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Orders of the Day — African Territories

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st July 1957.

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1.32 a.m.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

I must express my personal regret to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the Minister, to the staff of the House, and to my colleagues for keeping them at this hour of the morning, but I make no apology for raising the issues to which I wish to draw the attention of the House.

This is an historic occasion; the occasion when hon. Members may raise grievances before voting Supply. We should remember that this House represents not only about 50 million people of the United Kingdom, but also about 70 millions in the Colonies, Protectorates, and Trusteeship areas of the Commonwealth. We should be failing in our duty if we allowed the vote to be taken this morning without first drawing attention to some of the grievances from which those people overseas are suffering.

I have given notice that I wish to raise, particularly, questions related to three Colonial Territories. These are urgent issues as we are about to adjourn for the Summer Recess, and long before the three months of that Summer Recess are passed, action by the Colonial Secretary may be found necessary because of the intensity of interest upon these issues.

The first territory is that of Nigeria. There has recently been in London a conference of representatives of Nigeria to discuss its constitutional problems, and at the end of that conference disappointment was expressed by the leaders of the three regions of Nigeria—the north, the west, and the east—that it had concluded without a date for the independence of the country having been settled. The basis for discussion at that conference was that there were certain issues about which the Nigerians themselves were divided. There was, for example, the question of the regions and the creation of new States; the question of revenue allocation between the Federation and the regional areas, the question of the basis of the franchise, and even the boundaries of constituencies. There was the question of the control of the police force as between the centre and the regional areas. The Colonial Secretary urged that these issues should be settled before the date for independence was decided.

I want to take this opportunity to urge that an entirely different policy should have been pursued on that occasion, and I think the precedent is to be found in the case of India. There were there problems just as wide and deep as the problems unsettled in Nigeria, but the British Government at that point had the wisdom to say, "We will withdraw from India in August, 1947; settle for yourselves these problems in relation to that date of withdrawal." If first on the agenda of the Nigerian conference had been the date of independence, which was unanimously supported by all the delegations at that conference, if that had been settled first, the problems of states, of franchise, of revenue and of police would have fallen into place and the delegates would not have gone back to their Colony disappointed as they are now.

We now run the risk of losing the confidence of the people of Nigeria, the largest remaining British Colony, with 30 million people. I feel that the disappointment which was very moderately expressed by the Prime Ministers in London may be expressed more vigorously by the people of that territory.

There is one particular question which I want to put to the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. Both in London and in Nigeria the view has been expressed that the reason why no definite date was set for independence for Nigeria was the fear of its reactions in Central Africa; its reactions upon the African populations of Central Africa who, after the independence of Ghana, if that were succeeded by a definite date about Nigeria, might be unwilling to accept the European domination of that territory; also the reaction of the European leaders in Central Africa who would be indignant if the independence of Ghana were followed by the independence of Nigeria while the independence of the Federation of Nyasaland and the Rhodesias was not promised.

No one would welcome the independence of Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Central Africa more wholeheartedly than we would if that independence were based upon democracy, but I suggest that there is no reason why, because of the absence of democracy in Central Africa, the attainment of independence for Nigeria should be postponed. That was the first issue I wanted to raise with the Parliamentary Secretary.

The second issue relates to Kenya. I first went to Kenya in 1950, and I had a dream then of the great possibility of realising in that territory, with its African, Asian, Arab and European population, a real human society in which colour and race would be lost in equality and cooperation. One of the memorable events of my life was an occasion when, in 1950, representatives of the African, Asian, European and Arab races in Kenya gathered together, and we urged human equality between all races for the future of Kenya.

I do not want to go back over the history which has followed. I recognise that the realisation of that ideal is difficult because of the different social patterns, different cultures and different ways of life of the races. But I want to urge tonight that the time has come, if we are to move forward in Kenya to that ideal, when all communities in Kenya should declare as their purpose and goal a democratic society which would not think of colour or race but think of human beings as equals in society. We have gone a long way in that direction. We now have the very striking fact that the leaders of the Asian community, of the Arab community, and of the African community have all declared that to be their purpose. The only community in Kenya the leaders of which have not declared that to be their purpose is the European.

