This House has not had a major general debate on Commonwealth affairs as such since 1960, though we had a good and full debate early last year on Commonwealth assistance and trade matters. In 1960, the Commonwealth was then at the beginning of one of the most important phases in its history. We tend to think of the Commonwealth as an old institution. So in many ways it is. It is rooted in the past. But the increase in its membership and the development of its character during the last five years have changed it considerably. The Commonwealth of 1965 is something very different from that of 1960.
Let me remind the House of some of the changes. Starting with the independence of Nigeria in 1960, we have seen the emergence to independence and membership of the Commonwealth of a further 12 countries in Africa, in Europe and in the Caribbean. Two of them—Tanganyika and Zanzibar—have since joined together in the United Republic of Tanzania. In South-East Asia we have seen the withdrawal of British colonial rule from Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak and the federation of these territories with Malaya to form Malaysia. In 1961, South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth.
We now have a Commonwealth comprising 21 members. Their total population numbers about 750 million. One person in four in the world today lives in a Commonwealth country. There are Commonwealth countries in all five continents.
In a dangerously divided world it is a priceless advantage that 21 such diverse nations can come together voluntarily in a basic spirit of friendship. Our association is a world in miniature. It often reflects the divisions of the world at large. But we none the less work together. We listen to each other even when we cannot agree. This serves to soften the sharpest edges of our differences. It makes accessible great areas of co-operation which would otherwise remain closed to us.
Inevitably, as a result of history, many of the countries of the Commonwealth have—at least for the time being—more points of contact with Britain than with their other fellow members. But this is changing. More and more, Governments and peoples are discovering how much they have in common with each other in all parts of the Commonwealth.
I was particularly struck by some remarks by Lord Howick of Glendale, in another place. He said that recently in West Africa an influential political figure said to him, "I am about to go to Canada. When I am in Canada I do not feel a foreigner."
Personal contacts are the very roots of the special Commonwealth relationship. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will shortly be welcoming his colleagues to the meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers next month. But already, since this Government came into office, British Ministers have visited 16 of the 20 Commonwealth countries overseas. It has been my privilege to attend four Cabinet meetings in other countries during my travels overseas. In addition, nearly 100 Ministers have visited London, 14 of them Heads of Government.
There may be speculation—there usually is—about the purpose of the coming Prime Ministers' meeting. It is an essential part of the Commonwealth way of doing things for Heads of Government, in spite of their individual preoccupations, to get together at intervals; to keep in personal touch; to discuss generally what they are doing, what they hope to do, what worries them. Sometimes, as in 1962, some particular broad issue calls for consideration. But this time, as is more usual, the meeting has grown out of a general feeling that the time was ripe to renew contacts, and to review the contribution which we can all make to the well-being of our association and of the world at large.
It is not for us, in this debate, to try to lay down what should or should not be on the agenda. It is for the Prime Ministers themselves to decide on their agenda when they meet. The last thing we want to do with these Commonwealth meetings is to turn them into sterile set debates. This is important. It is the informality of the Commonwealth relationship between Governments, and its basis of easy, personal exchange of view, which give it its unique value as a force for understanding in the world—a world in which people with different hopes and fears, different values and interests, are inevitably made to jostle dangerously close together.
No doubt my right hon. Friend and his Commonwealth colleagues will be carrying further some of the proposals made last July. For instance, at their last meeting, Commonwealth Prime Ministers were anxious to set up some continuing machinery which would help to achieve yet closer and more informed understanding between their Governments. They instructed Commonwealth officials to consider the best basis for establishing a Commonwealth Secretariat.
They also considered the need to establish an autonomous Commonwealth Foundation for the purpose of administering a fund to facilitate interchanges between Commonwealth organisations in professional fields. This proposal, too, has been examined by Commonwealth officials. We look forward to final decisions on both the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Foundation being taken at the meeting of the Prime Ministers.
We in this House attach special importance to the development of exchanges and understanding between Parliamentarians of Commonwealth countries. We all know and applaud the activities of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister suggested in a debate here in February last year, some extension of this work may now be practicable. As some hon. Members will know, we are at present examining the possibility of arranging for a Commonwealth Parliamentary Assembly. We think that such a meeting might be of great value in pointing the way for the development of even closer links and understanding between Commonwealth Parliamentarians in the future. But our ideas are necessarily subject to the views of other Commonwealth countries. I hope we can make a start on collecting these views when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers are here this month.
There are a great many other ways in which we are co-operating with each other to an increasing extent. In much of this activity close personal contacts are of cardinal importance. It was to develop and reinforce these that during the Easter Recess I paid visits to Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. I was able to have most useful discussions with the Governments of those countries.
In Australia, I was invited to attend a Cabinet meeting. I also met the Leader of the Opposition and talked with civic and business and trades union leaders in Melbourne and Sydney. I was able, too, in public addresses, Press conferences and radio and television appearances, to explain this Government's policies. I found, as always, close interest in and understanding of the problems which face this country and the world. In New Zealand, I also met the Cabinet and the Leader of the Opposition, and made a television broadcast, and, again, I think that the visit, though so short, proved to be valuable on both sides.
Tantalisingly brief though it was, my tour revealed the broad harmony which exists between our countries in foreign affairs. We naturally try to show our concern for our fellow citizens in other Commonwealth countries by helping them in periods of natural calamity. Hardly a year passes without some part of the Commonwealth being struck by cyclone or flood, or some other such disaster. A pre-monsoon cyclone recently hit East Pakistan. Our messages of sympathy were backed by an immediate and practical money gift, and, as usual, British voluntary agencies have sprung into action.
Last December, Ceylon was hit by a hurricane, causing 200 deaths. Here again, the Government gave swift and generous help. A public appeal collected a further contribution from private citizens in Great Britain. I think that it will be agreed that this shows that the ordinary person in this country has a real interest in his fellow Commonwealth citizens.
It is in the same spirit of understanding and generous help as between partners that we, with our friends in the Commonwealth, seek solutions to the problems raised by large scale immigration into Britain. It is essentially in the general Commonwealth interest that we should take in only as many immigrants from overseas as we can properly absorb. We must also do all we can to help those already here to settle happily as full members of the community.
We have already made it clear that in formulating immigration policy and operating our controls we intend to take full account of the views of Commonwealth Governments. Lord Mountbatten's Mission accordingly left in April to visit eight Commonwealth countries mainly interested in immigration into Britain to find out the facts about migration from them to Britain, and to hear their views about the working of our controls. On receiving the Mission's report after its return on 12th June we shall be able to formulate future policy on immigration from the Commonwealth with full knowledge of the relevant facts and of the views of the Governments mainly concerned.
The appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) to speed the integration of immigrants already here and the Race Relations Bill, with its emphasis on conciliation, are further positive steps indicating the importance we attach to achieving urgent progress with the problems and challenges set by immigration.
A further important field of co-operation within the Commonwealth is that if aid. We shall continue to help the newly independent States which were formerly British Colonies in the development of their economics. British Colonies want all the help they can get. Today the Commonwealth receives by far the largest share of our bilateral economic aids—80 per cent. of the whole in 1964.
Over 11,000 British experts are serving in developing Commonwealth countries, either employed by overseas Governments or under contract to the Ministry of Overseas Development. The Commonwealth Development Corporation continues to occupy a vitally important place of our aid effort. It undertakes investment in development projects, both on its own behalf and in co-operation with Governments or with private concerns. And along with its investment it provides valuable technical and managerial "know-how".
As evidence of our intention to maximise our aid effort within the limits of our resources, the Government have set up the Ministry of Overseas Development, with responsibility for our economic aid programmes. The Ministry is currently studying the structure of the existing programme, and the various factors which must influence the total amount and the type of aid which we can afford.
We do not expect our aid to produce short-term political effects. But we have a very real interest in doing what we can to further the strength and stability of the countries of the Commonwealth with whom this country has over the years developed, to our mutual advantage, so many common economic and commercial ties.
Commercial ties are one of the most important features of our relations with our Commonwealth partners. Much of the overseas trade by which we live has been with the Commonwealth. But the proportion has been declining steadily in the last 13 years. In 1952, about 40 per cent. of our total exports went to the Commonwealth. Our percentage of total imports was near the same figure. Both percentages have dropped by roughly a quarter since then. Moreover, in absolute terms, Britain has not been making a significant increase in her exports to the Commonwealth in the last five years. This is disturbing because of its implications not only for our trade, but also for our general relations with the Commonwealth.
Since October, we have had under scrutiny what can be done to increase our trade with the Commonwealth. In recent years British exports to non-Commonwealth markets and imports from non-Commonwealth sources have both increased. But we have not been maintaining our share of the increasing imports into important Commonwealth markets, despite all our advantages there. One of the tasks that the Government have, therefor, set themselves is enlarging our share of Commonwealth imports by improving our competitiveness in their markets.
When this Government came into office, there was Committee for Trade Promotion in Canada, but, surprising though it may seem, nothing comparable for other parts of the Commonwealth. We have remedied this. We have established the Commonwealth Exports Council and a series of Area Committees for Australia, for New Zealand, for Commonwealth countries in Asia, in Africa and in the Caribbean. I am sure that these will help to focus the efforts and experience of Government, traders and industry.
It is only if Britain can increase her exports that she will be able to pay for her imports. The Commonwealth supplies about 30 per cent. of our imports and takes about 30 per cent. of our exports. There is plenty of room for us to increase our exports to the Commonwealth. Commonwealth trade amounts to almost 25 per cent. of free world trade. We reject altogether the idea that Commonwealth trade is doomed to failure. We must go all out to improve and increase Commonwealth trade.
I turn now to Africa. Whatever party we may belong to, all of us, I think, subscribe to the policy of leading our dependent territories as rapidly as possible to independence. Since the 1960 debate to which I have referred, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Zanzibar, Malawi, Zambia and the Gambia have all become independent. In doing so, moreover, they have each sought and have been granted, by the common consent of their partners, membership of the Commonwealth. Today African countries make up nearly half the overall membership of the Commonwealth association. Their importance can be judged from the fact that they alone represent nearly half of the combined population of the 32 independent States in Africa, South of the Sahara.
