Last week, I announced to the House the decision of the Prime Minister of South Africa to withdraw the application of the South African Government to remain in the Commonwealth after that country becomes a republic on 31st May. I described this decision as unavoidable in the circumstances. Although the House is well acquainted with the general background, I think that it would be as well for me to say a few words about the developments which have led South Africa to withdraw from the family of nations forming the Commonwealth.
Hon. Members will recall that last year the representative of South Africa informed the Prime Ministers' Conference that his Government intended to hold a referendum on the proposal that South Africa should become a republic. At that meeting the Commonwealth Prime Ministers were asked to give their agreement in advance to the continued membership of a republican South Africa in the Commonwealth.
The Prime Ministers felt unwilling at that time to agree. They were influenced by two considerations. First, such a decision might have been construed as an attempt to influence the referendum and therefore as an interference in a matter which was clearly one for the people of South Africa alone. Secondly, the precedents showed that although it was not necessary to withhold approval until all the constitutional processes had been completed, it was not proper to give approval before the decision to make a constitutional change of this kind was beyond all doubt. South Africa was accordingly invited to delay the application for renewed membership until after the referendum. That was last year.
The referendum was held in October, 1960. As the House knows, the result was in favour of a republic. The necessary legislation in South Africa has been introduced, and the intention is to declare the republic at the end of May this year. Accordingly, when the Prime Minister of South Africa brought this question to the Conference this month there was no longer any reason to delay a decision.
The application which he put forward was for South Africa to stay in the Commonwealth as a republic. If it had been possible to deal with the application as a purely constitutional matter, there need have been no difficulty. For the great decision of principle as to whether the Commonwealth should continue to rest on allegiance to the Crown or whether republican States might be members was in fact settled in 1949.
In that year India became a republic but remained a member of the Commonwealth, accepting the Sovereign as head of the Commonwealth as a symbol of our unity. Since then Pakistan and Ghana have become republics within the Commonwealth, and Ceylon has been given an assurance that she will continue to be welcome as a republican member, although she is in fact still a monarchy.
It was clear that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers as a whole did not feel themselves able to treat the continued membership of South Africa as a purely formal or procedural question. In view of the strong feelings on the racial policies pursued by the Government of South Africa, the discussion could not be narrowed to the constitutional point. Because of the wide implications of South Africa's racial policies for other members of the Commonwealth and their effect on world opinion, this matter could not be dealt with on the basis of the constitutional change alone.
Dr. Verwoerd himself recognised this. Although it is an established convention of these meetings that we do not discuss the domestic affairs of a member country without the consent of that country, the Prime Minister of South Africa agreed that on this occasion the racial policy of the Union Government should be discussed. In this I am sure he was right, for this question had become, as I say, more than a matter of domestic interest to South Africa. It had aroused widespread international interest and concern. It affected in various ways the relations between South Africa and other members of the Commonwealth. It was even threatening to damage the concept of the Commonwealth itself as a multi-racial association. In all those circumstances it was impossible to overlook the racial issue. In fact, as the House knows, it became the dominant issue, and the purely constitutional point was overshadowed.
May I say in passing that I do not at all accept the view, which I have seen expressed in the last few days, that this means that the Commonwealth will in future turn itself into a body for passing judgment on the internal affairs of member countries. I see no reason why the existing convention to which I have referred should not be maintained. After all, it was not broken on this occasion, for the Prime Minister of South Africa agreed that this discussion should be held. There were, as I have indicated, good reasons why it should have been held on this occasion—because of the grave external effects of the policy to which I have drawn attention.
I had at this Conference two functions, inevitable in the circumstances, where by tradition the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is invited to preside over these meetings. First, as Chairman it was my duty to guide the discussion and try to lead it to the decision most helpful to growing co-operation within the Commonwealth. It was also my duty to present the view of the British Government and, I hope, of the British people.
I have never concealed, nor do I wish now to conceal, from the House or the country that in my view there were very good arguments for taking the course of allowing the application of South Africa on constitutional grounds, but at the same time expressing the strongest disapproval of her racial policies. I know that many hon. Members, and many people in the country, took a different view, but I will give my reasons frankly. No one in this House approves, indeed we all deplore, the principle which underlies the policy which is generally known as apartheid. That is not because many of us are unaware of our own failings or are anxious to throw the first stone. Hardly any country at some time in its history, nor even at the present time, can stand blameless.
All kinds of discrimination—not only racial, but political, religious and cul- tural—in one form or another have been and are still practised, often as a survival of long tradition. But the fundamental difference between ours and the South African philosophy is that we are trying to escape from these inherited practices. We are trying, with varying degrees of success but always with a single purpose, to move away from this concept in any form. What shocked the Conference was that the policy of the present South African Government appeared to set up what we would regard as an unhappy practice, inherited from the past, perhaps, as a philosophy of action for the future. This philosophy seemed altogether remote from and, indeed, abhorrent to the ideals towards which mankind is struggling in this century, in the free world at any rate, and perhaps—who knows—sooner or later behind the Iron Curtain.
It was not, therefore, because all of us are without sin that we felt so strongly. It was because this apartheid theory transposes what we regard as a wrong into a right. I do not question the sincerity with which these views are held by many people in South Africa, or their very deep conviction that theirs is the right course in the interests of all races, but we in Britain have never been in doubt that this is a wrong course.
A year ago, in Capetown, I tried to express—I hope courteously, but quite firmly—what was the British view, and I do not think that many people in this House dissented from what I then said. All this accentuation and systemisation of the policy of apartheid is something very new. I am not saying that there was no discrimination in the days of the great South African leaders like Smuts and Botha, but those men had in their minds an inspiring vision, and had the intention and purpose of moving gradually towards it. I still believe that as the years go by this ideal will grow in strength in South Africa.
Is it then right—I asked myself—to cut South Africa away from the Commonwealth? Our two countries have links forged in history. We have known what it means to fight against each other. We have also known what it means to fight side by side in defence of freedom in two world wars. There are the close connections of our own countrymen, hundreds of thousands of whom will deeply regret the severance of the Commonwealth ties. But, apart from all these strong considerations of sentiment, I was not satisfied that the exclusion of South Africa from the Commonwealth would best help all those European people who do not accept the doctrine of apartheid, and the growing body whose opinions are in flux. Nor, as far as I could see, would it help the millions of Africans.
Moreover, it seemed to me that there was a danger of falling into a somewhat Pharisaical attitude in this. In my view—and I am not ashamed to say so—it was better to hold out our hands and help than to avert our eyes and pass by on the other side. It is not my intention, nor do I think it would be proper for me, to give an account of the discussions which took place at the Conference. Those discussions are confidential, and all Prime Ministers should try to preserve, in respect of them, the traditional confidence of a national Cabinet. However, the communiqué which we published—and it was published with the agreement of all concerned, including the Prime Minister of South Africa—made quite clear what happened, and I have very little to add.
But I am convinced—and I must say this—that had Dr. Verwoerd shown the smallest move towards an understanding of the views of his Commonwealth colleagues, or made any concession, had he given us anything to hold on to or any grounds for hope, I still think that the Conference would have looked beyond the immediate difficulties to the possibilities of the future. For, after all, our Commonwealth is not a treaty-made league of Governments; it is an association of peoples.
But the Prime Minister of South Africa, with an honesty which one must recognise, made it abundantly clear beyond all doubt that he would not think it right to relax in any form the extreme rigidity of his dogma, either now or in the future. And it is a dogma. To us it is strange, but it is a dogma which is held with all the force of one of those old dogmas which men fought and struggled for in the past.
Our discussions were held in an atmosphere of great courtesy, dignity and calm, but that made the underlying tension all the more real There was no question of the expulsion of South Africa, for it became apparent to Dr. Verwoerd himself that he could not serve the Commonwealth or help its unity and coherence in any other way except by withdrawing his application. This he did, and so, for the time being, ended over half a century of South Africa's membership of our Commonwealth.
Nevertheless, I do not feel that we should regard this as the end of the story. We shall always have a special feeling for the people of South Africa, of all races. We shall watch with a continuing interest their development, and I still think that the more we are able to maintain personal and individual contacts with our friends there the greater our influence will prove to be.
But at the end of the day I do not believe that it will be words which will win—certainly not bitter words and recrimination. What might well influence the people of South Africa most is the proof that those of us who extol the virtues of partnership between the races are able to translate our theories into facts, to establish on African soil a practical example of a non-racial society that works to the benefit of all its peoples. Today we have such a chance in Central Africa, and I pray that we and those of every party and race in these territories will seize it while time yet remains.
I do not for a moment under-estimate the difficulties or the magnitude of the political problems which stand in the way. Of course there are differences, both of view and, above all, of emphasis, especially about the pace of advance, but I believe that we are all agreed on our objective. In that spirit let us move towards it. In that way I think that we can best help South Africa.
Last Thursday I undertook to say a word or two about some of the practical problems which will arise as a result of this decision. I am sure the House will understand that although these are being carefully studied by the Departments concerned I am not yet in a position to do more than speak in very general terms. The questions fall into different categories of varying importance. Even if South Africa had remained in the Commonwealth, the change from a monarchy to a republic would have required consequential legislation in our Parliament. But this would have been comparatively simple, and would have followed precedent.
We have now to consider the other results, and these matters cannot be settled without a good deal of thought on each side, or without negotiations with the South African Government. It will probably be most convenient to introduce a Bill to make temporary provision for the period immediately following 31st May. The purpose of such a Bill will be to maintain the operation of the existing law for a specified, limited period both in the United Kingdom and British dependent territories. This will give us an interval during which both Governments can consider the important questions which have to be dealt with.
First, there is the question of nationality or citizenship. This is a deeply personal matter causing, no doubt, anxiety to many South Africans, both those living in South Africa and especially those of British descent and those very many South Africans living and working outside the Union. We must look carefully into this and make no hurried decisions.
Then there are certain trade and financial matters which we must consider. As regards the sterling area, the Prime Minister of South Africa has already said that his country would wish to remain a member. No legislation is needed in this connection. As the House well knows, there are a number of countries outside the Commonwealth who are already members of the sterling area. These include not merely countries like Burma, which were formerly part of the old British Empire, but also countries like Iceland, Jordan and Libya.
Then there is the question of preferential arrangements which affect trade both ways. These, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Board of Trade, said in the House yesterday, are governed by the bilateral agreement concluded after the Ottawa Conference in 1932 and will be unaffected by South Africa's changed status. I am informed that the maintenance of these preferential arrangements is not affected by our obligations under G.A.T.T. There are other fields where we have co-operated with successive South African Governments and, if both our countries regard it as mutually advantageous and if it is found to be compatible with South Africa's non-membership of the Commonwealth, I have no doubt that this co-operation can and will continue.
I am sorry I cannot give more precise information to the House at this stage. Meanwhile, I repeat that I am sure the best course is to introduce a standstill Bill to give us time to sort these matters out in negotiation between the two Governments.
In quite another class are our rights and duties towards the three High Commission Territories. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked me a Question on Thursday to which I think I made a quite categorical reply. These territories remain in the same relationship with us as before and we shall continue to accept and discharge our obligations and responsibilities in accordance with undertakings which have been many times repeated by many of my predecessors. We must, of course, also recognise that they have common borders and close economic ties with the Union of South Africa, and no doubt there will be many practical questions concerning the High Commission Territories which we shall have to continue to discuss with the Union Government. There are many such questions—postal arrangements, railway arrangements, and many things of that kind.
I do not wish to detain the House except perhaps to allow me to add a few general reflections. There are some who think that the Commonwealth will be gravely and even fatally injured by this blow. I do not altogether share this view. I do not share it at all. After all, in the years since the war, the whole concept of the Commonwealth has radically changed. In the past it was four or five countries populated by people of, broadly, British descent linked together by their common allegiance as subjects of the Crown. From 1949 onwards it has become more and more a group of countries associated historically with this island, developed, strengthened, brought to their independence by a long and not inglorious effort of ordinary British men and women—missionaries, traders, doctors and administrators—countries which with these recollections of the past have decided to go forward together and face the perils of the future. This association must depend not on the old concept of a common allegiance but upon the new principle of a common idealism.
The note on which I would wish to close is simply this. Whatever one's view, this is a very sad event; sad because of what seems to us a tragically misguided and perverse philosophy which lies at the root of apartheid; sad because of the many people in South Africa who, I am certain, would like it at least tempered and made more elastic and more humane; sad because this event marks the end of an association of our countrymen for over a hundred years with colonies formed in Capetown, Natal and elsewhere; sad because it is the end of a fifty-year connection which began with a decision then hailed as an outstanding example of magnanimity after victory; sad because it makes a breach in a community which has a great part to play in the world.
Yet, I will not end on that note. As I said on Thursday, sad as it is, we must look to the future. The statement on disarmament annexed to our final communiqué is, I believe, an important and significant achievement of this Conference. Despite our preoccupation with other problems, we were able quietly and patiently to exchange ideas and views and in friendly discussion to reach and to record agreement on a common aim in relation to the most important question facing the world today. This achievement is a demonstration of the vitality of the Commonwealth and a more convincing answer than any words of mine to any fainthearts whose courage is failing.
Nor is the loss of South Africa to the Commonwealth, when it comes, the end of the story. I read in one of the newspapers a phrase which struck me greatly. It said that the flag of South Africa must now be flown at half mast. So be it. But let us look forward to the day, perhaps not so distant as it may seem now, when it can again be hoisted in triumph to the masthead.
Whatever our views on this momentous event may be, I feel confident that we should all warmly endorse the Prime Minister's closing remarks. However much we abhor the policies of the South African Government it is certainly no part of our wish that we should cut ourselves off from the people of South Africa.
This is undoubtedly an event of great historic significance. I do not think that anybody would deny that. It marks a turning point in Commonwealth affairs. Many different accounts have been given of the Conference itself. Some have said that it was Dr. Verwoerd who was intransigent and others that it was the bitter hostility of some of the other Prime Ministers that provoked him. Some have said that the British Government did their best to keep South Africa in. Others, like one newspaper, have said that South Africa was forced out by Britain. I do not propose to discuss these matters. I think that they are more for historians and, no doubt, will be disclosed as time goes by in memoirs.
I would only say this an the British attitude. If the Prime Minister tried, as I think he did from his words today, to keep South Africa in, and tried very hard, then I suppose that one must say that the policy failed. Yet I would add that, personally, I doubt whether it could have succeeded except at too great a cost to the Commonwealth. For, even supposing the Prime Ministers had agreed to accept South Africa's continued membership while, at the same time, setting out their dislike of the South African Government's policy, I feel that after the tremendous build-up in the world's Press of what was taking place in London at that time such a solution might have turned out not to be a solution at all.
It could, indeed, have been disastrous if, for instance, after the Conference Dr. Verwoerd had return to South Africa claiming, as it were, some kind of triumph because he was remaining in the Commonwealth while, at the same time, other Prime Ministers were giving very different accounts of what had taken place. Nor would the argument have stopped merely because this year's Conference had been settled in that way.
Be that as it may, far more important than the different accounts of what took place are, I think, the different views on the significance of this event. Some, as the Prime Minister has said, are pessimistic. Sir Roy Welensky, Sir Edgar Whitehead and Dr. Verwoerd himself have talked as though this were the beginning of the end of the Commonwealth, that it started a process which will continue until, one by one, other Commonwealth countries leave us.
It is perhaps worth pausing for a moment to ask why they take such a pessimistic view. It may be, in part, because of a certain difference in their attitude, or in the extent to which their feelings are aroused about this issue of racial policy, but I think that more important than that as a reason for their pessimism is the fear that a new precedent has been created which involves interference by the Commonwealth in the domestic affairs of one of the members of the Commonwealth.
The Prime Minister has explained to us that South Africa's racial policy was discussed at the Conference only with the consent of the Prime Minister of South Africa, and that that, as it were, is a safeguard. Nevertheless, these other Prime Ministers, as they have made plain, clearly continue to have serious anxieties. They appear to think that next year it may be, shall we say, Australia's immigration policy which will be brought up—indeed, Mr. Menzies himself referred to this possibility—or that on some other occasion the political system adopted in some other Commonwealth country will come in for criticism and that, in indignation at their internal affairs being discussed at the Prime Ministers' Conference, other nations may leave the Commonwealth.
I think that behind this fear lies something of great importance, a political conception of what the Commonwealth is. Behind the notion that internal policies cannot be discussed without creating great dangers lies a conception of the Commonwealth which I personally regard as now out of date. It is a conception which implies that we go on in the Commonwealth as a group, not because we have common ideals or standards of conduct, but as it were, for purely historical reasons because we are members of a family.
No doubt there are military alliances in some cases and there are economic ties in other cases which, so to speak, add to this historical background, but the whole assumption of that point of view is that the Commonwealth consists of a group of countries with natural ties to one another, which countries do not, in fact, concern themselves with the internal policies of the others, with natural ties that are so strong that they can resist any possible divergencies there may be between the policies of the different countries. Furthermore, this conception of the Commonwealth carries with it, I think, the idea that the natural ties are all that is necessary to justify its existence.
