I beg to move,
That this House is of opinion that, as it is the declared general policy of Her Majesty's Government to develop in its Colonial Territories the greatest practicable measure of self-government within the Commonwealth, it is desirable for Her Majesty's Government to evolve a positive policy for those smaller territories where difficulties might arise in regard to the achievement of complete independence within the Commonwealth.
I am very grateful that, through my luck in the Ballot, I am able to bring this not unimportant matter to the attention of the House.
The attitude of successive British Governments to the future of the Colonies in general is not enshrined in any Act of Parliament or any binding constitutional pronouncement. It is contained in the utterances of various Secretaries of State for the Colonies over the past twenty years.
Mr. Oliver Stanley, for example, said in 1943:
We are pledged to guide colonial people along the road to self-government within the framework of the British Empire.… It is no part of our policy to confer political advances which are unjustified by circumstances, or to grant self-government to those who are not yet trained in its use.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July. 1943; Vol. 391, cc. 38–9.]
Eight years later another Conservative Colonial Secretary, the then Mr. Oliver Lyttelton said that the Government were aiming at helping the Colonial Territories to attain self-government within the British Commonwealth. So much for Conservative Secretaries of State.
We have also the pronouncement of a Labour Colonial Secretary, namely, the
right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), who said in his annual report to Parliament in 1948:
The central purpose of British colonial policy is simple. It is to guide the Colonial Territories to responsible self-Government within the Commonwealth in conditions which ensure to the peoples concerned both a fair standard of living and freedom from oppression from any quarter".
All these pronouncements—the first and the last, at least—contain certain reservations, but I submit that these reservations are not clearly enough defined and no clear distinction is made between large and small territories and those that are viable and those that are non-viable. Consequently, no limit has been officially placed on the ambitions of any territory, however small and backward, to achieve complete independence within the Commonwealth in the course of time. Such a country has only to throw up a political party which receives the support of the bulk of the electorate for a nationalist policy for the question of independence to become a burning issue.
The difficulty is further aggravated by the recent introduction into the Colonies of Parliamentary democracy, very often imposed on a largely primitive and sometimes a tribal background. This provides an open field for ambitious politicians who can play on the emotions of an immature electorate and encourage aspirations quite divorced from reality.
Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to escape the conclusion that these politicians are actuated less by the desire to foster the well-being and prosperity of the people they claim to represent than by considerations of personal advantage and prestige. Self-government and independence are represented as a panacea for all ills and it is sometimes conveniently overlooked that independence connotes certain indispensable conditions. It connotes a progressive Government with its own civil service, recruited largely from its own nationals, and able to ensure not only an efficient administration of the territory, but also its technical development. It is necessary also for a national spirit to have been created between the different elements in the territory and there must be a reasonable prospect that on obtaining independence the country will be economically self-sufficient.
The conditions that are generally recognised as being necessary before independence is granted are economic self-efficiency and indigenous government of a reasonably high standard, sufficiently high to ensure protection for the rights of minorities. It could, perhaps, be alleged that in the past one or more of these conditions have been honoured in the breach, but it has to be recognised that once encouragement has been given to a Colony to express its views through the established machinery of democracy which we have conferred upon it, it is difficult to resist a majority view constitutionally expressed in favour of independence. It may, perhaps, be a disadvantage that the people have no opportunity of considering the alternative of a continuance of British rule in any measure or for any period. for the simple reason that that issue is never put squarely before them.
Great progress has been made since the war in the evolution of the British Empire to a Commonwealth of independent nations. Starting with the giants of India and Pakistan, complete independence has now been granted to nearly all the more populous and prosperous territories for which this Parliament was formerly responsible. With the transfer of power to the peoples of Nigeria in 1960, a further great stride will have been taken in this process. Admittedly, problems still remain in regard to large territories in Africa, where there are multi-racial considerations, but the ultimate destiny of the other major countries in Africa where this consideration does not exist, such as Uganda and Tanganyika, has been virtually settled.
The Motion does not deal with those countries which have either already attained independence, or which can reasonably aspire to independence in the near future. It concerns a large number of scattered territories which cannot hope— I say this advisedly— even in the long run, to assume the burden of full national sovereignty. They are the territories that are either too small in area or population or too poor in national resources, or a combination of all these reasons, to hold out any prospect of truly independent existence. They range from the Falkland Islands, with a population of 3,000, to Hong Kong, with a population of nearly 2½ million.
I do not intend to introduce into my speech any reference to the tiny communities such as those of Tristan de Cunha and Pitcairn Island, because it would be quite impossible to evolve any general scheme to cover communities with the populations of small villages. It also would be quite impossible within the scope of this introductory speech to dilate on the problem of each territory coming within this category. Neither would it be practicable, without unduly wearying the House, to enumerate all these territories. They number more than two dozen, they have a collective area of over 500,000 square miles and an aggregate population of more than 10 million.
To pinpoint the problem, however, perhaps I may mention a few of the more important territories, important either by virtue of their intrinsic value or by virtue of their political development and the aspirations that have thus been engendered. I deal, first, with Hong Kong, not that there is any immediate problem concerning this territory, but because it is the most populous of all, with nearly 2½ million people.
The Colony of Hong Kong is in a unique position in that, as far as I can gather, it seeks no political advance. It is quite content to remain under the aegis and control of the United Kingdom Crown and Government as a safeguard against the possible alternative which will be obvious to hon. Members. Although the consideration of being submerged by a greater Power is very apparent in the case of Hong Kong, it could apply to other of the territories coming in this category.
I mention Sierra Leone with diffidence. but it cannot be ignored because I regard it as the borderline case in the consideration of this matter. Sierra Leone is a country as big as Ireland, with a population of over 2 million, and yet it has a revenue of only £ 5 per head of the population. In my view, it would be quite wrong to assert that Sierra Leone could not achieve honourable independence within the Commonwealth in due course.
Having made a recent visit to that country with a Parliamentary delegation, however, I feel quite strongly that the people of Sierra Leone would do well to consider deferring the question of complete independence for a while until a planned policy of development can be carried out in conjunction with, and with the help of, the United Kingdom. There is already in Sierra Leone complete internal self-government, with an all-African Cabinet, and a period of consolidation would be to the advantage of all before the next and, perhaps, the final constitutional step is taken.
We find much smaller countries cherishing nationalist aspirations. For example, there is British Honduras, with an area of 9,000 square miles and a population of only 80,000. Here again, universal adult suffrage has been introduced into a largely primitive community and a large measure of self-government is enjoyed. The dominant political party, however, is clamouring for independence, although it is recognised outside the frontiers of the country that that could only be an absurdity in the context of the modern world.
British Guiana is another instance of political ambition outrunning economic and racial considerations. This is a country as large as Britian yet with a population of only half a million and largely dependent for its developments on loans and grants from this country. It has a mixed population of negroes, East Indian, American Indians and Europeans who have not yet been fused together as a nation. Independence, with all that it implies would be an unfortunate expedient, at least in the short term. Yet again, the dominant political party is pressing its claims for early independence within the Commonwealth, although a few years ago the constitution was suspended, as hon. Members will recall, because of the possibility of domination by this same political party.
A solution for both British Honduras and British Guiana could lie in their joining the Caribbean Federation, but we have not been given any indication as yet that that is likely to occur. I feel that a clear indication is necessary from Her Majesty's Government, a declaration stating clearly the limits of the status that can be achieved by these two countries as an alternative to such federation.
I have dealt briefly with only four territories which come within the scope of the Motion, but my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) will, I hope, second the Motion and, I have no doubt, give particulars of other small territories of which he has unique personal experience. I will content myself with mentioning briefly one or two others, and suggesting solutions for their future development. British Somaliland for example, might conceivably join up with Italian Somaliland to form a viable unit, and there are territories of Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo which might link up together and form what could be a viable unit. There is a possibility of other Colonies coming under the aegis of, or combining with, certain members of the Commonwealth, such as Australia and New Zealand.
But even if all these solutions were applied in the different cases, there would still remain certain Colonies, such as the Seychelles, the Solomon Islands and Gambia, to mention only a few, where no such arrangement can be foreseen, and it is, therefore, important that there should be a pronouncement from Her Majesty's Government, preferably on a bipartisan basis, in order to curb unreasonable hopes and ambitions in these smaller territories.
Much thought has been given to this question, and I gladly pay my tribute to Sir Hilary Blood for the little book which he has produced on the smaller territories, as I have depended on that booklet for some of the facts which I have given in my speech. The Labour Party has also produced a booklet called "The Smaller Territories," but I do not wish to comment on the solutions which it proposes, but would prefer to leave it to speakers on the other side of the House to elaborate the points advanced in that document, if they wish to do so.
I should like, however, to say a few words regarding another aspect of this problem. The word "viable" is frequently used in relation to these smaller territories, but I think it is a word that requires definition in its proper context. From my limited experience of the Colonial Territories, I think that many of those which would be regarded as non-viable from a Western point of view would be perfectly viable in the sense that, if we were to abandon them altogether, they would be able to sustain life without difficulty and carry on a Government of sorts. I have no doubt that they would revert very largely to their former primitive conditions without reasonable hope of progress in the near future. But if by "viable" is meant a progressive and dynamic economy and financial self-sufficiency, combined with efficient Government, which will ensure law and order and the protection of minorities, this should be clearly stated by Her Majesty's Government as a positive policy.
It has been said that there is virtually no limit to the smallness of a country in the matter of independence. Apart from the special communities such as Monaco, San Marino and Liechtenstein, the two small countries of Iceland with a population of only 160,000 and Luxembourg with 300,000 are often cited in this connection. The great distinction between these countries and those which we are discussing in this Motion is that both Iceland and Luxembourg are ancient communities with deep cultural roots and a strong national sense, developed over the centuries.
The small Colonies that we are considering in this Motion are for the most part either multi-racial or largely tribal communities, and in very few cases— indeed, Malta is the only one that springs readily to mind— is there any strong sense of nationhood. Apart from any other considerations, therefore, I consider it important that this country should hold the ring until that sense of nationhood is fully developed.
I have so far made no mention at all of the fortress Colonies, for their special problems cannot be dealt with in the compass of a short speech. The recent solution in regard to Cyprus suggests that we can grant independence to such a Colony while retaining those facilities which are essential for Commonwealth well-being and protection. I do not suggest that Cyprus is necessarily a precedent for other fortress territories.
The point I would urge here is that so long as strategic points are required for the defence and communications of the Commonwealth, these countries must be prepared to forgo their claims to complete independence. It would indeed be a great advantage if this fact were recognised by the Commonwealth as a whole, and if the control of these strategic points could be regarded as a Commonwealth responsibility rather than as solely a United Kingdom one.
The new constitution in Singapore might provide a clue to the future of certain other fortress territories, and, indeed, for some of the small Colonies which do not come within this category. As hon. Members know, in the new State of Singapore, complete internal self-government and complete independence within the Commonwealth has been achieved, with one exception, and that is that in matters of defence this country retains the ultimate control, and could— but only in an extreme case, which is most unlikely to arise— intervene in the general Commonwealth interest.
Could not the susceptibilities of the peoples of the smaller territories be satisfied by some arrangement on similar lines, adapted to the different circumstances of each case? Surely, it is the duty of the Government to curb unreasonable aspirations and to ensure that there is no transfer of power unless and until the interests of the people themselves and those of the Commonwealth as a whole are fully safeguarded. Equally, there is an obligation to offer an alternative to independence which will suit the circumstances of each case.
I make this plea. Let us dispose once and for all of the charge made in some quarters of the world that this country is hanging on to these Colonies from motives of self-interest. Let us pay tribute to the generations of colonial civil servants, missionaries, and— although I was one myself— traders, who have contributed so much to the development of these countries and the well-being of their inhabitants. Let us emphasise that any reluctance that we may show to relinquish control over certain of these Colonies is due to a desire to promote their wellbeing and to ensure that the development that we have initiated shall not be lightly sacrificed to ideological theories.
Above all, let us have a clear and definite policy in regard to these territories, evolved if possible on a bipartisan basis and after consideration with the territories concerned. If that can be done, we will be able to contemplate in future a Commonwealth of nations advancing in an atmosphere of progress and mutual respect to the advantage of all, a unique association of countries unhindered by jealousies and rivalries, and —who knows? — perhaps the forerunner of that harmony among the nations of the world which it is the desire of us all, irrespective of party, to foster.
I beg to second the Motion.
It will give me very much pleasure to support the very interesting Motion which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) has moved with such ability and in such an interesting way.
I do not think there can be much doubt that reasonable people today believe in the good faith of Britain in seeking and promoting the social, economic and political advancement of our dependent territories. Equally, I think it would be entirely unrealistic, in a world of the "cold war," the end of which it is difficult to see, where even great Powers are compelled for their safety and survival to think in terms of interdependence, for very small territories and communities, isolated, poor and weak, to imagine that they can be completely sovereign and independent. It would be quite wrong for the United Kingdom to walk out and leave those territories for which we are responsible either to fall back in their standards of living and administration or, perhaps, to become the victims of world power politics.
All hon. Members will have studied the problems deeply enough to realise that with the infinite variety of these scattered small territories it would not be wise to attempt to lay down in detail a blueprint for their final solution, politically or economically, because these things are constantly changing. Therefore, I think it necessary, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale has done, to look at some of the individual cases, and I should like to take first the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, a Colony situated in the central and western Pacific. This presents a good example of the sort of territories about which we are debating today.
This Colony comprises about 37 tiny coral atolls, with a land area of about 340 square miles. Some people— they would not be far wrong— would say that in general the land area almost doubles at low tide. One-third is made up of Christmas Island, which is virtually un- inhabited so far as the indigenous people are concerned, and is peopled temporarily by British Service men and land crab. These little islands are spread over an area of 2 million square miles of sea. They have a population of about 40,000, and they have an economy which I will not say "never"—because I understand that word is not politic in connection with the Colonies—but not within the foreseeable future—
But, nevertheless, it has been used by Socialists of considerable standing. There is no great objection to it. Their economy cannot maintain a high standard of living, and if hon. Members opposite think otherwise I shall be interested to hear their suggestions.
The only mineral is phosphate, obtained from Ocean Island, with a life of no more than thirty years and no possibility of developing even a prosperous agricultural economy. The islands do not rise more than 14 to 15 feet above sea level. They have no topsoil. They can grow coconuts and practically nothing else, though I cannot imagine why the self-respecting coconut should grow in such unfavourable circumstances. It is difficult to see a tourist industry of any magnitude growing up in such a remote corner.
I submit that such a scattered society can hardly attain strength enough to defend itself. These people now have a considerable amount of island self-government because they have a simple economy and a simple society, as must be expected. There is the minimum of interference from the British administrators, because for generations British administrators have realised that if these people, who at an earlier stage in their history were, I regret to say, grossly imposed on by individuals of various nations, are to have a pride in themselves and are to live and perhaps increase, they must be encouraged to take an interest in their own government and be associated so far as possible more and more with the development of their societies.
That does not mean that within the foreseeable future Great Britain should withdraw her protection, help and support. These people are very loyal to the Crown and the Commonwealth and I think that we should aim at encouraging a Commonwealth feeling as much as possible —a sense of belonging to a larger family. That is worth while. There are various ways in which that might be done. We have already got regional groups. There is the South Pacific Commission, at the moment technical and economic in its scope, which offers opportunities for representatives from these places to join with other people in studying their problems and difficulties and improving their development.
1 think, for example, that the value of the visit by Prince Philip to these islands cannot be overstressed. That sort of thing has an enormous value and importance in these kind of places in strengthening a feeling of Commonwealth. These islands might perhaps wish ultimately to attain a status on the lines of the Channel Islands, which are dependencies of the Crown. I do not think anyone who knows the people of the Channel Islands would feel that they have a sense of inferiority or that their status is in any way derogatory to people who are highly developed. I see no reason, therefore, why that should not be a perfectly good culmination to political development.
I think it would be unwise to attempt now to define the precise constitutional goal, or even a time-table, in an area where even in my time a visiting magistrate found a woman, who had committed no crime, in gaol in one of the islands. It was discovered that a friend of hers had committed a crime and had been sentenced to a few months of imprisonment by the local court, but that as it was inconvenient for the woman to serve her sentence at that time she had been able to persuade a friend to serve it for her. It may say quite a lot for the admirable prison conditions on the islands, but at that stage of development it is perhaps rather unrealistic to talk about political time-tables.