We are living through what has, with some justification, been called the African decade. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), my predecessor, would agree with me on this at least, that these are demanding times in which to hold office as Commonwealth Secretary. We have had, and shall continue to experience, our full share of both disappointment and encouragement.
There is nothing easier than to question the value of our relationship with our Commonwealth partners in Africa. We are asked why we tolerate attacks which are sometimes made on us and our policies from African quarters. Critics point to what they see as the failure of parliamentary democracy to take root and flourish on African soil. They ask what return, what practical benefits we gain from our unceasing efforts to help and advise our friends in sub-Saharan Africa; and so forth.
I have always felt that such criticisms run wide of the mark. They fail to take account of the enormous difficulties with which the leaders of the new Africa find themselves confronted as soon as they get their independence. It overlooks the very real and solid achievements there have been. I think that it forgets, too, that, if there have been mistakes and failures, that is not unique in Africa.
Of course, we in Britain will go on having our ups and downs in our relationships with the Commonwealth countries in Africa. We should delude ourselves if we believed otherwise. These relationships cannot be settled and secure until a mutually satisfactory solution has been found to the burning problems which still concern everyone south of the Zambesi, and of which I shall have more to say later.
I am sure that the House will agree that we are in a specially responsible position. Our own historical, administrative and other links with the Commonwealth countries in Africa are very close. Without exception they were strengthened in each case rather than weakened when they gained their independence.
Hon. Members will, I hope, agree that it must be our constant and patient policy to preserve these links and to forge new ones whenever the occasion arises. This, after all, is only common sense and of practical benefit both to Africans and to ourselves. I will give only a few examples of what our own involvement in Africa amounts to. About 200,000 of our own people are still living and working there.
Since 1937, we have increased our exports to what now comprises Commonwealth Africa from £22 million to over £200 million. British investment in Commonwealth Africa is estimated at roughly £500 million. Last year, over 16,000 students from Commonwealth Africa were studying in Britain. Today there are about 1,500 teachers working in Commonwealth countries in Africa under British aid schemes. And our bilateral economic aid continues on an increasingly larger scale.
It remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to continue to give sympathetic help and support to our Commonwealth partners in Africa to the best of our ability and to our mutual advantage. In this way we can hope to go on playing our part in the achievement of stability and social and economic progress throughout the continent. But the future of our relations with Commonwealth Africa—perhaps the future of the Commonwealth itself—is largely dependent on finding satisfactory solutions to the problems of Southern Africa.
Since we came into office last October, Her Majesty's Government have been continuously and intensely concerned with the search for a solution to the difficult problem of Rhodesia. My own visit with the Lord Chancellor to Rhodesia was an earnest of our determination to find a way forward in a situation which remained intractable. As my right hon Friend the Prime Minister said at the time, it was of vital importance to Rhodesia, ourselves, and the whole Common wealth to do so.
The House will remember that, on my return, I was not altogether without hopes of working towards an acceptable solution. Our exchanges with the Prime Minister of Rhodesia have continued. Progress was, naturally, retarded during the election campaign in Rhodesia, but we have remained in contact with Mr. Smith, and I do not think that the prospects of negotiation have been adversely affected by the elections. The Prime Minister told the House, on 29th April, of our readiness to seek a negotiated settlement with the Rhodesian Government. We have now, as we have announced, asked our High Commissioner in Salisbury to resume discussions with Mr. Smith with a view to these negotiations being profitabily carried forward.
For our part, this represents a genuine attempt to explore every possibility of reaching a just and lasting solution. We are under no illusions that the answer will be easy to find, but we believe that Mr. Smith is sincere in his wish to seek a solution by negotiation if at all possible. The granting of independence to Rhodesia is the responsibility of the British Government and Parliament. This was recognised by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers at their meeting in London last year.
We fully understand the anxiety of many of our friends here and in the Commonwealth, but we hope that they, too, will understand that, if a peaceful and lasting solution is to be found which will win the support of all peoples in Rhodesia, it can only be through a process of delicate and realistic negotiation.
The House will know that Her Majesty's Government are frequently urged to pursue extreme courses of action against Rhodesia. Those who advocate such courses have either not considered their appalling consequences to Rhodesia and to other countries, or they are, for political reasons, exploiting the situation to their own ends, without the slightest regard for the races in Rhodesia. The concern of Her Majesty's Government and, I am sure of the whole House, is for the safety and the welfare of all the peoples in Rhodesia.
Her Majesty's Government are also aware, and have been at pains to point out, that any hasty or ill-judged action by the Rhodesia Government would have disastrous consequences for that country. This is why we believe that the only possible course, in order to reach a peaceful solution in Rhodesia, is that of patient and realistic negotiation.
We are also charged with treating Rhodesia differently from the way in which we dealt with other former colonial territories in their progress to independence. The Rhodesia problem is without parallel. I will explain why. Rhodesia is the only territory for which we have a responsibility which has enjoyed the penultimate stage of constitutional development before independence—that is, full internal self-government—for a period of 42 years.
This means that the Rhodesia Government have not been staffed or controlled by the Colonial Office. Their police force, armed forces and administration have all been under the control of the Rhodesia Government. These are the realities which must be borne in mind in any consideration of this difficult problem.
There must be a willingness on all sides to discuss and compromise. We, for our part, shall continue, no matter what the difficulties, to seek an agreed solution through patient negotiation. In our judgment, for the well-being of the peoples of Rhodesia, there is no other way. I am encouraged in this search by the way in which patience and perseverance were rewarded in the difficult problem that confronted us when the Government took office last October over the mineral royalties dispute in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.
The Northern Rhodesian Government had made it plain that they would not allow the chartered company to continue to draw copper royalties after independence. If the question were not settled by agreement by the time of independence, they intended to proceed immediately to hold a popular referendum on a constitutional amendment which would enable them to take over the company's mineral rights without compensation.
When I was due to attend the Zambian independence celebrations, the question was still wide open. Talks with the previous Government, last September, had failed because of the apparent unbridgeable gap between the Northern Rhodesian Government and the chartered company. We did not take any different view from that of the previous administration on Her Majesty's Government's position and responsibility in the matter. But we were not prepared to let this new African State enter into independence with a legacy which could jeopardise our relations with it from the outset. We took a decision, therefore, to offer a contribution towards a settlement. When I touched down at Lusaka airport, on 22nd October, we had only 30 hours to go before independence and we had to negotiate an agreement before the expiration of that time.
Some brisk and realistic talking was done late at night and into the early hours of the morning. It was not easy for me, for the Zambian Ministers or for the President of the chartered company. But I am glad to say that, towards the end of the day, about four hours before the moment of independence, we agreed on the principles of the settlement, which I reported to the House on 24th November last. Further south—
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that topic, and since he mentioned that our High Commissioner in Salisbury had been told to get in touch again with the new Government, which I think the whole House would expect him to do as part of his normal duties, would the right hon. Gentleman say a little more about what Her Majesty's Government have in mind? Is it suggested, for example, that there should be a conference in London or a further Ministerial visit at which discussions will take place on matters like education and possible Government assistance in that regard?
No. I think that it would be unwise at this stage, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, for me to go further, remembering that the Prime Minister of Rhodesia has yet to reply to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I think that it would be wise to leave things there for now. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman not to press me further on this issue.
Further south, we still have our continuing colonial responsibilities for the three Southern African territories of Basutoland, Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland. In the last five years they have been set on the path towards Independence. One of them, Basutoland, has just held elections under an advanced constitution which is designed to lead to independence next year. In March this year successful elections were held in Bechuanaland and the first Prime Minister of the country, Mr. Seretse Khama, assumed office.
Swaziland, which achieved its first Legislative Assembly as recently as last year, is necessarily a little way behind the others. But a constitution, which was hammered out only after long discussion and some differences of opinion, has been worked out in a spirit of co-operation between the ruling party and the colonial administration.
Next, Asia. We, along with all friends of India and Pakistan, were deeply concerned when fighting broke out last month between India and Pakistan forces in the Rann of Kutch. There was a very real danger that it could escalate into a conflict of tragic dimensions. We felt that it was right to offer at once to give what help we could towards resolving the situation.
I am glad to say that within a few days of our initiative both sides undertook to do nothing to aggravate the situation, so that hostilities have virtually been in suspense. Since then, the two Governments have been working towards an agreement which, we hope, will not only open the way to a formal cease-fire but also to a lasting settlement of the frontier in this area. I am hopeful that they will succeed, but it has not been an easy task, and there are still points of difference between the two sides which have to be overcome. We have been trying to give what help we can, and we remain ready to do anything the two countries may consider useful towards settling the issues which remain outstanding between them.
In South-East Asia it is our firm policy to continue helping Malaysia to defend her independence and territorial integrity as long as she wants our help. Commonwealth ties apart, we are committed to this by the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement. We have no ulterior motive whatever. Hon. Members will recall that at the recent S.E.A.T.O. conference, in London, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave public emphasis to this in the most straightforward and telling words.
During recent months there has been frequent talk of negotiations between Malaysia and Indonesia. No doubt we shall hear further calls before long for these discussions to be continued. We would, indeed, be happy to see negotiations bring about a peaceful settlement of any grievances between Indonesia and Malaysia. But mere talk of a desire to neeotiate—which is as far as Indonesia's peaceful protestations have ever gone—is not enough, particularly when Indonesian leaders constantly reiterate their determination to crush Malaysia at all costs. Nevertheless, as the House will recall, the Prime Minister of Malaysia has never failed to say "Yes" to Indonesian proposals for discussions. Invariably, it has been the Indonesians who have drawn back.
In this situation it is difficult to see what action Malaysia, Britain or any other of Malaysia's friends can usefully take. We can only continue to make it clear that force, or the threat of force, as a means to a political end, will not be allowed to succeed. This certainly does not mean that we despair of a peaceful settlement. Several countries, which are in friendly relations with both parties, are still patiently and actively trying to promote a reconciliation. For our part, we wish them well. We would like to see this problem settled.