Something very significant has recently occurred. For the first time in Kenya there has been the direct election of African representatives. There were candidates who stand for black nationalism, who stood for Africa for the Africans, for Kenya for the Africans, who were anti-White and anti-European, wanting to drive the Europeans out. Every one of those candidates was rejected by the African electors. The representatives of the African community who are now in the Legislative Council of Kenya all stand for the human society and equality between races of which I dreamed seven years ago.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to use what influence the Colonial Office has here to get the leaders of the European community in Kenya to say what the leaders of the African, Asian and Arab communities have said about their desire for an egalitarian democracy in which man shall have a vote as man and woman shall have a vote as woman, the issue no longer being decided by colour, community or race. I am aware that those things are sometimes said by the leaders of the European community when they are in London. We are now asking them to say them when they are in Nairobi.

There is an immediate test to the principle which I have been urging, and that is the claim of the Africans for greater representation in the Legislative Council of Kenya. There are 6 million Africans in Kenya; there are 300,000 Asians, Europeans and Arabs. At the present time 50,000 Europeans have equal representation in the Legislative Council to the 6,250,000 of the other three races.

The Africans are now making a very moderate and reasonable demand. They are proposing that 6 million Africans should have equal representation to the 300,000 of other races. The Asian leaders have agreed; even the sections of the Asian leaders have agreed—the Hindu leaders and the Muslim leaders. The Arab leaders have agreed. The only obstruction to the proposal comes at the present time from the leaders of the European community. They have recently issued a statement saying that they are willing to accept some increase of African representation, but they go on to state that they are not prepared to accept the domination of any one racial group over the members of the other racial groups, either one or all the other groups together. I have tried very hard, but I cannot find any mathematical process by which one can have representation of four groups and be able to say at the end of one's calculations that neither one group nor three groups have domination over the others.

There have been discussions recently in London with representatives of the Africans and of the European community. I would urge that the matter cannot be left like that, and that during the Summer Recess the Secretary of State for the Colonies should himself go to Kenya and seek to convince the European representatives and leaders, as the Asian and Arab leaders have already agreed, to accept the African demand that 6 million people should at least have equal representation to the 300,000 who represent the other races.

Before I leave this subject, I want to urge that we ought to be turning away from the thought of races altogether in Kenya. We should be turning our minds in the direction of a common roll for human beings as human beings. I welcome the publication today of the report of the delegation which has recently been in Kenya and which gives some endorsement to that conception. As long as there are racial groups and candidates must make their appeal on racial grounds, a multi-racial society will remain in Kenya. There will be a human society—an inter-racial society—only when men and women are voting on a common roll as human beings and no longer as racial groups.

The other subject which I indicated to the Minister I wished to raise tonight was the suggestion that there should be a military base in Kenya. We have found it difficult, from White Papers and from Ministerial statements, to know the Government's decision in this regard. The Governor of Kenya stated on his recent visit to this country that all the communities in Kenya would welcome the establishment of a military base there. This is not so.

The African community, by far the largest, would not welcome the establishment of a military base in Kenya. That has been stated in the most emphatic way by the leaders of the African community with whom the Secretary of State for the Colonies has been in discussion during the last few days. They are aware of the political implications of any military base in Kenya.

One of the remarkable features of the British Empire at the present time is that territories like West Africa, Malaya and the West Indies are rapidly moving forward to self-government and independence. There are only two groups of territories which are not moving forward in that way. One is the group in which there are strong European settlements—East Africa and Central Africa. Kenya already has to face that difficulty. The other is the group of territories which are of military strategical importance to this country, such as Cyprus. I beg the Minister not to add to the difficulties of Kenya in moving towards political independence the additional reason that it should become a military base and that on this account the offer of recognition of self-government and independence will be delayed.

The third territory to which I wish to draw attention and of which I have given the hon. Gentleman notice is Central Africa. I want tonight, calmly but nevertheless strongly, to emphasise the danger of the psychology which is arising in that area. This House and this Government have special responsibility for Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. No one can have contact with those two territories without understanding how strong is now becoming the opinion among the African populations of antagonism to the British representation in those areas.

We have the extraordinary situation in Nyasaland that the Nyasaland African Congress has actually expelled three leaders from its membership because they would not withdraw from the Federal Parliament. I am in touch with the leaders of the African Congress in Northern Rhodesia and they are at the moment a little nervous because the opinion of their membership is becoming stronger than the expressions which they themselves are giving of its policy. I warn the Under-Secretary of State that a situation is arising in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia which, unless we are prepared to meet genuine African grievances, may become exceedingly dangerous.