I should like to compare the situation in that Colony with the Bornean Territories, North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei. The first two are Colonies, and Brunei is a protected State with its own Sultan in treaty relationship with Great Britain. The total population of the three territories is only just over 1 million, and there is at present a great disparity in wealth. Owing to the fortunate find of oil in Brunei, the income per head of the population there is about £230 per annum, whereas in the other two it is in the region of £10 or £11 per annum.
Nobody would maintain at the moment that those territories could stand alone as independent and sovereign, although together, ultimately, they might well be able to do so. I hope that they will work together towards that goal, but I do not think it is one towards which they should try to hurry. Those who have some knowledge of the history of the great island of Borneo, and particularly of the ancient Sultanate of Brunei, will know that there are forces and feelings— perfectly natural — which time alone can overcome. It would be a great mistake to attempt to lay down now the ultimate form of constitution or a time-table for the precise development of these territories. Naturally, we should follow an orderly programme of education and political and economic development, and we should encourage democratic institutions. After all, that is the product of our genius; it is the thing we are best able to impart.
Where there is no need to hurry, it would be a great mistake to do so. After all, the process is essentially a long-term one. It is something which has taken us centuries to evolve, and many of these peoples are not hankering, I submit, after early self-government and independence. On the contrary, many are horrified at any suggestion that Great Britain's protection and help should be removed. It has seemed to me that many people, particularly since the war, have been blinded by the post-war rush for political emancipation and the rash of new constitutions. Ideally, most reasonable people would not deny, I think, that the process has gone too fast and that greater stability would have been produced if it had been more gradual.
I maintain that the timing of the granting of self-government to the small territories is essentially a United Kingdom responsibility, to be worked out between us and the peoples of these little places themselves. We should try to ensure that a stage is reached when the true wishes of the people can be ascertained without subjection to intimidation and undue influence. It seems to me that this postulates a certain level of education. Education is not a rapid process.
Many people in our country today sometimes wonder whether the struggle to create a new Commonwealth as a great factor for peace, stability and prosperity in the world is worth the cost and effort when already we are so greatly stretched. I believe most sincerely that it is. In thinking of these things, we should not forget that the peace of the world for nigh on one hundred years was preserved by the old British Empire. If together we can evolve something workable, something inspired, something really worth while to take its place, we shall yet bring great blessings to a very troubled world.
We have listened to two extremely able and thoughtful speeches, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) for introducing this subject. He has given us as a House the opportunity, a rare opportunity, for an exercise in bipartisan policy in regard to some of our colonial questions.
The subject has far greater importance than the House is apt to give it. We are conscious of the existence of these smaller territories only when some major issue arises, and then our thought is boggled because the simple solution is just not there. We have as a House just been considering the problem of the future of Malta. We have had the problem of Cyprus and the problem of Singapore. Other territories have burst on us, too, often when our main attention has been directed to the African or the West Indian territories or to some of the other major problems which arise in colonial administration and policy.
The subject is one which has puzzled hon. Members and Governments for some time. It is not generally known that, in the period when I was Secretary of State for the Colonies, we set up a special Commission to consider the future of these smaller territories within the Commonwealth. I regret that the report of that Commission has never been made public. Some essential work was done by it in trying to classify the territories and to look ahead for possible lines along which their political development might go. In recent years, there has been a number of pamphlets and statements of policy by the respective parties. Now, in the light of what has been said and done in respect of the smaller Colonies such as Malta and Cyprus in recent years, it is recognised that there is here a burning issue to which the public ought to give far more attention and about which we in Parliament ought to have far better defined ideas.
As has been pointed out, there is an infinite variety of territories and it is very difficult to evolve any clear definition capable of embracing them all or to suggest any uniformity of treatment for their development and the solution of their problems. This simply cannot be done. Many of the territories, of course, are the result of incidents in our colonial history, a legacy with which we now have to deal. Some of them are the deliberate creation of the people of this country. Singapore and Hong Kong, in co-operation with local peoples, have been deliberately created for commercial and trading purposes. We have also fulfilled, as was said earlier, a useful mission, in policing the seas, in the establishment of coaling stations and in doing overseas sonic of the essential work of the world.
We are now faced with the problem of the decay, if one likes to call it that, of colonialism. What will happen to some of the territories which no longer serve an imperial purpose? The legacy is such that these territories cannot any longer be described as our possessions. Once, in our history books, we tended to treat them as our possessions, but they are living communities with problems of their own with the same urge for freedom and self government which is experienced everywhere else, and with the same human desires for self-development, a standard of good social living and a sound economic foundation in their local affairs. We are, therefore, faced with the problem of what is to happen in their future development. What degree of co-operation can we give to these human societies so that they may ultimately flourish in the life of the free world?
Each one of the smaller territories has its own problems which tend to baffle human ingenuity when a solution to them is sought. Fiji has been mentioned, Here, two races live side by side, quite apart from the Europeans who have gone there. There is an extremely difficult constitutional problem because of our pledges and obligations to the Fijians, because of the tribal structure of their life, and because of our obligations to the Indians who were brought into the territory for our own commercial purposes.
We are also faced with the problem of the future of Hong Kong. What line should we take when the lease of Kowloon falls in and a decision has to be taken on the future constitution? Are we to surrender the leased territories? What arrangement will it be possible to make with China and the United Nations about the future constitutional development of that territory?
Zanzibar is another Arab territory into which are coming increasing numbers of people from the mainland of Africa, thus altering its general population basis. Here again constitutional problems will face us because of our long-established treaty arrangements with Zanzibar and parts of the East Coast.
Other problems, such as those which we have experienced in Cyprus, arise. In 1947–48, on behalf of the Labour Government, I had the privilege of offering a constitution of a liberal character to the people of Cyprus, who themselves had not exercised self-government for quite a long time. The ultimate purpose of the constitution was to lead to self-government, we hoped, inside the Commonwealth, yet certain elements in the community rejected a very liberal offer largely because of their desire for union with a foreign State. That kind of psychological problem existed in that territory just as today we have the greatest difficulty in coming to an understanding with the Maltese about the future of their island. Do not let us imagine that an easy formula can be devised which can be applied willy-nilly to the smaller territories under our control.
There are other territories which one might mention. The problem of the strategic and fortress territories is also very real. What is to be the future of Gibraltar? We are conscious of the intense loyalty of the people of Gibraltar, but at the same time there is an increasing demand by the Spanish Government for the incorporation of that territory with Spain. Perhaps we are beginning to realise that the strategic utility of Gibraltar is a diminishing factor. While one must respect, first and foremost, the loyalties of the people of Gibraltar, it may be possible, through the United Nations, to arrive at guarantees and arrangements to safeguard the future of the fortress or strategic territories.
Although the difficulties are very real when one comes to enumerate the problems of the smaller territories, there must be certain guiding principles for their future development. I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) that we must consider the individual needs and problems of each territory. There can be no set timetable for constitutional development. The matter must be worked out in consultation with the people concerned and we must give the utmost encouragement to them to come to grips with their own problems and local responsibilities. In attempting to enumerate principles, we must acknowledge the human rights involved and the basic desire of freedom by peoples everywhere. It is incumbent upon us to do all in our power to lay the foundations of economic and social advance so that any realisation of self-government may be genuine and democratic.
I agree with hon. Members about the vital importance of a new emphasis on colonial policy for the small territories in social and economic development. It is no good our talking in terms of self-government unless there exists a standard of education and social living which can be sustained by economic development to the fullest degree. It becomes imperative, therefore, that, while we realise and stress the importance of responsible self-government, we should ensure that our efforts are directed towards laying the foundations of a sound economy in these territories and also make possible the facilities for education, social advance and good healthy living so that democracy, when it arrives, can be properly sustained.
Perhaps we could use the machinery of the United Nations a little more freely than we are inclined to do and give it far greater support. As people move towards self-government, even if they are loyal to their connection with Britain, there is always the desire that the help which flows to them should come not so much from an imperial Power as from an international organisation. Assistance is more welcome from an international body than from an imperial Power. I emphasise that we have responsibilities in respect of financial aid and practical assistance to help these territories forward to a realisation of their own freedom.
I also agree that it would be folly for us not to emphasise that in no circumstances could there be transfer to the control of another imperial Power, another country or a new affiliation without due and proper care and preparation. I think that that is of great importance. There must be proper preparation for any possible change in status or for the transfer of a people.
What are the courses open to us? I do not want to discuss the possibility of integration, which we have discussed at length in the House in respect of Malta. The House also agreed in the past to the integration of Newfoundland in Canada as a Province of that great independent Dominion. Integration is a possible course for certain of the territories to take, and it may be that before long we shall have to consider the problem of integration in respect of other of the smaller territories.
I emphasise again that we must have the utmost respect for the loyalties of the people concerned but, if I may give an example, although I know that the people of Gambia are as loyal as the people in any other part of the Commonwealth, it is difficult to visualise a constitutional arrangement for Gambia except possibly in association with the French territories. It is just possible that it could be arranged for Gambia to be associated with Sierra Leone and some of the West African British territories, but the experience of Pakistan shows that that is rather a clumsy arrangement. In any case, apart from the question of the loyalty of the people, we ought not to have too great a regard for the rather artificial and arbitrary frontiers which were drawn in days gone by in the imperial scramble. These problems need to be looked at with great circumspection.
I will not pursue the question of integration further, but I should like to point out another line which in my judgment has not been adequately explored— the line which I call that of closer association. We could create in certain regions the kind of structure which we have created in East Africa, with a High Commission representing equally the separate peoples of the territories comprising that High Commission. There is example already operating in the relations of Fiji with New Zealand. We know the practical help in the development of its education and of its health services which Fiji derives from New Zealand.
Again, one might have closer association as the solution in the South Pacific islands. I am glad that the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East drew our attention to a Commission of which we have almost completely lost sight in the House—the South Pacific Commission, representative of a group of nations which have responsibility for a number of islands in the South Pacific. A conference is held periodically to discuss the problems of the people involved and to see how important economic problems can be tackled. Arising from such an association there could be a closer degree of co-operation between the Powers responsible for these territories, which could lead to a degree of social and economic development which could not possibly arise in the individual territories. In the Caribbean there is a close association of Powers apart from the West Indies British Federation. These forms of grouping can be of great importance and value to the territories concerned.
I will not enter into the question of federation, although I am an unrepentant critic of Central African Federation. I still believe that the case of Central Africa could have been dealt with on the basis of closer association rather than of federation. Be that as it may, it is undoubtedly the case that before long we may have to look afresh at the problem in South-East Asia, the relation of Singapore to Malaya or the problem of Singapore in relation not only to Malaya but also to North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei. Some such grouping may solve the problem of the strength and necessary authority in the world which may not be possible within the limitation of existing conditions. Another possibility is where some territories will elect to lean on the imperial Power for defence and foreign policy and to carry on the utmost local government, being in a position not unlike that of the Channel Islands.
May I conclude by making a number of practical suggestions which might be put into operation before very long. First, while we observe the guiding principles which I have mentioned and recognise the fundamental right to freedom and human rights in respect of these territories, solutions have been offered in this Parliament, and have been rejected from time to time, for the advancement and better progress of these territories. A suggestion was made that there should be a Parliamentary Committee which should sit constantly to look at the problems of the Colonies. Governors and the Secretary of State could give information to it in order that Parliament could be made more aware of the needs of these territories. The Committee on Procedure which reported recently has rejected the creation of such a body, although 1 thought that the argument was well put in a letter from one of my hon. Friends in The Times a few days afterwards. Apparently it is the view of the House, however, that the creation of some such body is not practical politics.
It has been suggested that we might set up a council of representatives of all these smaller territories. Having carefully chosen which territories should be represented on the council and the basis of that representation, we could then expect them to advise the home Government on many of their problems, bring into review their own special needs and define from time to time the lines along which they hope that development might proceed. I think it has been generally agreed that the creation of such a council would not be particularly practicable, hut if it is not practicable I would urge that there should be periodic conferences with representatives of the smaller territories.
1 had the experience of calling an African conference which, I felt, was a considerable success, largely because people were made conscious of the common problems of a great Continent, and of the problems facing the British Government themselves in relation to that Continent's needs and development. The representatives rubbed shoulder to shoulder with one another and began to understand that the problems of East Africa were not necessarily the problems of West Africa although there were problems in common. Quite apart from the value of its social contribution, the advantages to the persons participating in the conference were, in my judgment, considerable.
Therefore, I should like to see a calling together from time to time of representatives of the smaller territories so that they may meet one another, meet Parliament, meet Ministers in their own seats of authority, and discuss with us and make us very much wiser about the problems which they themselves are up against.
Finally, there is the necessity, I think, of far closer contact with those territories by Members of Parliament as well as by Ministers. I think that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is developing along the sort of fruitful lines required, but the contacts which it enables to be made are, unfortunately, because of the restrictions of the Treasury, nowhere nearly sufficient and they are far too infrequent. I think that all Members are agreed on the tonic effect to a territory of meeting a group of Members and discussing the local problems with them, and likewise the value to us when members of the legislatures of the territories overseas come over here to talk with us about their problems.
I remember how staggered I was when I was Secretary of State and found, when I was in Barotseland, that I was the first Minister ever to have visited that important Central African territory. We ought to keep our Ministers much more on the move. Important as their work is in London, important as their work is in Parliament, I think it is necessary that as far as possible Ministers should be encouraged to visit the territories overseas so that they may see their problems on the spot and know the content of the problems.
Though for years and years I had read statistics and almost every report which had been issued by Government Departments respecting the overseas territories, and although on paper I knew the problems, my own experience was that it was not until I went to a territory and saw the problems on the spot that I knew the inner content of the statistics and knew what they really meant; knew, for instance, what leprosy really meant, the range and extent of it, knew of the diseases in plants and the destruction which could be caused by pests. It was not until then that I could really visualise the nature of the problems which the administrators in a territory were up against, and the help which ought to be forthcoming from the Government in London.
Therefore, I would suggest that with these smaller territories, many of which are off the beaten track and are seldom visited, there ought to be closer contacts —both ways; a two-way traffic. I endorse the spirit of the Motion and I hope that it commends itself to the House.
It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones). When he was Secretary of State for the Colonies in the Labour Administration and when in opposition he has always endeavoured to tackle these problems in a non-partisan way and to bring about a bipartisan policy which we should all like to see for the solution of the problems of colonial development. I have followed what he has said with the greatest possible interest. I agree with a great many of his suggestions.
I shall have something further to say about a permanent committee on the Colonial Territories and also a council of representatives, but I agree wholeheartedly with what the right hon. Gentleman says about the two-way traffic between representatives of the Colonial Territories and this honourable House. The more we can meet one another the better. With him, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) upon introducing this Motion.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Hong Kong and Zanzibar and other territories, but I do not think he mentioned Mauritius, which may ultimately be federated in an East African Federation. Not long ago it was undiscovered. The French found it. It has now a great Hindu community. How is that to be somehow linked into the comity of nations?
I agree with him that all these different territories, Hong Kong, Zanzibar, Mauritius, are all different and have to be treated differently, but with my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale I should like to know what sort of overall plan there might have to be within which there could be differentiated arrangements.
The fortress territories alter. What was a fortress two hundred years ago is a fortress no longer. I understand that the Chiefs of Staff feel that Freetown may no longer be as important in any future conflict as it was in the last two wars, but my own feeling is that a major natural port is always of great value to a community; and the community of the Commonwealth is an oceanic one and we have to look after these staging points, be they airfields or ports, which bring our worldwide Commonwealth together. It is absolutely essential that they should be protected, but protected, I would suggest, under the aegis of the Commonwealth rather than by the United Nations, which the right hon. Gentleman suggested, though I would have no objection to a Commonwealth guarantee rather than a United Kingdom guarantee being registered with the United Nations. One has only to think of the importance today of, say, the Maldive Islands, of Gan, to realise what a small island can mean as a link between, say, Australia and this country.