Meanwhile, Britain's duty is clear—to discharge our obligations to our friends. The burden is no light one, but it is within our powers and there can be no question of our shirking it. Both our capacity to discharge this duty, and our position in the Middle East will, to some extent, be affected by our success in resolving the problems which confront us in South Arabia. The key issue here is the constitutional future of the area.
We have declared our willingness that Aden, and all the States of the Protectorate of South Arabia, including those which at present lie outside the Federation, should become independent as soon as practicable and, in any case, not later than 1968. There is general agreement that, in preparation for this independence, the local constitutional arrangements should be reshaped on more democratic lines, and that the possibility of achieving closer political unity within the area should be explored.
With these aims in mind my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has made known his intention to appoint a Constitutional Commission to visit South Arabia, and to consider with the Governments and political parties there what will be the most appropriate constitutional structure for the future. It will, we hope, prove possible for the membership of this Commission to be international in character, so that its eventual recommendations and the action taken as a result of them can command general support and acceptance, both inside and outside the territory.
Another of Britain's colonial responsibilities whose political and constitutional future is of interest to the Commonwealth is British Guiana. Here the situation, both politically and economically, justified the cautious optimism expressed by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary following his visit there in February. The Coalition Government, under Mr. Burnham, have made an encouraging start and have shown themselves alive to the need to secure the confidence of the Indian community in their administration. Both sides of the House will be very pleased that the opposition party, led by Dr. Jagan, has agreed that the party should take its place in the House of Assembly.
It is against this background that the Premier of British Guiana has been informed that it is Her Majesty's Government's intention to hold a conference as early as practicable to discuss among other things a programme for independence. It is not possible, at this stage, to say exactly when such a conference will be held.
Could we be clear on this point? The Secretary of State said that there would be a conference to discuss or to consider a programme for independence. The pledge which I gave was that we would hold a conference to fix a firm date for independence. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that that is the intention?
Does the Secretary of State realise that he is saying something which is quite serious? He is casting doubts on the intention of the Government to fulfil a very firm pledge that the conference would be held after the elections to fix a date for independence. That is in the White Paper and it is an absolutely firm undertaking.
There is no intention to depart from any undertaking which has been given. What I am saying at the moment is that it is intended, as and when it is convenient to all parties concerned to do so, to convene a conference. As a result of the conference, it is quite likely that it may fix a date, but it is not by any means certain whether that will be done at this conference. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies will be in a position, when he is able to announce a conference, to say exactly what he has in mind. It is against this background that the conference will be held, and I must leave it in that position at this moment.
Finally, I should like to mention Brunei. Hon. Members will have seen the communiqué issued after my recent talks with the Sultan. It is my hope that the working of the new Ministerial system will be so successful as to enable the Sultan to convene at an early date a constitutional conference to make recommendations on the means of introducing further advances.
I have covered a very wide field, but there are few international questions today which do not affect the Commonwealth one way or another. It is a rich and varied tapestry which will form the background to the meeting later this month of the leaders of the member countries.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Commonwealth is still a young association. It may be too early to be certain of its shape in the future. It would not be the living thing it is if it were not constantly changing. But all of us who are members of it are determined that it shall have a future. Moreover, we can see a real and cardinal importance for the Commonwealth in the years ahead, bridging as it does the deep and dangerous divisions of race politics and economic levels that threaten to sunder the world of tomorrow.
If the Commonwealth can play its part in this way, if it can point the way towards greater international co-operation, if it can help to reduce tension and promote understanding, it will make a great and lasting contribution to mankind. With it, the chief hope for mankind lies. The Commonwealth association provides a basis for an orderly and stable world. If it fails, it is hard to believe that anything else will succeed.
But success will come only if the peoples and Governments of every nation in the Commonwealth play their parts to the full. We have a great task before us and one which could not be more important or more rewarding. I hope that all the wealth of good will, co-operation and understanding that has been created will be used towards the ultimate goal of world peace. It is in this spirit that I am sure that we all look forward to a successful Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting.
I hope that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will take the view that our request for a debate on the Commonwealth was timely. It has enabled the Secretary of State to make a very wide survey of the Commonwealth and the activities going on in it. We are grateful for that and for what he has said. It comes before an important meeting which is about to take place of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. In 1957, there were nine Commonwealth Prime Ministers. Today there are 21. A discussion in the House, which has for so long carried the full responsibility for directing Commonwealth affairs, can be very useful and helpful before a Prime Ministers' meeting.
As the Secretary of State himself reminded us, we no longer direct the modern Commonwealth. The attitude that Whitehall knows best receives a very lukewarm reception, as the Secretary of State knows, in modern Commonwealth circles. Nevertheless, the British Prime Minister, at a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, is expected to make constructive proposals to help the progress of this association of sovereign and independent States, because that is what they are.
The Secretary of State told us of the many constitutional changes that have taken place in recent years, some of them quite lately. In his survey he reminded us that Commonwealth countries are meeting situations of great difficulty. Indeed, some countries are meeting situations of crisis. For his comfort, may I say that I do not remember an occasion on which this has not been so. Somehow, we have got through up to now.
Malaysia is very much in our thoughts. We can say from both sides of the House—this has been declared time and again—that we will stand by Malaysia and fulfil our obligations to her as long as she is under pressure of aggression from Indonesia. There is the quarrel, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, between India and Pakistan, which is not only so tragic because two Commonwealth members are hostile to each other, but which is so wasteful in terms of defence of the subcontinent of India. If the subcontinent is under pressure from the Chinese, India and Pakistan must use every effort to settle their quarrels and to join in the defence of their own subcontinent in which we and the Americans are helping them so much today.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Southern Rhodesia and the constitutional problems there and the problem of Southern Rhodesia moving to the independence which all of us wants to see her gain. I would not add to or subtract a word from what the right hon. Gentleman said today. I think that he described the situation and in doing so received the support of both sides of the House. I was glad to hear him say that the Government's intention is to open up again negotiations with Mr. Smith, with the aim of achieving a compromise which will lead to an honourable independence for that country, accepted by them and by us and acceptable to the Commonwealth.
I was less than happy—although the right hon. Gentleman did not elaborate on it—about the situation in Aden. I wonder whether the Prime Minister can tell us a little more about what his right hon. Friend meant when he said that the Commission which is to make recommendations in preparation for independence is to be international. It surely must be the direct responsibility of the United Kingdom to lead this territory to independence. We cannot shed that responsibility on to anyone else. Therefore, I do not see the point of having members from overseas on this Commission. Still more do I express the hope that the Committee of Twenty-four will not be allowed to divert us from our purpose of giving independence to this territory in our own way.
I want to deal shortly with some of the broader and more basic features of Commonwealth relationships which the right hon. Gentleman touched upon but did not develop. I want to do so because I do not think that we can have the picture complete unless these questions are in our minds and are debated. First of all, there is the change in the form and outlook of the Commonwealth and the consequences which follow from that for Commonwealth trade. There are also the shortage of capital and the problems and threat of poverty, particularly in some of the Asian countries. There is the great overriding need for education and training as an absolute condition of progress, and I should like to say something about the possibility of harmonising the interests of the Commonwealth and of Europe, which is perhaps the biggest question of our day.
The debate is bound to focus largely on ways and means of increasing Commonwealth trade and assisting progress in the developing countries. It is the desire of all hon. Members on both sides of the House to maximise Commonwealth trade and to assist in any action which will enable African and Asian members to stand on their own feet earlier than otherwise they could do. If that is our common aim we must ask ourselves what are the basic needs. All Commonwealth countries look for more trade and more investment. While I was at the Commonwealth Office and since it can certainly be said that investment has been as important as trade.
If action by Britain is to hit the target and do what the Commonwealth countries themselves wish to be done, we must make a correct appreciation of what the Commonwealth is and what it is not. It is not a political bloc, nor is it an economic bloc. Before dealing with the political attitude of members of our Commonwealth association one must say that anyone who has been present at meetings of Finance Ministers or Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth is bound to have marked the change in the outlook of Commonwealth countries, both old and new, in recent years.
The whole Commonwealth is now consciously multilateral in its outlook. That does not mean that each does not try to increase trade with Britain and with the other, both in volume and in value, and that we should not try to do the same. This trend was unmistakably indicated as long ago as 1961, in a statement issued by the Commonwealth of Australia which I should like to read to the House. It said:
Under the United Kingdom-Australia Trade Agreement of 1957, the principle of material preference was retained. At the same time Australia gained"—
and I draw the attention of the House to that word "gained"—
the right to reduce preferences accorded to the United Kingdom to lower levels than those required under the Ottawa Agreements. This freedom has given Australia the room to manœuvre in negotiating trade agreements or material tariff concessions with other countries and to effect cost savings in industry.
The truth is, and we must recognise it, that the pattern of world trade has changed. It is now much more complex than the straight exchange that there used to be between raw materials and manufactures. The ambition of almost every Commonwealth country today, in addition to selling its food and raw materials, is to industrialise and sell its manufactured goods.
This is a big change and the emphasis is placed firmly, therefore, by every Commonwealth country on freedom to trade with all countries in all markets. The firm intention is to pursue these objectives through international organisations, particularly the G.A.T.T. and U.N.C.T.A.D., and the opportunities which present themselves in the Kennedy Round. Australia must find new outlets and markets, for instance in Japan. Canada must sell to the United States. Britain must sell in Europe and the African countries must sell to each other.
We must mark this change, otherwise we shall miss the chance of doing what ought to be done. In other words, the Commonwealth refuses nowadays to be an exclusive trading association. As long as we are realistic and accept this as a fact we can better concentrate on ways and means of increasing the volume and value of trade between Britain and the Commonwealth countries and, just as important, between the member countries themselves.
Much of the emphasis at the Prime Ministers' Conference last year was placed on the influence which Britain could exercise on behalf of others in attaining a freer flow of world trade and a greater recognition of the need of the advanced industrial countries to open their markets to the developing countries and to encourage investment. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) was able to follow this up in the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference and, later, I should like to ask the Prime Minister some questions about that.