This is a perfectly natural point of view for the people of Australia and New Zealand, and perhaps of Canada, to adopt. Here we have a blood relationship, if one may use that phrase, because those countries were colonised from Great Britain and, unquestionably, either we would have a position in which differences of the kind that we are discussing this afternoon would not arise, or the differences, such as they were, would not be sufficient to outweigh the family ties, the natural ties which have developed over the years. Equally, in this case I think that the people of those countries—or many of them—would be perfectly happy to regard our country from their point of view in that light, but, as the Prime Minister implied in his closing remarks, the same argument does not apply to the new nations of the Commonwealth.
Whether we like it or not, they are not tied to us in quite the same way as the older Dominions are. It is no use pretending that in their case the so-called family tie is anything like so strong on its own. Certainly, in the case of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, the existence of a common history, the link that we have with them both politically and economically, is strong, although it has to be noted that in the case of India and Ceylon there is no military alliance. Certainly for the time being language provides some sort of bond, but it is doubtful how long that will continue.
I do not believe that in the years ahead this purely family tie will be enough for the new nations of Asia and Africa to remain in the Commonwealth. There must be something else if they are to regard the Commonwealth as worthwhile, and that something else can only be common ideals and the feeling that the Commonwealth as a whole is something which is worthwhile for what it can do in the world.
In any event, the doctrine of not discussing the internal affairs of member countries broke down this year. It was bound to break down as soon as those policies spilled over in a way which tremendously affected the other members of the Commonwealth. There can be no doubt that this was the case so far as apartheid was concerned. It is, as I said the other day, a direct affront to the vast majority of the peoples of the Commonwealth who happen to be coloured. It was an embarrassment in our international relations, especially in the United Nations. It was, in my view, an additional source of friction wherever there was racial conflict. And the fact that the South African Government had refused to have diplomatic relations with other Commonwealth countries whose people were coloured was, of course, an added insult.
All of this had reached such a stage, produced such a contradiction inside the Commonwealth that, as I said earlier, I think that the point had been reached when it was almost inevitable that a break had to come.
Does this mean, however, as is suggested by Mr. Menzies and others, that there will be in the future other cases where conflict develops and argument develops and that the Commonwealth is accordingly weakened? I do not believe this. I agree with the Prime Minister here. I think that there is an essential difference between precept and practice.
It is quite true, of course, that there are racial conflicts elsewhere in the Commonwealth, but there is no other country which positively accepts as its ideology a policy of racial discrimination. That seems to be of fundamental importance. One can easily understand a discussion at a future Prime Ministers' Conference about an unfortunate racial riot which had broken out in some territory. One can easily understand its being discussed calmly, because, fundamentally, the Prime Ministers would agree how undesirable that kind of thing was and they would be talking about how to prevent it. That is very different from talking with someone who simply starts from totally different premises.
Secondly, I do not believe that, necessarily, these difficulties will arise in future, because I do not see for the moment any particular internal policies of other countries in the Commonwealth which have such an impact on the rest of the Commonwealth. If, for example, in the future any Commonwealth country were, unfortunately, to fall into the hands of an openly Fascist or Communist Government, that would certainly create a very great strain and we might have to face the same kind of situation which we have faced in the last few years. But, unless and until that happens, I do not think that the divergencies and differences—and there must be such, for instance, in the political systems—will be of such a character as to produce the explosion which occurred this year.
I pass to the consequential problems created by the decision of the South African Prime Minister. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that it is not wise to rush into decisions. These certainly are difficult issues and for myself I think that his proposal to have a Bill which keeps things going temporarily while negotiations, discussions, and so on are going on is not unreasonable.
As a matter of general principle, we have somehow to steer away from the two extremes. We do not want it to be supposed in the world as a whole, or in the Commonwealth, that it makes no difference at all whether a country is in the Commonwealth or not. We have to avoid that, but, equally, we do not needlessly wish to damage the interests of the people of South Africa. We have already said—the Prime Minister said it and I have said it—that we are deeply concerned about our relations with them. It would be foolish to do anything vindictive which would antagonise opinion in South Africa and possibly postpone the day when it may return to the Commonwealth.
The boycott was a personal matter, a matter best left to the consciences of individual Members. I happen to believe in it, and, if I had the time, I would explain to the noble Lord, but I have never proposed that Government sanctions should be applied.
The Prime Minister said that citizenship was a difficult issue. I do not see how one can apply the Irish precedent entirely, because in that case there is full reciprocity, which I do not think would be forthcoming in this case. It is a privilege to be allowed to come to this country and to be treated as a British citizen, a privilege which has considerable value. I suggest that, in any event, we might continue the arrangement by which, I understand, it is perfectly easy for South African citizens to become British citizens, if they so desire.
At this stage, I have no special comment to make on the question of the preferences. The Prime Minister is reserving any future changes there may be in that direction, but I have one or two comments to make about the High Commission Territories. I ask the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to say, when he replies, whether a decision has yet been reached about the type of British official who will, presumably, be in charge of these territories from the end of May onwards.
As is well known, at present, that duty falls upon the United Kingdom High Commissioner in South Africa, but it would not be a good plan for the future Ambassador—as he will be—to South Africa also to be responsible for the High Commission Territories. I would guess that the people of those territories would much prefer that the responsibility for looking after them should be transferred to the Colonial Office and, accordingly, presumably, a Governor would be appointed for the three territories.
We all understand the peculiar geographical situation of these territories and their dependence on South Africa—although one might say that South Africa depended on them as well. It is now even more important that the Government should press ahead with their economic development. It is now a year since the Morse Report was published, a Report produced by a Committee set up by the Government themselves and giving precise proposals about what could be done. I hope that we shall have a firm and swift decision by the Government on that matter.
There are certain other consequences to which I must refer. I very much hope that the Government will now take a different attitude at the United Nations when issues of race relations, and especially questions of South Africa's attitude, come up. Whatever justification there may have been—and we have been very critical of it—for the past attitude of the British Government has now completely disappeared. There is no need for us to line up with the colonial Powers of Portugal and Belgium and put ourselves in a tiny minority——
—in conflict with the United States Government and doing ourselves very considerable damage in the cold war.
Of particular importance is the special case of South-West Africa. The record of the Government in this matter is quite indefensible. I remind the House, not of everything that has happened over the last year or two, but simply of what has happened since last December. On 15th December, the House passed a Resolution, nemine contradicente, calling upon Her Majesty's Government to take action to ensure that the Government of South Africa carried out the solemn obligations which it undertook by accepting the mandate for South-West Africa, or surrendered it to the United Nations so that alternative trustee arrangements could be made.
Three days after that unanimous Resolution, the United Nations General Assembly passed, by 90 votes in favour to none against, a Resolution condemning the application of apartheid in South-West Africa. Britain was one of only three countries to abstain. On 20th December, last year, and again this year, hon. Friends of mine asked the Government what action they proposed to take to carry out the Resolution, and the Government made it plain that they proposed to do nothing.
On 3rd March, this year, my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) and some of my hon. Friends tabled a Motion calling on the British Government to give effect to that Resolution. Ten days later, the Trusteeship Committee of the General Assembly passed a Resolution calling on those members of the United Nations having close and continuous relations with the Government of South Africa to bring all their moral influence to bear on that Government. Nothing was done by the British Government, so far as we are aware. We were told, in extenuation of the failure of the British Government to vote for the Resolution—they abstained as usual—that the British delegation had had no time to obtain instructions and could take no decision on the merits of the Resolution. But on 16th March, three days later, when the Resolution came up before the General Assembly, by which time instructions could surely have been obtained, Britain once again abstained.
That is not good enough. The last of this story is that on 21st March, India introduced a 23-nation Resolution in the Trusteeship Committee authorising the existing Assembly Committee on South-West Africa to investigate conditions in the territory, if necessary without South Africa's co-operation. The United States delegate has announced that his country will support this. What is to be the attitude of the British Government?
In looking at this momentous event we must all regret that, because of the clash between the policies of the South African Government and the principles on which the modern Commonwealth is based, the people of South Africa of all colours should no longer be with us in the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, for my part I believe that what has happened does give the Commonwealth a significance and a purpose without which it would not have survived for long.
But this will be so only if we ourselves accept quite clearly the change that has occurred. It is a change which rejects the old idea that this association, this grouping of nations, need have no special principles and its members no special affinities, except historical ties. It is a change which implies clearly the existence of common ideals—the common ideals of racial equality, political freedom, extending the right of self-government to the rest of the Commonwealth, non-aggression in international affairs, economic co-operation, and aid between nations.
These ideals may be imperfectly realised in many instances, but, nevertheless, they, and they alone, give the Commonwealth its real justification today, just as the extraordinary variety in terms of geography, race and religion of the Commonwealth provides a wonderful opportunity to advance these ideals in a practical form in the world as a whole.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition put the act which we are discussing today in its true perspective when he described it as a matter of great historical importance and as a turning point in Commonwealth history. In my view, that was a more accurate description than using the adjective "sad", which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister used.
South Africa's departure from the Commonwealth is an act of tragedy. No other word properly describes the fact of this old Commonwealth country leaving the Commonwealth. My reason for saying that is based on the concept of the Commonwealth, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. I regard it as a tragedy because a number of the Prime Ministers—not my right hon. Friend—have misunderstood the nature of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is not, and never has been, an association of Governments. It is an association of peoples. That is why what we are discussing today is a very dangerous precedent.
The Commonwealth has driven South Africa out of the Commonwealth because it has criticised its Government. That is the reason why South Africa has left. I realise the difficulties of the situation. Not one of the Prime Ministers present at the Conference could agree with the methods of apartheid which have been used by the South African Government. I am sure that there is not a single right hon. or hon. Member who is not equally revolted by the system and methods of apartheid.
That is not the end of the story, because by this decision we have abandoned the men and women who have looked to the Commonwealth and to this country for their one hope for the future, for the easing of the rigours of apartheid.
I remember perfectly well the days in 1942 when I was in Gazala, in North Africa. My division had South African armoured cars in front of them patrolling no-man's land. On our right flank was the 1st South African Division, led by that grand General, Dan Pienaar. These two divisions, the 50th Northumbrians and the 1st South African, held the Eighth Army front against the Germans and the Italians. Men of the older generation, like my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, will never forget the courage of the South Africans at Delville Wood, in the First World War. Those men fought and died for freedom, yet by this act we have abandoned them to the rigours of apartheid and have shaken the foundations of the Commonwealth.
The greatest Commonwealth statesman I have ever met in my life was Field Marshal Jan Smuts. When he addressed the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on 25th November, 1943—there are still hon. Members in the House who remember that speech—he said this:
The British Empire and the British Commonwealth remain as one of the greatest things of the world and of history and nothing can touch that fact.
Last Wednesday, that was proved wrong. I cannot escape the conclusion that this issue—grave, complicated and difficult—was mishandled at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference and that Her Majesty's Government, who acted as hosts of the Conference, with the Prime Minister as Chairman, must take their full share of the responsibility for that failure.
The Archbishop of Capetown, who is no friend of apartheid, has declared that the Bantu people wish to remain in the Commonwealth. Is there any doubt that the United Party and the Progressive Party, both of whom condemn the methods of apartheid, want to remain in the Commonwealth? Why was no attempt made to find out the views of the people of South Africa on the issue of membership of the Commonwealth? I appreciate that a referendum would not have been a possible method because of the system of franchise, but many right hon. and hon. Members know that other methods were suggested. Why was not a species of Gallup poll taken to find out the views in South Africa when there was still time? That is where I believe that we have failed.
The Leader of the United Party, in a speech at the Royal Commonwealth Society, said that there should have been some sampling of public opinion in South Africa. His speech was reported in all the newspapers. There are a certain number of people in South Africa who would have helped to conduct that poll to find out the opinion of both the Bantu and the whites of South Africa. If the Prime Minister and the Government had given sufficient encouragement, that poll could have been carried out and it would have had a tremendous effect.
Is the right hon. Gentleman really suggesting that Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom should have carried on a Gallup poll in South Africa? Would he tolerate for one moment an attempt by other Governments to do that in this country?
I am so sorry, I seem not to have made myself clear. I was not suggesting that Her Majesty's Government in this country should carry out a poll in South Africa. I said that speeches had been made by prominent South African politicians, and that if Her Majesty's Government had used the influence they undoubtedly possess on the Prime Minister of South Africa I believe that a non-political body could have carried out a poll in South Africa, as the News Chronicle carried out polls here before it was murdered. That is my point, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations will be able to say whether it was considered. It has been mentioned in correspondence in the newspapers.
The danger of this decision is that once we regard the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth of Governments and not of peoples, directly there comes into power, for however short or long a period, a Government that practise some form of racial discrimination that is obnoxious, we shall find it voted out, and the Commonwealth will shrink very rapidly.
So much for the past—let us now look to the future. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in one part of his speech, appeared to be trying to adopt a vengeful, malicious attitude, trying to hound South Africa still further. I think that he is the exception, and I regret very much that he used that part of his speech today and did not reserve it for another occasion——
We should try to do what we can to repair the damage of last Wednesday, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will take two actions that I now want to suggest. I hope that when it is clear at any time that any future South African Government expresses a wish to rejoin the Commonwealth, Her Majesty's Government will welcome and sponsor that request—
On no conditions, because I believe it to be a Commonwealth of peoples, and if the people of South Africa at any time elect to power a Government that want South Africa to come back into the Commonwealth it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to welcome and to sponsor that request—
I cannot think that the hon. Gentleman has followed my argument. I have said that I dislike apartheid as much as any other hon. Member here, but that I know very many hundreds of people in South Africa who share my views on apartheid, so I think that if a South African Government asked to come back, my right hon. Friend or his successor should welcome them, and sponsor that application—
I understand that many hon. Members want to speak, and if I am continually interrupted I shall take longer than I wish.
How can we repair the damage? Let us recall the precedents of Eire and Burma. On the citizenship aspect, I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition. We can still make provisions for citizenship similar to those that have been made in Ireland. Secondly, on Commonwealth priority and trade, I understood the Prime Minister to say that these, being bilateral agreements, will be continued. I hope very much that that is the construction, and not the construction placed on them by the Leader of the Opposition.
Far more important is the whole system of technical and consultative agencies at present working in the Commonwealth. I hope that we will try, as far as lies in the power of Great Britain, to allow South Africa to continue to participate in the consultation and technical associations. I agree that I must put in a proviso, "As far as lies in our power".
Hitherto, one of the dominant factors of the Commonwealth has been its flexibility, but last Wednesday's decision has quite clearly imported a certain degree of rigidity into the Commonwealth concept. That having happened, I think that the time has come for us to take advantage of that development, and I suggest that my right hon. Friend should consider whether we should not now seek to inaugurate a new relationship—that of external associate of the Commonwealth.
The Expanding Commonwealth Group has put up this suggestion of external relationships in a recent pamphlet "Expanding Obligation". We believe that at this time it is important not to sever the links between primary producing countries, but to strengthen them.
Quite clearly, it would mean that associated countries could not enjoy any of the rights of consultation that are the most important feature of Commonwealth relations, but it would also mean that that pattern of living with mutual economic benefit at which we try to aim through our system of multi-racial partnership could be sought by other methods by those countries which enjoyed that external relationship.
It is not a difficult change—we now have the examples of Eire and Burma, and we could have South Africa in the same sort of relationship. In the Horn of Africa we are facing the problem of Somaliland which, again, might be suitable for this form of external relationship; and I would also mention the Sudan. I think that those are the best ways by which we can try to repair the damage of the tragedy of last week.
I should like to turn for a moment to one other aspect of the problem. As some hon. Members may know, I was, for personal reasons, in Central Africa last week, when the news broke about South Africa. It might be helpful if I told the House how that news was received in the Rhodesias and what was the general public opinion in the Federation, bearing in mind that I had previously been in the Federation as late as the end of January.
I would first remind the House that a great many of those now in North and South Rhodesia are men who have come quite recently from the Union because they have disliked working under apartheid. They have migrated north to try to live in the Federation, leaving their homes in South Africa because they felt that the Boer mentality of apartheid was more reminiscent of the nineteenth than of the twentieth century. They are professional men and tradesmen who have made that march.
Whereas, in January, I found dislike for the British Parliament most noticeable amongst the Right-wing politicians, the rest—both the Centre and the Left—were most anxious to co-operate, especially those in Southern Rhodesia, as I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations can testify from the experience of the most successful negotiations that he carried out in Salisbury.
I found last week that there had been a complete change of opinion. The abandonment of the 1958 Constitution in Northern Rhodesia and the realisation that in Nyasaland, as a result of changes made since the Lancaster House Conference, non-Commonwealth citizens are to be enfranchised while Nyasas working in Southern Rhodesia are being disfranchised, have led to a complete mistrust of the British Parliament and, in particular, of Her Majesty's Government. That mistrust could be found among all but a very small minority of Europeans, and among all moderate Africans.