I am going to leave to my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse)the subject of racial discrimination in those territories. I want particularly to raise two matters before I proceed to a rather wider one. The first is this: fifty-four officials of the African Miners' Union in the Copperbelt and members of the African Congress have been arrested and deported to an outlying district. I ask the hon. Gentleman how long they are to remain isolated in that way. I understand there is to be a review in October. I very strongly urge upon the Under-Secretary of State that those men should be liberated at the earliest moment possible, if the good will of the African population in the Copper-belt is to be obtained.

The second specific question I want to ask is this. Yesterday a cablegram was received in this country from the leaders of the African Congress in Northern Rhodesia, which lead as follows.

Mass arrests in Northern Province. Maximum sentences. Appeals disallowed. Congress banned. That is in the Northern Province, and the telegram arrived yesterday. That is an indication of the dangerous situation which I have been trying to describe. I appreciate that it is too early to get from the Under-Secretary of State the full facts tonight, but I ask the hon. Gentleman if he will look into that situation and if he will try to prevent that situation which has apparently developed in the Northern Province from becoming still more dangerous.

I wanted especially to deal with the Constitution (Amendment)Bill in Central Africa. I recognise that here I have to be careful because the authority of this House and of the Government in this matter is strictly limited. There are only two spheres in which in this matter we now have the right to express our opinion or to intervene. The first is when the African Affairs Board draws attention to a differentiating Measure. It has done so in the instance of the Constitution (Amendment)Bill. Its opinion is so important that I want to read it in detail as it is reported in The Times this morning: Sir John Moffat, chairman of the African Affairs Board, today presented to the Federal Parliament on behalf of the standing committee a report giving the opinion that the Constitution (Amendment)Bill is a differentiating measure. It is differentiating, the report says, because African peoples of two protectorates would suffer a relative diminution in the small powers they now possess and because of the fact that the Federal House would be increased by a ratio of two-thirds.The board goes on: 'It is as absurd to suggest that African influence is preserved by merely increasing the respective numbers of Africans and elected members in constant ratio as it is to suggest that the influence of elected members is preserved by maintaining the present actual majority of elected members over the rest—namely, 17. The true answer lies between these two methods of assessment, but the fact remains that in the … Bill Africans have suffered a loss in degree of power or influence when compared with the original constitutional provisions.'". In view of that opinion expressed by the African Affairs Board and its distinguished chairman, Sir John Moffat, assent should not be given to the Bill.

The second sphere in which the House and the Government are concerned is that this Bill must be endorsed by the Legislative Councils of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, and it is open to the Secretary of State for the Colonies to advise the Governments of these territories to reject the Bill. I raised this matter with the Secretary of State on 9th July. He said that he had then advised the Governors of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland that he saw no reason to object to the Bill.

The Bill povides for two electoral rolls. One is a general roll with high economic or educational tests. An income of £60 a month or land valued at £1,500 will require no educational tests. If the income is £25 a month or the land is valued at £500, the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate will be required. On that general roll, 99 per cent. will be Europeans, and those Europeans will elect 44 out of the 59 members of the Assembly.

That electoral roll will be supplemented by a special roll, where an income of at least £15 a month or possession of land valued at £500 will be required. There will be a considerable number of Africans on this roll, but we have the astonishing proposal that the electors on the general roll, who already have the right to elect three-quarters of the House, shall also be placed upon this special roll and shall be able to influence the return of the nine members who will be elected mostly by Africans. I am not surprised that The Times has criticised that provision in the Constitution (Amendment)Bill.

African opinion in Central Africa is incensed against this Measure. There are only 200,000 Europeans there, and there are 6 million Africans. It is said in Central Africa that the Secretary of State for the Colonies came to an understanding with Sir Roy Welensky, while he was in this country, to support this Measure. If that is the case, it is the worst day's work done for Great Britain by any Secretary of State, so far as its influence on the Continent of Africa is concerned. It means this: gone is the day of the paramountcy of the interests of the indigenous people. Instead, the Government are now committed to the paramountcy of the interests of the European minority. There is not only African opposition. There is the African Affairs Board, with its distinguished European chairman; the European members from Southern Rhodesia, where a more liberal franchise has been proposed; Alexander Scott, the Independent Member for Lusaka; the two specially appointed European Members for the Northern Territory in Central Africa—all of them are opposed to this Measure.