The Prime Minister will remember that at the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference we were able to get the nations there to accept a number of propositions in principle related to the advanced countries buying goods from the developing countries, to commodity arrangements, and to the employment of capital in these developing countries. I should like to ask the Prime Minister what steps the Government have taken to follow up the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference both with the World Bank and with the United Nations.
I put before the House some of the main problems as I see them and the way in which Britain can most effectively help. The main ambition of the Asian and African countries must be to match food production to population. Unless they can do that, they will fail. I go a little further and put it in another way: by so doing, they will raise the whole level of activity in the great agricultural areas so that the purchasing power of the millions on the soil is increased and an internal market created.
There has been a scramble to industrialise in many countries of Asia and Africa which, in a number of cases, has unbalanced the economies of the countries concerned. I remember the concern Mr. Nehru expressed on several occasions and how very much he felt that the balance had been thrown too far one way and the importance of agricultural policies in India had been underestimated. A further ambition—this is particularly true of Africa—lies in the need to develop communications and sources of power for industrial expansion. When we were responsible for Britain's policies towards the development of the Commonwealth, we tried to concentrate and direct such resources as Britain had to these essential needs.
To secure these basic objectives of policy, my colleagues and I, particularly after the Montreal Conference in 1957, put education right in the front of our programme—education in the application of research, education in the art of administration, and the training of young people in all the Commonwealth countries. At the end of the day, it is applied knowledge which makes all the difference between success and failure for a developing nation. It is this which can convert malnutrition and inertia into vigour and self-reliance.
I have very much in mind some seemingly rather simple things which have made an enormous difference, perhaps the whole difference, in the ability of countries in Asia and Africa to live well or to live on the verge of starvation. I have seen the results of the Japanese experiments in the culture of rice which has made an enormous difference and is capable of making a further enormous difference to every country in Asia and the Indian sub-Continent. But this knowledge has to be applied or it is useless. I remember one of my hon. Friends last year referring to an experiment, which I also have seen, in Malaysia where, by the breeding of fish, almost a miracle has been achieved and the numbers of fish increased beyond all knowledge. This is something which makes an enormous difference to the ability of people in South-East Asia to live well, because fish is one of their basic foods. So one could go on to mention the cultivation of cocoa in Ghana and the rest.
We started at the Montreal Conference in 1957 a modest but vital scheme of Commonwealth scholarships, education and training. We look to the Government to give full support to this scheme and to make available the resources which, last year, we had already pledged for the next five years ahead. It is essential that this programme be maintained, and I hope that the Prime Minister will tell us that that is being done.
The great want is for trained experts who can hand on their knowledge to many young Asians and Africans who are hungry for knowledge and can profit greatly from the instruction which they are given. In technical aid and assistance we provided about £175 million in 1963–64, more than double what it was seven years earlier. Do the Government intend to keep this at a high level, and, in particular, the provision of technicians and experts, because it is here that we are well able to contribute and here that both we and the Commonwealth countries get the best value for money?
I come now to two other matters which are fundamental to growth and the development of Commonwealth countries. The first is British investment in both the old and the new Commonwealth. I have wondered lately whether the Prime Minister understands how much reliance is placed on capital investment from Britain and the setback to development plans which will follow if the flow is curtailed. He will know that Commonwealth countries follow our Commonwealth debates in the House very closely. They will remember particularly what he said in a corresponding debate last year when he urged that incentives should be given to private enterprise to cater for the industrial needs of the Commonwealth and to invest in the Commonwealth.
What have we got instead? We have the deterrents of the Corporation Tax and the abolition of the concessions for overseas trading corporations. I profoundly hope that the Prime Minister will tell us tonight—perhaps the Chancellor's announcement earlier today encourages our hope—of the Government's willingness to lessen the severe long-term effects of the present provisions of the Finance Bill on investment in the Commonwealth.
If the right hon. Gentleman considers that private investment in developing Commonwealth countries is so important, why did his Government take no initiative at all to prevent the level declining year by year?
I shall have to check on the figures for the past few years—I do not carry them in my head—but it is the fact that the figure of private investment in the Commonwealth is very high and some most valuable development projects are being financed by private enterprise all the time. It was our policy to encourage this. Is it this Government's policy? On the face of it, in the light of the present Finance Bill, it does not seem to be so.
In the context of the longer term, there is one suggestion which the Government should consider. The O.E.C.D. has examined a proposal for a scheme to insure overseas investment against political risks. The hope is that this will be a multilateral scheme and that it will be acceptable by the World Bank. Germany, the United States and Japan have gone ahead and instituted schemes of their own, and I think that these schemes are operating to the detriment of trading companies in Britain. There can be no doubt that trade follows investment and aid, and, if there is further delay, our country will suffer. I hope, therefore, that the Government will seriously examine the possibility of adopting such an insurance scheme.
I attach enormous importance to the initiative which our Government were able to undertake last year at the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference in Geneva. The Prime Minister will recall the two most important conclusions. The first related to arrangements for stabilising commodity prices. Again, I remember how he urged the importance of this in his speech last year. Since then, we have seen the price of cocoa collapse. What initiative have the Government taken in respect of any commodity, and what proposals have they made in respect of cocoa in particular? An initiative should surely come from a Prime Minister who, when Leader of the Opposition, was so keen that these matters should be treated with the utmost urgency.
A great start was made on this in the years immediately following the war, but is not the point that some of us, from that bench, were pressing for initiatives in this matter years ago—I can quote from debates in 1953—and the then Government did not begin to take any interest but were utterly opposed to international commodity agreements—apart from the continuation of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement which is a different thing—until the matter became controversial as a result of their decision to seek entry into the Common Market? Is it not true that one reason why no progress has been made on these issues is that nothing was done by the previous Government, who opposed it until 1963?
The right hon. Gentleman cannot really say that. As he knows, there are other international agreements, the tin agreement and the coffee agreement, for instance; and we are not opposed and were never opposed to commodity agreements. But what I am saying is this. As the right hon. Gentleman, speaking from this place last year, pressed upon us that this problem was particularly urgent, why, when the cocoa price has collapsed, has there been no move whatever, so far as I know, by the British Government of which he is the head? In what other commodities has he taken any initiative?
Incidentally, I express great surprise, when we are talking about development overseas, at the absence of the right hon. Lady who is responsible. Apparently, she does not see fit to come to the Government Front Bench. I think that the Prime Minister might send for the right hon. Lady to be present and hear what the House feels about development overseas.
These are the things that matter: education and training, investment, and purchasing by the advanced countries, about which I hope that we shall hear more from the Prime Minister this evening and which are of enormous importance to the developing Commonwealth. I do not propose to spend more time on the machinery for facilitating Commonwealth co-operation. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Secretariat is getting under way and he hopes to complete the process at this Prime Ministers' Conference. The export committee for trade in the Commonwealth will be judged by results. I hope that it achieves them. I do not believe that the Commonwealth wants much more machinery. It has enough committees already, and now the Secretariat had better get on with the job.
As the Secretary of State said, there are endless possibilities for contacts between the peoples of the Commonwealth. I agree with him in attaching great importance to this. Last year, we launched the idea of a Commonwealth Foundation for the exchange of visits between professions within the Commonwealth. Has any more been done about that? We set up a Commonwealth Medical Council following the success of the medical conference, and it is to meet in Edinburgh later this year. A more far-reaching innovation in its effect would be the adoption of a Commonwealth court. There are two proposals here: first, a court of appeal over and above the courts of any member country which would sit in the different countries of the Commonwealth; second, a Commonweatlh court for the hearing and adjudicating of disputes between Commonwealth countries. I know that a number of hon. Members are attracted by this possibility and the question is certain to be raised in the debate.
There are the inter-Commonwealth contacts, from the Commonwealth Parlia- mentary Association downwards. One cannot exaggerate the importance of the C.P.A., and I am glad that, this year, as a result of the additional funds which we made available last year, more Parliamentarians are able to visit each other in each other's countries. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the possibility of a consultative assembly or an assembly of Commonwealth Parliamentarians as a possible development for the future. I think that this requires a lot of thought. At this stage, I only ask him not to forget the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association when he is thinking in terms of future development.
I come now to an issue of crucial importance for the Commonwealth, for Europe, for our own country and for the whole Western world. Where do the economic and political interests of the Commonwealth lie? In these interests, of course, I include the interests of Britain. I should like briefly to consider each of the aspects in turn.
The first consideration lies in the size of the needs of the modern Commonwealth in terms of trade and investment. The market in Britain is of the greatest importance to the Commonwealth. We still import the greater part of Commonwealth raw materials and food and we are certainly the greatest consumer of Commonwealth goods. But 600 million people cannot find their living, much less a rising standard of living, in a market confined to 60 million. Two factors in particular militate against a heavy increase in Commonwealth exports to the United Kingdom. The first is our own agricultural output, which we cannot allow to decline and which we will be trying to increase, and the second is the fact that we ourselves are one of the most advanced manufacturing countries in the world.
Therefore, although I am certain that we can look forward in future years to a steady increase in the purchasing power of our people and that part of that would go to buy Commonwealth goods and that we shall see an increase in both value and volume of Commonwealth trade, nevertheless, all Commonwealth countries must look further afield if they are to earn the wealth which they require for their development.
New Zealand has a special problem which has to be met in any arrangements which are made for Britain to co-operate in Europe, but for the rest of the Commonwealth calculation of their future trading prospects must lead them to the conclusion that advantage lies for their countries in a unified European market pursuing outward-looking policies.
Then, again, there is investment—how is Britain to strengthen her economy most certainly and accumulate more wealth so that a growing share of it can be devoted to investment in the Commonwealth? It is becoming clearer and clearer, particularly after our recent experience with the aircraft industry and looking forward, as we must, to the manufacture of more and more complex machinery and the need to market it, that we simply cannot afford to ignore the advantages of being inside a market of 200 million consumers and more. The Commonwealth watches our chronic balance of payments problem with anxiety and the possibility of diminishing British investment with consternation. I believe that it is now as apparent to the Commonwealth as to us that, if we are to be a source of strength to the developing countries in the Commonwealth, we should most certainly be a part of a great European trading area, and this is the best way in which we can fulfil our future duty to the Commonwealth.