During the last week what they regarded as the incompetent mishandling of the South African problem has accentuated that mistrust. They feel isolated, sandwiched between, on the north, the Congo, where Communist infiltration has led to the abandonment of law and order, and, on the south, the South African Government, who are now outside the Commonwealth, and whose racial discrimination they dislike. This is not the view merely of politicians. My experiences of last week brought me into close contact with professional men who were completely outside politics. This is a crisis of confidence. They have no confidence in Her Majesty's Ministers' ability to determine the future of their country, or to save the multi-racial partnership in which they believe.
Let me try to explain their thoughts. They honestly believe that South Africa has been driven out of the Commonwealth in consequence of an unfortunate speech about the "wind of change". They consider that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has completely abandoned the proposals and pledges of his predecessors in office.
I have stated their view so that this House can understand how necessary it is for them to be reassured.
That is the change that I have found during the last six weeks. In these circumstances, if there is a referendum on the proposed changes in the Southern Rhodesian Constitution, they will vote against them. Had they a measure of confidence in Her Majesty's Government, I believe that today, in Southern Rhodesia, all politicians, except those on the extreme Right, would welcome the plan devised by my right hon. Friend. It appears to them to be modelled on what we call the Lennox-Boyd 1958 Constitution for Northern Rhodesia.
Time is not on our side. Let me warn the House. I believe that mistrust is leading to despair, and that despair is leading to thoughts of desperate methods. I beg the Government to reconsider their policy before they let loose a tide of violence which, in my view, would not only destroy the more than worthwhile experiment in multi-racial partnership, but would also shatter the Commonwealth that has been so shaken by the mishandling of the situation last week.
The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has given us the benefit of his views, not only on South Africa but on what he called "public opinion" in Rhodesia. I wonder how many people in how many races he consulted. I am surprised that he should say that public opinion in Southern Rhodesia holds the views to which he has referred. I should like to know how many Africans he consulted, and whether he consulted just a certain group of people.
I must take him up on this extraordinary idea of a Gallup poll. According to him, a Gallup poll should be conducted; I do not know by whom—by the Victoria League, perhaps, which would go to South Africa for this purpose. Shall we have a poll conducted by the Soviet Union in Great Britain? There is no end to that kind of game once it is started. Surely if an expression of opinion is required, the best course is to have an election, and that presumably Dr. Verwoerd will have. In that way one can tell, at any rate, what white opinion is. One certainly cannot tell anything about black opinion from it.
Nor do I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on his other idea of an external associate of the Commonwealth. I did not altogether understand what he meant by that, because he limited it to primary producers so far as I could understand. Only primary producers were to be externally associated with the Commonwealth. If it were otherwise it might be worth doing, but I would not advocate that sort of thing simply as a method of getting South Africa back into the Commonwealth, which is what I think he had in mind.
The Prime Minister has said that we are sad today. I believe many people are sad. I can understand the point of view of the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton who referred to the abandonment of British-born men and women—those who have defended us as their one hope in helping them to ease the rigours of apartheid. I am sorry for these men and women, of whom there are many, in South Africa. But do not let us imagine that every British-born man and woman in South Africa is against apartheid. I wish it were so, but I fear that it is not. In fact, I think that the fact that South Africa has left the Commonwealth and the fact that she may one day come back again will help those people who are fighting for liberalism and for the rights of Africans in South Africa. Many of them will feel: "If we fight hard enough there is a chance that South Africa may have a more liberal policy, and if she has a more liberal policy there is a chance that she will come back again into the Commonwealth."
Many of them may now be much more concerned to help those few noble fighters for liberalism in South Africa. I hope they will be helped by many thousands who up till now have not taken a strong enough line, who have been content to let apartheid continue and have not taken any action to stop it.
I think that as well as sorrow many of us have a feeling of profound relief that South Africa is now out of the Commonwealth. It may be said that this is hypocritical, but one has felt some shame when people have said, "These acts are being carried out within your Commonwealth." We all know that we cannot influence South Africa. We know that she carries on her own policy, but there has always been that feeling of shame when people have said, "This is what is being done in a part of your Commonwealth." They will soon not be able to say that any longer.
It will make things much easier for us in the United Nations, and easier for Her Majesty's Government, too. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will, as my right hon. Friend said, avail themselves of the opportunity to take a line which they may often have wanted to take in the past but which they have not been able to take, simply because of South Africa being in the Commonwealth. It may be that Her Majesty's Government can now take a new line. They certainly will not have an excuse if they refrain from joining with other nations in protesting against the action of the South African Government in South West Africa.
I want to refer for a moment to the future and, in particular, to Dr. Verwoerd's speech on television. I do not know how many people listened to it. I listened to part of it myself, and I was fascinated by it. There is no doubt that Dr. Verwoerd is one of the most brilliant exponents on television in the world, probably even surpassing the Prime Minister, who is very good indeed. For all that, I think that those of us who have actually met Dr. Verwoerd, who have talked with him and who have really come under his spell, know what is behind it. I spent two or three hours with him, and I have never met a more charming, old-world gentleman.
About eight or nine months ago. I felt while I was talking to him that he was not just charming with a superficial charm but that he was like a father confessor: someone with whom one could discuss all sorts of serious problems who would pat one on the head and give one friendly advice about everything. That is the kind of attitude which he produces on television very skilfully indeed. I had to keep reminding myself that this was the man responsible for Sharpeville, Langa and all the other shooting that has taken place in South Africa.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot say that Dr. Verwoerd was responsible for these outrages. The people responsible were a lot of brash and over-adventurous police.
The police are controlled by Dr. Verwoerd and, to the best of my knowledge they were not dismissed as a result of their action, though I may be wrong about that. It is a far better principle to blame the Prime Minister and the men at the top than to blame the police at the bottom. They were carrying out the kind of policy advocated by Dr. Verwoerd.
The point that I was making was the extreme difficulty of reconciling Dr. Verwoerd's personal charm with the policy of apartheid. One has to realise that he leads a sort of double life—a kind of Jekyll and Hyde life. One of the things which he said in his speech was that he hoped eventually to get the Prime Minister away from the rest of the Commonwealth. He talked of Mr. Macmillan's reluctance to go with the Asians, the Africans and all the rest. He said that in order to help Mr. Macmillan he had taken this wonderful action to make it easier for him, and he went on to hope that South Africa and the white countries would come together, and, somehow or other, one gathered that the black countries would all be shed. There would be no more Mr. Nehru to worry him and no more Pakistanis, and certainly no more people from Africa.
Surely that is not the view that we take now. Surely that is not the view which the Prime Minister takes, let alone anyone else. It is certainly not the view that Mr. Diefenbaker takes. I pay tribute to him, and I do so particularly because only about five weeks ago I had a very long conversation with him in Ottowa in the course of which I came to the conclusion that he was going to recommend that South Africa should remain in the Commonwealth and that he would do all that he could to press for that. I realise now that I was quite wrong and that he had other views. It is remarkable the effect that they had. It appears that it was not by any means the black Prime Ministers alone, the Asians and Africans alone, who have been responsible for what happened. Mr. Diefenbaker seemed to play a very great part in this, and all of us on this side of the House are very grateful to him for what he did.
I said that I met Dr. Verwoerd about nine months ago. I met Mr. Diefenbaker nine weeks or less ago. I was talking about two quite different people—one called Dr. Verwoerd and the other Mr. Diefenbaker. I should like to quote from an article in the Observer last Sunday:
The policy of maintaining close and friendly relations between our Governments is undoubtedly the right one for Dr. Verwoerd, which should make it the wrong one for Mr. Macmillan.
In other words, the policy of damping things down and pretending that nothing has happened may be good for Dr. Verwoerd but is certainly not right, so said the Observer, for the Prime Minister, nor, I submit, is it right for hon. Members of this House.
I think that we have to take a totally different line. We in this House are proud to belong to the Commonwealth. Dr. Verwoerd is not proud. Surely that must make some difference to our attitude. What action should we take
in the future? I would have thought that the Commonwealth has certain rewards to offer to those people who are felt worthy of belonging to it. I should like to mention an article published in the Cape Times a few days ago:
The plain meaning of events in London is that we have been thrown out of the Commonwealth, out of the group of the most tolerant and most civilised, the most fair-minded peoples in the world. And we have been thrown out because of the policies of political nationalism, those narrow-minded, inflexible doctrines.
If one belongs to the most tolerant group of people in the world one expects to get some reward. If one breaks away from it, it may be that one does not expect to get quite the same rewards. I do not want to go into great detail of what might be done now. I quite appreciate the Prime Ministers desire to go slowly on this and not to rush into things immediately. I personally do not believe that there is a case for a national boycott today, though I believe that there is a case for personal boycott. I think, too, that it is quite a different matter when we say that South Africa, with whose policies we radically disagree, and who has deliberately broken away from the Commonwealth, should get exactly the same preference as the West Indies, Australia and other members of the Commonwealth. That seems to me to be quite wrong. I doubt whether they are worthy, if one likes to put it that way, to get the same preference as India, Pakistan and other Commonwealth countries. Why should they get better treatment than France, Belgium and Scandinavia and many other foreign countries. South Africa has elected to become a foreign country and should be treated as a foreign country in that respect.
I shall not go into details about citizenship, which is an extremely complicated matter. I do not think that we have to rush into it too quickly. I would say that we have to be very careful in talking about a parallel with the Irish situation. It is very different here, where a large number of people in South Africa would not be given the same rights, the same passports and the same privileges of travel as are given to the white population. In Ireland, so far as I know, all Irishmen get all rights exactly equal, but the same is not true in South Africa. We have to be very careful to see that if special rights are given they are given to people of all races, and I am doubtful if South Africa will do this.
It is a form of dictatorship. Though I profoundly disagree with the policy of Ghana in this respect, it is a very different thing from the policy of South Africa and of apartheid, which is directed against a whole race. I believe that South Africa cannot enjoy all the privileges of the Commonwealth club without paying the dues which are paid by all members of the club. It is wrong that she should, and I consider that we must be very careful to see that she does not.
I turn now to a subject touched on by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the position of the High Commission Territories. For some time now, many of us have been of opinion that it is wrong that there should be one man in charge of the High Commission Territories and in charge of relations with South Africa. We have felt in the past that it was wrong that he should have a double allegiance, but now, undoubtedly, the position must change. There will be an Ambassador under the Foreign Office accredited to the Union of South Africa, and there must be a man in charge in the territories who quite plainly will not be in the Foreign Office. My own personal view is that he should be in the Colonial Office. I think that the logical thing is for the territories to come under the Colonial Office rather than under the Commonwealth Relations Office. If the peoples of the territories object, I should not press that, although I believe that, from their point of view, it would be better if the territories did come under the Colonial Office. I hope that this will be done, because the Colonial Office, after all, is used to dealing with their kind of problems and the Commonwealth Relations Office is not. It is purely a coincidence that the present arrangement under the Commonwealth Relations Office should have been made.
The task of the man who is sent to govern the territories will be a very hard one indeed. The territories are poor and backward and undoubtedly have not been developed as they should have been either by the Government opposite or, if I may say so in all honesty, by our own side. I do not think that either party in the past has really paid sufficient attention to them or has developed them enough. Certainly, they have not been developed enough during recent years, and there remains a great deal to be done. As I say, the task will be hard, but it will be a very rewarding one. I hope that whoever performs it will put as much energy into the development of the territories, in education, social services, and the whole economic life of the territories, as has been put by this country into some of the larger Colonies in the past.
We are now going down a new road. It is a long road, and a difficult road, but at the end we shall, I hope, find a South Africa which is reborn and found worthy once again to enter the Commonwealth.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), I regard what happened last week as a tragedy. I, too, hope that it will not be a precedent for any other member of the Commonwealth. I am particularly sad about it because I spent a very happy ten days in the Union only about six weeks ago, where, to a certain extent to my surprise, I found everybody, from the Speaker of the House of Assembly downwards, absolutely friendly and courteous. I confess that I should not have been surprised if I had met some hostility in view of some of the things which had been said in this country during recent years about the Union.
As the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) said, some people of British descent are not opposed to apartheid. There are, I think, two reasons for this. One is the reason I have just mentioned, the attitude of some Members of the House in the way they have attacked South Africa in past years. Also, I think, they are not convinced that racial partnership can work. It is my hope that in the years ahead we shall convince them that it can and does work, so that they will change their attitude in this respect and, eventually, South Africa will come back into the Commonwealth.
I turn now to the trade side of the tragedy. I am very glad indeed that the agreement which governs our trade relations with the Union of South Africa, the one which has brought about the present system of Commonwealth Preference, is not affected by what has happened. It is one of the Ottawa Agreements which goes on indefinitely until terminated by six months' notice on either side. I hope that it will remain the firm intention of Her Majesty's Government that, as far as we are concerned, no action will be taken to terminate that agreement.
It is not the only agreement of its kind. At the time of the Ottawa Conference, South Africa made similar agreements with Canada, New Zealand and Eire, and since then she has, I think, made similar agreements with Australia and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I am sure that many of those agreements will follow the fate, whether good or bad, which may be given to our agreement with the Union, and this is why I hope that we shall maintain the present agreement which we have.
As I understand the position, Commonwealth Preference is enjoyed by South Africa on about 50 per cent. of her exports to this country, excluding gold. It has always been one of the puzzles of our trade relations that gold should be regarded as something so secret that no figures are ever given of imports or exports to and from this country in our relations with any other country. Only global figures for the year are given, so we cannot know what the exports of gold to this country from South Africa are. Of the rest of her exports, 50 per cent. enjoy Commonwealth Preference, although some of the preferences are undoubtedly small. In the other direction, about 20 per cent. of our exports to South Africa enjoy Commonwealth Preferences in that country, and this is something which, I hope, we shall always remember.
The distribution of South Africa's trade results in about one-third of her total imports coming from the United Kingdom and 11 per cent. from other Commonwealth countries. In 1958, we took no less than 30 per cent. of her exports and other Commonwealth countries took 20 per cent. This shows what an important part is played, first, by Commonwealth Preference and, secondly, by Commonwealth sentiment and feeling for fellow-countrymen. Commonwealth trade plays a great part in the trade relations of the Union. We are South Africa's best customer, and she was our fifth best customer in 1960 after the United States, Australia, Canada and Western Germany. Bearing in mind that of the total population of 13 million, or whatever it is, of all races in the Union only about 700,000 voted in favour of a republic, it is, in my view, unthinkable that we should treat South Africa and, therefore, all those people any less well than we have been treating her in the past. I very much hope that the present arrangement will be continued.
Last year, we bought £29 million worth of fruit from the Union, £6 million worth of sugar and £1 million worth of wine. I interpose that there is another problem in regard to sugar created by the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. While we maintain, as I hope we shall maintain, the Commonwealth Preference which we grant to sugar from South Africa and Australia, this is different from the arrangement in regard to the Colonial Territories.
I wonder whether my right hon. Friend can give us any information about the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. Am I right in thinking that the Agreement as it is at the moment lasts for about six years ahead, the quota being agreed every year for that period ahead, so that nothing can happen for about six years with regard to South Africa? Also, we should bear in mind that sugar in South Africa is grown almost entirely in Natal, and that the South African sugar quota under the Commonwealth Agreement, as I understand it, includes also the sugar quota of Swaziland, which, presumably, we should wish to maintain.
There is preference on most of the fruit, the oranges, the apples and the canned fruit, coming from South Africa. Last year, South Africa was our largest supplier of canned fruit, with £11½ million worth, and three-quarters of her exports of canned fruit come to this country.
As I said, we bought £1 million worth of South African wine last year. That is about 60 per cent. of her total exports. Other exports of South African wine go to Canada, New Zealand, West Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the Far East. Thanks to the Common Market, there is the danger of a drop in South African exports of wine to countries like the Netherlands and Germany. I understand that the South African wine industry employs from 120,000 to 130,000 people, and that includes, not only grapes for wine and the processing of it, but table grapes and raisins as well. Of course, most of those people are Africans.
Exactly a hundred years ago we ruined the South African wine industry by abandoning Commonwealth Preference and introducing free trade in wine. Imports of wine into this country, which at that time, 1861, amounted to 600,000 gallons fell to as little as 10,000 gallons about thirty years later. It was not until 1925, when we restored the preference, that trade recovered, and it has gradually grown since to its present level. I hope that there will be no question of our repeating the tragedy of a hundred years ago and ruining an industry in which there is a great deal of capital and which employs a large number of Africans who, I am sure, every hon. Member wishes to help.
We must also remember our own exports, of which, as I said, about 20 per cent. receive some form of Commonwealth Preference in the Union. I know that we have done quite well in the export of cars, for example, which do not receive any Commonwealth preference. Most electrical machinery, in particular, gets the benefit of Commonwealth Preference in the Union. We would be very unwise, from our own point of view, quite apart from the much greater damage that we would do to the Union, if we abandoned a system which benefits our own exports.
