgment when we do not think there is any legal point in doubt. It would be bad practice, it might lead to a general discussion of the profound difference between what, in the old days, we called the "B" and "C" Mandates. I am not going into the merits of that case today. I only say that my hon. Friend's suggestion could not do any good, though I am sure that it might easily do harm. What I have said explains the action taken by our delegation in the Assembly throughout the discussion of this matter.

I pass on to what my hon. Friend called the closely-related problem of the future of the High Commission Territories. I say again that, to my regret, I am not in agreement with what my hon. Friend proposes. I do not think it would he a good plan to transfer the territories to the authority of the Colonial Office. If he will come and talk it over with me one day, I think I can convince him that that is true. As I have explained more than once at Question Time, I do not think that the present system of government in the Territories is open to the objections which my hon. Friend finds. If it were, I do not think that those objections would be removed by the transfer of authority which he suggests. In point of fact, all the officers in the administrative grades of the Governments of those territories are now chosen by the Colonial Office, as other officers are chosen, on the same conditions and from among the same people. They are just exactly like other Colonial Office recruits.

I assure my hon. Friend that in the administration of these territories, my office and the Colonial Office work together in the closest harmony and cooperation, and that we have the full benefit of their knowledge, their experience and advice. If I had the time I could give him a wealth of detail.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the majority of them, as I said, do in fact come from the Union, and, therefore, inevitably have that outlook and background?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

Of course, in the case of the lower technical staff, such as typists, and so on, it is not possible to take them from this country; we must recruit them, as the subordinate staff in many other Colonial areas is recruited, from the local area. That is the general practice.

Photo of Mr Frederick Skinnard Mr Frederick Skinnard , Harrow East

Is it not true, also, that a good number of the police, including officers, are recruited from the Union?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

As to that, I shall make inquiry if my hon. Friend will write to me or put down a Question. But, naturally, the police are subject to the control and instructions of the civil power. On the broad issue of policy in the High Commission territories, I would say to my hon. Friend that there has been no change in our policy in the matter, and if there were to be a consultation with the people, it would be a genuine consultation; of that he may be very sure.

I now come to the question of malignant malnutrition and first, to that of the Colonial Exhibition to which he referred. I do not know how far the Exhibition will go in showing black spots. I am assured that it is an honest attempt to give a true picture of the effort we are now making to catch up a backlog of disastrous conditions, and that it will show the extent of the resources and the kind of help we are giving to the solution of this problem. I agree with my hon. Friend in thinking that malnutrition, and other things about which I am going to speak, is the cause of what is sometimes called the laziness or the shiftlessness of the African Negro. Some people talk—my hon. Friend did not—as though malnutrition were an evil imposed by Europeans by their exploitation of the peoples of Africa whom they rule.

I make no defence of exploitation; but we must ask the question, why are the people of Africa more backward than those of other continents? Why, with the great resources of their continent, with their great natural gifts, and their potentially marvellous physique, are they so often shiftless and unable to produce as much as others? Why is their power to work not enough to give them sufficient food to keep their people alive? Why have they been what we once called backward, and what we now call undeveloped? Why have they a Sahara and a Kalagari desert?

Before the Europeans went to Africa, the native inhabitants may in some ways have thought themselves to have been, or may actually have been, happier than they have been since; but they suffered from famines, from terrible diseases—smallpox was one of their chief scourges—and from wild animals against whom they had no means of protecting them-selves. It was a backwardness which had endured from the beginning of history, and for which I think there were three main causes.

The first was worm diseases. Was any hon. Member ever in these areas before hookworm was dealt with? Some Africans could be found—perhaps can still be found today—with 11 worm diseases in their body. Of course, they reduced the vitality, the brain power the initiative and the power to work of the victim. We now know how to cure worm diseases. We have medical treatments which get rid of the worms, and we know that if Africans have floors to their houses, and are taught to wear shoes and give them to their children, they can be cured and immunised against this frightful scourge.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

My right hon. Friend is of course, making a valid point, but I think he would also agree with me that the influence of white traders and others has led to detribalisation and the break-down of tribal sanctions and tabus which, to some extent, in primitive times offset the evils of which he has spoken.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I think that is true but I think it is also true that over the centuries famine was a great scourge of the African peoples, and it is not only since the Europeans went there that the Africans have known malnutrition.

The second cause of the backwardness of the people was fly diseases—malaria, blackwater fever and yellow fever caused by the mosquito, and sleeping sickness caused by the tsetse fly. Again we know the cures. We know how to deal with those diseases. Indeed, we are discovering how to destroy the flies themselves. The third cause is the crude agricultural methods of the Africans. They used to burn a piece of forest, till it for a few years, pass on and burn another. Consistently over the centuries and still today they so overgrazed their land that they caused soil erosion.

I think those three things have been the major causes of African ignorance, misery and hunger. As I have said, we know how to deal with all of them. The Africans cannot do it themselves. It is only European science, experts, guidance and technical equipment which can bring a real result. I am glad to say that the European Governments and devoted European individuals have begun to act and have put increased resources into the fulfilment of this task. They have made some real progress. Yellow fever has almost disappeared, particularly from what was once known as the white man's grave—the West Coast of Africa. Malaria has been abolished in the Balkans. It is under control in Africa, and I hope it will soon be abolished as well in that great continent. The Union Government have made a very large scale experiment in the use of D.D.T. against the tsetse fly, and so far it has given most encouraging results.