I do not want to see a race war in Central Africa, but I give warning to the Government that by supporting this Measure they are encouraging that psychology. I welcome the extension of the franchise to British-protected persons, but this gesture will now be forgotten under the terms of this Bill. There is the danger that the Africans will boycott the special roll——

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

May I ask to what Bill the hon. Member is referring?

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

I am sorry, but I have referred to it a number of times. It is the Constitution (Amendment)Bill.

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

I think the hon. Gentleman is referring to a Bill regarding franchise, and that Bill has not been tabled.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

I am sorry to controvert the hon. Gentleman's view. The Times this morning reported the debate in the Federal Assembly on this Bill.

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

It is important to get this clear. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Constitution (Amendment)Bill, but in most of his speech he has been referring to a Bill regarding the franchise. The Constitution (Amendment)Bill has no relation to the franchise. There is no Bill so far tabled containing any of the details to which he has referred regarding the franchise.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

The relationship is so close that it cannot be separated. The Constitution (Amendment)Bill which has been before the Federal Parliament is for the enlargement of the Assembly. The enlargement is dependent on the new electoral proposals which I have summarised.

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

But it is important to get these matters accurate. The proposals which the hon. Gentleman is summarising are proposals which he has obtained from a source which I do not know but which are not at present contained in any Bill put forward by any Government in the Federation.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

Again, I am very surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who is Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Commonwealth Relations Office, does not know the source of the franchise proposals which I have put to the House. They have been published. They have been put forward by Sir Roy Welensky, the Prime Minister of the Federation. Does the hon. Gentleman really mean that he occupies that office and is ignorant of those proposals?

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

I know exactly what has been said. What I have pointed out to the hon. Gentleman, who has referred on a number of occasions to a Bill which contains franchise proposals, is that there is no Bill at present presented to the Federal Parliament regarding the franchise proposals. Therefore, when he is informing the House that such information is contained in some Bill which the Federal Parliament has been asked to consider, that is not, in fact, the case.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

The hon. Member is quite wrong. I have referred to the Constitution (Amendment)Bill, the purpose of which is to enlarge the Federal Parliament, but the enlargement of that Federal Parliament is associated with the franchise proposals and quite inseparable from them. If the hon. Member is suggesting that I am wrong in linking the franchise proposals with the Constitution (Amendment)Bill, he is unaware of what Sir Roy Welensky and other spokesmen of the Federation have said in Central Africa.

There is a danger that the African population in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia will boycott registration for the special roll under these proposals. I beg the Minister—and the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, if I can have any influence upon him—to reconsider whether our Government ought to support proposals of this kind. If they do, they will intensify the racial antagonism in Central Africa which it is the desire of us all to end.

2.7 a.m.

Photo of Commander Charles Donaldson Commander Charles Donaldson , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

Mr. Speaker, at this time of the night you will expect me to be brief, and I shall. I have been a Member of this House for five and a half years. I have listened to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway)on many occasions on this and associated subjects, and I have never heard him say a good word for the white population who inhabit the parts of Africa to which he has been referring tonight. I have never heard him give a word of commendation, and I deprecate his neglect in that matter.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

The hon. and gallant Member cannot have listened very carefully. I have made hardly a speech without paying tribute to some Europeans, and I have done so tonight in giving a series of names of European leaders.

Photo of Commander Charles Donaldson Commander Charles Donaldson , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

I will concede part of what the hon. Member has just said. However, the hon. Member would do himself, his country and the Africans better service if he would try to reach a balance between the African population and the white population who live in those territories in which he is most interested.

I go further and ask where the African people would be if the white settlers who have used their own money and deployed their own energies and intelligence and willingness to work and strive for Africa had not done so. Where would they be with the increasing amount of self-determination which has been given to the people of Africa?

The hon. Member made a comparison between African and West Indian Federation which is about to come into being. In years past, when I was in the Navy, I travelled about the West Indies, and I believe the West Indians would resent the comparison of conditions which the hon. Member has sought to impose on the House.

I can tell him with absolute sincerity from my own observations that the coloured people in the West Indies are among the most loyal, upstanding and forthright subjects of the British Crown, of the Commonwealth and Empire whom I have ever seen in my travels about the world. They will not like the comparison he has made tonight with what is taking place in Africa. They will not like him for what he has said, and he will hear more about it from them in due course.