Only six weeks ago I found that there is a great deal of good feeling in the Union towards this country. It comes from people of all races and parties. They are very pro-British in outlook in many ways. I am sure that every hon. Member will agree that South Africa is a go-ahead country. It is full of large resources. It is one of the biggest gold and uranium producers in the world. Its industry is developing on as extensive lines as those of other leading Commonwealth countries. We often hear of firms in our country and other European countries setting up subsidiaries in Commonwealth countries and other underdeveloped countries.
In South Africa, I came across an example of this working the other way. A South African firm which manufactures spin-drier washing machines is setting up a subsidiary company to construct an assembly plant in Holland. That shows the go-ahead nature of South African industry. It is partly due to the quality and cheapness of South African steel.
In conclusion, I reiterate the hope that, whatever may happen in future, there will be no question of our abandoning the Commonwealth Preference system, bearing in mind that, whatever may be the view of the majority of people who voted for a republic, we do not know the views of the minority who voted against it and of the vast majority who had no vote at all about the question of South Africa's continued Commonwealth membership. We should do them immense harm if we abandoned this system, and, therefore, I hope that it will continue and that we will set an example to the rest of the Commonwealth by continuing it.
The hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) has dealt with a very important and special aspect of our relations with South Africa which I hope will be tackled with common sense. I will not go into detail about it. I think that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition expressed the view which most of us on this side take. We do not wish to discuss with any spirit of vindictiveness the great country which has left the Commonwealth. On the other hand, we do not want South Africa to feel that she has exactly the same rights and privileges as if she were still in the Commonwealth. Apart from saying that, I should not like to attempt to go into the questions which the hon. Member raised.
The main current of the debate so far has shown that we are perhaps ready to accept a practical solution of the problem. What are really worrying the House, I think, are the problems of ethics and the nature of the Commonwealth. Preceding speeches have, for the most part, followed that theme, and so will mine.
The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) ran into trouble with my hon. Friends and some of his own hon. Friends at one stage. He began his speech with the statement of a dilemma which I think has struck hon. Members on this side forcibly, too. This was not a happy decision to take, but it is still less easy to feel that we are leaving out of our Commonwealth not only the Government which oppresses the black people of South Africa but the black people themselves.
The right hon. Gentleman found rather too easy a solution to that dilemma, but I hope that neither he nor any other hon. Member will feel that those of us who approve of the severance of the connection between South Africa and the Commonwealth are happy that the African people of South Africa—the voteless, the people in the segregated races—are also outside our family.
Apartheid was the prime mover in this matter. There is no doubt that this question fell into a distinct and individual class. It is no use talking as if, having dealt with this particular fault in the case of South Africa, we are likely to use it as a precedent for dealing with faults on a smaller scale in other countries. I do not think that that is likely to happen.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said that South Africa seems to be adhering to quite different standards from ours. It is not that she is falling below the standards that we are trying to reach but that she is not trying to reach our standards on a massive question, the question of racial discrimination, which touches the conscience of our time more strongly than it did in the earlier history of our Commonwealth on a great number of other questions.
Apartheid has so far been looked upon by the Commonwealth members as a matter for the domestic jurisdiction of South Africa. It has been a bit too explosive to remain in that position, and the Prime Minister carefully pointed out that this matter was discussed after a waiver of rights by the South African Prime Minister. But still, a generation ago, this sort of thing would hardly have been possible. In the Commonwealth we would have felt that a matter of domestic jurisdiction must not be discussed. Dr. Verwoerd thinks that it was wrong to take it up, although he agreed to have it discussed. I do not think it will be possible to regard it as anything but a precedent.
It seems to me that this is a turning point in the Commonwealth. It seems to me that here we have a very considerable break with the past. One phrase which the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton used was about inflexibility, when he said that the Commonwealth was becoming more inflexible. It is not a phrase that I should like to use, and not an idea that I should like to connect with the Commonwealth, but I think that to a very small extent he may perhaps be right. The Commonwealth was, perhaps, too flexible in matters of that kind, which have involved deep principle in the past. It may well be true in the future that we shall not be able in the Commonwealth to avoid an enormous question of principle like this on the simple ground that it falls within the domestic jurisdiction of one member.
This seems to me to be one tremendous change in the nature of the Commonwealth and in the practice of the Commonwealth, which itself springs from a change in the nature of the association that we now wish to be. There is another very considerable effect involved in this. Dr. Verwoerd himself has stressed that the Commonwealth has changed since 1960—since last year. He says that it is beginning to disintegrate, changing in the wrong direction. The Sunday Times tells us that the Commonwealth has been diminished. I do not agree with that; I think exactly the opposite, but there is no doubt that a change has taken place.
I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition stressed the importance of considering this severance of relations in the light not only of its effects on South Africa but of its effect on the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth. I see two very considerable changes in Commonwealth practice and principle. One is that we have departed in this tremendously important matter from a readiness to consider it simply as a matter of domestic jurisdiction. The other is that we have added what we might call a new principle of Commonwealth in our generation in the period since the First World War. The Commonwealth has gone through a good many changes. It has been changing fast, but nearly all changes have been of structure and status. They are the changes expressed by the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster of 1931. They have been changes adding to the individual importance of members, changes which have been concerned with the place of individual members in the association. There has been a process of gradual movement towards independence.
We now have, it seems to me, a change of a completely different order. We are now beginning to make changes in the matter of principle. So far, if I have been reading Commonwealth history aright, the only principle that has been found unanimously to have been continuously working throughout the history of the Commonwealth has been the principle of liberty. That has led to independence and the changes we have seen in the last few decades. but now we have added to that principle the important principal of racial tolerance—the principle of a multi-racial Commonwealth.
Here, we have two tremendously strong and, I think, tremendously creative principles at work in the Commonwealth. The principle of liberty has in the past been equally creative. I believe that in the next generation, or in the next generation or two, the principle of nondiscrimination as between races is likely to be just as creative. I do not, therefore, feel that the Commonwealth has been diminished, as we are told by the editorial writer in the Sunday Times. I feel rather that it has taken a stand on another principle which is likely to lead the Commonwealth to further growth and further influence, and this just at a time when the critics were beginning to ask, "What is the Commonwealth? How much of the Commonwealth is there left? What does the Commonwealth stand for?" We have always stood for the principle of liberty and for the working out of that principle through political institutions. The Commonwealth now stands absolutely unmistakably and four square on the principle of nondiscrimination as between races, and, therefore, we have a Commonwealth with a meaning.
The Times used an interesting phrase about it—"the newly shaping Commonwealth". In the last few decades, historians of the Commonwealth have gone in for all sorts of interesting names—the Third British Empire, the Second Commonwealth, and that kind of thing. I do not know what we may call this stage, but it seems to me that this change that we are now in process of witnessing is a change on the grounds very largely of ideology, and partly on the grounds of accepting as a matter of common interest what a generation ago would have been accepted simply as a matter of internal interest. This change is perhaps just as great as the kind of change initiated in the years just after the First World War.
It has its dangers, of course. It means that the Commonwealth is breaking into the field of ideology, to use a rather less attractive term for what we would otherwise mean by the word "principle", but the principle of liberty has its dangers, too. When we talked of giving independence to members of the Commonwealth or of the Empire in the old days, there were plenty of critics who said that once we did that they would grow up and leave the house, and there would be no Commonwealth left. Everything has its dangers, but I think the likelihood is that our taking our stand on this principle today will be advantageous rather than dangerous.
I do not want to try to follow up the special problems that arise in connection with South Africa itself. I think most of them have been raised in the course of the debate, such as the question of nationality, which is a very difficult one to deal with, and the question of the Protectorates, on which I would only echo what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, that it seems to me that instead of a High Commissioner covering all three territories, a situation which arose only because of their special relationship with South Africa, the sensible thing is to make them separate territories each under a Governor, as with those territories which are at present under the Colonial Office.
There is also the question of our attitude to the United Nations, the question of defence agreements, and the special question which the hon. Member for Wembley, South raised of our trade relations. All these have to be dealt with, and I feel that the two right hon. Gentlemen who opened the debate have taken the right kind of attitude about these groups of questions. I am inclined to agree with the Prime Minister that there is a case for a standstill on a number of them, and certainly a number of them are exceedingly complex, and we must try, so far as it is a matter of our decision, to temper the exigencies of sending a country out of the Commonwealth—which is what we have done, although the form was that of withdrawal—with ordinary decency and friendliness and dislike or unreadiness to put into effect anything which could be considered as being vindictive or deliberately unpleasant.
In about 1950, at the height of the cold war, the word "democracy" was used equally by the two protagonists. To us, whatever it may have meant to the Russians, their use of it connoted blood and steel and concrete, whereas our own use of the word, with all sweetness and light, was illustrated by "The Right Road for Britain", "The Future belongs to You", or whatever the phraseology was, veritable lambs in springtime. "Democracy" was then a ju-ju word and "apartheid" is a ju-ju word today.
Whatever I may say about developments in South Africa, I want hon. Members, if they will be so good, not to apply blood and sweat and tears, their imagination running riot after Sharpeville, necessarily to that word when I use it in a sense which is applicable to the investment of money in particular areas of separate development. "Apartheid" is a word that is now torn apart across the world and between the political parties. It is a great pity that that is so.
I was very surprised by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this evening. I had not realised that he felt so deeply about developments in South Africa. He used phraseology which is new for the Government. After this break with South Africa, he seems to have thought it right to be even more trenchant in his criticism of the politics and philosophy of that great country than he has ever been in the past, either in this House, at party conferences, in the United Nations or, so far as I know, anywhere else.
I was very surprised and rather shocked by the strength of the Prime Minister's speech this evening. It was very different from the speech which he delivered a year or so ago, when he went to South Africa, the famous "wind of change" speech. It was the "wind of change" speech which began the unpleasant process from which we have recently suffered.
The Government have mishandled this great issue on several counts. First, they have led the world to believe that there was great harm even in the positive sides of what the South African Government are attempting. Secondly, they have done nothing positive to assist South Africa at the bar of public opinion all over the world. Thirdly, they have mishandled it through not appreciating that the issue of continuance of the Commonwealth should be presented in such a way as to help the South Africans.
The Prime Minister undoubtedly began this when he used the words in the "wind of change" speech. The wide context in which he spoke and the phraseology he used all pointed to the fact that he was beginning a process of condemnation of South Africa. He used certain words, however, notably the phrase about "Mind your own business, but mind how it affects my business, too"—I think that that is the exact form of the words he used—which could be taken from then on by members of the Commonwealth as an excuse and reason and an endorsement of the desire to indulge in the process of destructive mutual criticism.
Hitherto, the Commonwealth had never attempted anything of the kind. It has been held together by a belief that it should stand back to back, facing the world outwards, defending itself, increasing its power and influence and keeping its internal processes as quietly arranged and quietly discussed as possible. Now, unfortunately, members of the Commonwealth have turned right about to face each other and are criticising each other with their backs to the rest of the world. I do not know how long an institution that behaves like that can possibly continue. My first charge, therefore, is that the process of disintegration started with the ill-fated tour by the Prime Minister to Africa last year.
Secondly, I do not think that the Government have done all that they should to help South Africa explain at the bar of public opinion the positive sides of apartheid—and there are positive sides of apartheid which can be defended. We have only to look at the behaviour of our own country and other countries of the Commonwealth to see that there are many aspects of the beneficial side of separate development inside South Africa which are applicable to us, as well, and to other members of the Commonwealth.
We are very lucky that our black Colonies are 5,000 or 10,000 miles away. There are some black Colonies from which labour in this country is willingly recruited. Now, we are beginning to wonder whether that should continue. We are not faced with anything like the same problem as faces South Africa, with enormous forces of primitive Bantu virtually across a few hundred miles of arid country, swelling into the centres of civilisation on the enticement of a high standard of living. We are not faced with those things in this country. There are people in this country who think that we may be faced with them unless we do something to stop immigration from the Caribbean.
There is a certain hypocrisy in the attitude of Britain towards these problems, based on an unfortunate situation in which propaganda has been sedulously built up and engineered for highly-charged political reasons. I think that the Government have been in a position throughout in which they could have groped for the truth, cast aside the mischievous propaganda that was created by others and found out in their heart whether what they were doing themselves and what they were allowing other countries of the Commonwealth and Empire to do was not in some way the same sort of thing as South Africa is compelled to do.
I say, therefore, that the Government have neglected their duty of going out and finding the truth and helping their great ally in two world wars and their partner in the Commonwealth to defend herself.
Thirdly, the Government have not arranged the mechanics of the situation very intelligently. South Africa's case is not governed by precedent. It is the only member of the Commonwealth which is technically put out of that position by a change of status and wishes to return to it. The other members, India, Pakistan, Ceylon were all previously parts of the India Office or the Colonial Office system, were given their independence, and were, therefore, put in the position of asking for the first time whether they might be members of the Commonwealth.
South Africa was an old-established—the fourth established—member of the Commonwealth. She changed her status, and the Government, I think stupidly, applied those precedents to her and allowed her to go out and then make her application to return. We all know it is much easier if one is a member of a club to remain in it. It needs a general resolution of the committee, if not a special general meeting of members, to turn one out; but if one is outside the club, and one is asking for admission, one black ball excludes, and that is what has happened this time. If the Government had handled the situation so that it would have been necessary to amass a considerable number of Commonwealth members to force South Africa out of the club, when everybody recognised that she was already in, I do not think we should have had the situation we have today.
I want to speak briefly in this short debate, because there are many Members who desire to address the House. I do not understand the philosophy of the Prime Minister in the question of Africa. It seems to me that he is taking a wholly cold war view of the situation, the view that unless we liberate with the greatest possible speed the maximum number of countries in Africa we shall not get sufficient numbers of allies on our side to succeed in the cold war. He seems to me to be forcing the pace of advance for highly ideological, international reasons.
I think that his philosophy, if I am right about it, ought to be defended on the proper occasion. It may be true. On the other hand, we are seeing now that if we do this—the Congo is a magnificent example of it—we perpetuate the sort of chaos in which the seeds of Communism themselves grow and we do ourselves ultimate mischief. The Prime Minister is taking the bird's eye view of Africa. He ought to be taking the worm's eye view.
Here is the wretched African struggling, as I said in the debate in the House in February, to draw himself out of the vast areas of square miles of red clay in which his feet are firmly placed; he has eyes on a future of prosperity and of high civilisation. But he cannot get out of the mud, cannot put pull himself up by his own boot straps. It needs the British element in Africa to do that, to lift him to higher spheres. And that is why any precipitate policy which engineers the partial or the complete withdrawal of British communities, of Portuguese, French, Belgians, communities of people representing Western Europe and the high standards of civilisation which they have achieved there, is such a fundamental error—a fundamental error.
We ought to be supporting the British element in South Africa. We ought to be supporting the British element in Central Africa. We ought to be aware of the dangers of the precipitate transfer of our colonial system in East Africa to African control; because our people there are the engineers of high standards of life, they are the means of communication between the great riches of this country and the highly civilised parts of Europe and the bogs and swamps of that vast territory of Africa. If we frighten them out of the picture, as we are seeing every day in Kenya and Rhodesia, if we frighten the British economy out of the country, we do ultimate harm to the African people. That is why the boycott, which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition glories in having help to impose upon the people of South Africa, was a monstrous mistake.
About six months ago I was privileged to meet twenty or thirty leaders of the coloured community in Capetown. After a very happy and successful interview, the leader on their behalf, in front of the rest of them, addressed me in these words, "Will you kindly go back to your country and tell the leaders of the Labour Opposition in your Parliament that their advocacy of the boycott has done us the greatest mischief and harm?" I take the greatest pleasure in delivering the message.
Where is this great Commonwealth of ours going from here? We are told by Lord Hailsham, that those on the Right and Left of politics have lost faith in contemporary Britain. What is contemporary Britain in the eyes of the Lord President of the Council?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said vaguely tonight that this new Commonwealth into which we are moving enshrines idealism. What is the idealism which it enshrines? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition put together certain words and phrases. They did not mean very much, but he tried to show that there was some new meaning and purpose to the post-catastrophe Commonwealth which we have inherited. The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) said that an aspect of multi-racialism was the thing to try for. Multi-racialism is evidenced all over the world. One does not find that outside the Commonwealth it is more in question than inside.
I should like to know, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations will tell us, what the Commonwealth now enshrines—not Royalty or loyalty, not democracy, not history, not defence, although I am glad to say that the defence treaties with South Africa are to be maintained. In what do we differ now from the shambles that is the United Nations? If we do not differ from the shambles of the United Nations, what is the purpose of keeping this Commonwealth alive?
A lifeline must be flung to South Africa in this situation. What can we do to help her? The suggestion was made opposite that we should now take action even more inimical to her interests than we have inadvertently taken in the last few days, over the High Commission Territories. I cannot believe that it would not be considered by South Africa to be extremely provocative to bring these High Commission Territories back under the Colonial Office. In the eyes of South and Central Africans the Colonial Office is not at the moment the finest of institutions in the world. I do not believe that South Africans would regard that as a friendly gesture.