Perhaps the greatest anxiety—and this is most pronounced in the old Commonwealth—is that partnership in Europe, both economic and political, may dilute the enthusiasm of our people for the Commonwealth after all the long years in which we have been leading and directing its activities, which may impair our loyalty to the Commonwealth concept of a family relationship of nations who through common ties have built up a friendship which everyone wants to keep alive. So much of the support of this has always come from Britain.
I understand the fear but to yield to it is seriously to underrate two things; first, the ties of blood and, secondly, the British genius for political relations. I have no doubt whatever that we can combine membership of the European community with a healthy influence in the Commonwealth partnership, and we can do it with ease and confidence and profit to all concerned. I therefore believe in the Commonwealth; I believe in a strong Britain and I believe in a united Europe and all are compatible and, what is more, all are necessary.
I hope that I have done something to supplement the review of the Commonwealth Secretary and something to widen the scope of the debate so that we may consider some of the larger questions of enormous importance to the whole Commonwealth and particularly to its developing members. I very much look forward to the debate which is to follow and I hope that it will be useful to the Prime Minister when he comes to his meeting in a week or two.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) both made wide-ranging speeches of great depth. They used the experience of their high offices in their speeches. I have much less experience and I also have much less time in which to make my speech. I do not intend in any way to attempt to answer the questions of the Leader of the Opposition, for they can be answered by the Prime Minister himself—questions about U.N.C.T.A.D., about education and all others of economic aid, etc. I want to make a compact speech based on two territories in the Commonwealth, both posing odd problems, one on the desk of the Colonial Secretary and one on the desk of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.
I should like to take the second first, because Rhodesia is of enormous importance at this moment. This is a problem taxing the minds of all Africans. The Leader of the Opposition said that he pays no attention to the United Nations Committee of Twenty-four which has been meeting in Lusaka and when I consider the composition, with a Mali chairman, a Soviet delegate, a Venezuelan, a Tanzanian and others, some well-disposed and others not so well-disposed. I also perhaps do not pay so much attention to what they have been saying. I get much advice about Southern Rhodesia and for a few moments I want to think aloud and to give my right hon. Friend what little benefit I can from my thinking aloud.
There is no clear solution to this problem. I can see a way out of the problem of the other territory which I want to discuss, Mauritius, although it is not easy; but I cannot see any clear answer for Rhodesia. My right hon. Friend spoke of "a just and lasting solution" and also of "patience and negotiation", but we have been speaking of those for a long time. The Government have been getting plenty of advice, for example from Jomo Kenyatta, whom I respect very much, but he has had a different experience in Kenya, and speaking at that distance from Rhodesia the problem is not as easy as might be imagined. The difficulty in Rhodesia is unique. Each place has its different problems, but those in Rhodesia cannot be compared with the problems in Kenya or Ghana or any other African territory, where there is a mixed community of white and black. There are 240,000 whites, at least four times the number in Kenya. Rhodesia has been self-governing for 40 years, while Kenya was never self-governing. Rhodesia has a white police force and a white army and possesses jet aircraft, including bombers. All this puts the question in a special position, and when one speaks of a possible solution, one has to remember that if the white population does not like it, there is no way of enforcing a solution.
The problem is not quite so hard as that of South Africa, but the position is that we are faced with many Europeans who are our own kith and kin, and who do not wish to hand over their political power. I have met Zimbabwe leaders like George Nyandoro, who is now in Tanganyika, or Nelson Samkange, in London with others. All of these are devotees of black nationalism, and wish soon rather than later to have a State in which one man has one vote; a State modelled on Kenya, Ghana, or Nigeria, where the Europeans will be technicians and advisers, as they have been in other parts of Africa.
However, I do not see how in the near future, with these opposed divisions, we can expect anything in the way of a just and lasting solution for all the sections of the population in Rhodesia. I should like the Prime Minister to say how the Govern- ment intend to approach the problem. I understand that Mr. Johnston, the High Commissioner, is in communication with the Government and that messages are moving backwards and forwards. I should like to know what plans we are putting forward, for despite close study of the problem, I cannot find any easy solution which will satisfy the Africans.
The view of the Africans is that a conference should be called immediately. They say that it does not matter if the white Rhodesians do not come. They say that a constitution should be made at this conference and the white Rhodesians should be warned that we would use force to impose the constitution. Force means invading. I cannot imagine any Government of this country invading and using force against 250,000 people in Rhodesia. I frankly do not contemplate my own Government taking such a course with helicopters and paratroopers. Perhaps we can be told what the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have in mind. I cannot visualise our engaging in civil war on the lines of what happened in Algeria. I do not think that any Government which took that course would get the support of the country.
I do not know what is in the mind of Mr. Smith. He blows sometimes hot and sometimes cold, but he is certainly now the master of the country with some 50 seats in the legislature. I am convinced that if Mr. Smith did not satisfy his supporters, he would go the way of those before him; people like Field, Garfield Todd and Whitehead. The difficulty in Rhodesia is that the Europeans there do not wish to take up the positions that were adopted by Europeans in Kenya and Northern Rhodesia. I shall be happy to listen to anybody who can tell me how to persuade them to do so.
If Mr. Smith goes for a unilateral declaration of independence, what do Her Majesty's Government do? He could be outlawed, and I presume that he would be by all the Commonwealth countries and in the United Kingdom. I suppose that he would get support from Portugal and South Africa. Are we to see a sort of Common Market south of the Zambesi, with Mozambique, Rhodesia, Angola and down to the Union? This is a possibility which we might have to consider later. Presumably we would apply economic sanctions and refuse to buy Rhodesian tobacco. The Rhodesians would then cut off power to Zambia—or would they?
I am told that we should call their bluff. This is a very difficult game, because Zambia could lose her copper exports in such a bluff. The City of London could sever loans to Rhodesia and we would not allow Rhodesia access to our money markets. Rhodesia would then be crippled economically and financially, with a visible lowering of standards of living of the Europeans. This is the warning given to Rhodesian politicians by ourselves and others, such as their business community.
I have not met Mr. Smith and I do not know whether he is as tough as he is supposed to be. He talks about "going it alone" and some people believe that he would. What is imperative is that Her Majesty's Government must be quite clear and definite in telling Mr. Smith and the Southern Rhodesians what are the choices facing them. The public should know quite clearly also, so that if and when something serious does happen they will know why and how it happened. I hope no sort of catastrophe does take place, but it may. The African leaders say to me, "If you cannot settle this yourselves give it to somebody else." Zambia or Tanzania could not successfully invade. I have heard it suggested that the Americans and the Soviets might get together and jointly settle this problem. I should very much like to know what is in the mind of Her Majesty's Government about this particular situation.
To turn to Mauritius. I do not want to see Mauritius go the way of British Guiana. This possibility was touched upon by a former Secretary of State for the Colonies, now Lord Boyd, in this Chamber 10 years ago when we were discussing the polyglot nature of the population in Mauritius. There are about 700,000 people with varying percentages Hindu, Muslim, Chinese, Creoles and a small minority of Franco-Mauritian whites. I know something about Mauritius, because I have known their political leaders since 1950, many of them intimately. The Labour Party in Mauritius is a microcosm of the society, and they pick their constituency candidates on an ethnic basis. Hindu, Chinese, Moslem and Creole are apportioned during the election campaigns to the different divisions as party candidates. We need to get away from this idea which the Sunday Telegraph and other newspapers have put before us lately, of a Labour Party which is Hindu; and which will simply crush any minorities when in power after independence.
In Mauritius the Labour Party has been for some time the majority party, but at the moment there is a National coalition. An emergency was declared after rioting. British soldiers have been sent in to keep the peace. We heard at Question Time last week in this Chamber about a "Social Democratic" party. There is no such thing. There is the Parti Mauricien which is a party of the bourgeoisie, which represented the sugar millers, the bankers, shipping companies, plantation owners and the like. Their leader is Mr. Koenig, and his party was essentially a white party.
In the late 1950's they felt that to combat the appeal of the multi-racial Labour Party they should take a coloured or Creole man on their platform. So they adopted a young lawyer called Monsieur Duval. They have financed him and he has been the liaison to invite Members of this House to visit Mauritius and see local conditions. Over the past months allegations have been made, with some evidence, about his demagogic activities, on a platform leading to violence. Under the banner of the Parti Mauricien, by means of speeches splitting and dividing the people, he has done much damage. I would advise him, since he is a junior member of the all-party coalition Government, to be more loyal to his seniors, and more helpful to his coalition comrades. If he did this I think we might see less public dissension and island tension, and less need in the future to invite British soldiers to restore order to this beautiful island.
If he cannot behave thus, I would advise that the Governor asked him to leave the coalition government. Before constitutional talks begin in September in London, we need to have a much more balanced society in the island with a well-informed public opinion. Monsieur Duval and people like him must come out into the open and be in genuine opposition, and no longer a wooden horse inside the coalition.
I see a coalition Government, after the talks in September, consisting of the Labour Party plus the Muslim Party led by Razak Mohammed and others, line the independent bloc, who would take over government after independence. This I hope would be granted in the summer of next year. We could possibly have an agreement whereby in the unfortunate event of any difficulties following independence, the Mauritian Government could call in, as it has at this time, English soldiers to help with defence and external affairs.
I do not believe we need anticipate in Mauritius the sort of situation which arose in British Guiana. I think it is possible that we could clear up a lot of misunderstandings at our talks in September. A definite date for independence should be fixed for July in the summer of next year. If people in the island know what their future is, and thus have a future to aim at, I think they will buckle to, and make an effort to work out a future just as any other former Colony has done. Leave them in the confusion they are in now and we shall experience much worse conditions, setting section against section of society, Creole against Indian and the like. I am certain that no one wants this. It is possible to avoid disaster if our talks go well in September, when we can set an independence date for Mauritius in the summer of 1966.