2.10 a.m.

Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Wednesbury

In following the hon. and gallant Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Commander Donaldson), I think it should be made clear that hon. Members in all parts of the House who have experience of these African countries are well aware of, and fully appreciate, the contributions that Europeans have made in them. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway)would agree wholly with that. Those of us in the House who take an interest in colonial questions have no desire in any way to underrate the practical and valuable contributions which the European communities make to the development of the economies of these countries.

The hon. and gallant Member must not, however, run away with the idea that everything which is good in Africa has been done purely and simply by Europeans. I would remind him that a great deal of the agricultural produce in African countries comes from peasant farms. If he will compare, for instance, the economies of Kenya and Uganda, he will find that Kenya has a permanent deficit in its balance of payments with the outside world and that Uganda has a very substantial balance in its trade with the rest of the world.

I expect the hon. and gallant Member knows the economies of those two countries and will not need me to remind him that the economy of Uganda is almost wholly based on the peasant agriculture of millions of farmers on their shambas producing cash crops such as cotton and coffee. If he wants to compare those two countries further, he will find that the amount of progress made in the production of these cash crops in Uganda is every hit as good as the progress made in Kenya. The African peasant farmers of Uganda have shown that they can produce cash crops on an ever-increasing scale, and they have not only made a valuable contribution to the building up of the economy of Uganda but have made an indirect contribution to upholding the stability of Kenya itself through the linkup between the two countries. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to compare progress in others of these countries, he will recognise that progress in Nigeria and Ghana is almost wholly dependent on the work that is done by the African population.

I do not want the hon. and gallant Gentleman to think that in saying these things I am throwing any aspersions on the European communities in those countries, for they make a very fine contribution indeed, but the Europeans in those countries must not expect to have any privileged economic position in them. They have their contribution to make. They will, indeed, probably earn a higher income than the mass of the communities there by virtue of the special contribution which they can make and the special technical skills that they have, but they still depend on the endeavours of the mass of the population, and without the work of the Africans in those countries the economies would be very weak indeed.

I agree wholly with what my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough said at the outset of his remarks. It is regrettable that we have to delay the House at this hour, but the subjects which we raise are important ones and we have not had very much opportunity in the past few weeks to obtain proper answers to our questions. I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies following this point, and I should like to put it to him directly.

For example, we on this side of the House have been trying for weeks to find out what is the Government's policy in respect of the establishment of a military base in Kenya. We still have no decision. The Minister of Defence went on a tour some weeks ago and, on his return, made a statement at London Airport that he would soon be able to state his intentions about the establishment of a base in Kenya. We are still awaiting that statement, and it ought to have been made to the House, because the House is entitled to debate the statement, not only in view of its great importance to the defence of this country and to the burden which we shall undertake with the establishment of that base but also in view of the important political considerations involved.

We are beginning a Recess of three months, and in that time Ministers will be taking decisions on this very important subject; and we shall be unable to question them in any way. We have done our best. We have put down Questions week after week, but the Minister has continued to evade them and to decline to give a satisfactory answer. I have just received a written reply from the Minister of Defence on this very Question. All he can tell me is that he has nothing to add to his reply of 10th July to my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper Mr. G. Brown). That reply was: …. When the policy is decided. I will make a statement to Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 10th July, 1957; Vol. 572, c. 50.] Yet The Times, in an obviously inspired report, stated categorically some weeks ago that a military base was to be established in Kenya, and I have seen no correction in that newspaper. It is about time that hon. Members were given answers to Questions which they put on the Order Paper.

This is an important subject. If a base is established in Kenya—and I sincerely trust that it will not be established there—it will involve us in considerable expenditure. We have to judge whether that expenditure is justified. A military base in Kenya will not produce all the advantages which some hon. Members opposite expect it to produce. I refer particularly to the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser), who was a great advocate of this base a few weeks ago. I hope that it will not be established there, but if further consideration is to be given to its establishment I urge the Under-Secretary of State to consult his right hon. Friend and to make sure that the African people in Kenya are consulted on this vital question. The days have long passed when it was possible for this country to decide these important questions without consultation with the indigenous populations.

We have already made a great mess of an attempt to establish a base in Cyprus, wasting a lot of money at the same time, and it is no good transferring that base——

Photo of Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer , Worthing

Who were in office at that time?

Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Wednesbury

I was referring to the base in Cyprus. My right hon. and hon. Friends have been very critical of the policy followed recently in establishing this base in Cyprus.

Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Wednesbury

A great dead of money has been spent on that base and on sending troops there.

Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Wednesbury

Hon. Members on all sides recognise that we have got ourselves into a terrible mess in Cyprus. We are at last, I hope, beginning to extricate ourselves from it. Do not let us make the same mistake in Kenya. We want to go into this question very thoroughly and consult indigenous populations before we rush into the establishment of this base.

Certainly, there are very strong military arguments against its establishment. It has been suggested that a naval base should be established at Mombasa but, as some well-known naval experts have already pointed out, it would be very dangerous to establish a naval base at that port. There are strong arguments against the establishment of this base, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will at least give an undertaking that his right hon. Friend will ensure that the African representatives in Kenya are consulted.

Before I leave Kenya, I want to refer to the problem of economic development there. We have not yet had—although we have had several debates on colonial affairs and one on the Dow Report—any proper statement from the Colonial Secretary on the Government's policy in regard to Kenya's economic development. What, for instance, do the Government intend to do about the White Highlands? I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is here, because some time ago he said in public that he believed that the sanctity of the White Highlands—I do not know that I quote his exact words but this was his meaning—must go——

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

I think that it would be helpful to the House, and, perhaps, to me, if, before the hon. Gentleman quotes from a speech that he alleges I made, he took the trouble to look at it to make sure that he quotes it exactly.

Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Wednesbury

I would be very glad if the hon. Gentleman would correct me if I am under any misunderstanding about this. As I understand it, the Under-Secretary said some time ago that he believed that African farmers should be able to farm in the White Highlands. I hope that that is the case, because there have already been a good number of conversions on this subject. We see that even Mr. Michael Blundell, for instance, has at last agreed that African farmers should be able to farm there.

I hope that, before very long, the Government will be able to announce their intentions as to the White Highlands and the opening up of the unused land in that part. A very recent agricultural report indicated that 10 per cent. of the land in the White Highlands—good farming land—was not being used. I very much hope that the African farmers who are now living in overcrowded reserves in Kenya will have the opportunity of moving into the White Highlands, with proper schemes of agricultural development to enable them, not only to increase their own standard of life, but to make a contribution to the improvement of the economy there.

I hope that when these moves are initiated, the Government will bear in mind the very useful contribution that co-operative farming can make. There is no doubt that the success of the Gezira scheme in the Sudan shows what valuable results can flow from the co-operation of peasants and a body allowing them the credits to develop the area concerned. Some such co-operative scheme of development would, I think, be very useful for the White Highlands.

We have heard the very useful franchise proposals for Uganda. Although they do not go as far as some of us on this side would like, we congratulate the Government on steps taken in the right direction. We do that sincerely. I think the Government will recognise also the contribution that African leaders, in particular the Uganda National Congress, have made to the realisation of these constitutional developments. These franchise proposals will, we hope, enable a democratic representation to be established in Uganda, and very soon we also hope that a common roll will be established so that there will be no continuation of any racial or colour distinction so far as the electoral roll is concerned.

When, however, one turns to Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, one sees what a really terrible contrast exists in the Government's policy for Uganda and that for Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I very deeply regret that the Africans' position in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland is likely to be very seriously jeopardised if the present franchise proposals being put forward by Sir Roy Welensky are allowed to go through. They hold out no real hope at all for African advancement, and we should remember our responsibility to those millions who look to us for support. They are fearful that the position in the Union of South Africa will be repeated northwards and that if these proposals go through and give more responsibility to the Federal authorities in Salisbury they will lose the few rights which they have.

Let us look at the franchise proposals. We will find that all liberal opinion condemns them. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough has already referred to the African Affairs Board, and particularly to the statement by the chairman. I hope that, before we disperse for the Summer Recess, the Under-Secretary will tell us what he thinks of this forthright statement. The chairman asks this Government, here, to veto these proposals because he believes—and let us remember that he is on the spot—that they will seriously undermine the Africans' position. [Interruption.] The Under-Secretary apparently says he did not say that, but I think that he will agree that the chairman has specifically asked this Government to veto these proposals. I hope that we shall be given an answer on that specific point.