Can we not do something more imaginative? The challenge which Dr. Verwoerd puts out is that he is to spend all that South Africa is able to afford—I think that it is £15 million a year, rising to £50 million in time—to establish industries in areas where the Bantu is already congregated and where he can learn the arts of self-government for himself.
What are we doing in Swaziland, Basutoland and Bechuanaland? We are pouring money into those territories. Perhaps not enough; perhaps not as much as £15 million a year, which is what Dr. Verwoerd is aiming at doing. Are we not bringing them up to self-government in the end? We have a High Commissioner there at the present time. Cannot these great situations be married in some form? Can we not retain control over those three territories while inviting Dr. Verwoerd to prove his worth in them? Let us see what a challenge of that kind, thrown out to him, would result in. Something must be done to aid South Africa in her plight.
I say nothing of the kind. I say that we should retain absolute control over them, but invite South African money into them, to provide industrialisation and commercial growth towards the ultimate self-government which is the positive philosophy of Dr. Verwoerd, and see how he responds.
I have finished. I am grieved by the terrible catastrophe that has overtaken the Commonwealth. I think that Her Majesty's Government are very largely to blame for it, and I hope that hence-forth every effort will be made to create a world instrument which enshrines the British way of life, the British way and purpose, the ethos of our society, and which can help to keep the violent antagonisms of the world, in Communist Russia and the United States of America, in touch with each other, and maintain peace.
The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) speaks as though this country had inflicted some appalling injustice on South Africa. He speaks as though very little blame was attaching to South Africa; that it is we who should have guilty consciences, and that it is up to us to make some amends to this wronged Government. I have great respect for the noble Lord, and it would be disrespectful to him not to make it quite clear that I hold an exactly opposite opinion.
It is quite true that many South African formations fought on our side in the last war, but it is not by any means so clear that all the members of the South African Government were wholeheartedly in favour of this country in that war. I share the hon. Member's views about the speeches of Members of the Government. I, too, feel that our Government have frequently said one thing and done another. I, too, feel that they have often used their speeches not to instruct people in the realities of the situation but to conceal them. But when the noble Lord goes on from that to say that the Commonwealth should be an association of people who stand back to back, looking outwards upon a hostile world and not taking any account of what they themselves are doing, I think that he is wrong.
Let the noble Lord put himself in this position. Let him consider how he would feel if the situation were the other way round. Let us suppose that there was a Commonwealth country in which a very large white population was oppressed by a small black population. Would he say that it was no concern of other white people in other parts of the Commonwealth? Would he say that it was an internal matter of the country concerned? I doubt whether he would take that view. I know him much too well. He would have views to express, and he would think it a proper matter upon which to express them.
It is a tragedy for those people in South Africa who dislike apartheid and want to remain in the Commonwealth that these events have happened. I am not so clear that Dr. Verwoerd thinks it a tragedy. Let us face the alternative. Let us suppose that the Government had skated over the difficulties and that South Africa was to remain in the Commonwealth. To me that could only mean one of two things; either that this trouble would break out again—because I do not believe that Ghana and other Commonwealth countries whose people are of a different colour could have let the matter rest—or that the Common- wealth was of very little importance to anyone; so little importance, in fact, that they did not feel it worth making any fuss about.
The Prime Minister said that he was in favour of keeping South Africa in the Commonwealth. He said that he would rather put out the hand of friendship than pass by. But for years we have attempted to hold out the hand of friendship to South Africa. We have attempted to explain to them that we were opposed to their policies but nevertheless hoped to influence them and to retain them inside the Commonwealth.
This seems to be the crux of this matter. We have tried keeping them in the Commonwealth. We have tried argument and, we have tried influence, but it has not had the slightest effect on the South African Government. I think it very doubtful now whether this South African Government want to come back into the Commonwealth, or ever will. There are people, black and white, in South Africa who will want to come back, but I do not believe that Dr. Verwoerd has any intention of modifying the principle of apartheid and I fear that the countries will drift apart.
When he spoke of apartheid, the noble Lord said that we must not attribute to him the views of Dr. Verwoerd. The noble Lord said that he was talking about apartheid in the sense that there might have to be different development of the races. There is a phrase used by the Red Queen that "Words mean what I want them to mean."
Some people in the Conservative Party are moving fast in the wrong direction, and the noble Lord is one of those at the head of them.
Dr. Verwoerd, like the noble Lord, tried to leave the impression that apartheid is a reasonable matter, a question of different development. All are equal, but they are not to be mixed up. We know that it is not like that, and it is no good anyone pretending that it is. To begin with, the white man in South Africa cannot get on without the black man. He cannot run his business and his industry. It is not a question of keeping the races apart. They are inextricably mixed up. Apartheid means the superiority of one race and the oppression of one race by another. It is wholly untenable and it is wholly impossible to say that it has no international repercussions.
Furthermore, Dr. Verwoerd has made it plain that it is not a passing phase which, to do him justice, was the ground on which the noble Lord would defend it. It is for Dr. Verwoerd a permanent principle of State. This is wholly different from the aberrations and troubles in other parts of the Commonwealth. Another thing that became clear from the discussions at the Conference is that not only is Dr. Verwoerd adamant on the principle of racial discrimination, but he has no intention of working things out together as one Commonwealth country making some compromise with others.
This is certainly the moment for taking a long look at where the Commonwealth now stands. It is often said that the Commonwealth is an illusion, that it has no reality and no strength. The noble Lord asked what principle, what ideal, what foundation is behind the Commonwealth. It is quite possible, I agree, that the Commonwealth might actually become a stumbling block. I think that at the time of Suez, from the point of view of the Government, the Commonwealth was a handicap. It is very likely that the Commonwealth may be made an excuse for not reaching any reasonable agreement with Europe. It means strains on our economy and on our defence.
We should not take it as a matter of course that any sort of Commonwealth is worth having. We must decide what the Commonwealth is about. Many similes are used, which I dislike. I dislike the expression "Commonwealth Club". It makes me think of old gentlemen smoking cigars and sitting on rather worn-out leather armchairs. I dislike the description of the Common- wealth as a "family", as if we were an elderly relation and on Father's Day the children came back to pay us compliments. I dislike the vague mystique and the ideals to which the noble Lord referred. They represent an exclusiveness which does not correspond to realities.
I should like the Commonwealth to stand for two things, and one of them is simply racial equality. I believe that the relationship of the black and white races is one of the two or three most important questions of our time. I believe it is vital to the Western world. I believe it is an extremely difficult question for the Americans to deal with considering what goes on in their own country. I believe Britain and her Commonwealth could make an immense contribution simply on this subject. Secondly, I believe the Commonwealth should be an example to the rest of the world in the sort of way in which international affairs should be carried out, in co-operation, giving a little sovereignty here and there and working out practical policies about practical matters.
On the first question of racial equality I say again what has been said before. Britain was defeated at the Prime Ministers' Conference, but she now has a chance to redeem herself at the United Nations by voting according to her conscience. She has a chance to redeem herself on the mandate of South West Africa by it being possible to remove it from South Africa.
I agree with the noble Lord that Dr. Verwoerd has a perfectly good point against us in that he does more for black Africans than we do. We should make that good. The Morse Committee reported £10 million would go a long way towards setting the Protectorates on their legs. Swaziland, I think, is fairly well off with C.D.C. assistance, and private enterprise, which are doing a good job, but Basutoland and Bechuanaland need far more help. I am told that £7 million down plus £½ million for five years would restore them to health. That should be a first call on the Government and I gladly join with the noble Lord in making it.
Another thing we should do, whatever form the government of the Protectorates takes, is to remove it out of South Africa. I have long felt that the High Commission should be taken out of South Africa and, despite the good job which Sir John Maud does, his office should be in the Protectorates.
On practical co-operation for practical problems, I do not want to go into detail in this debate, but I believe that the Overseas Civil Service is the sort of thing we should work for. I believe that practical work should be done on the question of race relations and the sort of government we can recommend to countries which have a multi-racial problem. I agree that it is not for us to set up as experts on multi-racialism. We do not suffer from it, but we have found the solution, and I believe the Commonwealth as a whole should by its collective wisdom together reach a conclusion. The Commonwealth countries have got to co-operate together and not simply look to Britain.
I cannot say that I regard this as an unmitigated tragedy. I think it better that South Africa should have withdrawn than that she should have remained in or have been expelled. If we are to turn it to full advantage we cannot go back to the old idea that the Commonwealth is an agreeable cosy little gathering of a family. We have to face up to two things. First, working multi-racialism, and, secondly, working co-operation on practical subjects.
As a background to the contribution I hope to make to the debate I may perhaps say that I have a small, but not very recent, knowledge of South Africa and an interest in its affairs. I have been there twice, once as a private Member in 1954 and once as a Board of Trade Minister in 1957, and had some opportunity, in particular, to study her economic problems and economic relationships with this country.
I shall make my position about South Africa clear, but the main theme of what I want to say is not that. My main theme corresponds with my main concern—the implications of these events from the point of view of the Commonwealth as a whole. I think that it is not only a sad thing but a bad thing that South Africa has had to leave the Commonwealth—a bad thing not only for South Africa, not even only for the Commonwealth as a whole, but for those individual member nations of the Commonwealth who are at present inclined to make it a matter of rejoicing.
At times of present jubilation, it is well to remember the wise words of Sir Robert Walpole:
They may ring their bells now; before long they will be wringing their hands.
Those nations will learn, even if they do not know as yet, that what diminishes the Commonwealth as a whole diminishes each individual member of it.
However, I want to say, first, a word about South Africa itself. I have always felt that South Africa is a country for which Nature has done everything, but whose prospects are unfortunately bedevilled by political and racial issues. I am against apartheid. I think that it is wrong, socially undesirable, and economically impracticable. I deplore the decision of South Africa to become a republic. I must add, though I do it with regret, because I had a very friendly and hospitable welcome, that I do not much care for the parochialism of the majority party in the Union, which is, unfortunately, one of its political characteristics.
Though I am strongly against apartheid, I do not consider that it constitutes a sufficient reason for forcing South Africa out of the Commonwealth, because it is a matter of South Africa's internal policy. After all, there are many aspects of the internal affairs of many countries which we do not like. There are some aspects of our own internal affairs which we probably do not like. But we get into very deep water if we start to make these matters a condition of membership of the Commonwealth.
Supposing, for the sake of argument, that one of the members of the Commonwealth turned Communist, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman then take the attitude that that was purely a matter of the internal government of that country, of which no notice should be taken?
We would probably be bound to do so; but I point out to the hon. Lady and the House that there is a distinction. If apartheid, like Communism, were an article for export and international propagation, reinforced by all the odious apparatus of espionage and subversive propaganda, it might be another story. But it is not, because one of the good things about the parochialism, which, in general, I deprecate, as I have said, of the majority party in the Union, is that it regards this doctrine as its own specific patent and formula, and it does not show any desire to extend its application into other nations. That is the answer to the hon. Lady and that is what distinguishes the two cases.
I think that, in general, it is clear that the South Africans do not regard it as an article of export, and if the hon. Member studies the evidence fairly, as I am sure he will, he must agree with the statement of Mr. Menzies about this matter. He put it very succinctly when he said:
This is as much a matter of domestic policy to South Africa as Australia's immigration policy is a matter for us.
That is, the Australians.
We have to face the fact that there has been a jettisoning of this principle. It is defended by some on the ground that it may be only a temporary withdrawal. I hope as much as another that South Africa will come back into the Commonwealth; but we are bound to face the fact that difficult practical issues are involved. How will it come back, on what terms, and for what period?
I ask hon. Members to look at the actualities of the situation. Suppose that at the next election or the one after that the present Government are defeated. Suppose a Government formed by the United Party or the Progressive Party are prepared to go back on apartheid, but the Nationalist Party retains it as part of its programme and says that it will restore it? On that the new Government ask for readmission.
What is the Commonwealth to say? The Commonwealth cannot say, "You may come in as a permanent member, but only on condition that you renounce apartheid for ever". We all know that, constitutionally, a Government cannot do that. A Government cannot bind their successors, and they cannot bind the electors. They cannot give that pledge, any more than we on this side of the House could give an international pledge that the steel industry would never be re-nationalised.
What else could the Commonwealth say? Could it say, "South Africa may come back into membership while this Government remain in power, but she will have to go out again if the Nationalists are re-elected"? Of course the Commonwealth could not say that. That proposition has only to be enunciated in the House to be instantly repudiated in the breasts of every hon. Member, nurtured as we are in the principles of parliamentary democracy.
If the Nationalists stick to this doctrine, which we all hope they will not, what other alternative is there except the two I have stated? We are faced with this prospect. To those who seek to palliate the gravity of these events by saying that they may be only temporary, we must say, in the words of Hamlet,
Lay not that flattering unction to your soul.
These events are grave, and their implications are graver still, because they constitute the jettisoning of a root Commonwealth principle—that of non-interference in the internal affairs of sister nations. That principle is more than a characteristic of our Commonwealth association. It is its indispensable and necessary condition. It is born of the very circumstances of the Commonwealth and rooted in its very soil and nature, in the diversity of its nations, and in the infinite variety of its conditions. Tolerance of one another and abstention from interference in each other's internal affairs has always been the seemly principle and necessary practice of our Commonwealth association.
We can judge it on the very highest plane. We can judge it by our attitude to religion. When the Commonwealth was founded, fifty years ago, all the self-governing nations were a comity of Christian nations. It might well have seemed to our fathers fifty years ago, and it would certainly have seemed to our grandfathers or greatgrandfathers, 100 or 150 years ago, that it was wrong to contemplate anything else. But we compromised on that and we have today, happily, within the Commonwealth not only Christians but Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and men of all religions and, less happily, of none.
What more striking testimony could there be to the catholicity and comprehensiveness of our Commonwealth? What more convincing evidence could there be that uniformity of practice and belief was not to be required, but that the sole conditions of membership were to be past association and present co-operation?
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that the kind of Christian tests which he says our fathers might have applied went out with the disappearance of Christian tests altogether? What he is envisaging has long since gone by.
I do not think that that was a very helpful intervention. I know that it was not intended to be helpful to me, but it was not helpful to the debate, to the House, or to the reputation of the hon. and learned Member.
What would happen if we were to apply tests and conditions, which, very properly, we have not applied in the sphere of religion, to any other matters? What other matters suggest themselves? Surely, the matters that first suggest themselves are those of liberty and parliamentary democracy, the abiding passions of our countrymen through the ages. But if we apply tests on those matters we are in an immediate difficulty, because it would mean the acceptance of standards for the Commonwealth lower than those we think right here at home.
I do not want to go into these matters, but it is well known that in the sphere of civil liberties, the treatment of minorities, the rôle of the Opposition—indeed, there are certain skeletons in more than one of our Commonwealth cupboards.
We are, therefore, faced with this dilemma: if we are to prescribe tests and conditions on these great matters, we are either forced, in order to preserve total membership, always to take the lowest standard in any particular context—and thereby to present to the world a code of Commonwealth conduct lower than we would wish—or else other nations would have to follow South Africa into the wilderness.
That applies to tests on liberty and parliamentary democracy; but even if we are not to prescribe conditions as to that, there are other matters. Take, simply, the racial issue itself, out of which this arises. If we are to prescribe standards and conditions as to that, what more logical condition than the unrestricted right of Commonwealth immigration, irrespective of race, colour and means? Suppose we apply that test: how many members would there be sitting round the table, apart from ourselves?
Or there might be a social test—the absolute elimination of any caste system, as being wrong—or there might be an economic test, which might eliminate any country which had a substantial proportion of the equity of its industry owned by a non-Commonwealth country. If we are to apply tests like that, some would exclude the Afro-Asian countries, some would exclude the White countries, and some would exclude both.
I think that the pursuit of tests might well take us along the path of dissolution. So I say, "Let us not have these tests and conditions prescribed." We do not want any rigid written constitution in our Commonwealth relations. We do not want any formal agreements or legally enforceable conditions. We want, rather, to adhere to the splendid words of Burke, when he referred to what we now know as the Commonwealth.
Burke said that it is the spirit of British communion that binds the mysterious contexture of the whole.
… the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
I think that the attitude of one Commonwealth nation to another should be based on the precepts in Matthew VII: 1 and John VIII: 7. If that had been done in this case, I say that no judgment would have been pronounced and that the stones would have been left uncast.
I am sure that the overwhelming majority of us in this country do not look for the shortcomings of our Commonwealth friends and associates. If there is a fault, we do not, like Pharisees, say, "Thank God we are not as other men are." We thank God rather that we in this country have been able to arrive at the point of constitutional arrangement at which we have arrived—not thanks to those of us here, now, or those of us in this generation, but thanks to the patient endeavour and tolerant wisdom of our forebears.
And we thank God, do we not, that we are spared some of these hard and intractable problems that press upon our sister nations, with their many races and their diverse conditions? This has been the outlook in the past; it is the outlook that I think should continue—an outlook summarised, again, in Mr. Menzies' words—and I make no apology for quoting this mature and eminent statesman on these matters:
The Commonwealth is an association of independent nations each managing its own affairs in its own way but all co-operating for common purposes.
