Oral Answers to Questions — Central Africa (Victoria Falls Conference)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th July 1963.

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Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Mr. Butler:

I have only a very short statement to make.

I should like to inform hon. Members that I am laying tomorrow, prior to the debate which will take place on Thursday on the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Bill, a White Paper containing the full report of the conference at Victoria Falls.

I am glad to inform the House that all the Governments concerned reached agreed conclusions on the next steps to be taken in Central Africa not only in respect of the orderly dissolution of the Federation, but for the future collaboration of the territories.

I should like to record my gratitude to all the delegations who took part in the conference for the co-operative spirit in which they considered the difficult problems with which we were concerned. Her Majesty's Government look forward to the continuing assistance of all the Governments in Central Africa in the constructive work of the next six months.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

Is the First Secretary aware that we on this side certainly wish to congratulate him on this timely success and on his performance on"Panorama" last night? Is he also aware, however, that his success at the Victoria Falls conference was on the easier part of the problem and that the more difficult part, the future of Southern Rhodesia, still lies ahead of him?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

We held the conference to discuss the dissolution of the Federation and there is a great deal of hard work to be done on that and a great many difficulties to overcome during the next six months.

With regard to the other subject raised by the right hon. Gentleman, the situation remains as described in the correspondence which I published on 18th June.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

Is the First Secretary aware that nearly everybody is glad to see him back and that we congratulate him on a statement which is not only short, but is a model of clarity? I should like to ask just two questions. Will the White Paper deal with future responsibility for the Federal Army and also Federaldefence?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Yes, Sir. There are chapters dealing with each subject, with defence, with assets and liabilities and with the debt and the many other aspects of our conference.

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

In making his statement today, and preparing for the debate on Thursday, has the right hon. Gentleman taken into account the note which has been sent by the Government of Ghana protesting against the transference of powers to Southern Rhodesia while that remains an undemocratic country?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I have noted the representations made by the Government of Ghana, but I do not think that they arise on this statement.

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

I also, should like to offer my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on the way he has handled the Victoria Falls conference and for his handling of what, in my opinion, seems to be the prickliest nettle of all—that is, the Federal Army—and the way in which he seems to have got agreement on the apportionment of the three territories.

May I ask, first, when the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the secession of Nyasaland will be completed; how long after that the unscrambling operation of the two Rhodesias will take place; and, in view of the fact that the political over-structure is being dismantled, how long will it be before he can assure the House that economic union will flow as a result?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I shall be explaining, when I speak on Thursday, that I have the agreement of the Nyasaland Government to come into the general dissolution exercise, which means that they will accept the date of 31st December for the dissolution and that that means their secession from the Federation.

With regard to economic union, I refer the hon. Member to the White Paper, which has a chapter on future collaboration between the territories and indicates that there are certain subjects which the Northern Rhodesians are ready to accept immediately and other subjects which will have to be discussed.