Millions of Africans and the chairmen of the African Affairs Board are awaiting a reply, and I hope that before we adjourn we shall be able to send some comfort to them. Before we judge whether these franchise proposals are of any assistance to these African people, let us remember that they must have an income qualification or high educational qualifications. The income qualification is made so high that very few Africans will be able to qualify. For instance, the minimum qualification for the special roll is £180 income a year: but according to the Brannigan Report, the average income in the Northern Rhodesia mining industry is £160 a year. So, many of the Africans, even in one of the industries where the highest incomes are paid, will not qualify even for the special roll, to say nothing of the ordinary roll.

When we look at the other industries in Northern Rhodesia we find that the position is far worse. Take the building industry, for instance. The average income for Africans in the building industry is £58 a year, a little over El a week, and the minimum franchise qualification is £180 a year. Do hon. Members really believe that this is a wonderful franchise advance? There are over 30,000 Africans employed in the building industry and 46 per cent. of them receive the minimum wages, so that very few people in the building industry in Northern Rhodesia are likely, unless they are White, to qualify under these electoral rolls.

If we look at the other industries the same position applies. In the chocolate and sugar confectionery industry the average African wage is £83 a year; miscellaneous food preparations, £29 a year; tobacco manufacturing, £60 a year. I am quoting from figures given in the Barclays Bank Overseas Review for June last. How can we claim that these franchise proposals are an advance for the Africans? Their average incomes are so low that only a miserable number of them will qualify.

Turning to Nyasaland, the position there is even worse. The statutory minimum wage in industrial areas outside the main towns, for instance, is 1s. 3d. a day—£19 a year. In the townships they have slightly more—2s. a day. We are told, according to a reply which the Under-Secretary of State gave some weeks ago, that the food allowance is 4d. a day. What a miserable amount that is to add to the basic minimum wage.

Another example that I would like to quote is uranium prospecting in Nyasaland. It is a new development, and yet the basic pay is 1s. 6d. for a five hour day. How can it be claimed that these Africans will ever have an opportunity of earning £180 a year, which is the minimum qualification?

I should like to refer now to the position of civil servants in Northern Rhodesia, because here is a field where the Government can have some influence on the African's opportunities for advancement. We are told that the average income for African civil servants in junior division posts, with educational qualifications below Standard 6, is £91 a year, and in senior division posts with a minimum educational qualification of Standard 6 their salaries average £143 a year. In these two grades, in which are the mass of the African civil servants in Northern Rhodesia, very few will qualify even under the special roll. Graduates, it is true, have an average salary of £518 a year, but how many African graduates are there in Northern Rhodesia who are employed in the Civil Service—very few indeed.

In the reply which the Secretary of State for the Colonies gave me on 30th July, he said that Africans can obtain awards of Government bursaries to enable them to train for the more senior positions in the Civil Service. But, as I understand it, there are only 32 bursaries for the whole Federation, and only four of those are available for candidates in Northern Rhodesia. What opportunity for advancement is that? Surely, we can do better than that. Surely, we can make more facilities available for the African civil servant in the lower grades to acquire the qualifications which would enable him to go into the higher grades with the income to qualify him for the franchise.

All talk of the franchise developing in the Federation is worthless unless the African people have the opportunity to advance. They have not got that opportunity today, because many of the skilled jobs are closed to them, and many of the skilled occupations which they could take on after training in technical schools and apprenticeships are denied to them. Africans in Northern Rhodesia today have very little opportunity for advancement.

There is hardly any opportunity for basic education. I believe that there are only a few secondary schools in the whole of Northern Rhodesia. There is one in the Central Province at Lusaka, which takes boys to form VI, and the other a mission school at Chikuni in the Southern Province, which also takes boys to form VI. There is a girls' school also for ages 12 to 25, but there is no school certificate course there. Those are the only secondary schools with adequate facilities available in Northern Rhodesia. Less than 700 students out of a total African population of 2½ million, therefore, can have proper secondary education. There is very little opportunity for technical education. The only technical college in Northern Rhodesia, the Copper Belt Technical Foundation, is available for whites only.

I hope that the Government will use all the pressure they can to enable Africans to have further opportunities for education, particularly for technical education. I ask them also to bear in mind the possibility of making it a statutory obligation on employers in Northern Rhodesia to allocate a proportion of their skilled occupations to African employees, without making any conditions regarding the trade unions to which those employees should belong.