A debate of this sort, designed to cover the whole of the Commonwealth and the Colonial Territories, is bound to range very widely and I fear that I shall be at fault in dotting from one Colony to another, like other hon. Members. I would like to deal with some of the Colonies which I have visited myself and for which I had some responsibility when I was at the Colonial Office in the last Government.
First, British Guiana. I do not understand why the Government seem to be dragging their feet in convening an independence conference for this Colony. My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Duncan Sandys) gave a very clear undertaking at the 1963 conference that after the elections held in the Colony last autumn a conference would be held to settle any remaining constitutional issues and to fix a date for independence. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in his opening speech this afternoon, seemed to repudiate that undertaking. I hope that I misunderstood him. I would like some clarification. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister could be told that this point has been raised and asked to give some clarification later.
The timetable we had in mind at that time was a conference this summer or autumn leading to independence in the early months of next year. Seven months have now elapsed since the British Guiana elections and the new Coalition Government, I think by common consent, has governed fairly, firmly and impartially as between the races, which is very important indeed. It is the best Government that British Guiana has had for many a long year. There is a new atmosphere of confidence in the Colony and I know of no valid reason for the delay in convening a conference.
There are many good reasons for "getting a move on". If independence is not granted, the people of Guiana will have a grievance to exploit. I am afraid that either Dr. Jagan will pillory Mr. Burnham as being ineffective in submitting tamely to the delay—we all know that the charge of being a "stooge" of the imperial Power is very damaging to any nationalist leader—or, to counter that, Mr. Burnham may himself have to become awkward and anti-British.
I know both Mr. Burnham and Dr. Jagan quite well, and I should say that, if he wanted to be difficult, Mr. Burnham could be just as difficult as Dr. Jagan, and possibly more so, because he is more efficient. I believe, therefore, that this is the moment to move and that any further delay would be dangerous both because it might lead to further racial trouble in British Guiana and because it would be harmful to our future relations with the Government of British Guiana, which, hitherto, have been very good.
May I also ask the Prime Minister—perhaps a message could be passed to him—what the Governor's view is about convening an early independence conference? I do not know, of course, but I should be very surprised if the Governor's advice about the holding of an early conference was contrary to my own. If so, the Colonial Secretary is taking a very grave responsibility in disregarding the advice of the man on the spot. So far, Mr. Burnham has responded in a way that Dr. Jagan never did to the need for statesmanship in British Guiana, particularly on this issue between the races. It seems to me that it is now up to the Colonial Secretary to provide statesmanship from Britain, too, by bringing uncertainty to an end and by granting independence to a Colony which would have had it many years ago but for the racial and ideological excesses of the People's Progressive Party.
The fumbling indecision—I cannot describe it in any other way—of the Government may have even graver consequences in Aden and South Arabia than in British Guiana. We have been faced in Aden with a serious and deteriorating security and political situation for some time, which the Government have been unable to resolve. For months, the Cairo-backed terrorism has included grenade and bazooka attacks upon innocent people. A young English schoolgirl and three British Service men have been killed. Over 40 Service men have been wounded. A senior Aden police officer and several Arab civilians have been murdered. So much for the security side in Aden. It is not a very good record.
On the constitutional side, the constitutional conference, which the Colonial Secretary announced and then had to cancel because no one would come to it, has been replaced by a Commission. I fear that nobody loves the Commission except the right hon. Gentleman, who dreamt it up. The Chief Minister of Aden has described it as a "mockery" and has said that his Government will boycott it. He thinks that it will worsen the situation and may well lead to increased violence. Mr. Luqman's party has also said that it will boycott the Commission. Mr. Girgirah's party takes the same line, and so did E1 Asnag and the P.S.P., who describe it as a "phoney Commission".
I will come to them in a moment. The Commission is rejected by every single political party in Aden.
To come to the Federal Ministers, I must honestly say to the Colonial Secretary—and I am surprised that he mentioned this—that anyone who is so naïve as to think that the Federal Government and the rulers of the Protectorate States have any use for this Commission, whatever they may say publicly, cannot have studied the situation very carefully and cannot know very well the people about whom he is talking.
If the Commission is just a piece of window dressing, and has been devised simply because no one would come to a conference, I cannot see the point of it. If, on the other hand, it is meant seriously, I believe that it is an abdication of the Secretary of State's own responsibilities. He already knows all the facts and views about the situation, and he does not need an international commission, or any other commission, to instruct him in this matter.
I believe, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham believed, that it is almost always a mistake to appoint commissions to advise on problems of this kind. If we publish its findings, our own eventual decisions are prejudged or prejudiced. If we do not publish them, suspicion and resentment is aroused in the territory concerned about what we are doing and whether we are conforming to the commission's recommendations.
We do not yet know the final composition of the Commission, but we on this side of the House think that it is a great mistake and a most dangerous precedent to include foreigners upon it. I would take that view even if Aden were only an ordinary Colony, but it is not. It includes the Aden base, which is an absolutely essential staging post for the Far East and a vital element in Commonwealth defence. I am amazed that the Government should invite outside advice on such an important British interest. It is obvious that we cannot divorce the future of the base from the future of Aden. Therefore, the Commission will, in effect, advise the Secretary of State on what he should do about the future of the base.
I was not clear what the Colonial Secretary meant at Question Time the other day when he talked about "negotiating" the future of the base. I thought this a dangerous and quite unnecessary present to give to Cairo and to the extreme Arab nationalists. It was an undertaking which we on this side of the House were always most careful not to give when we were in government. I should be surprised if the local people really want us to leave the base. Certainly, when I was there, almost exactly a year ago, they were virtually unanimous in wanting us to stay because of the great economic importance of the base for the prosperity of Aden. It is stupid to give away cards before play has even begun, and it is a mistake to send out this Commission or, indeed, to have ever appointed it.
If the Secretary of State cannot get an immediate solution of the problem, it would be wiser to play it long. There is no great hurry. We have not promised independence until 1968. If the moment is not now propitious, we have time in hand. But, whatever the outcome, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the treaty relationship which we have with the Federal Government and which can be altered only by agreement.
We have heard some scathing comment about the use of commissions. How did right hon. and hon. Members opposite, when they were in power, find out the views of the local population, other than have a referendum, without appointing a commission to advise them?
A better way to do it is to go to the territory concerned oneself and study the position at first hand and then confer with the leaders and try to make progress by suggesting solutions and getting a compromise. That is the traditional way in which the Colonial Office has always worked. It is a revolutionary step to appoint a Commission of this kind on this sort of problem and to include foreigners from outside the Commonwealth on it. It is totally without precedent.
I hope that when he is considering these issues the Secretary of State will back our friends—it is often quite a good policy—and will support the authority of the Federal Government, which is the legal Government of the Federation of South Arabia.
There is a smaller Colony nearer home which has been in the public eye in the last few months and about whose predicament I must also be a little critical, namely, Gibraltar. My right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) and I visited the Rock not very long ago. We found the people very loyal to Britain, but not very happy, which was scarcely surprising, because after seven months of almost siege conditions at the hands of Spain, after a ministerial visit by the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, after a tough-sounding White Paper and after many expressions of sympathy from Her Majesty's Government, nothing effective has been done to help Gibraltar, which is in very grave economic difficulties through no fault of its own.
Apart from totally ineffectual diplomatic protests to the Spanish Government, and an unpublished Report, not yet acted on, by a Colonial Office economic adviser, the Government have done precisely nothing to protect and sustain the interests of the Colony, for which we in Britain have a direct and absolute responsibility.
I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) in his references to the Island of Mauritius. This island has been in the news lately owing to the recent disturbances, and it will be in the news again when the Constitutional Conference is convened in, I believe, September. I should like to congratulate the Government—I am glad to be able to say something nice to them in a somewhat hostile speech—on their prompt despatch of troops from Aden; it only shows how important the Aden base is. That action had a steadying effect, and order has been restored in the Colony.
Potentially, however, the hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in saying that this is a difficult problem owing to the racial composition of the population, with most of the Indians, who are now in the majority, demanding independence, and most of the rest—called the general population—afraid of Indian domination and wishing to retain a continuing association with Britain as a safeguard for minority interests.
I thought that the hon. Gentleman's strictures upon Mr. Duval were very strong and somewat unfair. This gentleman, who is the Minister of Housing in Mauritius, represents very genuine fears there, and his views are entitled to serious consideration. Some of his supporters, I know—perhaps he himself, also—favour the integration of the island with Great Britain on the lines once proposed for Malta. I understand the attractions of that proposal in Mauritius, but, with respect to their views, and quite apart from the inevitable frustrations which representatives of Colonial Dependencies would suffer if they came to Westminster, I do not think that this idea of integration—if integration means what I think it means—is really a starter from our point of view here. I think that it is right to say, before such ideas catch on too much, that in the evenly balanced Parliaments of 1950 and 1951, and even more so today, it would not be tolerable to the House of Commons or to the people of Britain to have the Government of this country virtually decided by the votes of people from overseas territories. I therefore hope that this idea will not be pursued in Mauritius. It would not be helpful either to them or to us to pursue that possibility.
That is not to say, of course, that it would be impossible to work out some other form of association with Britain, if that were what the people of Mauritius wished. There are many variations on the theme. We can go from a Channel Islands type of solution right up to the treaty relationship which Western Samoa has made with New Zealand. There are several variations and degrees of association which can be virtually tailored to suit the circumstances of a particular Colony. Whatever the eventual decision, I hope that the present Coalition Government in Mauritius will continue for as long as possible, and that its leaders will try, before the constitutional meeting in London, to agree among themselves on a compromise solution and, where they cannot agree, at least to identify the points of difference that will have to be resolved in London.
It will not be an easy conference. It will be a difficult conference, but there have been difficult conferences for other territories in the past—it is not insuperable—and we have usually managed to resolve them in the end. I have great faith in the skill, the experience and the expertise in these matters of the Colonial Office in devising compromises between opposing hopes and fears.