That is the right way to look at it, in my view. But it looks as if we have come to a decisive break and that there is some change in the pattern of our Commonwealth relations as a whole and the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference in particular. We have that on the testimony both of the old hand and the new. Mr. Menzies says:
What the implications for the future of the Commonwealth may be we do not as yet know. For myself, I am deeply troubled.
Tunku Abdul Rahman says:
The Commonwealth can now mean something and play its part, as a result of this stand, for the peace and good of mankind. With apartheid out of the way the Commonwealth can now become a living force.
He says that it can "now" become a living force, but some of us have believed that the Commonwealth has always been a living force, and a force for good. But be that as it may, it is quite clear that there is some decisive change, whether it be a matter for jubilation, as the Tunku proclaims, or whether it be a matter for apprehension, as Mr. Menzies thinks.
If there is to be such a change, then we in this House must know the nature, form and direction of that change. Does it mean, for example, that in the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conferences what has hitherto been private and practical will become increasingly public and polemical? Does it mean that the Prime Ministers, particularly of the newer States, will feel that they must have increasing executive power the more easily to negotiate with their fel- low Prime Ministers, and thus become more like American-type Presidents than British-type Prime Ministers? These are disturbing possibilities—and they are only examples—which make us share Mr. Menzies' apprehensions of these matters.
An African official was quoted in a Sunday newspaper as saying that Britain had to bow to African and Asian opinion. Moscow, of course, represents it as a British defeat, and I think that we must concede that the traditional forces of moderation led by my right hon. Friend have sustained a setback; although I do not attach any blame to him for that because he has clearly had very difficult conditions with which to deal and some matters, or certainly one, which he could hardly have expected. But there is, I think, a gathering impression that events are taking hold in some of these matters.
I am certainly not against change—far from it—but the fact that some change is necessary and desirable does not mean that all change is inevitable and beneficial. That is not my interpretation—I am sure that it would not be my right hon. Friend's interpretation—of the meaning of "the wind of change". Of course, the quality of the wind of change depends upon the pace and direction of the particular wind. The sort of winds that my right hon. Friend had in mind, I think, were those refreshing breezes which bring relief and stimulus after a period of unwonted and protracted calm. But there are other sorts of wind not unknown in Africa—winds of hurricane force, which can sweep away in their dread procession not only the memorials of the past and the landmarks of the present, but the hopes and prospects of the future, too.
Time, we are told, is not on our side, and a price may have to be paid for caution. But there may be a heavier penalty to be paid; precipitence may exact a heavier penalty than prudence. I ask my right hon. Friends to have these considerations in mind in the great tasks which lie to their hands. It may be that on that aspect of the matter I may have to seek to trouble the House again on some other occasion. Tonight, I want only to say this. These events have imposed a heavy task upon my right hon. Friends in the Commonwealth sphere in which we wish them well. Their task is
to make our Commonwealth ties, once more, in Burke's language,
Ties light as air but strong as links of iron".
That they should succeed in that is, I am sure, the fervent prayer and petition of us all.
It has been refreshing to listen to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). He has cast aside the inhibitions and formalities of his period in office and spoke with veritable rhetoric to the House. He was kinder to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister than had been his other right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), who was speaking earlier in the debate and is now sitting beside him.
I think that in the speech which has just been delivered by the right hon. and learned Member there was a good deal that was of value in the observations that he had to make about the implications of the new disposition to investigate the internal affairs of member states of the Commonwealth. I for my part, in a serious matter of this kind, in which different opinions are to be found in different parts of the House, thought that what the right hon. and learned Gentleman had to say about that was of value and that there was a good deal of correctness in it.
The view which has, perhaps, been most widely expressed and accepted in the course of this debate is that the Commonwealth can hardly expect to survive and prosper in the fashion that we want it to do unless the member States of it are bound together and can be seen to be bound together by a common acceptance of certain clearly expressed and understood ideals and principles.
The Leader of the Liberal Party, very wisely, no doubt, pointed out the danger that sometimes attaches to too loose, vague and blurred treatment of concepts of that kind. I would expect him to agree none the less that there are a good many definitive concepts which can be usefully and sensibly applied when we endeavour to give a constructive and at the same time accurate account of the bonds that keep the Commonwealth together. We want that to continue and I cannot think of any principle clearer in character for that purpose to serve as a definite principle for Commonwealth relations and Commonwealth associations than the principle of hostility to racial discrimination. I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) about that. There is no doubt whatever that recent difficulties have brought that matter right to the forefront.
There is another proposition in this whole matter of our developing Commonwealth and Commonwealth Relations which also is true but which, to my mind, runs in some sort and to some extent contrary to the first proposition which I have put forward. If the Commonwealth is to survive with the strength and permanent values which we desire in it, then, inevitably, in the nature of things and in the nature of men, there will be periods when a member State does things deeply repugnant to other member States of the Common wealth. On any showing, that is bound to occur in the years to come. What I believe weighs with a good many of us is this. If, every time this occurs, the defaulting Government either withdraws or is excluded from the Commonwealth then for certain the Commonwealth will not survive in the way, for the length of time, or with the strength and power which we on all sides of the House desire for it.
This is a factor which at this stage in our Commonwealth history should be in the forefront of our minds. I am not discussing for the moment any necessity there may recently have been for the exclusion or withdrawal of South Africa. After all, a good deal depends upon what went on behind closed doors, in the discussions which took place, and all the rest, and I think one would be ill advised to judge too sharply or too clearly upon that matter with the information we have at our command. But, the event having occurred—I agree with the description "tragedy" Which has been applied to it—it is appropriate at the present stage of our Commonwealth affairs that we should recognise how serious would be the consequences if, as I say, every defaulting member of the Commonwealth at any time in the future were forced either to be excluded or to withdraw. Then, the great hopes which we have had for the institution of the Commonwealth and for the whole concept would be far less strong and firm than many of us have thus far entertained.
This was a viewpoint implicit, I think, in what the Prime Minister said when he insisted, quite rightly, in my judgment, that the Commonwealth is an association not of Governments but of peoples. This is a concept also which I had thought was one upon which the Prime Minister of India had particularly seized. He had grasped the significance of it. It may be that he has done so because, in his position, he had a special interest in the concept of Republican membership of the Commonwealth.
In my view, we ought to be very insistent at this stage in our affairs to emphasise that, if the Commonwealth is to survive, it is absolutely necessary that matters should so develop and prevail that occasional and, perhaps, transient conduct by one member State which is repugnant to the rest shall not be regarded as something requiring either withdrawal or exclusion.
To follow up this point, I venture to put to the House a hypothetical case which I hope will not be regarded in any way as fanciful or far-fetched. Let us take the case—it may easily occur—of a member State which is acting in flagrant contravention of the kind of basic principle which I have indicated is properly regarded as defining and identifying the Commonwealth ideal. Let us suppose that there is a general election in that state and that a new Government is returned to power which abandons the policies of its predecessor. Let us further suppose that meanwhile the State has either withdrawn or been expelled from the Commonwealth.
It is at this point that I agree with so much of what the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East said. In a great concept like the British Commonwealth, we cannot have States hopping in and out, with changing governments and changing viewpoints. That does not accord with the status of the Commonwealth which has hitherto inspired both sides of the House. I insist on the point that henceforward we must either see this concept of Commonwealth perish or devise some method under which it becomes possible for the member States to achieve, in practical and constitutional terms, toleration towards a particular member State, or more than one member State, which is going, perhaps temporarily, through a transient phase of policy repugnant to the rest of the association and repugnant even to the basic ideals which can be brought forward to identify the Commonwealth aspiration.
That is the point that I desire to put to the House. These matters are brought forward in our minds by a grave historical event, namely, the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth. Uppermost in my mind are the countless numbers of South Africans who are cut adrift from this House by this sad affair.
Surely, when we are seeking to develop the idea that I have put forward of a Commonwealth which is tolerant of transient misdemeanours, errors or follies by the government of a member state, we must realise the importance of two factors. First, the degree of shame and error attaching to the violation by the offending member state and its government. There was no doubt about that in the case of South Africa. Secondly, the extent to which the policies which are objectionable are opposed by a minority within the country in question. Surely that must be a highly relevant matter in determining the appropriate constitutional development of a country's relation with the Commonwealth.
To take the case of South Africa, what do we know about opinion there? We know from the recent referendum that there is an enormous minority so loyal to the British connection as to be discontented with membership of a republic inside the Commonwealth and desiring the full queenship of Her Majesty. There was clearly in that popular vote evidence of an enormous element in the population, not far short of half of those who voted, sharing the view very largely which, so far as I can judge, is shared between the two sides of this House—hostility to apartheid. I should have thought that the presence, on the evidence, of so vast a minority on an issue of this kind would have been a highly relevant factor for the Prime Ministers' Conference to keep in mind. The point that I sought to develop earlier is that this is the kind of matter which on future occasions should be kept in mind when determining how we can best treat the occasion of a member State of the Commonwealth which is transiently responsible for errors or abberations of government.
In these circumstances, on the night of this debate, there should be the very strongest and closest possible nexus and sense of comradeship between both sides of this House and that great minority in South Africa. Let us bear in mind, in addition, that the referendum, held in the circumstances in which it was held, showed what to some of us appeared a surprisingly small majority for a republic. What would the result have been if it had been thought at the time of that vote that the consequence of becoming a republic would be exclusion or withdrawal from the Commonwealth? If that had been known to be the consequence at the time of the referendum, would not the effect upon the result have been very considerable indeed? Is it not perfectly certain that, at the very least, the majority for a republic would have been much less? We have also to bear in mind, quite obviously, the non-voting population of South Africa—the Bantu. It may be said that the Bantu in large numbers are indifferent, but I am perfectly sure that, though large numbers of them may be indifferent, there are large numbers of them also who are deeply resentful and feel great dismay and regret at the separation of South Africa from the Commonwealth. It means in their minds a severe blow to their aspirations.
My hon. Friend's intervention is beside the point. I think he would agree with me that, as between Dr. Verwoerd inside the Commonwealth and Dr. Verwoerd outside the Commonwealth, there are probably a large number of the Bantu who would prefer him in. There may not have been very much in it but there are surely many of them who hold that view. I would expect my hon. Friend to agree with me in that.
The important point, as I venture to put it to the House at this stage in our affairs, in the light of what has occurred, is to ensure that in future we recognise that if the Commonwealth is to survive in the status and the strength that we contemplated and expected for it, we have to work out some kind of method under which the association can cope with and overcome the difficulties created by temporary and transient errors and follies by the Government of a member-State. That seems to me to be the significant matter in Commonwealth affairs to which we should now apply our minds.
Subject to that, I would only wish, and from this side of the House—let there be no mistake about that, from this side of the House—to convey to the great minority in South Africa, who not only did not want the tragedy that has occurred, but who were even discontented with republican membership of the Commonwealth and wanted the still closer connection, that they have plenty of friends here in Westminster.
The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) professed to give a message only from his side of the House to the great minority in South Africa. I should like to assure him that he speaks for the whole House. I was moved when the hon. and learned Member said that there should be a nexus or link between the two sides of the House in deploring and mourning what has happened. It would not be right that this debate should take place without the deepest expressions of regret at what is an almost unadulterated tragedy. That the country of Smuts, the coiner of the word "Commonwealth", the country of the early British colonists in Natal and Cape Colony, the country of the early Dutch and the early Huguenot refugees, should part from us and that the family should be broken up like that is an almost unadulterated tragedy, and all because, as the hon. and learned Member said, of the antics and the obstinacy of a party which even today may be in a minority amongst the white voters. We on this side join with the hon. and learned Member and his colleagues in mourning what has occurred.
I do not, however, go the whole way with the hon. and learned Member or with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) in seeking, as they appear to be, for a written constitution for the Commonwealth.
I am sorry if I misinterpreted my right hon. and learned Friend. Perhaps I do not misinterpret him or the hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill when I say that I felt that both of them felt that there was something fundamentally wrong when it became possible for any member State to be expelled or to lapse from membership of the Commonwealth because it followed an internal policy which was not acceptable to the other members of the Commonwealth. I detected in that, perhaps, a legal hope towards a codification or set of rules for the Commonwealth. If I did my right hon. and learned Friend an injustice, I apologise.
The Commonwealth must be taken as something which exists. We should not spend our time in seeking for theoretical justifications or bases for it. Each situation that arises must be taken on its own. There was a difficult situation here which had to be met by a practical solution. The difficult situation was that the Commonwealth would have lost most or many of its coloured members had South Africa remained in it. I hope that as the development of the Commonwealth takes place, each problem will be dealt with as it arises in a practical and pragmatic manner.
I prefer to regard the Commonwealth as a complex of obligations. I believe that it has in it something of the family, something of the democratic basis and something of many other bases. The fundamental thing is that we, as the leading State in the Commonwealth, have obligations towards the other member States. The obligations most in evidence at the moment are the multi-racial obligations. I believe that this moment of tragedy when South Africa leaves the Commonwealth is the watershed in our thinking, and that it demands that we should accept the full implications of a multi-racial Commonwealth.
However, I did not rise to talk much about the Commonwealth except to say that I welcome the multi-racial nature. I think our eyes should be not only on the tragedy which has happened but should be on other things, more cheerful things, such as Her Majesty's visit to India, such as the emergence today of yet a new member of the Commonwealth, such as the emergence of Nigeria at whose independence celebrations I was fortunate enough to be present. We are attempting something which may very well fail. We have no business to demand or even to expect success, but only to hope and pray and work for it. The creation of a multi-racial Commonwealth would be something in the nature of a miracle, and I do not think we should pitch our hopes too high, but dedicate ourselves to that task, resolved to pay the price, and the price may well be the loss of other members of the Commonwealth in the course of time.
I want us to think today of the message which this House should send to South Africa. One message has been given by the hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill, a message of affection and of continued interest in the white minority and in the large black and coloured and Asian communities in the Union of South Africa. I think there is more in it than that. We cannot gaze into the crystal and foresee the future, but I believe that our affection and interest in the whole Union of South Africa will be called on more than ever within the next few months. I believe that this is only the beginning of the difficulties which the Union of South Africa is bound to face.
I think that the message which we should send out is that in all those difficulties we are still there; that the people of South Africa may have left the family and renounced the obligations which tie them to us, but we still feel those obligations towards them; that we shall not condemn them out of hand; that we may condemn their policies, we may condemn their actions, but that we do not condemn them, whether they be Dutch or British, for being mistaken and following policies which have, to some extent, been forced upon them by their history and ancestry and environment.
I regard this as a tragic day which will not have been wholly wasted if it leads us to rethinking our attitude towards the Commonwealth and results in our sending a message from this House that we are not abandoning South Africa, whether it be those who agree with us or those who do not.
I think that all of us realise that we are debating an historic fact. I have much sympathy with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) in recognising, as he did, that the real essence of the problems which we are facing in the Commonwealth today is a change in the balance of world politics. It is, no doubt, very uncomfortable for persons in the Commonwealth, represented by some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who have considered that they have a predestined right to be the top people in the Commonwealth, to find that the balance in world politics is changing and that one has now to take into account the opinions of persons whom even five or ten years ago one would not have considered at all.
Dr. Verwoerd himself, in the speech which he made following the Prime Minister's Conference, said that South Africa was leaving the Commonwealth because the Commonwealth was now dominated by the Afro-Asian countries.
In a sense one can see what he means, but surely that is something to which we must adjust ourselves. We must recognise that world politics have changed with astonishing rapidity. In 1945 one would not have expected that by this time so many Prime Ministers would be attending the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. For many people it means a considerable adjustment to their psychology and to their attitude towards the politics of the world. That is a challenge which we ought courageously to accept.
What I find so depressing about some of the speeches of hon. Members opposite is that they seem to have no concept of how this change is working, and no intention of accepting this challenge in a constructive way. It is because we have to face this challenge that we regard the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth, regrettable as it is in many respects, in many ways a help, because it means that we will be able, I hope more constructively, more easily and amicably, to achieve co-operation with the Commonwealth countries in the new situation in which we in Britain now find ourselves.
We have had suggestions that we should not have taken this attitude towards the withdrawal of South Africa because, much as we deplore this policy of apartheid—this was suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine—it is a transitory matter. I wish very much that I could believe that it was. If I supposed that in South Africa there was a fair chance that after an election in a year or two there would be a change of Government and a change of this system I would take a different view from what I take tonight. I do not believe that the Nationalist Government of South Africa is based on racial discrimination, but I do not believe that it is a democratic Government in intention, either. It has in its philosophy the essence of totalitarianism, and its racial beliefs are allied with a political philosophy which is not democratic in the sense in which we understand it.
I believe that having attained power in South Africa the Nationalists are prepared to take steps, and have taken steps, to ensure their perpetuation in that country. I am far from optimistic. I do not believe that it is at all probable that for many years to come we shall see a change of Government in the Union of South Africa by democratic means. If one looks at the gerrymandering of the constituencies and the weighting of votes in favour of rural areas, one cannot help but be extremely suspicious of the possibility of democratic Parliamentary government in South Africa and of obtaining a change in the régime in the way which would be natural enough in this country.
