Orders of the Day — African Territories

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

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Photo of Mr John Stonehouse Mr John Stonehouse , Wednesbury 12:00 am, 31st July 1957

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.