Yet in so many of those territories poverty is rife, and it is up to the islanders to wonder whether they would rather have self-government and possibly continuing poverty or whether they should continue in association with this country and accept the help of the British taxpayer. We should all have liked to have seen that help much greater in the past than it has been, but it is no good saying we can support territories all over the world both inside the Commonwealth and outside. We are limited in the amount of help which we can give, and it seems to me that we must help those who wish to remain with us rather than those who wish to go outside.
I should like to comment on the position of Sierra Leone, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale has referred. There, many developments are held up because nobody quite knows what is going to happen. One would like to have seen the many millions of pounds needed for the development of Tonkalili pouring out now so that the economy of Sierra Leone in the years to come could be supported by that new production. But is private enterprise going to do that if it is not sure what is to be the form of government and whether the country will be inside the Commonwealth or outside the Commonwealth and what sort of organisation there is to be, or whether that territory is to be linked with next door Guinea?
Personally, I should like to see in the next few years an offer made to every territory in the Commonwealth still under our colonial control, giving it the option either to have self-government and to leave the Commonwealth if it wishes, or of being associated within the club and thereby eligible to receive help.
I think that the business community in this country would welcome that, because at least they would know how to plan. Undoubtedly, many developments are held up in Sierra Leone through lack of knowledge about the future. The same applies to the southern part of the British Cameroons. I hope that later this year the Southern Cameroons will be given the choice of either going in with the French Cameroons or remaining with Nigeria, or not making up their minds for five years and saying that they would in the meantime like to continue to receive help from the British Government, which is the choice that I would prefer to see them make. Those prepared to put capital in a territory of that kind would at least know where they stood for a certain number of years and that would be of benefit to the community.
Equally, I should like to see the British Government give some form of help to private enterprise by means of an insurance, such as the United States gives to companies which invest overseas. including insurance against nationalisation or discriminatory taxation. If we could evolve something of that kind the development of some of these territories could go ahead in quite a big way.
We are, however, concerned today more with the political side. Supposing that Sierra Leone obtained independence in the early 1960s, which many would like to see. Can one equate the power of Sierra Leone with some of the older Dominions, and its leader Sir Milton Margai with Mr. Menzies. Suppose that Archbishop Makarios asked to bring Cyprus into the Commonwealth and was accepted. Could we equate his position with that of Mr. Diefenbaker?
In a Prime Ministers' conference, how can we bring in more and more Prime Ministers of independent States if those independent States get smaller and smaller and less and less important? We know that the bigger a committee the less effective frequently it is, and if one has too big a committee the bigger people tend to leave. I am frightened that if we give the full independence that the white Dominions have had, and which Nigeria is obtaining next year, and extend it more and more, the real punch of the Commonwealth may lose a great deal of its vigour.
This brings me to what has been said today about the State of Singapore. If one could possibly give that kind of constitution and freedom to more territories, it would be beneficial to them and to the Commonwealth as a whole. No one knows how small a territory has to be not to be accepted at the United Nations. Monaco and Andorra, for example, are not accepted as really independent States in the eyes of the United Nations. I suspect that the same sort of thought must be applied to the Commonwealth. In this connection, one sentence in the booklet by Sir Hilary Blood which has already been mentioned today, is worth noting:
Quite apart from any strategic considerations of defence or politics, the flame of liberty can burn just as fiercely in a small lamp.
It seems to me that this is one of the problems we must face. How are the smaller territories to voice their views?
I should like to deal, first, with the administration, or the link between this country and them and then consider how they can voice their views in public. First, as to administration, there has been for long a feeling, not only outside this country but in the territories concerned, of dislike for the word "Colony". Though I think that our colonial administration has given a wonderful example to the world, and our friends in the United States are getting more and more to understand what we have done as a country in many under-developed territories, the word is not popular. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, Southeast (Mr. Peel) has suggested some form of constitution like that of the Channel Islands, but I do not think that those at St. Helier would like to be governed by the Colonial Office.
We must find some other name. There is much to be said for some oceanic grouping under an all-embracing Commonwealth Relations Office. If we had that, territories like Sierra Leone would come in only when Atlantic matters were being discussed, Mauritius when Indian Ocean matters were being discussed, and Hong Kong when Pacific matters were being discussed. This is a subject to which my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), whom I am sorry is not here today, has given much attention. I should like to see three Ministers of State under an overall Secretary of State for the Commonwealth, or even under a Chancellor of the Commonwealth.
Perhaps my hon. Friend is under some misapprehension on the question of the status of the Channel Islands. I was not suggesting that that would be an interim stage under the Colonial Office. Far be it from me to suggest that. It was as a possible ultimate solution that I meant it, not as a temporary one.
I think that my hon. Friend would agree that they would have to be administered, at least externally, by some Department in this country. They would not be able to stand on their own feet and run their own diplomacy or many of the services which the mother country could provide. Therefore, a Minister in this House would have to be ultimately responsible for their problems.
But how would the people themselves, as distinct from their Government, be able to voice their views? I very much doubt whether what in the old days would have been called an Imperial Council would really work. It would be very expensive. I am also not at all sure that a permanent Standing Committee of the House is the real answer. I have never been one who really welcomed full integration with Malta in this Chamber, because we know what was the effect of admittedly a much larger number of Irish Members of Parliament in the past on United Kingdom deliberations and on our own British interests. Personally, I should have preferred to see the Lords of Malta in another place, and many a colonial life peer being able to use the other place to voice what he had to say on behalf of his territory. Anyhow, I put that forward as a possible development.
I do not believe that we can develop small territories unless we look after the people who have developed them in the past. I am thinking particularly of Sierra Leone and the pensioners of that Government. I happen to know of some of their widows who are on National Assistance. I would, therefore, make a plea to the Under-Secretary of State that he would look into this matter. I wonder whether his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would listen to what the West African pensioners have to say about their plight.
All these little countries are in need of technicians. Administrators are technicians in their way. Unless we have treated the older technicians and their widows well, those who are prepared to go out and do the job now may be somewhat loath to go. I hope that the matter will be looked into, because this is a small body of people without influence, and they would be deeply grateful.
This is largely a bipartisan debate, but before I begin to make my contribution I should like to take up two points made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney). I understood him to say that he would say to some Colonies, "Stay in and we will help you. Go out, and we will not help you". I do not think that that is altogether a good principle. It is the principle which General de Gaulle applied to Guinea.
I have a certain amount of agreement with that remark, but not with the broad scope which the hon. Gentleman gave it.
The second of his remarks to which I would draw attention is that smaller countries might not be acceptable in the Commonwealth. It is true that Monaco and San Marino, as small countries, are not accepted into the United Nations, but often small countries are, and I believe small countries should be accepted into the Commonwealth as they become independent, regardless of size.
This is a fascinating subject and we are grateful to the hon. Member for Liverpool. Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) for introducing it. Goodness knows, it is seldom enough that the outlying parts of the Commonwealth are discussed. Some hon. Members have been there and know a great deal about them, but for all that, except at Question Time, the names of these territories are practically unheard in this House. I got my first interest in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth by collecting postage stamps at school. I probably learned more in that way about geography than I did in my lessons. I have also been fortunate in having an opportunity to pay visits to some of the more outlying parts of the Commonwealth while at the Colonial Office.
The hon. Member for Kirkdale explained that this Motion dealt with the smaller Colonial Territories, but I think the real paint is viability rather than size. I would refer for a moment to Bechuanaland, though I know that it is not a Colonial Territory because it comes under the Commonwealth Relations Office. It is, however, a territory for which we are responsible. Bechuanaland is large and unviable, whereas Hong Kong is small but viable. We are concerned mainly with viability. Most of these countries are poor and have a bad climate. As a result of their poverty they have few social services and little education. They are at a serious disadvantage compared with larger and richer territories.
Hon. Members have spoken of the neglect from which Colonies are likely to suffer because they are outlying and unnoticed. Perhaps "neglect" is too strong a word. I mean the lack of discussion that takes place about them in Parliament and the lack of visits by Ministers and hon. Members. I was the first Minister to visit two territories in the Pacific Ocean and it is unfortunate that there are still areas which are never visited by any Minister at all and seldom by any Member of Parliament. They would welcome such visits.
I had occasion three days ago to meet the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in another place, by which I do not mean what we officially call "the other place". As he was coining out, I was going in to see a very entertaining film which some hon. Members may have seen, called "Carlton-Browne of the F.0." It is an absolutely ridiculous film and is quite plainly not a correct picture of the Foreign, or of the Colonial, Office, but there is just that very small modicum of truth in it that makes it appeal to many people. Naturally, there are very good Governors and administrators in outlying territories and may be they are some of our best, but on the whole the best men tend, as they go up the scale, to go to the big territories with the most influence, where, to put it at its highest, they can best express their own love for helping people with greater effect.
Therefore, some of the smaller territories tend not to get the best administrators. There are very fine administrators indeed in the Colonial Office. I remember when I came back from the Pacific Islands which I have already mentioned the question arose of sending out a new Governor to one of those islands. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. Griffiths) will probably remember this. We discussed the matter, and I said, "One thing absolutely essential is that this Governor must be a good sailor because he has to visit numerous islands by sea." The man suggested for the post turned out to be liable to sea-sickness and was consequently not appointed. That is one limiting factor in appointing Governors in outlying territories.
Not only are these territories poor, but they do not get as much attention as other places because of the immense distances involved. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) refer to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, because I had the privilege of stopping for some 20 minutes at 5 o'clock in the morning at one of those islands. I could hardly call that a tour of the islands.
I intended it to be a much bigger tour, but I was prevented. I had said to the officer at the Colonial Office who was responsible for the area that I would like to visit Ocean Island. which is the biggest and most populated of them, and also Christmas Island. He answered, "Naturally, and if you wish to do so you shall, but I hope you realise that 2,000 miles separate these islands from each other." There were no aeroplanes available so I did not get to the islands. I mention that just to show what difficulties there are. One thing I recall about the Gilbert and Ellice Islands is that they have the best co-operative system anywhere outside this country. It is extraordinary that, owing to the excellent administrators they have had, they should have built up such a system in an outlying and scattered district.
We are living in an era which is distinguished from the past by the fact that aeroplanes can now visit many of these areas, linking them up closely with each other, and eliminating to a large extent the problem of distance. There is a very interesting illustration with Malta. Only a very few years ago that place was so distant from the United Kingdom that it could not have contemplated union and partnership with the United Kingdom. It was not possible to think of such a thing thirty or forty years ago. It may be that some further outlying areas might come in on the same principle that Malta very nearly did.
The second thing is the very strong drive for independence, referred to by a number of hon. Members, in even the smallest territories. We must recognise that. I do not think it is right that all these small territories should suddenly be thrown on their own just because they have a sudden urge for independence. It has to be done with a certain amount of timing and a great deal of care. But we have to recognise their desire for independence and we must not withhold from them that independence for any selfish reasons of our own — not, for instance, because they ate territories necessary to us for strategic purposes.
We have to see that they can carry out their own administration and have enough wealth and help to be able to do so. In the meantime, what are we going to do? I think it is very important that we see to their development very much better than we have seen to it in the past. I think that I can speak for both sides of the House on this. Both sides have neglected them to a greater or lesser extent.
Because of the third point which I would mention, in what I would call the new era, it should be easier for us to help them today because there are fewer colonies today than there were before. Today, Ghana and Malta have gone and Nigeria is going. There is much less for the Colonial Office to do than there was before. There are a number of very fine administrators in the Colonial Office, people with first-class brains, and those brains could be devoted to a much greater extent to the smaller territories than they have been in the past.
There is also a great deal more money to spare now. I say that for this reason. We on this side of the House have said that we consider that I per cent. of the national income should be devoted to under-developed territories. Speaking entirely for myself, I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East that, while I would not say, "Stay in and we will help you; get out and we will not", I would say that the people for whom we are actually responsible should have a primary call on those resources.
I would certainly think of the needs of Sierra Leone before the needs of Thailand, great though the needs of Thailand may be. As there are fewer territories for which we are financially responsible, I think that there should be a great deal more money to go round to help the smaller territories than there was in the past.
What do these various smaller territories want? Hon. Members have talked about democracy but, having seen that admirable play "Teahouse of the August Moon ", I am not so certain that all the smaller islands want democracy. In that play the people wanted a teahouse rather than democracy and they got it by selling whisky— a rather unexpected method. I think that we have to see that these small territories have, by and large, what they want, and they want a great deal more economic help than they have had in the past.
There is an enormous amount to be done for them. For instance, the remote Solomon Islands, in the Pacific, have a very rudimentary system of education. There has been very little proper survey of their geological resources, and very little economic development altogether. With economic development, there is no doubt that they could be very much more prosperous than they are today. They need this help.
I believe that the task we have now in this new era is an inspiring one. In the past we have missed many opportunities. I think that we missed many opportunities in India. We gave a great deal of valuable help to India, which I think Mr. Nehru would himself recognise, in setting up a constitution and a judicial system, but many people would agree that there was a great deal more that we could have done to help India in the economic sphere than we did.
Today, we have the smaller territories for which we are responsible. Cannot we do in these smaller territories what we might have done in India and in some of the larger Colonies that are now free? Cannot we give them economic help so that by the time they obtain their independence they are really wealthy and that wealth is spread among all the people and not just collected in the hands of a few? If we can do that and seize this opportunity, I think that we shall have done a great task in helping these fascinating but very neglected territories.
I wholeheartedly subscribe to the sentiments which have been expressed throughout this debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) on moving this Motion. He has done great service in giving us the opportunity of discussing these most important matters even on a private Members' Friday. It has been delightful to find oneself so wholeheartedly in agreement with things that have been said on both sides of the House. If I may say so with great diffidence and great respect, I thought that at one time the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) got almost carried away by his enthusiasm and I want to take him up on just one point.
When he was referring to the great urge for freedom, he spoke of the ache for freedom and self-government among these under-developed territories in general. I am convinced— and I may say that I base my conviction on considerable practical experience of this matter— that constitutions are meaningless to the great majority of the population in these under-developed territories. They are guided more by instinct than by reason. I would say that their instinct demands not self-government so much as good government. When I say that I am quoting almost the words which I have heard used not so long ago by a leading Burman, in a Burmese setting, amongst Burmese people, who most strongly criticised his colleagues when they referred to the ache for self-government. That senior Burman expressed very forcibly that the opposite view was held only by a small minority of the politically minded. I believe that to be true. Unfortunately, that very small minority is a very important minority if only because they are so vocal and have such influence on the great majority.
Is it not a fact that, although there are small numbers—some few thousands perhaps —who are the leaders in the sense in which the hon. Member uses the term, they nevertheless speak for the masses behind them; they know their own people, speak their language, and speak on behalf of their people?
They may believe that they are speaking for their people, but I am quoting countries where the view is not accepted that they are speaking in the interests of the great majority of the people. This is a point on which we must agree to differ, but I ask that my point of view shall be given close consideration.
As hon. Members have said, in the very small territories there is great variety in the education, social, political and, very important, economic conditions. There can be no single solution which may be applied to all these territories, nor is there even a single pattern. We must be guided more by principles. We must try to find principles which will satisfy the people of those countries in the long term, and it is upon the long term that we must focus in discussing these matters.
As has been said, it is vitally important that we should be able to approach the matter in a bipartisan spirit. I am delighted to think that I am the only speaker in the debate so far who has been subject to interruption from the other side of the House. I welcome that interruption, because I hope that it means that the words I spoke have gone home.
It is right that we should discuss these principles from time to time. It may be impracticable and also unwise to try to go too far. I am not certain about the words of the Motion to the effect that we should have a more positive policy for the small nations. I am not sure that we can go further than the general policy of which we are reminded in the terms of the Motion, with which my hon. Friend dealt in some detail.
In the past no one has been a firmer believer than I have in the instrument of Parliamentary democracy for helping forward these territories. Twenty years ago I would have supported it unhesitatingly, and I still fully agree with the principle of it; but let hon. Members look at what has happened in many of the Parliamentary democracies in the last few years. Pakistan has been handed over to a military governor-general. Burma is at present in the hands of a military commander-in-chief. There is also the situation in Sudan. Also, nobody can say that Parliamentary democracy is functioning in Ghana today, with only one side being able to take part in it.