I am sorry to have to say this, but I think that it is true. When one is discussing the philosophy of the Nationalist Party—and I again say this with deep regret but with absolute sincerity—one is only too sharply and keenly reminded of the discussions one had to have in the 1930s with persons who supported the Nazi régime in Germany, because the mental outlook is common to both. It is not just a matter of being parochial. There is something far deeper in it than that.
For that reason the Prime Minister has been wrestling with what I believe are the forces of evil, and in trying to argue with Dr. Verwoerd he found himself up against a dogma against which argument is impotent because one is arguing on a completely different plane. One is arguing on completely different assumptions as to the nature of society and the nature of man, in precisely the same way as if one tries to argue with a convinced Communist or a convinced Nazi. One cannot argue with them because they do not accept the processes of reason. They move from a different set of assumptions by different mental processes. All of that is true of the convinced Nationalists in the Union of South Africa.
That is why I feel that a State which has that type of Government at its head, with very little chance of its being replaced by a Government with a different political philosophy, by the ordinary processes as we would expect in this country, is better out of the body politic of the Commonwealth. I do not believe that when we are dealing with persons of that nature we can come to an accommodation with them, and it is far better to recognise the fact. That is why I interrupted the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). He slid away, in his Oxford Union manner, from several points, including the one I put to him. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am sorry, but I felt that in some respects he was superficial in the way he replied.
I asked what we would do in the unfortunate situation, if it should occur—I know that it is hypothetical, but it is relevant—of one of the other countries of the Commonwealth turning Communist. I believe that precisely the same considerations would arise. We would then have a Government with whom we could not deal, in a Commonwealth context. They would be arguing on a different plane, and we just would not be able to meet them.
Similar considerations would arise if it should happen that a Commonwealth country became subject to a totalitarian régime. We should not be able to hope for a change. That is why, although I deeply regret the breaking of links with persons who are themselves opposed to their Government, I nevertheless feel that it is healthier for the Commonwealth that South Africa should have withdrawn from it.
For a period of years the Labour Party has been pressed by some of its own supporters and also by some African organisations to say that it officially wished to expel South Africa from the Commonwealth. We have always resisted that demand, and said, "No. So long as there is the slightest chance of our hoping to influence events in the Union of South Africa, and of being able to help the people in the Union who are themselves standing up against the policies of the Nationalist Government, we should certainly not think of expulsion or anything of that kind. We should do our utmost, by whatever means are available to us, to help those people to arrive at the same view of liberty and human dignity as we have."
But within the last year or two it has become clear to everyone that our opportunities of influencing or helping have now grown so limited as to be virtually non-existent. We have therefore sadly come to the conclusion that there is little we can do to help those in the Union of South Africa who are trying to oppose the Nationalist Government. We cannot even adequately defend our own British protected persons, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) pointed out recently. Still less have we been able to show any particular in which we have influenced the Government of Dr. Verwoerd in a more liberal direction. The Prime Minister himself has completely failed to do so, and we cannot pretend to have more influence than he has.
We therefore reluctantly came to the conclusion, officially, as a Labour Party, that we cannot honestly say that we can in any sense influence or help. We therefore decided to support the suspension of the membership of South Africa in the Commonwealth until such time, if it should occur in the future, when we can say that their ideas have changed sufficiently for us to be able to work in community with them, in some reasonable sense of that word. Should that time ever come, no one will be happier than we on this side of the House. But one must be realistic about it and I feel that one cannot be hopeful that that period will arrive in the near future.
Perhaps I may preface my remarks by declaring an interest, for I was born in South Africa and I lived there for part of my childhood. I have since been back there, but not now for many years. I have still relatives and friends and business connections in the Union of South Africa and, therefore, I try to keep up to date with events in that great country. This is, indeed, a most tragic affair. It is the most disruptive event so far seen in our British Commonwealth of Nations.
It has been pleaded that because it was by consent it was not, therefore, the undermining of a principle to allow internal policies to be discussed in this recent gathering in London. That may be so, but that is rather special pleading. What is the tragedy? It is not so much South Africa's withdrawal, and that is tragic enough, as the undermining of a principle by allowing, by consent, the discussion of internal policy, and that has been the cause of the withdrawal of a member State from this great organisation.
It can be argued, and it has been argued, that South Africa's withdrawal has, so to speak, lanced an ulcer that would have suppurated annually at each successive Prime Ministers' Conference. That may be so, but for long it has been an accepted principle in all international affairs, whether in diplomatic or other channels in the Commonwealth, that it is not proper to criticise other people's internal arrangements. That now has been set aside.
This has created a most dangerous precedent. Where does it lead us now? Those who live in the most spacious glass-houses have been in this case the persons to throw the stones. What has been happening in Malaya for many years and what continues to happen in Malaya now that she is self-governing in her Federation? It is, in a way, apartheid between Malay and Chinese. There is racial discrimination in that country.
In the birth of two great States in the Indian sub-continent, between 2 million and 3 million people lost their lives in racial riots, disorders and religious discrimination. Would it be proper for the future Conferences of Commonwealth Prime Ministers to hark back to those events? Would it be proper for them to criticise the Indian Government's attitude over Kashmir? I do not think so, and that is why I say that this is a real tragedy. In Ghana, many measures, undemocratic by any standard, exist today. How would the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) like to find himself in prison tomorrow just by virtue of being Leader of the Opposition?
These are the prospects which cause me great concern. We, even in this country, who pride ourselves on our democratic principles are not free from taint. It is not so long ago, we remember with shame, that we had the Notting Hill riots. What else were those but a manifestation of racial discrimination? We can also remember with a certain amount of shame—or some of us can—the refusal of British coal miners to work with men of another nation when there was ample work for all in that industry. All these internal matters can now be the subject of future discussion.
By casting aside this principle even by consent, by common consent, we have struck a clumsy blow at the very existence of the Commonwealth, not at the membership of any one part of it, for it is its peoples and not its Governments that matter. I do not think that Her Majesty's Government bear a great measure of the blame, but, obviously, they must share responsibility. I think most of us, on both sides of the House, recognise that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister fought valiantly to avoid this issue, but he and those like him were, unfortunately, outnumbered. As a result, it was judged by Dr. Verwoerd that it was best for South Africa to withdraw her application for membership of the Commonwealth.
It is a strange reflection that in defensive alliances where fear is the motive nations with widely conflicting views and habits can happily bond together, but in the Commonwealth where friendship and mutual benefit is the motive we cannot amicably accept differences of approach to internal problems. In the United Nations, happily, we hob-nob with those who, for two pins, would cut our throats, would rob our mothers, would rape our daughters, but the Commonwealth cannot tolerate a Government whose people, many of them, are our blood brothers.
Let hon. Members reflect that the British Commonwealth has expelled from its midst—perhaps somewhat passively, but, nevertheless, the result has been expulsion—a founder member the majority of whose people white, black and coloured, are guilty of no misdemeanour. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite bear a heavy measure of responsibility for this, to say nothing of a minority of bishops, canons and turbulent priests representing a most unchristian element in our midst.
These and all the rag tag and bobtail of the Socialist Party, in it disarray, share responsibility for this tragic event. They have never missed opportunities—and the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) is not backward among them—for making spiteful references to South Africa in the House and elsewhere. Irresponsible attempts have been made to exacerbate public opinion with sash-adorned pickets outside Lancaster House.
They have engineered a silly but mercifully ineffective boycott of South African goods. The Leader of the Opposition himself pleaded that that was a personal affair. What a petty piece of pleading! If the boycott was calculated to do anything, it was bound to damage the economic interests of the very Bantu whose cause it was thought to foster. All these foolish, ill-considered actions only tended to accentuate feeling and raise the temperature of the dispute. That is not the way that a family should resolve its squabbles, let alone a family of nations.
I want for a moment to turn to this much discussed and much criticised policy of apartheid. Apartheid means, "separateness". We in the House and in the country are very fond of talking about multi-racial partnership. That does not necessarily mean that the several races should live in each other's pockets, under the same roofs, and in the same locality. It merely means that they work together for the common weal. Apart from its somewhat repulsive method of enforcement, apartheid is an effort to try to do the same thing, and there should be nothing repulsive or repressive in that.
Does any race, black, white or yellow, want such complete integration that inter-marriage is taken for granted? I do not think so, but that is the inevitable result of complete integration. That is the real issue. It is not so much a political as a human issue. I say to hon. Members opposite, "Go back to your constituencies and ask the people if they want their daughters to marry men with different coloured skins. They will tell you, as will many millions of self-respecting Africans, that they do not want it."
It is not the policy of apartheid which is objectionable, but the way it is being implemented by the present South African Government—the undermining of the entrenched clauses of the Act of Union, the removal of the coloured voters' roll, the rigging of the South African Senate, and all the other political measures. On the practical side there were the inhuman enforcement of the pass laws, repressive police measures, unreasonable administrative measures. For all those I naturally blame Dr. Verwoerd and his predecessors and their Governments. I also blame the South African Opposition—the feckless, aimless, disunited, United Party.
The Sharpeville incident was mentioned earlier this evening. Some aspects of this incident are still little known in Britain. It is as well to study for a few moments the background of this very unfortunate event. For a long time it has been notorious that the South African police are unfortunately of a deplorably low standard. But for Her Majesty's Government's timely action, our own police showed signs of going that way. We must face that.
Low pay, poor service conditions, and low morale attract a poor type of Afrikaaner and English-speaking South African to the South African police. A very large proportion of the police are African, and with bad leadership and lack of proper control these very Africans are abnormally repressive and brutal, even towards their own people. It is a frightened force, and fear is indeed a bad counsellor.
Some months before the Sharpeville incident a small force of unarmed police was sent from Durban to the notorious speak-easy Cato Manor district outside Durban. It was sent there to enforce the liquor laws. Africans who lived in the area were drunk on Kaffir beer brewed in illicit and unhygienic conditions. They were also—this was much more serious—drinking themselves to death on raw wood alcohol similarly produced.
About ten policemen—mainly Africans, but I think that there were two white officers with them—were sent into this district to try to clear up this situation. They were hacked to death with knives and choppers. Not one survived. Was it therefore surprising that when a few months later an admittedly very much larger force of police was confronted by a very much larger mob of Africans, some of whom were obviously angry, the police lost their heads and opened fire prematurely and indiscriminately? It was due to lack of leadership and bad morale. Of course that does not excuse it, but it is the underlying human reason behind this evil thing. We should all acknowledge that.
As I said before, South Africa's departure is a tragedy. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have discussed the possibilities of calling her back into the midst of the Commonwealth in happier circumstances. We shall be trying to do a very difficult thing, but nevertheless I hope that we succeed. There are people—some of them are not very far from where I stand—who crow over this expulsion of one of the founder nations of the Commonwealth. They should remember that we are losing a great many loyal humane people of all races in the Union of South Africa. I hope that a message will go from the House tonight to those people that the door is not shut for ever.
The hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) has blazed away in all directions tonight. His shots have fallen indiscriminately upon his own Front Bench, upon us on this side, upon the South African Government, upon the Africans in South Africa, upon the Opposition in South Africa—indeed, upon everybody except himself.
I cannot, however, join issue with the hon. and gallant Gentleman too seriously; he had a distinguished war record, and I always treasure that for him. I will only say that when he first came to the House I regarded him as a comparatively enlightened member of the Service in which I had the honour to serve, but if he goes on like this he is in danger of becoming completely fossilised. I do hope that he will seek to come right up to date and try to live in 1961. I realise that it may take some time before it percolates to the area he represents, but he must realise that we are living in a different world today. I trust that I shall yet have the pleasure of hearing him make a speech of which I can agree with one part—
I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that I was not trying to be courteous to him. If I succeeded, it was a great mistake.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has asked me to apologise to the House; he is fulfilling another engagement which was a prior commitment, and he regrets that he cannot be here.
I do not think there are many points that have not already been touched upon in this debate, so what I shall seek to do is to emphasise one or two matters on which we would like the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to dilate at rather greater length than did the Prime Minister—although I can understand that.
The Prime Minister left, for example, the question of the High Commission Territories to the Commonwealth Relations Secretary to deal with. As has been said by many hon. Members on both sides, there is here a very grave problem. There is, first of all, the dependence of these territories upon South Africa for so much of their day-to-day sustenance and daily life. If South Africa were to erect barricades, I fear that the lot of the people living in the High Commission Territories would be very serious indeed, and I think that we must do our best, in the negotiations that must take place now that South Africa has withdrawn, to try to preserve the position of the people of those territories as best we may.
Among many other things, there is the necessity for spending far more money on the development of the High Commission Territories than we have so far done. The Morse Report has been referred to more than once. It is fair to say that the Government have taken no action—no major action—on any of the recommendations of that Report, although it has been out for a twelvemonth. The Government should now tell the House that they are ready to put into effect the measures necessary to raise the standard of life and provide for employment of the people of the Protectorates at the earliest possible moment.
I hope, too, that we shall hear something from the right hon. Gentleman about the future of education in those territories. My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) said earlier that all higher education must be conducted in South Africa. It is true that the economies and the educational facilities have become so intertwined that this cutting off of South Africa from the Commonwealth will add very much to the difficulty of those territories, and I hope, and ask, that the right hon. Gentleman will prosecute the position of those territories most earnestly.
The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) thought that it would be an affront to South Africa to transfer the control of the Territories from the Commonwealth Relations Office to the Colonial Office. Obviously, no one should needlessly affront the South African Government if there is no purpose in it—needlessly—but I do not think that the attitude of that Government in such a matter should determine our approach as to where these territories could best be dealt with.
Looking at the relative experience of the Commonwealth Relations Office and of the Colonial Office, I would say at first sight—and I ask the Government to consider this very carefully—that the arrangements that have so far existed, and, perhaps, could be justified, should no longer exist now that South Africa is, at any rate at this moment, not a member of the Commonwealth. The Colonial Office has got the experience and the administrators. It knows how to handle these developing territories in a way that the Commonwealth Relations Office has not had to deal with them. Therefore, despite the opposition of the noble Lord, I press the request that the Government should give very serious consideration to this matter and should come to the House later with a considered statement on their conclusions. Meanwhile, I should want to be convinced. I think the onus is on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to convince us, if he does not make the transfer, that there are good reasons for not making it. As matters stand at the moment, I think there are good reasons for making it.
The next point which was raised by a number of hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend, is the position of the Government in relation to the United Nations and South-West Africa. I should like the Secretary of State to give us an indication of the attitude of the Government towards the current discussions in the United Nations Assembly which will come to the vote before long, and to give us an assurance that now that the restraints that may have held the Government back in the past are removed, we shall no longer find ourselves isolated with Portugal and France opposing every other member of the United Nations on a flagrant breach of the United Nations Charter.
A dozen times the United Nations has asked South Africa to account for her mandate on South-West Africa. Whatever legal sophistries may be erected by the South African Government, there is no moral title on their part to fail to account for their trusteeship.
My right hon. Friend may be correct in saying there is no legal right, but there is a dispute about that. However, I do not see how anyone can take the view, whatever the legal position may be—and there is a dispute about that—that there is any moral right on the part of the South African Government not to account for their action. The Government have a responsibility to the people of South-West Africa to press for the policy of apartheid, which exists in that territory, to be lifted in so far as it is within the power of our Government to exert that pressure.
Whatever right or title the South African Government may think they have to enforce the policy of apartheid in South Africa, they clearly cannot possess that right in South-West Africa. Yet that territory has been absorbed into South Africa administratively. The same social policies have been enforced upon South-West Africa, and I say to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations that he now has a great responsibility, not just to South Africa but to the people living in the territory of South-West Africa, and we ask him to discharge that responsibility.
On questions of citizenship and economic links I would add nothing to what has already been said, but I would ask the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations a question on defence. This point has not so far been raised, and it is novel to find a new point in this debate. I understand that the South African Government undertook to provide a division in the Middle East. What is the position now? Does that arrangement continue or is that defensive arrangement now at an end? We have heard something about the position of Simonstown, but I should like to know the view of the Government. Do we still want to hold a base there or are we ready to forgo that? To these questions we should have an answer. We have treaty rights there and it has been made available to us in certain circumstances.
I have listened to nearly the whole of this debate, and, apart from these points, two things have emerged. One is the nature of the internal position in South Africa, and the other is the nature of the Commonwealth and its future. I should like to spend a few minutes on each of those points.
Hon. Members tonight were very loud in their applause of those who spoke feelingly about the position of Africans in South Africa. I am very glad that they feel that way. I wish they had felt that way earlier and that they had joined with us when we were doing the things of which the hon. and gallant Member for Wells complained. It smacks a little of finding some sentiment after the act, for sympathising with the poor African when South Africa leaves the Commonwealth; whereas, if we had had the united force exerted by this country and by both sides of the House in the past, we might have been able to exert more influence on behalf of the African.