I know that there are hon. Members who still imagine that the Africans of Northern Rhodesia are primitive and backward people who could not take on any skilled occupation, even if they had the chance. Anyone who thinks that need not go many miles from Lusaka to find Africans of the same tribes undertaking very skilled occupations indeed, having had those jobs for a long time. I am referring, of course, to the Belgian Conga, where many Africans have been holding skilled jobs, for a great many years. I believe that, in many respects, we are well ahead of the Belgians in Colonial administration, but in this we are well behind.

I hope that the Government will closely examine the measures which they could take to help Africans to move into the skilled occupations in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, so that they may have an opportunity of earning the higher incomes which will bring them within the range of income qualifications necessary to enable them to exercise their rights as voters in their own countries.

2.40 a.m.

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

Twenty minutes to three in the morning is a little too early for me to be absolutely certain that I have been able to take in all the points made by the two hon. Members opposite who have spoken. Therefore, I give the undertaking that I will study what they have said at a more reasonable hour of the day. I will try and answer very speedily some of the points made by the hon. Member for Eton & Slough (Mr. Brockway), because he was kind enough to give me advance information of what he was going to say. I cannot deal with the detailed points raised by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house), because I did not know that he was going to make them. That does not mean that they were not interesting or that I shall not consider them.

I think I ought to put on record, because I would not like it misunderstood by people in the Colonial Territories, that although between them the two hon. Members opposite have spoken for nearly an hour, they are the only two Labour Members present in the House. There is no one on the Opposition Front Bench at all. I think I ought to make it quite clear that there was not a Member on the Front Bench opposite to listen to what the hon. Members have been saying.

I do not think that I can comment on the constitutional problems in Kenya at this time. The House knows quite well the Government's view, which is that it is a problem that must be thrashed out locally. I am glad to know that it is in action at the present time. There were some lengthy discussions in London.

Both hon. Members opposite raised the matter of the establishment of a United Kingdom military base in Kenya. The hon. Member for Wednesbury read out the latest Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, which I am afraid I had not seen. If my right hon. Friend, whose problem this is, says that he has nothing to say on the subject, I certainly have nothing to say about it at this time of night except to assure the House—and this is important—that no final decisions have yet been taken and that on questions of this sort my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies will be consulted before any decisions are reached.

Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Wednesbury

Mr. Stonehouse rose——

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

No, I am afraid that I cannot give way to the hon. Member.

The hon. Member who was just about to speak again complained that he had not enough chance of raising these matters with my right hon. Friend and myself. I should like him to know that, on average, the Colonial Office has about 1,000 Questions a year. We have now given the Opposition two days a week on which to ask their Questions, so that there will now be the opportunity to ask 2,000 Questions a year and, no doubt, the hon. Member for Wednesbury will take advantage of that fact.

I will certainly look into the questions raised about the problems in Central Africa. I want to say a word about the Central African franchise and the Constitution (Amendment)Bill which was mentioned by both hon. Members. The position is that if the African Affairs Board after what it has done report against this Bill to the Speaker of the Federal Assembly as a differentiating Measure, then it will become a matter for my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. Under the Constitution the Governor of the Federation has to send the Bill to my right hon. Friend, if passed, for signification of Her Majesty's pleasure. It would be wholly wrong for me, as the matter is sub judice—and I think the hon. Members opposite recognise this—to comment any further about the problem.

I will give a very short answer to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough—I hope that he will not think it a dusty answer—about the date of Nigerian independence. I would refer him to the reply which I gave last Thursday when I told him that this matter of independence was thoroughly discussed at the recent Nigeria Constitutional Conference. I want to argue against him that he was wholly wrong in saying that we had lost the confidence of the people of Nigeria. Had he been able to be at the conference he would have seen that the very reverse was the fact. It was a most successful conference, and these people went back to their country full of confidence in the Government and in my right hon. Friend.

The only difference of opinion was on the question of the final date. If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at the Report of the conference, Cmd. 207, if he has not already done so, and if he will read paragraphs 48 to 54, that will save me making a long response at this time of the morning. I am quite sure that any hon. Member who reads that will disagree profoundly with the conclusions reached by the hon. Member.

We ought not to be mesmerised by an actual date for independence. Twenty years from now, neither the Nigerians nor we will argue whether Independence Day should have been on 2nd April, 1960, or on some other date close to that. All that will matter is that the country will have been well prepared for independence when the day comes. With these remarks, I am sure that the House is well prepared to hear me end my speech.