I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. I still subscribe to the principles of Parliamentary democracy, but I am quoting these territories to show that what is happening in them must surely be a warning to us to move with caution and not to force the pace of Parliamentary democracy faster than those countries are ready to take it. I agree 100 per cent. with the objective, but we must not force the pace, and I believe that all hon. Members will agree with me on that. To do more than that is to be carried away by our enthusiasm. If we exaggerate the effectiveness of the instrument, then I feel we are working against the true interests of the masses in those countries, the people whom we are in the long run seeking to help.
In all these countries, whatever their individual circumstances, we must go for- ward to the maximum degree of self-government that is appropriate to them, and that must include, to the extent that is appropriate, financial control. In many of these territories the economic situation requires very close attention, and we may accept that in many cases it will require some form of subsidy from this country. To the extent that it can be done, let us give that subsidy in the form of a block grant— the principle of the block grant was recently adopted by Parliament in respect of our local government— with a view to giving the maximum responsibility to the people of those territories. The point may be a small one, but I think it is a good one to the extent that it can be applied.
If Parliamentary democracy is to flourish, education must, clearly, take a foremost place. I do not overlook that, but that subject has been covered by previous speakers.
I fully agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) about the use of the expression "Colonies." Because the word "Colonial" has become unpopular, I should welcome it if we could get away from it and instead of the Colonial Office have a Commonwealth Office dealing with the larger members of the Commonwealth and also the Colonies. I should be glad if we could dispense with the term "Colonies" for these territories. Perhaps we could call them "protected territories." One would like to call them "protected States" to achieve the psychological effect of giving them a slightly higher status, but there is difficulty about that because the term "protected State" is already applied to Brunei and some other territories. However, I hope that in course of time we shall find some means of getting away from the term "Colonial " which is almost a stigma in reference to any of the territories in the Commonwealth.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield in his desire for a closer liaison of some form or other. The idea of having a Committee of this House that would sit from time to time was an interesting one. Suggestions have been made for something larger, something in the way of a consultative council, but I think the hon. Member for Wavertree was right when he said that one could not see members of these small territories being represented at a main Commonwealth Conference. If it was possible, I would like to see it done. From the psychological point of view it would be of great help to the small territories, but on balance I am inclined to think that would be a difficult proposition. It would, of course, need the agreement of the other Members of the Commonwealth.
A point which has not been mentioned is the great value of the flood of trainees coming to this country at the present time. Over the last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking to an audience which included people from Sarawak and Brunei. These trainees are undergoing a course of local government. Such courses serve a most admirable purpose as they give these people some knowledge of our country and also the benefit of our great experience in local government. I think that there are about 40,000 overseas visitors in this country at the present time, and the more we can develop the liaison which I would like to see the better it will be for everybody.
Anything we can do to make these territories, right down to the smallest territories, feel that they are members of the Commonwealth family will be all to the good.
I remember that when a certain Speaker was about to assume the august responsibility of his office he pleaded for greater cut and thrust in debate. Had he been here today perhaps he would have been disappointed at the absence of cut and thrust in the discussion so far, except perhaps for the incident in which the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper) was involved.
Such a state of affairs is all to the good, because we are seeing a remarkable development. We have reached the stage where, on such issues as these, on which at one time the House would have been almost gulfs apart, both sides are drawn together in a bipartisan atmosphere. No longer do we hear it said, "What we have we hold." Not for a long time have I heard an hon. Member speak as one hon. Member did way back in 1930, when he spoke glibly of having an imperial State. Hon. Members this morning are approaching this matter in a very different atmosphere from that of years ago. There has been a convergence from both sides and a new agreement as to how to deal with what we once called Colonies and those odds and ends left over after we have liquidated imperialism.
However reprehensible and provocative that term might once have been, we are now engaging in liquidating imperialism. Having decided what to do with vast colonial areas like Malaya, the West Indies and Nigeria, we have now to decide what to do with a number of colonial odds and ends. This is being done in a very different atmosphere and with very different criteria from that which prevailed a number of years ago.
We are considering this matter not merely from our own standpoint, but from that of the people in those areas. I notice a great change in the atmosphere of the House, in that two Members opposite have spoken for the dissolution of the term colonial, or its non-usage in the future. This is one more symptom of the changes that have taken place.
I would like to touch on one point raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell), to whom I also pay my tribute of gratitude. It is true that in many of these areas masses of people are not interested in democracy. They desire good government rather than democracy. That is true, but that was also true of this country. It was also true of India. Certainly, many millions of Indians were not interested in the theory of democracy. Though they joined in the general demand for freedom and independence, social and economic factors were linked with that demand. We owe a tremendous debt to the minority of these people for becoming the pioneering voice at a time of paralysed democracy. They are the representatives of what will one day happen, as happened in this country.
When Mr. Kier Hardie stumped tie country years ago with ideas which are now accepted by nearly half this House, many looked on him as an agitator and said that if there were not people like him our people would settle down to whatever Government prevailed. Similarly, many of the people overseas would not bother about advancing towards democracy, but there are individuals who rise and stir and agitate the placid waters. Although some people regard such events with abhorrence, or at least with a certain amount of dismay, we should welcome it.
These agitators are the pioneers of a greater sense of political responsibility which many people do not want to accept, but which they should accept if they are to fulfil their lives and mature. That being so, I do not agree with the deprecation by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale of those who are frequently termed mere agitators. Let us have agitators, even if in the early stages of their agitation they are wild in their statements, inaccurate in their information, and guided by emotional impulses. Behind it all they are driven by a sense of great service.
I emphasise this because we want to avoid mere patronage of the peoples in these small colonial areas. In other words, we want to get them to express their own point of view. If they lack a point of view and do not have the political consciousness which exists in this country and in our Commonwealth partners, we should welcome every attempt to develop such a point of view among these peoples.
Another fact upon which there is general agreement is that it is foolish automatically to assume that the problems of all these smaller territories can be solved in one way. We must take each one on its merits. Yet another point of agreement is that we now recognise that although we desire as many as possible of the smaller territories to remain within the Commonwealth there are certain cases in which it may be in the best interests of the peoples concerned not to be within it.
Mention has been made of Cyprus, which will soon no longer be within the Commonwealth. Under the pressure of circumstances, which has led to a general enlightenment, we have been forced to admit that the best solution for the problem of Cyprus, which grew to tragedy in the last two or three years, is the one which is now operating. The same is true of Somaliland. It was admitted this morning, at least tacitly, that possibly the best thing for British Somaliland next year would be to unite with the former Italian Somaliland so that all the Somalis could have one State, instead of being divided, as at present, in three parts. We are no longer telling our fellow human beings in British Somaliland, "You can do what you like, but you must remain inside the Commonwealth." On the contrary, we are saying, "It may be the best thing for you, in your own interests, no longer to remain in the Commonwealth-You should form one State with an ethnic people similar to yours who are not under the British flag."
The same consideration applies in the case of the Cameroons, which one hon. Member has suggested might opt to leave the Commonwealth. Then there are Gambia and Sierra Leone. To anyone looking at the map it seems strange that along the west coast of Africa there should be, first, the vast area that we call Nigeria — it did not exist before we gave that name to it— and then, further along and separated from it, the Gold Coast, and then, separated from the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, and yet further again a separate little strip called Gambia. Objectively speaking, those four areas should not be allowed to remain in their present position. There are intervening territories. The peoples overlap from the Colonial Territories into others outside the Commonwealth.
Many tribal people there are bewildered by this situation. They do not understand why an imaginary line should separate their section of a common sub-race from another section on the other side of the line. They should come together, and we must recognise that in some cases it would be in the best interests of these people, who are separated because of the advance of Imperialism or because of fortuitous circumstances, to be brought together. Although we desire that they should remain inside the Commonwealth if possible, we should make it clear to them that if it is in their best interests to link up with other peoples outside the Commonwealth they should do so.
Because we are now approaching this matter no longer from the standpoint of what is good for Britain and the Empire but of what is good for the people in these territories, and because we recognise that different solutions must be applied in different circumstances, we must further recognise that United Nations must be brought into the matter to act as a trustee wherever the peoples in different territories are merged together. I equally endorse the plea made this morning that the Commonwealth as a whole should be brought in to act as trustee for areas remaining inside the Commonwealth.
In certain areas it is possible to obtain the opinion of the people. One example is the Aden Protectorate. We have been speaking about the smaller territories, and I have been wondering whether those who referred to them were speaking in terms of the number of people or in terms of area. Aden is certainly not a small territory in area, although it is in terms of population. I venture to suggest that it should be included in the general category that we are considering. It illustrates one of the peculiarities of the problem which we are discussing, and to which we hope to find a solution. We have the Colony of Aden and the Protectorate behind it. The two territories are in different positions; one is a Protectorate and the other a Colony. One is under our direct control and the other under our indirect control.
It would be best to tell the people in the Protectorate, "You cannot go on for ever in this way. The Yemen is pressing for the absorption of what they call South Yemen. Here is this great hinterland, and its people desire access to this valuable port. Something must now be done in the light of new circumstances." Although I welcome the development that is now taking place, economically and politically, in the Aden Protectorate, I believe that we should realise that the time has arrived when the opinions of the people themselves should be sought. They should be asked whether they wish to continue along the lines that we are opening out for them, or whether they wish ultimately to join up with the Yemen in the north.
We must seek continually to consult the people themselves. I know that this is sometimes very difficult. I know that the emirs and sheiks in the Aden Protectorate represent the people, and that to suggest a kind of plebiscite among about 800,000 inhabitants of that area may seem ludicrous. It is equally true that for political reasons the area may prefer to remain attached to Britain in some way or other, rather than to the Yemen. I recognise all these factors; they are qualifying factors, which we must take into consideration. But I repeat that it is as well for us to make it clear that if at any time their peoples indicate quite clearly and overwhelmingly that they no longer desire to be within the British orbit, even as a Protectorate, but desire to unite with some other State—perhaps with the existing Yemen—they should be permitted to do so.
Having said that, I reiterate what I and others have said earlier, namely, that I welcome this debate because it is a sign that we are no longer considering even the remnants of past imperialism according to our own interests but instead are increasingly taking note of what is best for the peoples themselves. However we solve this difficult problem, it is at least an encouragement to us all to know that hon. Members today are prepared to consider this question in the interests of the peoples of the territories themselves rather than the people of this country.
Like every other Member who has spoken this morning, I sincerely congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) for having chosen this important and imaginative subject for our debate today. It is a good thing that private Members should from time to time have the opportunity to express their views on what I might call policy in the making, instead of being confined, as they usually are, to commenting favourably or unfavourably upon the ideas of others— the ideas of the executive or the Civil Service, as expressed by the Minister in charge of the Department concerned.
There can be few issues so difficult and so challenging, and yet so worth while, as the future status of the smaller Colonial Territories. Out of nearly 650 million citizens of the Commonwealth, only about 30 million remain who are not by now self-governing in one form or another. That, in itself, is a remarkable tribute to the imperial genius of Britain and to the work of successive Secretaries of State of all parties.
Despite this, there is still a good deal of so-called anti-colonial propaganda in the world today. We hear it in Russia and in the Middle East. We hear it, though less often nowadays, I am glad to say, in the United States of America. We hear it from time to time in the United Nations. We even hear it sometimes from hon. Members on the opposite benches who ought to know better.
No, I do not think so. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) misinterprets what some of my hon. Friends have said. Hon. Members on these benches— I hope hon. Members opposite, too— have no reason to be ashamed of the work we are doing in the Commonwealth.
I was afraid that I might provoke the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). Nevertheless, even he and I, as we have found sometimes in these debates in past years, are often in fundamental agreement on most of these issues.
The United Kingdom has made an immense contribution to the Commonwealth and to the whole world in the way in which it has handled these difficult matters. Indeed, if we have made mistakes, we have sometimes made them in granting self-government too soon. We may have made that mistake in Ghana. After all, it took us hundreds of years in this country to learn the art of governing ourselves. It is a flower which should not be forced. It needs care and cultivation.
It is time which we need, and time which the smaller territories need, to achieve what they want to achieve, and the frightening thing is that it is time that we lack. These things cannot he evolved, as I think that they ought to be, in a calm, unhurried backwater of creative and constructive thought. Instead, they are discussed and decided and rushed forward in the roaring, ranting rapids of nationalism. That is the real danger. No hon. Member in the House of Commons disagrees on the objectives which we are trying to achieve, but some of us think that the old adage of "more haste, less speed" still has validity in this context.
It is because we all agree on the objectives that I agree so very much with what the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) said a little earlier about the great importance of a bipartisan approach. To us, disagreement and controversy are in the nature of things. They are in the ordinary run of party politics. They are all part of the game. But the repercussions of our debates and controversies can be very grave indeed in the Colonies concerned. It is not fair to them to give their problems a highly political content in the House of Commons.
I agree very much, too, with the right hon. Member for Wakefield about the need for more Members, and indeed more Ministers, to go out to visit the Colonies. Lt is no use reading about them. One has to see the conditions and talk to the leading people and indeed to the ordinary people. I know that in my own case before I went to the West Indies I had only a theoretical interest, but having been there— and I think this applies to all hon. Members who go to the Colonial Territories— I came back with an intense and active interest in everything that goes on there. I have tried to keep in touch with developments, as we all try to do once we have been to these Colonies and taken an interest in them.
I think, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the parsimony of the Treasury in not making more money available to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for this sort of purpose is absolutely disgraceful I hope that the Lords Commissioner, my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Hughes-Young) sitting on the Front Bench, with his rather tenuous connection with the Treasury, will pass on these strictures from both sides of the House, because I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will fully agree about the desirability of more money being available for this sort of purpose.
How can one define these smaller territories that we are discussing? One cannot apply a rigid formula. As has been said from both sides of the House, each one has to be looked at on its own merits. A territory which is economically non-viable, politically immature, educationally unable to supply its own civil servants, and small in population and resources is clearly not ready, and perhaps never will be ready, for sovereign status within the Commonwealth.
I should like to pay a tribute shared by all hon. Members to the distinguished contribution in this field over many years of the right hon. Member for Wakefield. The right hon. Member once said that our duty was to guide our Colonial Territories to self-government within the Commonwealth, in conditions which ensured to their peoples a fair standard of living and freedom from oppression from any quarter.
That was a very fair statement, but I think that we all agree that not every Colonial Territory can hope for sovereign status in the future. Some will have to remain dependent for economic or for geographical reasons. Perhaps some will have to remain dependent for strategic reasons. They can all aspire to self-government, but they cannot, in the nature of things, all aspire to sovereign status.
I think—several hon. Members have expressed the same view today—that in suitable cases federation is an avenue of advance which we ought to encourage wherever it is geographically possible. Colonies which can never be sovereign individually can often achieve it collectively. The West Indies are a very good example. We could say that Jamaica might perhaps be sovereign in its own right. It is a borderline case. Certainly, the other Caribbean Colonies could never be sovereign individually. The only hope for the Caribbean is federation, and it is a very good hope, provided that Jamaica does not secede from the Federation. The Federation is unpopular among certain people in Jamaica at present. In the short term, one can understand Jamaica's point of view. In the long term, I am sure that Jamaica would be wrong to leave the Federation and I hope and pray that responsible counsels will prevail in Jamaica and that she will not allow this great federation venture to fail.
We must play our part to ensure its success. We must help in any way we can to build up the concept of federation in the West Indies, and also the Federal Parliament and Government. If we could for a little while give a little more money to the Federation it would help enormously. It is difficult for the Federal Parliament to gain the authority and respect it should have in the West Indies if it has as little money, and, therefore, as little power, as it has today. Looking a few years further ahead, we must all acknowledge that it will have to raise its own money by taxing its own units. One of the great disadvantages of independence is that one has to do that. The West Indies will have to pay its own way or it will never become the sovereign dominion that we want it to become.
But, for the moment, we should do anything that we can to help to save the West Indies from the short-sighted. and I believe almost suicidal, policies being expressed at present by some people in Jamaica. It would be a great help to the Federation if British Guiana could join it, and I believe that it would be a great help to British Guiana, too. Certainly, wherever distances are not too great and conditions are not too different. federation provides a hopeful, and in many cases the right, answer for the smaller territories.
Integration, which has been mentioned today, is another possible, although I think less attractive, solution. Unlike my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary and most other hon. Members, I was never greatly attracted to the proposals for the integration in respect of Malta. Generally speaking, I do not think that we shall make very much progress along the lines of integration. It works quite well in Northern Ireland, but that is rather a special case with a special historical background.