I turn very briefly from this little island off the coast of Africa to one of the great independent countries of the Commonwealth—Kenya—from which I returned only three weeks ago. I was immensely encouraged by that visit. It seemed very clear to me that President Kenyatta is in control in Kenya and that his Government are ruling fairly and firmly. Internationally, Kenya is genuinely unaligned—we must make that point. We must not claim that it is pro-West, or yield to fears that it may turn Communist. That is not the case. There is no disposition at all to flirt with Communism. The rejection by Kenya of the Russian arms gift and the take-over of the Lumumba Institute, both of which took place while I was there, are clear evidence of that.
There is an atmosphere of political stability, and the new policy document, "African Socialism," produced while I was there, was widely welcomed as the blueprint for Kenya's future development. It is a moderate and pragmatic document. It envisages a mixed economy, but with nationalisation—I hasten to say to right hon. and hon. Members opposite—confined only to the public utilities.
If I may revert to a point I tried to make at Question Time today, I found same reservations about the future of the Land Settlement Scheme. These reservations were widely held by leaders of European opinion as well as by leaders of African opinion. From Kenya's point of view this money is not being spent as productively as they think it could be. It compensates Europeans who wish to leave, but it does not create any new wealth or bring new land into production. Most people were in favour of phasing it over a longer period—perhaps eight or 10 years—and using some of the money available from Britain for genuine land development.
Naturally, compassionate and security cases would be bought out as before, and many people thought that it would also be a good thing to prime the Land Bank.
Those farmers who want to stay on are taking out Kenya citizenship, and making a conscious commitment and identification of their interests with Kenya's. They are most welcome to stay. It is thought there that about 25 per cent. of the original number of European farmers who were there some years ago fall into tills category and would stay permanently in Kenya. I felt that Anglo-Kenya relations are good, and likely to remain so.
I believe that only one thing could seriously prejudice our relations with Kenya, and it applies to the other African countries of the Commonwealth to just the same extent. I speak of the future of Rhodesia, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in his opening speech. This is certainly the most divisive and emotional issue facing the Commonwealth, particularly the African Commonwealth, today. Even the leaders of African opinion cannot really understand how very small our power to influence Rhodesia really is. Even when one explains that there is not a single British official or soldier or policeman throughout the whole of Rhodesia, one is still met with doubt—indeed, one is met, as I think the right hon. Gentleman has found, almost with incredulity—when one says that we cannot decide what happens there.
Personally, like every hon. Member, I wish the Commonwealth Secretary all possible luck with the Rhodesian negotiations. He will need it. I do not envy him his task, or his grave responsibility—to the Commonwealth as well as to Rhodesia. I only wish that I could feel more optimistic than I confess I do about the outcome. A unilateral declaration, although it may not be imminent now, is likely later, I fear, if the negotiations fail. I hope that Mr. Smith will not play this very short, but I fear that he will not—probably cannot—play it very long.
I believe—and I hope to goodness that I am wrong—that the maximum concessions which the Government of Rhodesia can make would not be enough to meet the views of Her Majesty's Government, still less of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Indeed, I doubt whether they would be enough to meet the views of the Opposition in this House, either. I am sure that they would not be enough to meet the views of the Commonwealth.
This is really what worries me. I hope that I am wrong.
I am not informed about the details of the negotiations and, naturally, I do not ask to be. I hope that there is a chink of light here that I have not been able to see; but in the final analysis, when all the chips are down, we cannot split the Commonwealth. If, in the end, we have to choose—and I hope that the choice will not have to be made—between Rhodesia and the Commonwealth, there can be only one choice, and we all know what it is.
In August of last year I visited Hong Kong by invitation. I left London Airport at 10.15 on Tuesday forenoon, 4th August, and on Wednesday evening at 5.15, I touched down at Hong Kong Airport. One of the interesting features of our relationship with Hong Kong is that the Colony is very near, representing only 17 hours of flying time.
I was invited there because in various Parliaments I always sought to represent the interests of Hong Kong, particularly in housing; and also because I went there with two other hon. Members in 1956. As a result of making the two visits, I was able to note the immense physical changes that had taken place, but the main change is the change in thinking, which I found very widely spread.
My visit was the longest ever paid to Hong Kong by any Member of Parliament. One of the little grievances of the people there is that the visits of Ministers—and I am not referring to any particular part of the House—have been too short. They have a feeling that this is helping to give them a sense of separation which they themselves would like to see closed. I know that there are difficulties surrounding the claims now being voiced in Hong Kong, which I found voiced at many meetings.
I spoke to larger meetings than I have ever seen in this country—larger than the meetings I got at my election. At one of the meetings a charge was imposed on those who came to hear me of 10 Hong Kong dollars per head. That was very flattering, because that represents 15s. in our money. I never had such an experience before—
The hon. Gentleman has not quite been with us, or he would know that I was referring to my return visit.
That was a very interesting meeting, and I should point out that a very fine meal accompanied it. That is an unusual feature of our meetings. Of course, it may have been the dinner that the people were paying for, and not the speaker, but there was a very big audience indeed, the meeting being conducted under the auspices of the United Nations Association.
During my visit, I had the opportunity of hearing a wide range of opinion in Hong Kong. I had a meeting with the Governor, I met the Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries and I met a host of other bodies. I spoke with them on the major theme of my visit. There is growing up in Hong Kong the feeling that it should now have some political say in its own destiny.
When I came to this House 20 years ago, we used to claim that Hong Kong was the window of democracy in the Far East. The fact is that Hong Kong is a Crown dictatorship. It may be benevolent, it may even be beneficent, but nevertheless it is a Colony where those who live and work in it have no say in what it does. Therefore, the claim is being made in Hong Kong that they now should have some say in the Government of the Colony.
It is worth noting that Hong Kong is now in the position when, within a few years, the great majority of its people will be Commonwealth citizens. At present, the number of Commonwealth citizens in Hong Kong is less than 50 per cent., something like 48 per cent., but with a birth rate of 29 per cent. and death rate of 4 per cent. it is obvious that within a few years Commonwealth citizenship in Hong Kong will dominate. That will enforce the claims that its people now make.
I spoke to a wide variety of meetings, all of them on a political theme, and I have with me the manifesto of one of the organisations under whose auspices I spoke. I have many manifestos, but in the short time at my disposal I cannot introduce hon. Members to all of them. I am certain that my present audience will recognise the language of this manifesto as being language which they have heard before.
I shall read only the opening sentence of this manifesto of the Hong Kong Democratic Self-Government Party. The first paragraph states:
Our Party wants to establish a fully elective Legislative Council.
I have been told that that is quite impossible, for the simple reason that Hong Kong has two very good friends. According to one's point of view, one of them is too near and the other is too far away. Between those two interested parties. I have been assured by persons of authority that we must not say too much about elections in Hong Kong.
I might, however, note in passing that in Hong Kong today, the Government, under the Governor with a personnel of 40 staff, has full responsibility for Hong Kong and the welfare of its people. The United States Embassy, with 600 personnel, has no responsibility whatever. As far as I can gather, a good many of those 600 do not sit on office stools.
From various Hong Kong business men, I gathered that some of the jobs of those 600 were to investigate the buying and selling by business men in Hong Kong. This is an interference that we must notice, because it is bitterly resented by Hong Kong business men in the Colony. They are asked to produce their books. If they refuse to produce them, any trade which they have with the United States is promptly stopped. That is a type of interference that we in this Parliament should notice and should not accept.
Because of that sort of thing, there is building up in Hong Kong today the view, not only amongst ordinary working people, but at business level, that there is too much interference from outside by those who ought not to be intering. The people of Hong Kong therefore think that the time has come when they should have a closer say in their own affairs than they have now. Therefore, their demand is for a fully elective Legislative Council.
On foreign affairs, the Hong Kong Democratic Self-Government Party concedes the right of Great Britain to represent Hong Kong in all matters affecting foreign nations. That may transfer to us any future difficulties into which they fall, but, nevertheless, we will not quarrel with that attitude.
On taxation, they feel that a distinction should be made between earned and unearned income which is not being made today. The total amount charged on what we might call Income Tax, which includes Income Tax as we know it, estate tax and another tax the name of which escapes me, represents on average £6 per head. When one sees the level of living, the type of housing, and so on, which can be seen in Hong Kong today, one is inclined to conclude that the £6 per head, if it were investigated closely, would show a level of taxation for the very rich in Hong Kong which is far too low and which is, therefore, provoking the feeling in Hong Kong that there should be a tax not only on earned income, but also on unearned income.
Hong Kong also has a health policy to introduce a free medical service for all inhabitants, and in education the desire that every child should get a free education. That is not the situation today. It should be a matter of serious thought for every one of us in the House of Commons to realise that in this flourishing British Colony there are children who are not getting any education and far too many children who have to pay for the education that they are getting.
Would not the hon. Member agree that the population of Hong Kong at the end of the war was something like half a million and that it is now approaching 4 million—in other words, that it has multiplied nearly eight times? Would he not concede that in view of that, the Hong Kong Government have done some remarkable things in housing, education, and so on?
The population in Hong Kong is now 3,739,000. I recognise that the Government have been doing a good deal for Hong Kong. I hope that I have not led anyone to think otherwise. I had a very kindly welcome from the Governor when I had the opportunity of a private session with him. One must, however, realise that it is now 20 years since the war finished and there has been the growth of too many private schools. Even admitting what has been done, public education has not grown sufficiently to provide, as it should be providing, for all the boys and girls in Hong Kong.
The manifesto then criticises the legal system in Hong Kong and wants to see that legal system acting in accordance with the principles of British justice. I am certain that there can be no objection to that most laudable desire. These are merely some of the items in the manifesto to which I had the privilege of speaking, and supporting, in Hong Kong last August.
There is one matter in particular among the many which were brought to my attention to which I should like briefly to refer. It came to my notice through the representative of the International Transport Workers' Federation. He was Mr. Ewen Macdonald, a fellow Scot, from Stornoway, who was in Hong Kong to try to deal with the lack of trade union organisation in the Colony, having been released for that purpose by the National Union of Seamen.