Soil erosion programmes are being applied. The natives are being taught improved methods of cultivating the soil. Sir Evelyn Baring, our High Commissioner in the Union, told me the other day that in Basutoland soil erosion work is going extremely well, and that up to the end of 1947, 400,000 acres had been completely protected. That progress depends on scientific research and perhaps, above all, on international co-operation in research and in its application. It is important, therefore, that the Union Government will be the hosts at a conference in the Union on scientific research in a few months' time. Another African conference will be held in the French Cameroons this Autumn in which all the Governments south of the Sahara will take part, and special work on malignant malnutrition is being given priority in Uganda and elsewhere.

I hope the House will recognise that this endeavour to which European Governments, and our own not least, are devoting great resources is a service rendered by Europeans to the Africans, and that in it lies the first essential step to higher standards for the Africans and to the emancipation which my hon. Friends desire. Of course, with it there must go the education and the development of the Africans themselves, and to that this Government is devoting great resources.

I shall only add one more point in this regard. My hon. Friends the Members for Maldon and Gravesend said that the people of this country must be prepared to make sacrifices, not raise their own standard of living, in order that the Africans may get a proper chance. With great respect, I think that is not a very important sacrifice. All capital investment means some denial of present consumption in the interests of future production. I think the vitally important lesson which everybody in Africa and, indeed, in the world, should learn, is that the development of the Africans, higher economic standards and better living for the Africans, means greater production of wealth and greater prosperity for the world as well. I believe that if that proposition were fully understood, some of the difficulties which are encountered not only in South Africa but elsewhere would disappear.

I turn, if I may, from South Africa to deal with the policy of our Government in its broadest aspects. I agree with my hon. Friend that in the next 50 years we shall determine whether humanity is to be harried and perhaps destroyed by further international conflicts or whether we shall have enduring peace. I agree with him in thinking that the most probable and most dangerous conflict is between the peoples of Asia and of Africa, on the one hand, and the peoples of European origin and culture, on the other hand. I agree that there is a new nationalism in Asia which it is vital that we should respect and understand and that there is a new demand in Asia for economic, social and political progress. It is that great question which my hon. Friend has raised and it is with that great question that in my present office I must be primarily concerned.

I think the House should judge the policy of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, as I believe the world does judge it, by the following things. First, by what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies is doing for the moral and material progress of the territories for which he answers to this House. I do not believe that among the African or other undeveloped peoples of the world there is resentment against the British people; I do not think it is at all true to suggest that there is. I remember the African Conference held last year by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in which I had the pleasure and privilege to take part, when great numbers of African members of Legislative Councils came to London. I think the Secretary of State is doing a great and noble work and I hope that hon. Members will do nothing here or elsewhere to obscure the vast importance of what he does.

Secondly, I think our policy should be judged by the Declaration of Human Rights adopted at the Assembly of the United Nations in Paris a few months ago, in the preparation of which the Dele-gates of the United Kingdom played a leading part. Article 2 of that Declaration lays down in the plainest terms that: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, with- out distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex … We have accepted—indeed we took a part in framing—the Convention of the International Labour Organisation on Social Policy in Non-Metropolitan Territories adopted in 1947, which lays it down that it shall be an aim of policy to abolish all discrimination among workers on grounds of race, colour or tribal association. It goes on with many details. These principles are not only words; they are being practically applied.

But incomparably the most important thing in this regard is, in my view, the broad influence of the Commonwealth in the world, and before I sit down I would ask the House to consider the nature, meaning and the practical results of the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers which ended here in London a week ago. If the great problem of the next half-century is the risk of conflict between Asia and the West, is it not of supreme importance that in this meeting three Prime Ministers from Asia, the leaders of great nations with long centuries of Asiatic civilisation, and culture behind them, should sit down in Downing Street with five Prime Ministers of European origin to speak for countries to whose populations many of the nations of Europe have given their share. The Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, Mr. Pearson, who himself made an outstanding contribution to the work that was done, said when he got home, that the most impressive things about the meeting was the great and practical way in which the problem posed by India was dealt with and the friendliness and good-will which was shown around the Conference Table. I endorse every word he said.

Here East and West met together to discuss a problem which, by common agreement, involved many difficulties. It was solved by unanimous agreement. This was not a matter of words and aspirations, as some people may think that the Declaration of Human Rights still is. This was hard, practical work. I believe that its historical significance is this, that in the Commonwealth today there is our best and strongest hope that the peoples of the different races will be able to work together, and that the danger of racial conflict can be avoided. There are still many problems to be solved. It will take a long time to solve them. There are many difficulties to be overcome. But I say again that this co-operation of the Asiatic and the older Governments within the Commonwealth is our strongest hope. That co-operation has just begun, and I hope we shall do nothing to imperil its success.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

Before my right hon. Friends sits down, may I ask him two questions? Would he be good enough to answer my question about Chief Tchekedi? Would he consider allowing him to come here? The second question is this: May I take it from the moving and important concluding paragraphs of my right hon. Friend's speech that the Government are unequivocally opposed, on principle, to the idea of European supremacy in Africa?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

What I have said, I have said, and that deals with the second of my hon. Friend's questions. With regard to Chief Tchekedi, I would say that when he wanted to come before, it was to discuss something which was not the affair of Bechuanaland. He has been here before. He came when the late Lord Passfield was Secretary of State. If he should want to come in connection with Bechuanaland, at any time. I am sure we should be glad to see him, but I do not think that at present there is any question of inviting him, because I do not know what we should discuss.