For some of the smaller territories we must face the fact that internal self-government is not just a stage on the journey; it is as far as the journey can go. If that is what we think, we should say so, because I think it is no use raising vain hopes and then causing disappointment. I do not think that the problems of the fortress Colonies are necessarily in that category. What is a fortress in one decade or generation is not necessarily a fortress in the next. Cyprus is an example of that.
The question of the future of Cyprus is itself a most interesting one. What status ought to be enjoyed by a State such as Cyprus, which, for geographical and economical reasons should be only self-governing, but which for political reasons has been made sovereign? Cyprus may wish to stay in the Commonwealth or to leave the Commonwealth. I do not know; but I imagine that she would like to continue to enjoy Commonwealth preferences and perhaps Commonwealth citizenship. If she does not want to stay in the Commonwealth, should we try to provide some form of external association with the Commonwealth which would suit her and might perhaps be on the lines of our rather curious relationship with Eire? Or is that making it all too easy? Is it making Commonwealth citizenship a little too easy to obtain?
If it can be done and if it should be done, can such a form of association be extended to other territories which may wish to be linked with the Commonwealth but not part of it? What about Somalia and British Somaliland, which have been mentioned several times this morning? Will they join together and, if so, will they both stay in the Commonwealth or will they remain outside it but perhaps be associated with it.
There are other and much wider questions. Ought Parliamentary Government to be an objective or a pre-requisite within the Commonwealth? I would hope the latter, but what about Pakistan? Even to ask the questions, let alone try to find the answers, emphasises the infinite complexity of the Commonwealth at this stage of its development. We must be flexible and pragmatic in our approach, as I think we are being. Already in fact, although not in name, it is almost a four-tier Commonwealth.
We have the old White Commonwealth owing allegiance to the Crown, the new Asian Republican Commonwealth, and the emergent Commonwealth of smaller States which are gaining or will gain independence within the Commonwealth. Some of these smaller States, by the very nature of things, cannot, I imagine be represented at the Prime Ministers' Commonwealth Conference, and perhaps some form of regionalisation for them might be the answer. Finally, we have been discussing this morning the smaller Colonial Territories which will attain self-government but which may never attain sovereign independence within the Commonwealth.
All are different and we cannot be rigid in the solutions which we seek to devise for them, but I am glad that this morning we have at any rate had the opportunity to think aloud about these things and to discuss them, because they are vital to us, to the people for whom we are responsible and to the future development of the Commonwealth; and I believe they are of very great importance to the whole world.
I join with right hon. and hon. Gentleman who have spoken in the debate in congratulating the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) on having tabled this Motion. I believe that he has rendered a service both to the House and to the smaller Colonies by initiating this debate, in which there has been so much agreement on both sides of the House.
I want at once to associate myself with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) and others who have paid tribute to the quality of those who have served us in these smaller Colonial Territories. It is not the easiest task which we offer to these people when we send them to the poorer parts of the Commonwealth and ask them to give their lives in service to the people who live there. I believe that we have every cause to be proud and grateful for the dedicated service which is being given in so many lonely outposts at present. I, too, salute this great Commonwealth to which we belong, and I believe that it has become the greater since colonialism began to disintegrate and since we realised that within the Commonwealth all people must be counted as equal. If we are a family, equal rights must belong to everyone who is a member of that family.
It was recently my privilege, with the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams), to go on a Commonwealth Parliamentary delegation to Kenya and the Seychelles. The hon. Member for Kirkdale referred to the Seychelles as one of the territories which he had in mind. It is certainly one of our smaller Colonies and is remote from the homeland. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South and I were the first Parliamentary delegation to visit this Colony in its 150 years of British rule, and we found that there was a tremendous loyalty for this island and its people.
The Seychelles consist of 92 islands scattered over the Indian Ocean. Nearly 1,000 miles separates some of the islands from Mahe, which is the main island where the bulk of the population is centred. Although 40,000 people are scattered over the 92 islands, 30,000 are concentrated on the main island of Mahe and the bulk of them are gathered around the capital, Victoria.
It is hard to describe either the beauty of the islands or the poverty of the people. There is a contrast which is striking. The islands are not without their very wealthy people, some of whom, after paying tax, have incomes of £30,000 to £40,000 a Year. In the main the income is derived from coconut growing and the copra industry. The industry links this little Colony with India, although by no means did I find any desire on the part of the people to be federated with a country upon which they are dependent now for the it market in copra.
The Seychelles have been very useful to us for strategic purposes in two world wars. The people, who speak a patois French, Creole, are very mindful that they have played a conspicuous part in serving in two world wars in various parts of Africa. I met ex-Service men at the Tobruk club, and almost all of them complained to me of unemployment and looked to this House and to this country to do something for their immediate lot. The wage rates paid in the Seychelles cannot be compared with those in this country. The Government are the best payers, and they pay as wages 63s. a month. The House will understand at once that if the Government, who are setting an example to the plantation owners in the Seychelles, pay only 63s. a month, the standard of life for these people is indeed low.
Education is a field in which the Seychellois are now trying themselves to make great efforts. They are being helped by the Administration, but when I look at the future of these little islands I ask myself what is their political future and what is their economic future. It has already been said here today that there is no single pattern for dealing with the smaller Colonies. That I believe to be true. I look at the question of the integration of the Seychelles. The Seychellois claim with pride to be Europeans. They are not Africans. They are 1,000 miles from Africa. They are riot Indians. They are 1,700 miles from India. They are 1,000 miles from Mauritius. Above all, they are a proud people who claim their links with Europe, although there is the blood of many races to be found amongst them.
Integration, to my mind, offers no future to the Seychelles. They could not be integrated with East Africa, because the problems are entirely different, and it is far better that they should remain in their present relationship with this House rather than be linked with East Africa. As for Mauritius, with which in other days there was an association, I believe that there has ceased to be a possibility for either federation or grouping in view of the different racial and religious interests of the people in these respective islands.
It would appear to me that the Seychelles will have to stand on their own, but they are not islands without possibilities for raising the standard of life of the people who live there. First of all, I think there is a bounden duty upon the Colonial Office to help the Seychellois to move more freely from their homeland either towards India or towards Africa. At present, the financial inhibitions of travel mean that hungry, helpless and unemployed people have to stay in the Seychelles, because they cannot get away. To my mind, this is a very grievous cause of unrest. Unrest is a strong word, except that I can tell the House that when I met the people, who crowded round me at every opportunity, they were begging that I should use my influence here in this House to try to get some more stable employment in this small Colony of ours.
What, then, is open to us? Can we group these islands for tourist purposes, or use the Royal Navy as a source of employment for these people, who are very good sailors, who are very adaptable people, and who, above all, are intensely loyal to these islands? I think that, at least as a first step —apart from the economic circumstances to which I have just referred—politically, I believe that we ought to look at the Legislative Council as it is established. If it is impossible to grant complete independence for these islands—and I met no request for it, and although I moved among many people nobody asked me to press for it in this House—they are very conscious of wanting more democratic powers. I should have thought that it was possible to grant, or to aim towards, a majority in the Legislative Council of elected representatives.
When we have a Legislative Council the majority of the members of which are nominees of the Governor, inevitably we have one man rule. We ought to aim at having an elected majority in the Legislative Council to advise the Governor, people who would be much freer and more independent in giving the advice upon which the administration of the islands would depend. I would suggest that ultimately we ought to be able to say to the Seychelles that the Executive Council shall consist of people who are chosen from the Legislative Council, all of whom would then be elected people, and then, at least, we should have a Cabinet of advisers to run the islands who are themselves representative of the people who live there. Under the present system, the rich and the powerful and those who have the ear of those in great office are bound to have greater privileges than the humble poor, who stand little chance of being elected to the Legislative Council.
I hope that the Colonial Office will not overlook these words of mine about the Seychelles. I also want to say that, as we were the first Parliamentary delegation to be permitted or to be invited to the Seychelles in these 150 years of British rule, I hope the House will keep in close touch with the people of these islands. The former Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office, who is now Minister of State at the Foreign Office, paid a brief visit to the Seychelles in the autumn of last year. It was a visit profoundly appreciated, because it showed the interest of this House in these islands. The Duke of Edinburgh visited the islands in one of his tours two years ago, and made, as one would expect, a tremendous impression, which also served to show the interest of this island country in that far-flung Colony.
I must leave with the House the overriding impression which I had of the need of the working people there; people who are mature, who are courteous and who are anxious to work. My impression of their poverty and their hunger lives with me! It is a challenge to the House, and I trust that, whatever we do about their political future, we shall take urgent action to see that their standard of life is raised.
I am quite sure that every hon. Member in this House, on both sides. would like to express his appreciation to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) for the speech which he has just made. It had imaginative colour, it had reason. it had deep human feeling, and it was a contribution which shows how worth while it is for my hon. Friend to have visited the territory in recent weeks.
May I remark that it is thirty years since I first entered the House of Commons, although I had a period in the wilderness during that time. The biggest impression I have had of the change in the House is the number of Members of Parliament now who are interested in colonial issues and who have visited the Colonial Territories. I think that the speech which we have heard from my hon. Friend proves how important it is that Members of this House should have the opportunity of visiting these overseas territories.
While I pay that tribute to the hon. Member, I want to confess that I have been a little disappointed as I have listened to the debate today. I have been disappointed because most of it has been academic. It has been a matter of political theory and political philosophy, of long distance aims and how much we all agree with each other. The hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) presented to the House a Motion against which none of us can vote, and he and the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion appealed for a bipartisan policy uniting both sides of the House on the grounds of this Motion.
But the difference on colonial issues between the two sides of the House is not about the ultimate objectives. All hon. Members say, "We want to achieve self-government and independence, and if we can have it within the Commonwealth, well and good." The real difference between hon. Members on the other side of the House and hon. Members on this side is, first, in the tempo of our advance towards that self-government and independence, and, secondly, in the day-to-day application of ultimate principles to the practical issues which arise.
I am always delighted to follow the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), and often I find myself in agreement with him. I agree with him when he discusses the West Indies. But when we discuss Suez, Cyprus, Malta, Northern Rhodesia, Kenya, Nyasaland—the real living issues of this time—all the democratic theories of the hon. Gentlemen opposite about the distant view absolutely fail against the challenge of immediate events. That is the real difference between hon. Members on this side of the House and hon. Members opposite.
I wish to illustrate my argument with concrete instances relating to three small countries. First, Malta. I welcomed the suggestion that Malta should become an integrated part of Britain and of this House. I think that people in small territories have the right of self-determination, but if any people in any territory in the world willingly desire to become part of Britain and to be represented in this Parliament, it is a thing which we should all welcome. I have been profoundly disappointed by the course of events which has made that solution of the Maltese problem difficult. What is the present situation? The Constitution in Malta is absolutely suspended. There is no elected assembly whatsoever. There are no democratic rights in Malta. On Thursday of last week the Government of hon. Members opposite, who claim to agree with us about our ultimate objectives, introduced a system of government in Malta which is an absolute repudiation and denial of democratic principles.
Let us look at the new Government in Malta. There is no elected Parliament but an Executive Council, which is to consist of 11 members. There will, of course, be the Governor; there will be three ex-officio members— the Lieutenant-Governor, the Legal Secretary and Financial Secretary— and seven members nominated by the Government. Of those seven members three are to be official. They must speak only with the voice of the Governor and the Government. In that Executive Council of 11 there are to be only four unofficial members. And who are they? The two large parties in Malta, the Labour Party and the Opposition Party, the only two parties with any elected representative at all, declined to participate in this farcical council. Who has the Government had to nominate as the representatives of the Maltese people? Under the Order in Council, the minimum number was to be four, and there was a desire to select more than four. As The Times has said, there would have been more nominated members if more of the "right people" had agreed to form part.
Yes. Because the Government could not get a single representative of the common people of Malta to serve on their dictatorial council, they have had to rely on the "top people". Who are they? The four representatives of the people of Malta which the Government have nominated to serve on their Council are the former President of the Chamber of Commerce and the President of the Federation of Maltese Industries—two big businessmen—a college professor and a colonel. These are the representatives of the Maltese people. What in the world is the use of hon. Members opposite talking about their belief in democracy and in the movement of the smaller countries towards independence when they treat the actual objective fact of the situation in Malta like that? No wonder the daily organ of the Labour Party in Malta headed its front page last Thursday,
First day since the award of the medal of slavery to Malta by the British Government.
At the end of the last war this Parliament and the Government presented the George Cross to the people of Malta for their bravery. Now the popular paper of the Labour Party and of the people of Malta heads its issue of last Thursday with a reference to a medal of slavery.
One other extraordinary thing is that this Executive Council is actually to conduct its proceedings in private. Here is a body supposed to be representative of the people of Malta and it is to sit in secret. What kind of democracy is this which is being established in the island? I say to the Government that if they wish to convince hon. Members on this side of the House that their words about self-government and the end of colonialism and about independence are not hypocrisy, they must proceed in Malta, as in other territories, with the establishment of democracy. They must restore free elections in Malta; they must establish immediate and full internal self-government for its people. That self-government must include control of the police. They must be ready within a period of years to recognise Malta as a member of the Commonwealth.
I make no apology for being challenging and provocative, because I believe that these, not our theories and long-distance ideas, are the real issues of our time. I take as a second example of our policy in the smaller Colonies and Protectorates events in the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean. It is a beautiful group of coral islands, 240 miles south of Ceylon. The people are wretchedly poor, with only one doctor for the whole population of 80,000. During the last war, one of the greatest tragedies on the whole earth occurred there. Because their rice from Burma was cut off, 10,000 men, women and children out of the islands population of 80,000 died of starvation. I do not want our minds to turn back too much, but in view of the fact that the Royal Air Force sought refuge there from Singapore and Colombo was only two hours' flight away, I feel that it is deplorable that food was not flown to the people.
There has now arisen a conflict between the British and the Maldivian Governments. Heads of Agreement were initialled by the High Commissioner in Ceylon on behalf of the British Government and by the Prime Minister of the Maldivian Government, but that was during a pocket revolution in the Maldives, under a Government which lasted only nine months. The Government now in office have asked that, before work proceeds on the installation of the R.A.F. base on the islands, negotiations should continue and detailed conclusions should be established. I ask today that those negotiations should be reopened in that way. There should he associated with them the Governments of India and Ceylon, both of which have great interest in the. Maldive Islands, and which could, I think, contribute considerably towards a solution.
I had intended to deal with this matter in greater detail, but I want other hon. Members to have an opportunity of speaking. I turn, therefore, to the third example, namely, Fiji, another small Colony. The story there was calm and peaceful until recently. Now, an explosive situation is developing, with heavy unemployment and heavy taxation.
When I put a Question to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 20th November, he replied that unemployment was being
eased due to a large public works building programme." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1959; Vol. 595, c. 185–6.]
but The Times of 2nd April reported the dismissal of 500 men by the Fiji Public Works Department. A decision is being taken this month on whether there is to be a strike.
Taxation is appallingly heavy upon the common people. The annual levy of £ 1 made on every Fijian working in a town is now to be increased to £ 3. Many workers cannot possibly afford to pay. It comes on top of their income tax, their fees for their children at school, and the provincial tax of between £3 and £6 a year. As in the case of the Seychelles, there is no democratic majority in the Legislative Council. In the Council of 31, 16 members are official and 9 are nominated. Thus, 80 per cent. of the total membership is nominated. If we really mean what we say about democracy in the smaller Colonies, we should begin to establish it Fiji. We ought to be seeking a Common roll which would include the Indian. the Fijian and European peoples.
Broadly speaking, there are 33 small Colonial Territories, if we regard as small territories those with a population of under 2½ million. They vary tremendously from the 130 people of the Pitcairn Islands to the 2¼ million of Sierra Leone. However small a territory may be, there is no reason why it should not have self-government and self-determination. Even in the Pitcairn Islands with their handful of people, the descendants of the mutineers of the "Bounty," there is democracy. There is an elected council. The women there had the power to vote even before they had it in Western Europe. However small a territory may be, the people could have the right to democratic self-government and could have the right of self-determination.