We do not need to apologise, and I do not apologise, for taking the part of the under dog in South Africa. Whatever may be the present position or difficulties of the Labour Party, there is one thing which, I think, we can claim that we should always stick to, and that is that we should always remember our history and always be on the side of those who are under-privileged and who do not have the elementary rights of justice accorded to them. I will, with my usual courtesy, give way to the hon. and gallant Member.
I have explained that to the hon. and gallant Member before, but I fear that his memory is not what it used to be. He will remember that in the course of the last debate I explained then, as I explain now, that the Labour Party did not sponsor this boycott.
No, but they did not sponsor the boycott. The origin of the boycott was in South Africa. The origin of the boycott was amongst South Africans. The origin of the boycott was that South Africans came here and asked both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party if they would support them in their protest against apartheid. The Labour Party supported them, but the Conservative Party did not, although to their honour individual Members did. That is the whole origin of it, and that is the explanation of it. If the hon. and gallant Member feels that he played a noble part in that he is entitled to his view, but I do not think that he did.
I complain that we did not have this support from most hon. Members opposite when we were trying to do these things earlier, and all that we get now are laments about the tragedy of South Africa leaving the Commonwealth. There are two tragedies here. Every hon. Member opposite who has spoken has referred to the tragedy of South Africa leaving the Commonwealth. There is the other tragedy that South Africa fails to amend or repudiate the policies which have led to it. I say to hon. Members opposite that that is the tragedy which is uppermost in my mind, because it is the millions of Africans who are denied elementary rights as a matter of principle of whom I think first, and not those who have place, privilege, prestige, economic wealth and all the powers of manipulating them. That is why I am a Socialist.
There is a difference here. I say to hon. Members opposite that the way in which they have conducted their speeches tonight has shown, time after time, that when they have spoken of opinion in South Africa and of what public opinion is in Central Africa the unspoken thought in their minds has been European opinion. I give it to the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) that he did, in fact, say that, of course, moderate Africans in Central Africa agreed. He was the only one. There was no one else who laid down for us what opinion is in these territories who had any thought in his mind except for European opinion. That is something which the Conservative Party has to overcome.
What is to be our attitude to this new Commonwealth? At least there is agreement on this. This conference marks a water-shed. No longer is the Commonwealth which was an extension of Britain in existence. It has changed. Tears which have been shed by a number of hon. Members opposite have been shed about the death of that Commonwealth, the Commonwealth which was an extension of the British Isles.
It is no longer the British Commonwealth. This Commonwealth does not belong to us. Indeed, I think it possible that, unless we show more energy than we have shown so far, we shall not even be the major Power in determining such common policy as can be developed in the Commonwealth. I want us to do it. We must not face the situation only with a nostalgic looking back over the past, saying, "The British Commonwealth has gone. How sad it all is, and what a tragedy it is". If we can look at what has happened and see that, in fact, what has taken place means that we can make a beginning on the new Commonwealth, then there will be a future for us.
I spent a fortnight in New Zealand about two years ago at a conference discussing what the Commonwealth was. I agree with the noble Lord's analysis here. We found it very difficult to decide what the Commonwealth was and what its significance was. He was quite right. It was not the Crown. It was not even democratic practice. It was not defence. Australia and New Zealand did not feel that they were dependent upon Britain or the Commonwealth for defence. It was not trade ties, we agreed. We asked whether it was the rule of law. Was it the language? We were groping to find something which gave sense and substance and a tangible feeling to the Commonwealth. I do not think we succeeded.
What has happened now means that, for the first time since the ties grew weaker, the Commonwealth has found some bedrock on which to stand. I hope hon. Members will rejoice about that and not just lament that the ties which had disappeared no longer exist. That is the message I leave with them on that aspect of the matter.
How will the Commonwealth develop? Will it discuss all the internal affairs and difficulties of its members? I do not know. I would not rule it out. I should not regard it as such a terribly bad thing if it did. If the Commonwealth members as a whole were to discuss the restrictions on immigration into certain territories, if they were to discuss the restrictions on the employment of certain people in certain areas, or if they were to discuss the restrictions on the freedom of individuals to move about in those territories, we should not, I think, blanch at that. After all, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers are, I am sure, responsible people. Before these issues are raised, the test should be whether they will help towards Commonwealth understanding and towards a solution of the problems. If they would, I should certainly say that we ought not to discourage discussion of internal problems which may seem to be peculiar to particular countries. This is new, but that is no reason why we should not try to develop along those lines.
What I should oppose would be the bringing of all issues out into the daylight merely in order to exacerbate relationships between us. But, if we wish to find a solution to some of our problems, then let us use the Commonwealth helpfully in that way.
I come now to external affairs. I was glad that the Prime Minister mentioned disarmament. It seems to me that the Commonwealth can play a rôle in this most important subject. I do not know what the House feels, but it is my belief that the more we pile up armaments the more we deny to the peoples of the world the standards of life and conditions which they could have. I regard disarmament, as I believe the House regards it, as, perhaps, the biggest single topic which we have to face. What a wonderful thing it would be if the Commonwealth could project its views in the direction which we all desire. It does not act as a unit now. I do not know whether it will be able to do so; but I should like to see the Commonwealth acting more as a unit on certain of these topics, particularly disarmament. What a wonderful thing it would be if we could co-ordinate our policies and speak with the same voice in the United Nations on the subject. I would feel that our Commonwealth was really performing a great service.
Hon. Members have spoken of the way in which the Commonwealth, by its existence, bridges the racial gap and of the way in which we can, by pooling our experience, help the under-developed countries of the world. In this particular matter, we have all the technical skill and knowledge we need on both sides of the fence. We can, in my view. In so many different aspects the Commonwealth can act as a bridge between East and West. This was always one of the ideas of Aneurin Bevan. He used to see the Commonwealth becoming a pivot in the strains and stresses which exist between East and West, and although he did not live to see his idea carried through, it is still true that this could happen. We certainly hope that the Prime Ministers and British Prime Minister, in particular, will take the lead in these matters.
I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me—I was going to say I hope he will forgive me—for saying that I thought his speech of sadness on this occasion really missed the point of it. It may be sad to him. It is probably sad to most people in this House, but one Commonwealth Prime Minister, for example, did not say it was sad. He said that he felt a sense of relief. There may be some members of the Commonwealth who will feel jubilant because they will feel a fatal blow has been struck against the policy of apartheid in South Africa, and they want—why should they not want?—to feel themselves free and equal.
Therefore, I say to the Prime Minister that his air, which was like that of an elderly caretaker putting the dust sheets over the furniture in a great house and saying rather wistfully that he hoped the family would come back soon, was not the way in which the new Commonwealth—not our Commonwealth, the new Commonwealth—will respond to British leadership. I believe we can give great leadership to the Commonwealth, and I hope we shall do so.
What has been said tonight by his supporters must have embarrassed him much more than it embarrassed us. If they were like my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) they would be going into the Division Lobbies. But we know they will not. So they will be spared what happened to him. If they had half the courage he has they would be going into the Division Lobbies tonight. In their speeches they have attacked the Prime Minister, let him remember. They have been attacking him, not us.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not have got too much comfort from the speeches which have been made tonight, because so far as I can see there was not one in support of him at all—except myself. I am willing to support him, but I say that the Prime Minister has got to show a lot more energy and a lot more concern with the development of the new Commonwealth than he showed in his speech tonight.
I have not quite as long as I hoped to have, so I shall get straight down to answering some of the points which have been raised.
First, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) asked about our attitude towards the United Nations. All I would say—I cannot go into great detail on this—is that we shall not be inhibited from expressing our opinion about apartheid, but that does not mean—I want to make it quite clear—that we shall ignore, as was suggested by the hon. Gentleman, the legal position. We do not believe that it enhances the status or influence of the United Nations to pass loosely worded resolutions and arrogate to itself powers which go far beyond the terms of the Charter.
The hon. Gentleman asked about defence arrangements with South Africa, and, in particular, whether South Africa would supply a division for the defence of the Middle East—[Interruption.] I am trying to answer the hon. Member, if, with his usual courtesy, he will listen to what I have to say. The South African Government made it clear several years ago that they considered that that arrangement had lapsed. There are other arrangements, which are based on an exchange of letters in 1955, which provide for certain naval defence arrangements which I believe are to the mutual advantage of both countries. But they will, naturally, be the subject of examina- tion, and I am not proposing to make any commitment tonight about the future of these arrangements.
A number of references have been made to citizenship. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) urged that South Africans should be given the same status as the Irish. Again, I do not wish to anticipate our study of this extremely complex and delicate question, but I must, however, point out that the position of Ireland and that of South Africa are not the same. The territory of the Irish Republic was, until 1921, part of the United Kingdom and is geographically part of the British Isles. The Republic of Ireland has a common frontier with the United Kingdom and her citizens are constantly coming in to work here.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) urged that nothing should be done to disturb trade relations with South Africa. Our special relations with South Africa in trade and economic matters rest, in the main, upon bilateral agreements. While most of these sprang from the special political relationship between South Africa and Britain, the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth does not have the effect of terminating these agreements. We welcome Dr. Verwoerd's statement that South Africa wishes to remain a member of the sterling area and we share his hope that trade between our two countries will be maintained and expanded.
In his recent speeches, Dr. Verwoerd has been giving the impression that South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth will make no difference, in fact, that everything between us will be just the same and perhaps a little better. I know that to him and to South Africa the Commonwealth means primarily close relations with Britain. We, too, wish to maintain close relations with South Africa.
I am sure that we were all moved by the sentiments expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) in his speech. But, to us, the Commonwealth means something more than a number of separate bilateral links between Britain and each of the members of the Commonwealth. To us, the Commonwealth is, above all, a collective multi-racial relationship in which we consult together, think together and, as far as possible, work together for the advancement of broad, common objectives.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton that the Commonwealth of Nations, as its name implies, is an association of peoples and not only of Governments. For reasons which we all regret, South Africa will no longer be represented in this Commonwealth fellowship. We hope, however, that its absence will be no more than temporary—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and that the time will come when, in changed circumstances, we shall be able to welcome back a representative of South Africa at our Commonwealth family table.
As the Leader of the Opposition said, we must not let it be thought that it makes no difference whether one is in or out of the Commonwealth. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton urged that South Africa should continue to take part in the consultative machinery of the Commonwealth. I am sure that none of us desires to disrupt long-established links with South Africa, but, as the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) said, we must be careful not to destroy the value of Commonwealth membership by giving to those who are not members all the privileges of those who are. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
The withdrawal of South Africa, as the Leader of the Opposition said, has, naturally, give rise to anxieties about the future development and evolution of the Commonwealth. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) and other hon. Members expressed the view that the discussion of apartheid at the Prime Ministers' Conference had set a dangerous precedent for future interference in one another's internal affairs. They fear that this may encourage member countries to make charges and counter-charges, attacks and counter-attacks, against each other and that there will always be somebody in the dock.
If things were to develop in that way it would, of course, be quite disastrous. It would completely poison our relations, and would, no doubt, soon bring about the dissolution of the Commonwealth. But I do not believe that those fears are well founded. The Leader of the Liberal Party said that the Commonwealth should not be regarded just as a cosy club, and I agree with him. It must, he said, stand for principles. I agree with him also about that, provided that we never attempt to define too precisely what those principles are.
The Commonwealth Prime Ministers have always wisely resisted the idea of establishing a code of conduct to which all members are required to conform. Our relations are governed not by a book of rules but by what has been described as a general concensus of opinion. But although there may be no precise definition of the principles for which the Commonwealth stands, there are certain things for which it clearly does not stand and which are incompatible with the whole spirit which inspires it. One of those things is the policy of apartheid as preached and practised in South Africa.
We must, of course, recognise that racial discrimination still exists in many countries of the world. Incidentally, these are not confined, as one might imagine by reading some newspapers, entirely to British Colonial Territories. But South Africa's policy is different, not only in degree but in kind. As the Leader of the Opposition said, there is a difference between precept and practice. Everywhere else outside South Africa Governments are trying, more or less successfully, progressively to eliminate racial discrimination between their citizens. In South Africa, on the other hand, discrimination and segregation have been elevated into a principle, an objective of policy, something to be proud of, an inspiring ideal.
Anyone who attended the Prime Ministers' Conference last week must have felt that on this subject Dr. Verwoerd was talking a totally different language from that of the rest of his colleagues. He is deliberately trying to swim against the whole current of world thought. He is trying to put history into reverse. It may be said that, however wrong and ill-conceived apartheid may be, it is South Africa's internal affair and does not affect her external relations with other members of the Commonwealth. It must, however, be recognised that apartheid has aroused deep emotions throughout the world, and has ceased to be a matter of purely domestic concern.
But, quite apart from the wider considerations of humanity, it is clear that South Africa's racial policy and her attitude towards racial matters has become incompatible with the effective operation of the Commonwealth relationship. The Commonwealth is essentially an association of nations of different races and colours who have established a close and special relationship with one another. That close and special relationship can be maintained in one way only, and that is by continuous and intimate consultation between their Governments.
Yet, while applying for continued membership, the South African Government—and this is something which bit very deep into all other members—still firmly refuses to receive diplomatic representatives from any non-European members of the Commonwealth. This makes a mockery of consultation; and, in any case, we cannot accept that because of the colour of their skins certain members of the Commonwealth are to be treated as lepers.
By this refusal to have normal external relations with the African and Asian countries, even when they are members of the Commonwealth family, South Africa has herself carried the principle of apartheid into the international sphere.
The whole House is behind my right hon. Friend in what he is now saying. I mean that. But can he tell us whether any efforts have been made through diplomatic channels, or Commonwealth Relations channels, to get South Africa to change that point of view in the last eighteen months?
I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised that point, because I believe that it is crucial, and goes to the root of the trouble. I think that everyone realised at this Conference that it was a waste of breath to ask the South African Government to change their racial policies. The whole State and the whole policy is based on the conception of segregation and apartheid. But what nobody could really understand was how the South African Government could apply for continued membership of the Commonwealth and profess to want to work together with other members of the Commonwealth and, at the same time, to say that because their faces are black or brown, or whatever it may be, they were not prepared to receive a High Commissioner or a diplomatic representative from Ghana, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, or Malaya. Clearly, that meant that they were not interested in the conception of the Commonwealth relationship as we understand it.
It is a matter which has been going on for a long time. It has been the cause of friction and difficulty for a long time. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may bear me out when I say that if the South African Government, in the course of the Conference, had said not that they were going to do away with apartheid, but were going at any rate to make this gesture of receiving diplomatic representatives from other Commonwealth countries than European ones, it might have altered the whole atmosphere. [Interruption.] The noble Lord does not want to hear the other side of the argument.
Dr. Verwoerd has said that the withdrawal of South Africa would be followed by the disintegration of the Commonwealth. I must say something about that. I have no wish to hurt anybody's feelings. Had Dr. Verwoerd not raised the issue himself, I should have preferred not to discuss whether we would be worse off or better off for the departure of South Africa. Whatever view we may take of the events of last week, I think that we must agree on one thing—that the withdrawal of South Africa will have the effect not of dividing but of uniting more closely the nations of the Commonwealth.
It seems that the South African Government have not understood the changed character of our modern Commonwealth association. The rôle of the Commonwealth is not to build a bloc of racially homogeneous nations. It is rather, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said, to build a bridge between peoples of all races and creeds. Its purpose is not to present a united front, but to provide a unifying influence in a deeply divided world. With the exception of South Africa, each of the members of the Commonwealth has its own circle of friends with whom it has some special affinity whether through geography, race, religion or alliance. These various circles of friends, when put together, embrace in one way or another the greater part of the globe. In fact, outside the Communist world there is scarcely any group of nations in which members of the Commonwealth do not play a leading rôle.
If, therefore, members of the Commonwealth can manage to evolve a joint approach to some of the great issues of the day they will be in a position to offer collective, multi-racial leadership of a kind which was never more needed than it is today.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East referred to the declaration on disarmament, which I believe to be something of great importance.
I said "with the exception of South Africa", because she has progressively isolated herself, with the result that she has no circle of friends whose good will she can bring into the common pool.
It is as painful to me to say these things as it is painful to the noble Lord, who is now leaving the Chamber, to listen to them. [An HON. MEMBER: "The noble Lord has expelled himself."] I do so only because I am determined to refute with all the power at my command the allegation that the Commonwealth is going to disintegrate. We must not minimise the gravity of the decision that has been taken by South Africa. But, at the same time, I am convinced that the consequences will be very different from what Dr. Verwoerd has predicted. What has happened was, I think, sooner or later, inevitable. Having now come through the crisis, there is no doubt that the unity and moral standing of the Commonwealth throughout the world will be increased.
Most of us here have been deeply stirred by the events of the last week. It is difficult to describe our emotions, because they are a mixture of sorrow, relief and confidence: sorrow at the severing of a long connection in peace and war with the peoples of South Africa of all races; relief that an issue which threatened to disrupt our association has been removed; confidence that the Commonwealth, now imbued with a greater sense of purpose, will go resolutely forward to fulfil its destiny.