Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Constitution)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th November 1957.

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Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn 12:00 am, 25th November 1957

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. If he looks in HANSARD tomorrow he will find that he quoted Sir John Moffat as saying that it is possible for a member of the African Affairs Board to give one ruling as a member of the Board and yet to vote in a different way in the House. Surely this is to ignore the fact that all four members of the African Affairs Board who voted on this differentiating Measure voted against its Third Reading on 31st July in the Federal Parliament. I refer to Mr. Chirwa, Mr. Yamba, the Rev. Andrew Doig, and Sir John Moffat. Therefore, it is intolerable to tell us that we are faced with a routine objection from the African Affairs Board.

It has been suggested that the African Affairs Board Report was drawn up before Amendments were made in the Franchise Bill which would have met a good deal of their objection. Let us make no mistake, the African Affairs Board's representations to us are made with deep feeling and 100 per cent. conviction. I have here a letter from the Rev. Andrew Doig, dated 12th November. He says: I consider that we have reached a crisis in the affairs of the Federation. If the British Government are prepared to pass this Constitution Amendment Bill in the face of almost complete opposition of the African Affairs Board, then they'll pass anything in the future. It has always been my view that the Conservative Government at least would never refuse the Federal Government anything, and their agreement to the Amendment will not only be the end of any faint confidence the Africans had in the African Affairs Board, but opens the door to complete control in the end of all three territories by the Federal Government with the certainty of a negligible voting power in the hands of Africans. That is the voice of liberal opinion in the Federation. That is the true European liberal voice, and not those of the Europeans who have voted down that desperate appeal by a European responsible for African interests and taking his duty very seriously—a European, incidentally, who is a missionary associated with the Church of Scotland Mission and who has been associated with a body which always wished federation well. This body has never been destructive; it is not a critical body, but it hoped that Federation would work and now believes that the way in which the Europeans are handling the question of the Africans' rôle in the Federation and the way in which the Government are backing them up is bound to lead to the confirmation of their worst fears. As we expected, the Under-Secretary has produced in support of the Government's actions the argument that the figures show that far from this being a Measure which is detrimental to the African interests, it will be, as one hon. Member called it, a Measure for the enfranchisement of Africans.

It was the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) who fascinated me with his account of the amity which reigned during his recent visit on a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation. He told us what liberal feelings they found there and how members of both sides of the House on that delegation were delighted to find this new spirit in Federation. I was rather interested to hear this eulogy, as I seem to remember that when my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) entered the most modest caveat on the question of the timing of the progress towards Dominion status, a neurotic howl of abuse from Sir Roy Welensky was flashed across the world to the effect that he had been abusing the hospitality of the Federation.