I admit at once that there must be economic interdependence. But that is true of large nations as well as small. Except for Russia and the United States of America, there are probably no nations in the world which are not economically interdependent. We need a Commonwealth fund. We need a world fund through the United Nations.
In the proposals for smaller territories which have been produced by the Labour Party, we have stated a solution to these problems. First, there should be the opportunity for association or federation with other territories. Secondly, the Commonwealth should be brought in so that in Australasia, for example, there would be an opportunity for the islands in the Pacific to associate with New Zealand or Australia. Thirdly, there should be the possibility, if it is desired, of integration with Britain. Fourthly, the new proposal is made that Dominion status without membership of the Commonwealth might be given to certain small territories, with control of foreign policy and defence left with Britain or conceded to one of the Commonwealth countries. To these, I add the hope that there should be a movement towards a guarantee by the United Nations of small territories which do not wish to become associated with the Commonwealth or with any particular group of territories on the earth.
In the last resort, this is a matter of power politics. Is there any reason why any people, small though their land may be, small in numbers though they be, should not be happy in the world today without all the conflicting pressures of the great Powers against them? If we move towards a world which is truly cooperative, even the peoples of the smallest territories will be able to enjoy the fullness of human life without the kind of dangers which are present in the world today.
I intend to fallow the example of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and cut short my speech in deference to my colleagues beside me whom I may call on this occasion the hon. Members for Sierra Leone and the Windward Islands. I commend the initiative of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell). I see that in his Motion he calls for a bipartisan policy. At the moment, we are having an almost one-party debate, and it seems a pity that following the initiative of the hon. Gentleman, there should he so few of his colleagues present to support him. I welcome what he has done and think that the debate will he most valuable.
My hon. Friend speaks about the reluctance of other hon. Members opposite to speak. I hope that he will bear in mind that, following this debate, there is a motion about a far graver problem concerning the carnage on the roads which affects the natives of this island.
I accept what my hon. Friend says, but that does not invalidate my point. There are hon. Members on this side of the House only who wish to speak.
The debate has shown one thing only, namely, that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which has sent people overseas in the last year, has been of benefit to the Colonies. These people have come back and given us an enormous amount of first-hand information. I hope that more Colonies will follow the example of Kenya, whose Minister of Finance, Mr. E. A. Vasey, began the business of inviting Members of this House to make visits to that Colonial Territory. I hope that other colonial Governments will follow his example in trying to find the necessary money, which is actually a matter of two air fares, to send out Members of this House. Perhaps Colonies like Sierra Leone and Tanganyika will follow this example.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale, spoke about neglected Colonies. Many Members have said that they have been the first Members of this House to visit certain parts of the Commonwealth. If we are on a Cook's tour, there are many other places besides Fiji and the Seychelles which have waited many years for a visit from a Member of this House to see their way of life. The Somalis, who are in a most difficult political position at the moment, waited seventy-two years for a visit from a Member of this House. Hargeisa is only 1½ hours journey from Aden. Whenever Ministers of the Crown visit parts of the Commonwealth, one of the most important things which they should do is to visit, if for only a day, adjacent territories, particularly the smaller ones which we have been discussing today. It is much appreciated.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) said that we should define our ideas towards the smaller Colonial Territories. We were told earlier about the conditions for independence. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale spoke about standards of local administration and local nationalism and he said that the Colonies should move towards some means of becoming self-supporting. Is this absolutely necessary? Indeed, is it possible? I have recently spent a few weeks in East Africa and I was at an open air meeting in Zanzibar with Abeid Kavume the leader of the Afro-Shirazi Party, which won all the seats at the last election in July, 1957.
When leaders like Mr. Kavume speak at open air meetings they do not talk in terms of waiting for economic self-sufficiency. They are not talking in terms of waiting until they have Africanised the administration, nor of waiting until they have so-called nationalism behind them. They think that the time for these things, if not now, is very near. Thousands of people in Africa, including the women, echo this feeling. Some hon. Members opposite should not underestimate the women of Africa. This is an emotional matter and the women are entering the field and backing up the men in the demand for independence, local self-government, freedom, or whatever name one cares to give it. The fixing of a target date for these things is not simple. It is a most complex business.
I should now like to say a few words about Zanzibar. There is not here, as in some other places, the desire to "get the white man off the back of the African". There are certain territories in which the European official is being asked to stay in order to safeguard the interests of the African people. We on this side of the House say that the European official, and particularly the Colonial Office, should stay not only in places like Nyasaland and Rhodesia to safeguard the African masses against the "white settler" element, but also in places like Zanzibar. There it is a matter of safeguarding the Africans who are now winning the elected seats in the Legislative Council and who will become the Ministers in a few years' time, against the older established Arab administration, who make up the P.C.s, D.C.s, the information department, the police and the Civil Service. It is most important that we should not merely stay in a Colony like Nyasaland to safeguard the African, but we should have safeguards in other older established societies in East Africa.
The second point which I wish to touch upon concerns the matter mentioned by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale, namely, whether a dependency is economically viable. The Somalis can be viable at a standard much below, shall we say, Kenya because they live a hard life. Their assets consist of millions of sheep, camels and goats. They have a little gypsum, but beyond that literally nothing, unless the American Sinclair Oil Company can discover oil near Wal Wal, where the Italians invaded before the last war. We were told by the hon. Members on the benches opposite that the Colonial Territories could become viable, perhaps, at a lower level if they were " abandoned by Her Majesty's Government." Yet we were also told by hon. Members opposite that we must, even while saying these things, "curb the unreasonable aspirations of these emotional people".
The position is quite simple. As the Somalis, Zanzibaris, Gambians and many others have a low standard of living, our duty, indeed our privilege, is to invest money in these territories in order to lift up these people to a much higher social level. This can be done mainly through education. 1 say to the Minister that there is a very important caveat here. Zanzibar at the moment is spending £ 285,000 a year upon its educational system, and for example there are only 12 per cent. of the boys and 4 per cent. of the girls at school in Pemba. The Minister of Education in Zanzibar estimates that he needs £ 485,000 and not £ 285,000. He has told me that he will need £ 685,000 in the near future to carry out what he wishes to do.
The wealth of an island like Zanzibar is packed in one large warehouse in which there are 15,000 tons of cloves which is double the amount which the island normally carries over from harvest to harvest. Zanzibar is being hit by competition from Madagascar and a falling away in demand for scent for tobacco in Indonesia. This is an island almost of monoculture. Cloves make up 82 per cent. of its exports. After taking into account less than 10 per cent. for copra, what is left—chillies, a few limes, a little cocoa and seashells.
What is the future for Zanzibar, this non-viable island, when one speaks of independence? What is the future of the Somalis? Their short-term future for the next ten or twenty years lies in heavy capital investment by this country, and in some form of political association with the neighbouring territory.
The Somali people have stated that they wish to associate with the southern ex-Italian Somali in Mogadishu, and I hope that there will be no effort by Her Majesty's Government to thwart the legitimate and constitutional efforts at the end of 1960 by the National United Front Party in Hargeisa to attain this association.
In Zanzibar, the people are shouting now for freedom. In good time, perhaps, they will decide to associate with the mainland and seek association with T.A.N.U. and that very wise African leader, Julius Nyerere, who is working with an equally wise Governor, Governor Turnbull, to work out the salvation of Tanganyika. I am most hopeful about Tanganyika from the way in which these two men respect each other and work together for the future of the 9 million people of Tanganyika, which can, by its example, save East and Central Africa. If Tanganyika can "pull it off "with Sir Richard Turnbull and Julius Nyerere, it will be an example to Kenya and to the Federation to the south. There is nothing whatever to stop people like Sir Roy Welensky and others working with people like Hastings Banda if the will is there. If it can be done in Tanganyika by Turnbull and Nyerere, it can be done further south. There need be no difference whatever in the future of these territories if they work together on the Tanganyika or T.A.N.U. model. It can be done.
As I said earlier, unemployment, both in the Federation, in Tanganyika in Kenya and all over East Africa, is with us. There are pouring out of the sixth-standard levels in the elementary schools tens of thousands of young men for whom there are no jobs. This applies particularly to Nyasaland and Kenya. One of the biggest single problems that the Minister, Her Majesty's Government and the colonial Governors must face is this large mass of unemployed teenagers who are coming out on the pavements of the towns. If we are not careful, we shall develop what elsewhere have unkindly been termed "urbanised spivs" when these young men, having left school, leave the bush, and cannot find jobs in the towns. This is a big danger in any African State, when political independence may come at any time in these places.
I beg the Minister, therefore, to pay attention, not only to educating the Africans; but by making massive injections of capital on public works and the building of roads, hospitals, dams, post offices and the like, to give jobs to these young Africans who leave school and are keen to do something in their own society.
The Commonwealth is supposed to be a club in which people live together. understand each other, talk the same language and wish to associate together. Visits such as that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff. West (Mr. G. Thomas) to the Seychelles can do nothing but good in this connection and I hope that the Government for their part, in conjunction with the colonial Governments overseas, will make it possible for more Members to leave this Chamber and get out to see what is happening at first hand; and conversely, for overseas delegations to come here to see us at Westminster.
Even more important, since Ministers must come back and take responsibility, I hope that more Ministers when visiting the Commonwealth will visit not merely convenient places like Aden, but will put off to Somaliland; when in Tanganyika or Kenya will put off to Zanzibar, and so on; and that we shall not see, as happened a short while ago, a Minister of State who did not go into a Colony at a difficult time. Ministers should not stand on the sidelines or pass Colonies by, but should visit them and see what is happening at first hand. I hope that not only back benchers, but Ministers themselves will face their obligations and visit as often as possible these smaller, little-known and often, in the past, neglected Colonies of which we have been talking today.
I think I am right in saying that, strictly speaking, the Maldive Islands do not fall within the Departmental responsibility of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. None the less, the problem of the Maldives seems at present to fall very much within the scope of the Motion and, unless I am ruled out of order, I should like for a moment to follow the observations of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway).
Together with some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, I had the opportunity earlier this week of hearing from a representative of the Maldivian Government at present in London their side of the story concerning the disagreement that has arisen with Her Majesty's Government during recent months. I accept that I have heard only the side of the story of the Maldivian Government, but, as far as one can tell, it seems possible to reduce their catalogue of complaints to two main ones, one of which concerns the Royal Air Force base.
If it is true that the Royal Air Force base is of great potential value and that, furthermore, it commands the entrance, as one gathers it does, to an enormous lagoon which, in case of need, could become a great naval base capable of making up losses that we may have sustained in Trincomalee, our relationship with the Maldives could be of greater importance to us in future than we have thought likely in the past.
If that is true, it seems to me that the Maldivian Government are entitled to ask that they should receive fairly generous treatment in respect of the existing R.A.F. base and the naval base which could be offered. If that generous treatment were to be made available, it would go a very great way indeed towards solving the economic problems with which the 80,000 people of these islands have for so long been beset.
The second main grievance to which one can reduce all the other grievances concerns the fact that the Government of the Maldives in their treaty relationships with this country have in all things to deal with a high commissioner resident in Colombo, a very long way indeed from the Maldive Islands. There is, apparently, no resident representative of Her Majesty's Government in the Maldives, no one on the spot who really understands the problem of those islands, so that in default of air transportation a long sea journey has to be made to Colombo by any representative of the Maldive Government who wants to talk over a problem with a representative of Her Majesty's Government who is capable of making a decision.
The catalogue of complaints to which I had an opportunity of listening earlier this week was longer than that, but those seem to me to be the two main headings. If these two things could be dealt with sensibly by Her Majesty's Government—and there is reason to believe that they will be—all the other problems should fall into place fairly quickly and a much happier relationship with the Government and people of the Maldives would almost certainly ensue as a result.
Whether or not my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can answer this afternoon for the Maldives, I urge that he should represent to the Commonwealth Relations Office the desirability, as some of us, at least, see it, of considering whether the Maldives are getting fair play in return for the base which is made available to us and also the possibility of ensuring that a more direct representation of Her Majesty's Government can be arranged than the very remote one 'n Colombo. It may not seem remote when one looks at a map of South-East Asia, but having served in those waters through many years of the war I am well aware of the considerable distance by sea from the Maldive Islands to a place such as Colombo.
I think it would go a long way to meet the present difficulties if a permanent representative of Her Majesty's Government were available in the islands who would get to know the islands well and who would be able to make quick and sympathetic decisions. This, I think, would in every way meet the spirit of the Motion which has been under consideration today.
I do not propose to detain the House any longer. I wanted just to make this point because it does seem to me that as a representative of that Government is here in London, and as, I gather, members of that Government are prepared to come here to negotiate officially, an opportunity exists to grasp at least one nettle and to turn at least one situation to mutual advantage and thereby to write a happier chapter in the future of some of our Commonwealth relations.
I am sure we are all very grateful indeed to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) for selecting this subject and for submitting the Motion that is before us today. It was my privilege to spend a very energetic but happy two weeks with the hon. Member for Kirkdale on a Commonwealth Parliamentary delegation to Sierra Leone, and I listened, therefore, with particular attention to his speech, which, I thought, was very constructive and very thoughtful indeed.
It seems to me a very great pity that this House, which has done so much to liberate hundreds of millions of people from colonialism, should have one or two blinds spots which seem to spoil all the magnificent work we have done and are doing. At this moment there are only about 30 million people within the British Commonwealth and Colonial Territories who have not yet won their independence. Over the years we have assisted in liberating towards self-government some 600 million people, and yet here and there, for purely strategic reasons rather than for reasons of ideals and principles, we make ourselves unpopular among hundreds of millions of people all over the world because we constantly put military strategy in front of idealism and principles.
One would imagine, apart from just one or two exceptions, that there were no differences at all in this House on the whole subject with which the Motion deals, but I think there are fundamental differences and that my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) serves a magnificent purpose i this House and in this country because he acts as a conscience to us on all these questions of principle and human freedom in the under-developed areas of the world. Some of his speeches are provocative to Members opposite, but I am certain that when the history of this period is written my very good friend the Member for Eton and Slough will take. a very colourful place in that history for the work which he has done on behalf of millions of people who were not able to voice their grievances and who were the victims of all kinds of social indignities. Their only voice on many occasions over the years has been the voice of my good friend in this House and on the platforms in the country.
The facts of our world are that a great social revolution is sweeping the universe. One of the most obvious features of the era in which we live is the fact that hundreds of millions of people will just not accept the position where they are dominated by foreign Powers or by the old system of colonialism. We may think that they want their self-government quicker than we imagine they are able to take full advantage of such freedom; we may think it is coming too soon, but they do not think so. All through history, both ancient and modern, people have decided from time to time that they prefer freedom to social security and economic advance. They make political decisions, they make sacrifices to win their freedom, and I am afraid that we have to live with that kind of revolution which is sweeping across the Colonial Territories within our Commonwealth.
I am quite certain that if we are to continue to be a great country, if we are to continue to make an important contribution, we shall make it on one condition, and that is that we understand this great social revolution of our time, that we make our peace with it, that we become part of it and that we help along the road to self-government people who have not yet achieved their freedom. We have to do this task of helping to establish their own Governments peacefully, and to see as far as is practicable that they are founded on democratic principles. If we are able to do this, make our peace with this obvious revolution, then we are a great country and we can still give great moral leadership to the world. If, because we consider they have not got balanced economies, we withhold from the small territories their legitimate rights of self-government. we shall be doing a great disservice to the cause of freedom and we shall be doing a great disservice now and for the future.
I want to say just a few words, and not more than a few because I know other hon. Members want to participate in this debate. about one of the smaller territories which has been mentioned several times during the debate, namely, Sierra Leone. It is the largest of the 33 smaller territories we are discussing. It has a population of just over 2 million.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale formed the view during his visit to Sierra Leone that while the demand for self-government was strong it might not be expedient for us to agree to this demand. All the parties in Sierra Leone are committed to the struggle for self-government. They want self-government within the British Commonwealth, and they want the continued assistance of Europeans in developing their economy, but there is no doubt at all that all the parties, all the members of the House of Representatives who have been elected by the people, are all committed to the struggle for self-government at the earliest possible moment.
That goes, too, for the three independent members from the Kono area as well as for the three parties. I think that we should commit a very grave error if we created exceptionalism at this period and argued that a territory like Sierra Leone, with a population of over 2 million, should be differently treated because of exceptional economic circumstances.
As the hon. Member for Kirkdale has stated, Sierra Leone has a very small income. Its revenue is about half that of Liverpool, or Manchester. Houses cannot be built, or roads, electricity supplies and communications developed with half the income of a large British city, but Sierra Leone has vast untapped natural resources. Some of the most valuable diamonds in the world have been discovered there and are still being found every hour of every day. Sierra Leone is the largest and most important producer of gem diamonds, but the revenue from them is not seeping back into the economy.
This poor, under-developed country is the victim of a great diamond cartel which is responsible for restricting the production and sale of diamonds and for maintaining high prices based on a deliberately organised scarcity. I do not think that the Sierra Leone Selection Trust is party to this conspiracy. The Trust, which mines the diamonds, is itself the victim, like so many small undeveloped areas where diamonds are found, of one of the most sinister restrictive cartels in the world.
A poor country like Sierra Leone, with an annual income per head of the population of only £15, with only one in seven of the children receiving any kind of primary education, with few decent roads and few hospitals, is being used to subsidise a wealthy country like South Africa, which has such prejudices against the African. Sierra Leone's fine pink diamonds go into a world pool to balance the South African diamonds, which are not of such a high quality, and those diamonds in the world pool are released only when it suits the cartelists and monopolists. Thus, that poor country is helping to subsidise the relatively rich country of South Africa.
I was pleased to hear that the Sierra Leone Selection Trust is now assisting the African diamond diggers to organise their own co-operatives in the diamond areas. It is a development which should be welcomed and encouraged. It is to the lasting credit of the Trust that it has helped the Africans, who scratch uneconomically at the gravel to get at the finest diamonds and lose hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of smaller diamonds in the process.
It seems to me that the key to the solution of the problems of the smaller territories is further assistance from this country and the United Nations, so that they can develop an economy in which democratic institutions can grow in a healthy way. The hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) said that we gave Ghana her freedom far too soon. Remarks of that nature do immeasurable harm to this country. One has only to go to Ghana to realise the magnificent advances that the people there have made. The whole spirit of the people is so different from that of people in other territories which are only Colonies. One sees the spirit in the women, in the voluntary organisations, and in the vigour with which the people undertake all kinds of voluntary tasks in clearing waterways and building the roads. These voluntary contributions seem to personify what happens when a country in Africa wins its independence and starts to build a new country which is led by the people's own Government.
I would not accept for a moment the suggestion that Ghana, or any country like it, has achieved freedom too soon. People who are articulate and who have built their co-operatives and trade unions have equipped themselves for self-government through those institutions and organisations. When they demand self-government, we cannot withhold it from them. We should help them all the time to develop their own kind of institutions.
We have had a useful debate. My remarks have been rather haphazard because I discarded my notes in the interests of saving time but now, lo and behold, I have taken more time than I had intended.
I tremble to think how the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies will reply to this admirable and most interesting but nevertheless very wide-ranging debate. To ensure that I do not prevent tits having time, I will restrict to the minimum possible what I want to say about British Honduras. I have been waiting the opportunity for at least twelve months to try to obtain from the Government some further information about this small territory, in which the political situation is still very serious.
This territory, on the Central American mainland, is the same size as Wales and its population is scarcely larger than that of Merthyr Tydfil. Its natural resources are not very great and the population is obviously completely insufficient to cultivate and utilise the whole of such natural resources as there are. The people there cannot possibly enjoy very high standards of living, unless there is a considerable degree of immigration and even then capital would be needed on a large scale. British Honduras is sometimes loosely spoken of as if it were part of the West Indies. Although that may be a convenient geographical expression, British Honduras is hundreds of miles away from the nearest West Indian Island, Jamaica, and it has no strong natural affinity with the other West Indian territories. Communications are not only very difficult, they are rare. The racial origins of the people are somewhat similar, but their religious affiliations are very different.
Therefore, it was perhaps no surprise that in the elections about five years ago, the People's United Party gained a resounding victory at the polls by putting forward an appeal which can be sum- marised in the phrase, "No federation. No immigration." They did not want to join the West Indian Federation which had been mooted at that time. They did not want to see immigration by Jaimaicans into their territory. Later, Mr. Richardson, who won the victory on that cry, and Mr. Goldson, one of his associates, gained wider experience by visiting the West Indian territories and came to London. They modified their opinions and indicated willingness to consider immigration in order to make their territory viable.
The consequences— let us face it— of their communication that they had changed their attitude was that their party split. In subsequent elections, Mr. George Price, who had been one of the principals of the People's United Party, gained the majority in that party and was able to expel Richardson and Goldson, gaining an electoral victory on a programme not greatly dissimilar from that with which Richardson had gained the victory in previous years. The programme emphasised much more strongly the desirability of associating British Honduras with other Central American territories, and particularly with Guatemala, the nearest neighbour.
There was a strong and sharp electoral clash at that time between Price's majority of the P.U.P., suggesting closer association with Central America, and Richardson and Goldson, who were now proposing closer association with the British Commonwealth and possibly some immigration from West Indian territories. Price gained the electoral victory; there is no denying it. It is significant that the remnant of the P.U.P., led by Richardson, then formed a new party, which is now called the National Independence Party. It is not possible, and I do not know that they wish, to form a British Commonwealth party or something of that kind if they are to make an effective appeal to the people of British Honduras.
Since then Mr. Price has been prosecuted for sedition, as Mr. Richardson was before him. In the latest elections for the town council at Belize. the P.U.P.. of which Price is still leader, has won the election against the National independence Party. During that election the question of Guatemala was very prominent indeed. Both parties recognise the non-viability of British Honduras. One would like to solve that problem by closer adherence to the Commonwealth and the other by closer adherence to Central America. Both are quite clear that the people of British Honduras must have what they call "independence," the right to run their own affairs in their own way, with a greater degree of self-government than they now have.
We would obviously prefer them to choose to remain within the British Commonwealth, but we cannot deny to those people any more than we can to anyone else the right to choose for themselves and to determine their own future. If we want them to come within the British Commonwealth as an independent State we must encourage self-government here and now, and make further steps along that road.
At the present time, they have a modified system of parliamentary government in which members of the Legislative Assembly act as Member for Natural Resources, Member for Social Welfare, and so on. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State can tell us what further political advance is contemplated. Only by a further extension of political power and by education in responsibility can they develop. The Under-Secretary may be able to tell us something about the very tendentious speech made very recently by the President of Guatemala. One is restricted by the rule of order which says that one must not criticise the head of a State. If there were no such rule I might be able to say something very much to the point on this subject. No doubt hon. Members have seen the suggestions about a conspiracy between Guatemala and Mexico for the annexing of British Honduras, and similar statements, published in the newspapers.
Much depends upon the willingness of Her Majesty's Government to give further advance in real and responsible self-government so that any party having the majority in British Honduras can gain the sort of experience which was enjoyed for a short time by Richardson and his associates, and which considerably changed their attitude. That is the sort of thing that ought to be done.
Further rapid progress in the development of the Colony is much to be desired. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will also find time to say a word or two on that. I have read with pleasure in the British Honduras newspapers about a great new dredger in Belize. One of the greatest needs is the draining of the swamps that surround Belize and make it an extremely unhealthy town and creates a great deal of endemic enteric disease. There is malnutrition and fever among children. I hope that the time has come when the Under-Secretary of State can tell us that progress is being made.
I hope we shall have a word about the co-operative farming. Is it going ahead? That is one of the directions in which progress might be made. I ask the question, although I do not suppose that the Minister will be able to answer it this afternoon: Can he tell us particularly about the political situation? British Honduras is not unlike Cyprus. It is a small territory, thinly populated, and has a powerful neighbour which is claiming a number of territories. This has caused prosecutions for sedition and the reinforcement of British garrisons. The situation is not unlike that which existed in Cyprus. I draw attention of the House to the possibilities of trouble there, and I have suggested how it might be prevented.
This has been a very useful debate and we are grateful to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) for giving us the opportunity to discuss these matters. The territories that we have been discussing are, by virtue of their poverty, unable to look forward to becoming fully sovereign members of the Commonwealth. We do not discuss these very small territories sufficiently often. There are between 30 and 40 of them, scattered throughout the world, for which this House of Commons has a direct responsibility. One need only look at the map to see these territories dotted in every major ocean and to recognise the great responsibility which we still have as a people for them.
If one thing has become clear in this debate, it is that there is no common solution—and I do not think that anyone has ever advocated a common solution —to the problem of territories which cannot look forward to becoming self-governing. In some places there is a national gravitational pull, such as in Hong Kong, and Singapore is another example. I should like to add to the Under-Secretary's burdens by referring especially to that territory, as I had the advantage of being there recently as a member of the Commonwealth Conference of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Singapore is in a singularly difficult position. Naturally, its hinterland is Malaya. But Malaya is independent, and Singapore is to a great extent a Colony. At any rate, there are administrative difficulties because of the overwhelming burden of the number of Chinese living in Singapore, and the people of Malaya are naturally not anxious to have added to their population a vast number of Chinese. If they were added, it might mean that the number of Chinese in Malaya would outnumber the Malayans.
This is a very real problem for Malaya and we must all recognise her difficulties. It is also a very real problem for Singapore because, if her trade in Malaya is interrupted, she cannot possibly hope to survive. We have heard the story of other territories today which I must repeat now in the case of Singapore. There is growing unemployment. Young men are leaving school after a good education and are unable to find jobs suitable to their capacity. They are Chinese. There is the natural attraction which China has for them, irrespective of whether China is a Communist country or not. I must say to the House that it would be surprising if Communist China did not have a very great attraction for the unemployed young man in Singapore who feels that he is unable to work because he is cut off from his close and natural relationship with the mainland of Malaya.
I understand the Malayans' problem and their outlook, but I think that Malaya should, in her own interest, look beyond the immediate present. At the present time both the major parties in Singapore want a close alliance with the mainland of Malaya and, although they are led by Chinese, both the major parties in Singapore, the P.A.P. and the party led by Mr. Lim Yew Hock, the present Chief Minister, are both anxious to subordinate their Chinese characteristics to the necessity of maintaining the closest alliance with Malaya itself.
They are ready to go to great lengths to achieve that, because they realise that the economic future and prosperity of Singapore is bound up in this problem. I would ask the rulers of Malaya—understanding as I think we all do their difficulties and apprehensions—is it better for them to accept close relationship with the island of Singapore at a time when the people of Singapore themselves ardently desire it and are ready to make the necessary adjustments to achieve that close relationship? In other words, is it better to do it when there is a great desire on the part of Singapore to do it, or should they wait until Singapore itself may be in a hostile and sullen mood because the economic policies followed by the mainland of Malaya have prevented the people there from living their lives as they wish to and created a great deal of unemployment?
One of the greatest tragedies for Malaya would be if the young men in the island of Singapore were to become Communist. Therefore, instead of having on their doorstep a friendly island, Malaya would find that she had created a toehold for Chinese Communists. Despite the great difficulties of the situation, if I had anything to do with the situation in Malaya, I would throw my weight on the side of extending the closest links and the warmest hand of friendship to the people of Singapore, most of whom now urgently desire to have close relationship with the mainland. It is a risk either way, but I believe that the balance of advantage lies in Malaya clasping Singapore closely to her.
I have been given an assurance by the leaders of both of the major parties that whichever party wins the General Election —I understand that the preliminary stages are being set in motion now—will follow the policy which I have attempted to outline, of a desire to link up closely with Malaya. Both parties prefer that to having any closer relationships with any other Power.
I mention that matter because the Under-Secretary has been troubled about a great many individual territories, and, although we are discussing a certain principle. nevertheless I think it useful that we should cover these individual cases. There are other individual cases which do not fall into any general pattern. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) mentioned Malta. I do not despair of a solution about Malta. It is clear that at a time when the tidal wave for self-government is moving forwards we cannot retreat on Malta, and the step which the Government have taken can be only a temporary one.
I have no desire to raise the temperature in this Chamber. I would only say, in what, I hope, is a coldly considered way, that from time to time problems arise between the Governments of various countries and they can be solved in the end only by changing the Governments. It may well be that a solution to the problem of Malta will have to await a change in the Government. I say that in no party spirit.
There has been a change in Malta, but, unfortunately, there is no Government to take the place of the Government which has been changed. What we have there now is an executive authority. As I say, I do not despair of reaching a solution to the Maltese problem.
As to the rest of these territories, the problem is how to extend to them what they desire—a growth in their own democratic rights, felt sometimes urgently and sometimes less passionately but inevitably felt as a result of the great tidal wave for self-government and self-determination which has swept through the world during the last twelve or thirteen years.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), in an extremely impressive speech, told us of the urgent desire of the people of the Seychelles for a greater share in the government of their island. My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) returned a short while ago from a visit to St. Helena, where, in that tiny community—it consists of a few thousand people—there is inevitably a greater desire to be associated with their own government. This will be true to an increasing extent of all the territories dotted over the map.
There is a difference between the Government and ourselves on how far one can tell people what is for their good and decide for them. We have done this; it has been inevitable that we should do it. From time to time we have made mistakes about it. Without going over all the issues now, I am sure it was a great mistake to embark on Central African Federation when we did it, for the people had not been accustomed to the idea and were not ready for it. Indeed, if Nyasaland were not now inside the Federation we should probably he discussing her as one of the smaller territories for whose future we should have to care.
I do not believe that in 1959 the House can continue to say to the people of these territories who are becoming increasingly aware of their own responsibilities: "We know what is good for you, and this is what you have to do". It is for that reason that we must give them the benefit of all the advice and guidance that we can and that we believe we derive from our longer experience in these matters. In the last resort, if they recognise that we give them that advice and guidance on the basis of the approach of equals and not on the basis that we are dragooning them because we know better than they do what is good for them, we shall find that they will respond to that advice in very many cases.
While I would not accuse any member of the Government of patronage, any approach to people who are extremely sensitive because they are feeling their feet could easily be misconstrued as such. In our own families it is the adolescents who have to be treated most carefully when they are feeling their feet and think they can walk in and out of the front door when they like. We must approach the people of our possessions on the basis of saying, "It is your life. We will tell you what we think is right, but you must make your own choice and we will help you". I would apply that to the people of Nyasaland even though we may think that they are not doing the right thing from the point of view of their economic future.
The Labour Party has written a pamphlet entitled "Labour's Colonial Policy". There is no party advantage to be gained either way from the views expressed in that pamphlet. It is an attempt to find a solution to this problem. In some ways the status of a Dominion is vacant at the present time. As the urge and desire for self-government becomes stronger in these territories, although they realise that they are not viable, we should say to them: "You are free to decide your own future, but we suggest to you that, having determined your own future, you should reach the conclusion that it would be in your best interests to allow Britain or another Commonwealth country to continue to represent you abroad, to continue to have the closest political ties with you, and be responsible for the safeguarding of your security".
This would imply that the right of secession was open to the territory at any time. Nevertheless, it would mean that the territory would have to choose between either coming in or going out of the Commonwealth. It would be worth while for the peoples of these territories to be faced with the necessity of making that conscious choice. We have little doubt which way the choice would go in a great many of these territories.
As far as possible the Commonwealth should be associated with this proposition. At the forthcoming Commonwealth Conference, or at any future Prime Ministers' Conference, this question should be put on the agenda for discussion. Since a number of the members of the Commonwealth are physically closer to these territories than Britain is and are interested in their development, they might want to help the smaller territories in their economic development and be associated with any change in status, such as our proposal for Dominion status.
By emphasising the concern that other Commonwealth territories have in these territories, a greater degree of responsibility is centred in the Commonwealth itself. I should like to see the Government taking the initiative— which might involve the creation of new economic machinery, or a pooling of resources from wealthier Commonwealth members to assist the development of these smaller territories— as well as discussing the new constitutional forms and structure inherent in Commonwealth relations.
The moment has arrived when we ought to take the further step of arranging for these matters to be discussed. That is why the hon. Member for Kirkdale has performed a service in focussing attention upon the problems of these territories. It gives the Government an opportunity to express their preliminary views now and also to think about what the next step should be. I hope that they will accept our suggestion that it would be a very good idea to bring the whole problem before the remaining members of the Commonwealth at a Prime Ministers' Conference, so that we could jointly pool our resources in order to ensure the future of these territories.
The Government welcome the Motion brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) and accept its terms in principle. This has been an extremely interesting debate, partly because it has touched upon the affairs of colonies which are too seldom discussed in this House, and partly because it has shown a great unity in our approach to the problem, both in a consciousness of our continuing responsibilities for the colonies concerned and in an understanding of the mood which is increasingly spreading among them with the growth of education and economic development. But the problems are extremely difficult and intractable, and the task of answering the comments made in our debate, as the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Marquand) commented, is not an easy one to fulfil.
The high road to sovereignty in the Commonwealth has been traced and followed by a number of what were known in the past as the larger Colonies. We have seen that development take place in all the continents of the world. So far, it has been conditioned by certain things, such as the attainment of economic and financial independence —not merely independence in the theoretical sense, but at a certain standard which allowed internal political stability—and an ability to ensure their making a considerable contribution towards the maintenance of national defence.
Today, we are considering the reverse side of the medal. We are considering the problems of those countries which are still faced with great obstacles standing in the way of their achieving sovereignty. Some of them are too poor— there can be no economic viability or independence simply at subsistence level — some are still backward, in the sense of not having a sufficient number of educated personnel to administer their Government, or man their law courts; some, again, have not developed constitutions, and independence without constitutional Government, honest administration and a sound judiciary would be a mockery. All these problems interlink. Without financial resources we cannot have stable political Government, at any rate in some places.
Furthermore, some of these territories have special problems. There may be a lack of racial homogeneity, as in Fiji or Mauritius, where there is more than one community, and certain divisions between the races still exist. Until a greater homogeneity has been created and a national consciousness arrived at it would be difficult for them to embark upon sovereignty in the full sense of the word. Some, too, have important strategic bases, which are of interest to the Commonwealth and the free world as a whole. Yet others are small and isolated territories which, though not in themselves particularly backward, have traditionally looked to us for help and protection, and continue to do so, and upon whom we could not possibly turn our backs.
At any given moment today when we are discussing these matters these different obstacles, whether wealth, cultural standards or lack of political institutions, constitute an obstacle to the achievement of full sovereignty. These obstacles are not necessarily permanent. Circumstances change. New resources can be discovered in a small territory. We had an instance with the discovery of oil in Brunei, which has made possible a new advance of constitutional life in Brunei which my right hon. Friend and the Sultan arrived at in negotiations recently. The whole order of the world may well change over the next few generations so as to make it safer for small communities to be on their own than it is today.
I repeat that the obstacles to sovereignty are not necessarily permanent. They can be overcome in the fullness of time with the change of circumstances, or on some occasions by a union between the territory concerned and neighbouring countries. Some of the obstacles can be removed by the efforts of the Colony concerned and Her Majesty's Government, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-Fast (Mr. Peel) that in many cases it is not yet possible to set out a timetable or a plan. One has to wait for the circumstances to change. A flood of changing constitutions does not always solve the problem. It was reported the other day at the Colonial Office that a telegram arrived beginning, "My immediately preceding constitution". I think that it was a misprint. Constitutions have to be devised to take the fullest advantage of what existing circumstances make possible and of what future development may make possible, but they have also to take account of the peculiar characteristics and traditions of each Colony. One cannot produce a kind of blueprint to be applied to all of them. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) knows that better than anyone.
Therefore, in considering what is a desirable status which still involves a certain measure of continued dependence, we have to be careful that that status does not thwart the characteristics and aspirations of the territory concerned.
Before I sit down I will try to draw one or two general conclusions, but meanwhile it may help if I try to illustrate what I have just been saying by taking some of the detailed points that have been made on particular territories in the course of the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale began his speech by drawing attention to the problems of Sierra Leone. I was very interested in what he said, more especially as he speaks from personal experience. Sierra Leone is now at the constitutional stage that Ghana was in 1954, but it faces a number of difficulties such as those created by the so-called diamond rush, the lack of Sierra Leone civil servants for running the Administration and the great need for development. I cannot say at this stage when the next step in constitutional advance will come, but I can say that we in the Colonial Office have a great admiration for the way Sir Milton Margai and his colleagues have faced up to their task, and they can be assured that they will have very sympathetic understanding when the time comes to discuss the next step.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) spoke of the problem of the West African pensioners and suggested that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary might receive representations from them. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be very glad to do that, and I hope that my hon. Friend will personally accompany any representatives that may come.
The right hon. Member for Wakefield referred to the problem of Gambia and to suggestions made from time to time that it might find its ultimate destiny in closer association with Senegal. We have to remember the very strong loyalty, of which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is aware, of the people, of Bathurst in particular, to our country, and we must also remember the importance in the strategic pattern of the airfield at Yundum. My view is that closer association in terms of freer trade, and freer co-operation between Senegal and Gambia might perhaps be a better solution than absorption. At any rate, these matters need to be considered carefully.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale also spoke of the problems of British Guiana and asked what our attitude was to the possibility of British Guiana joining the West Indies Federation. We should in no circumstances stand in the way of such a development, but it could not be forced on British Guiana. If British Guiana wanted to join the Federation we should certainly do everything we could to help that development, but it could not be imposed upon the country. In British Guiana a distinct measure of representative Government has been restored. A new constitutional committee of the Legislative Council is considering the next step. On the economic side, the recurrent Budget has been balanced for a number of years, although there is very little to spare for development. But in addition to the Colonial Development and Welfare Grant we have arranged for a £5½ million Exchequer loan to be made for development in British Guiana.
The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East asked a number of questions about British Honduras. I do not guarantee to answer them all, but I will do my best to deal with the major questions. As he knows, there is as yet no Ministerial system in the full sense of the word in British Honduras. There is what is known as an associate member system, by which certain members of the Council are associated with Government Departments. My right hon. Friend discussed with the delegation from the British Honduras last year the question of the next step. I am not yet in a position to make a statement about it, but it has also been discussed informally with the two hon. Members who were out there a few weeks ago.
The development plans are progressing rather well and £ l million of colonial development and welfare allocation has been successfully spent. They have spent the allocation in full, which is not always the case. Sugar cane production and the sugar factory have been expanded and there is a hope that 25,000 tons will be available for export under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in the year ahead. The citrus and cocoa production in the Stann Creek Valley has been expanded and the mechanised production of rice, a new development there, at Mussell Creek, is making good progress. The right hon. Gentleman asked in particular about the development of the co-operative movement, which was started there in 1953. There are 30 accredited co-operative unions and 21 others coming along, which is remarkable progress in the fairly short time since the co-operative movement started.
The right hon. Gentleman asked a number of questions about the political situation. The political picture is more evenly balanced than it has been in the past. Mr. Price and his party undoubtedly have a great influence, particularly in the country districts, although the result of the municipal election in Belize was perhaps a little different from the impression which the right hon. Gentleman gave today. It is true that the P.U.P. won the election but, by contrast with the previous election, after which it held all the seats, it was returned this time with a majority of one and, at the head of the poll was not Mr. Price but the leader of the opposition party, Mr. Fuller. A party has, therefore, emerged in opposition to the P.U.P. and the political situation is in that sense perhaps rather more fluid than it has been.
The hon. Member for Cardiff. West (Mr. G. Thomas) made an extremely interesting speech on the basis of his visit to Seychelles. I may say, in passing, that the visit of the hon. Gentleman and of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) was a very great success in Seychelles and was very much welcomed by the Governor and by the people of Seychelles. The constitutional position there is perhaps not as backward as the hon. Member suggested. In addition to six official members of the Legislative Council, there are six unofficial members, four of whom are elected members and there are three unofficial members on the Executive Council. My right hon. Friend the present Minister of State at the Foreign Office, who visited Seychelles last year, made a number of proposals before he left the Colonial Office. They are under consideration at the moment and may well bear fruit in the months ahead.
Several references were made to the situation in British Somaliland. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale asked whether Somaliland might not find its fulfilment in union with Somalia, and the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) said that he hoped that we would not stand in the way of any such development. I am rather surprised that he should even suggest 'that we would do such a thing in view of my right hon. Friend's statement in Hargeisa that if it was the wish of the British Somaliland Government when Somalia became independent we should naturally do what we could to help bring about association between them.
The right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale) spoke to us in one part of his speech about the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. By a curious coincidence, he said he was not sure how far my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East knew about that part of the world. It may be within the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman, or it may come back to him as a result of what I am saying, that it was in fact my hon. Friend who actually briefed him before he undertook the journey. My hon. Friend was an administrator in Fiji and was in London at the time on leave, which shows what a village we all live in.
Political developments there are still at a very early stage, although the biennial Colony conference introduced in 1956 has proved a useful and valuable develop ment and one which I think will, with the passage of time, allow political consciousness to emerge in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. I noted what my hon. Friend said about the possibility of a Channel Islands status for these islands, and certainly that is a matter which we can study in the Department.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) raised the issue of the Maldives, and my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. J. Harvey) also raised the same subject and made several suggestions about how we should handle the problem. The House will realise that the Maldives are not at all the concern of the Colonial Office, and so it would not be proper for me to comment on what has been said. Indeed, I might be in danger of misleading hon. Members, but I will ensure that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations sees what has been said in the House on the subject.
The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) referred to the problem of Aden and the Aden Protectorates. There has been a marked advance in representative and responsible government in Aden, and five unofficial members have now been appointed members in charge of departments, which is an approximation to the Ministerial system. We welcome the new Federation. I do not think that there is any likelihood of its ever wishing, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, to join the Yemen. We think they will wish to stay, and from all the information we have they are very loyal to their British connection and very reluctant to have any part with the Yemen. We shall certainly give them our full support in the development of the path on which they have chosen to embark.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said he did not see much prospect of improvement in Malta until there was a change of Government. My recollection of our debates on the difficulties in Malta leaves me with the impression that there is no clear alternative policy in the minds of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I deprecate the attack made by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough on the individuals who have come forward to serve on the Executive Council there. They gain nothing in so doing. They have clone so purely from a public-spirited point of view. They know that it is a temporary arrangement, and I think they deserve a tribute from this House for the public spirit which they have shown in giving their time, strength and help to tide Malta over what is a very difficult but, we hope, a short period before proper constitutional arrangements are restored. We hope that when they are restored those arrangements will reflect the continued association of Malta and the United Kingdom within the Commonwealth, which we believe would he in the interests of both Malta and ourselves.
I am glad that the hon. Member has had an opportunity to correct the impression which he made, at any rate, upon me.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) is not present in the Chamber, because I have good news for him about St. Helena. The Governor has in mind that the Advisory Council should be reconstituted and is about to open discussions with that in view. On the economic side, a senior official of the Colonial Office has recently visited St. Helena and the Governor hopes within the next few days to announce measures regarding wages and food subsidies which should have a substantial effect on the standard of living there.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough referred to Fiji and the taxation levels which he described as abnormally high. In fact, they are not as high as in the East African Territories, so I do not think that the levels are as serious as all that. The increase in the Customs duties became necessary because the reserves were running low and there was a danger that unless they could be built up in some way, the development programmes in Fiji might suffer. In the long run the people will probably benefit more from the money spent on development and drawn from their Customs revenue, than if those duties had not been imposed.
The development of Fiji towards self-government is essentially a slow process because it depends on the growth of understanding between the races in the country. It is, of course, our aim to bring Fiji to an unofficial majority, but it may take some time before matters reach that point.
I must take issue with the right hon. Member for Wakefield on one point. He suggested that the problem of Gibraltar might be susceptible to a United Nations solution at this stage.
I am very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that, because that was the impression he made on me. We stand categorically on the position that we shall repay the loyalty of our friends in Gibraltar by our full support, and there is no question of our envisaging any change in the status of Gibraltar.
Several references were made to the recent developments in Cyprus. This is an interesting example of how one of the smaller territories can evolve herself. Cyprus, which is still technically a Colony, has decided to establish special relationships with three foreign countries and may decide to remain within the Commonwealth. Cyprus has voluntarily accepted certain limitations on its defence and external policies, and provides an interesting example of how these things can develop. In the same way, Singapore, to which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East referred, may also, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale suggested, be in some sense a model or, at any rate, offer certain precedents for how other similarly placed territories may develop.
I cannot say very much about the view expressed by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, that association between Singapore and Malaya should he hastened. This, after all, is largely a matter for Malaya, which is a sovereign country. All I can do is to remind him that there are still a great many common services between Singapore and Malaya, and the fact that a Malayan Government representative sits on the Singapore Internal Security Council is a continuing sign of the interest which Malaya takes in the future of Singapore.
On the question of financial assistance to the territories we have been discussing, there can be little doubt that most of them will continue to need for many years grant assistance from colonial development and welfare funds. For smaller and poorer territories C.D. and W. assistance is likely to remain the most important single source of finance for capital expenditure and development. In addition, there are certain territories which, as far as we can foresee, will remain unable to pay their way on current account even with the barest minimum level of services. Recurrent assistance will clearly continue to be needed for such territories.
On the political side, I should not like to express an opinion at this stage as to whether some kind of consultative council could or could not make a contribution, but it is quite clear to me from the debate that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association already makes an enormous contribution both by the visits of hon. Members from this House to the Colonies and of people from colonial legislatures here which it sponsors, and also, to a great extent, by the conferences which it holds. It may be— I do not know— that there might be scope for enlarging these conferences or for having special conferences to deal with the problems of certain areas and territories of certain types. That is something which we might have in our minds.
The right hon. Member for Wakefield and the hon. Member for Rugby urged that there should be more visits not only by Members but by Ministers to the Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman pleaded, in particular, that they should visit Zanzibar and Hargeisa. I am glad to say that I am with him there, having visited both in fairly recent times. I cannot honestly think that it would be possible for Colonial Office Ministers to travel more than they do at the present time. I have been a very short time in the Department, but very seldom have the three of us been in London at the same time.
Taking the evolution of the Colonies as a whole, sovereign status has been the traditional, classical goal of the countries in what used to be known as the British Empire. This evolution towards sovereign status has not just happened. It has come about very largely because of positive effort from this country. We have shaped and adapted events to transform the Empire into the Commonwealth.
My hon. Friend's Motion calls upon us to show a similar creative purpose for the smaller territories. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree have gone so far as to suggest that we should confront some of the countries with a conscious choice—do they want to stay with us, and, if so, on what terms? There is, of course, a respectable precedent for this is in the referendum which the French Government put last year before the different countries of the French community. This would, of course, be a very radical departure from our traditional pragmatic approach. It is something which is, perhaps, more natural to a new regime such as the de Gaulle regime in France, starting from scratch as it was, than it is to our continuing Constitution. Also, I do not know whether questions of the type one could put to the Colonies at this time could be susceptible of final answer.
It is not for me to say whether the answers given in the French example will prove final. In the circumstances, therefore, my inclination is to stick to negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and representatives of the people concerned, negotiations of a flexible character which allow new solutions to be reached, which can be changed should that prove to be the better course. In any case, I am sure that the House would not expect me to enunciate any hard and fast plan. That is not our way in this country and the success of our empirical approach in the building of the Commonwealth certainly justifies its continuation.
There is a natural tendency for all human beings to try to impose a pattern on the events which they see and to try to anticipate solutions and results, but there is a danger in seeking to force this result before the natural play of forces brings the result about, and there is a danger of producing a reaction from the very thing which one wants to create. But we would, I suggest, be on the right lines if we thought in terms of giving a distinct identity and a special place in the Commonwealth to territories which had reached the stage of maximum internal self-government.
I stress the words "internal self-government", for this advance in status could be conferred while the United Kingdom still retained appropriate responsibilities for defence and external affairs, and perhaps even in certain cases for the safeguarding of minorities. Just as we stress the individual identity and character of the different colonies, so we should aim at evolving some form of regular association of these territories with one another, with the United Kingdom and with the rest of the Commonwealth.
I cannot say more than this at present, but I hope that I have said enough to show that we recognise the problem which the Motion poses so clearly and that our approach to its solution is in harmony with the sense of today's debate.
That this House is of opinion that, as it is the declared general policy of Her Majesty's Government to develop in its Colonial territories the greatest practicable measure of self-government within the Commonwealth, it is desirable for Her Majesty's Government to evolve a positive policy for those smaller territories where difficulties might arise in regard to the achievement of complete independence within the Commonwealth.