I had two meetings with Mr. Macdonald, who told me of the great difficulties that he encountered in getting on to ships, some of them owned by British shipping companies like the Blue Funnel Line, the Glen Line, the Ben Line, Shell Tankers, the City Line and the Bank Line. There are a number of others. He regretted that in the case of some of the British shipping companies he, a trade union official from Britain, with the backing of the International Transport Workers' Federation, was refused permission to study the conditions under which seamen were sailing from Hong Kong.
Mr. Macdonald has pointed out to me in a covering letter that while in 1954 24,000 seamen signed on in ships in the Colony's marine office, the figure for last year was 40,000. The point is that this increase in the number of seamen signing on in Hong Kong is having an adverse effect on the number of seamen who are being employed here in Britain and in other countries.
The reason for that is the abnormally low level of wages in Hong Kong. For example, one of the shipping lines—I shall not name it because it is a British company—pays its assistant stewards 270 Hong Kong dollars. That is the payment for an entire voyage, which works out at £16 17s. 6d. for a trip which may last six months or more. This is a well-known British shipping company. Provisions are supplied by the ship, but £16 17s. 6d. is not the wage which the steward collects, because he is signed on by an individual on behalf of the ship, and that individual collects a percentage of his wage.
In addition, instead of the money being paid direct to the seaman who earns it, it is paid to the bos'n or some other official in the ship, who in turn collects a percentage of the wage for doing the job of receiving the money and paying it out as the seaman needs it. The result at the moment is that many of these men, having completed a six months' job, have no wages to draw at the end of that time. This has led to tremendous discontent. Fortunately, after 15 years this report has been produced and it was given to me just before I left. It shows that the Government of Hong Kong are finally taking action to put an end to this scandalous state of affairs.
I am certain that everyone in this House will do his best to ensure that these conditions no longer exist. As my hon. Friend told me in answer to a Question, the Governor hopes that by October of this year this wicked system, under which men are signed on for ships in Hong Kong, will have passed away for ever.
I have spoken for a little longer than I intended. I could have said a great deal more, had the time been more opportune. I have tried to present, I hope with fairness, what I saw and heard in Hong Kong, and I am glad to be able to say in my concluding words that one reform which I am sure everyone in the House will welcome will come into effect in October of this year.
I want to interpret brevity more narrowly than the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) did, and I propose to make only two comments on his speech. The hon. Gentleman underrated the political realities of a Colony like Hong Kong in the political world of today. In considering, too, the possibility of Hong Kong advancing towards self-Government, with the logical result that in the end that must mean self-rule, the hon. Gentleman may have forgotten that constitutionally a large part of Hong Kong is only leased, and therefore there can be no question of our attempting to set up a sovereign State without the most drastic diplomatic repercussions.
Whether the hon. Gentleman was quoting from one document or not, that was the tenor of his speech.
Secondly, in almost every argument which the hon. Gentleman put forward about improving conditions, he reversed his earlier remarks that we ought to allow Hong Kong to manage its own affars to a greater extent than it did at the present time. Everything that he said meant that we ought to interfere more in their affairs than we do at the moment.
I should like now to discuss the Rhodesia negotiations which the Colonial Secretary touched on very carefully and well earlier this afternoon. I have only two short points to make on this subject. First, I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman emphasised that the Government were going into these negotiations with a genuine wish for success. I say this in no contentious spirit. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will continue to say that at every opportunity, because there is a certain amount of suspicion in Rhodesia that these negotiations are not being carried out with a view to finding a solution, but with a view to carrying things smoothly through the coming Prime Ministers' Conference. I am not imputing that to the right hon. Gentleman, but that suspicion exists, and therefore the more he can emphasise that he is not going into these negotiations as a tactical device, which I am sure he is not, but is doing so with a view to obtaining a genuine settlement, the better it will be for the success of his efforts, in which we all wish him well.
There was only one point on which I differed from the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson). I am sorry that he has left the Chamber. He said that we should again give the Rhodesians a riot warning as to the consequences of any U.D.I. I think that both sides are now clear on the subject. The Government have made abundantly clear what the consequences of such action will be, as have the Opposition. Now, since Mr. Smith can be replaced only by somebody more extreme, it does no good to repeat the warnings which have been issued. It does not help the possibility of reaching a settlement. The Rhodesians are well aware of the situation, and it does not help to repeat the various threats which have been made.
I am sure that the Rhodesians appreciate that under the present Government the best chance for these negotiations to continue is for them to stop making attacks on this country's intentions with regard to bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion. In other words, there should be mutual restraint in the issuing of warnings of all kinds while the negotiations are proceeding.
My hon. Friend's comments could well be directed to my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) who rather suggested that he was not quite sure what Mr. Smith would say in the future, but the Government were against it, the Opposition were against it, and the Commonwealth was against it. If my hon. Friend could send out the message that we would look with sympathy at whatever Mr. Smith said, instead of prejudging it before he has said it, I think that it would be of great benefit.
I hope that with that thought in mind my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) will read my speech to learn what I think about this matter. Threats from either side do not help, and one should not prejudge any negotiations.
There are one or two other matters to which I wish to refer. The first of these are the Indo-Pakistan crises which have occurred recently. We must all commend Her Majesty's Government for the initiative they have shown, particularly through the two High Commissioners on the spot, who made great efforts to prevent the local fighting escalating into something much more serious. We must all hope, particularly as the Rann of Kutch is going to be under water any moment now, that the fighting over this rather isolated area will cease, if only because there is nothing left to fight about because it is not visible. Yet we would make a grave mistake if we thought that we could treat in isolation each outbreak of trouble between India and Pakistan. To do so is rather like ignoring the fact that there is a centre of infection in the body which manifests itself in boils from time to time, and thinking that it is possible to overcome the basic difficulty by treating one boil at a time.
Although one is in danger of being boring by repeating it, I have to say once again that we can never prevent these difficulties cropping up from time to time on this basis. One day they will get out of hand, and a really dangerous situation will arise unless we deal with the question of Kashmir. I have visited the Indo - Pakistan sub - continent several times, and it is not possible to go anywhere without that topic being raised at some time during the conversation on any subject. It may seem unreal, boring, and harly worth while, but nations and peoples do not behave logically in these matters. There are certain emotive things which may not seem important to other nations, but which are very important to those concerned. Therefore, although it is wearisome constantly to say this, I hope that when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference comes along, even if it has to be behind the scenes and quite unofficial, fresh attempts will be made to reach a compromise over Kashmir—a development which, for a few fleeting moments, seemed capable of attainment earlier. No greater contribution could be made by this Conference if that one result alone were to come out of it.
I stress its importance not just because of the need to prevent conflict between India and Pakistan but because I am convinced that at present the whole political situation in Asia, and any question of a common western aim, is being disturbed by the quarrel, right outside the borders of India and Pakistan. In the first place, we know that General Ayub Khan's Government—never has a Government been less inclined towards Communism and fellow travellers—just because of the frustration they feel, rightly or wrongly, over the question of Kashmir, are drawing increasingly closer to Red China, and with every step they take tension grows between them and India.
Now, in respect of completely different quarrels overseas, India and Pakistan are beginning to express views based not on the realities of the situation but upon which party in such a quarrel supports their position over Kashmir. We have seen this in Malaysia and in Indonesia. In that situation Pakistan, who would otherwise be on our side, is sitting on the fence. She is doing this because she does not want to risk Indonesia's not supporting her case on Kashmir. Thus, the dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia is being affected by the dispute over Kashmir. Wherever trouble arises in that part of the world India and Pakistan hesitate before taking up a definite line, according to whether they think that they will win or lose support on this subject.
I do not apologise for emphasising this. I know that it is difficult for the Government to do anything about it, but my right hon. Friend took initiatives in the past with some success, and I urge the right hon. Gentleman, with some hope, that just as we did something useful over the Rann of Kutch he should try to extend his influence and do something in regard to the wider question, for the benefit of all.
I end with the only contentious note in my speech. I was very worried, as was my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton, about British Guiana. There we are playing with possible fire in the most dangerous way if we give the impression that we are stalling on the promise of independence, or any of the pledges and undertakings that we have recently given. Those who know this territory know that comparatively small things—a statement in this House or an unfortunate article in a newspaper—are sufficient to start up the trouble all over again.
If the Commonwealth Secretary does not know it, the Colonial Secretary will: at present there is considerable suspicion—I do not know whether it is right or wrong—that Her Majesty's Government are trying to stall on the question of independence.
I agree. At this stage, when we have not only stability but a Government which are making really genuine attempts—attempts which can be seen to be genuine—to get rid of racial conflicts by appointing Indians to Government posts, we should act, otherwise we shall regret it in time to come.
I hope that the Minister will clarify something which could be very unfortunate for our relations with Mr. Burnham's Government. As I understand the constitutional position, my right hon. Friend the shadow Commonwealth Secretary, when in office, gave a quite clear undertaking that after the election, when a Government had been formed, a conference would in due course be set up at which a date for independence would be decided. The date for such independence would emerge from that conference. The Commonwealth Secretary did not say that today. He would not go as far as that. But I want him to say expressly, with regard to one quotation from HANSARD, why these suspicions have arisen there so sharply.
Those in touch with the position know that Mr. Burnham is very upset. It is not a matter of our inventing it; he is very upset. These suspicions exist, and it is up to right hon. Gentlemen opposite to allay them, because it is only the haziness of their language in this situation which has led to these suspicions being created. When the Colonial Secretary visited British Guiana he asked for co-operation and compromise in the setting up of a commission on racial imbalance. The House knows that Mr. Burnham was not happy about this, and was persuaded to agree to it only if it were accepted that it would in no way be regarded as an obstacle on the agreed road towards independence.
On 27th May the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in reply to two Questions, one from my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton, said:
It is the intention of the British Government to hold a conference as early as practicable to discuss, among other things, a programme for independence".—
not a date for independence—
Meanwhile we shall be waiting anxiously for the result of the investigation into racial imbalance which the Premier of British Guiana is taking steps to mount."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1965; Vol. 713, c. 813.]
What does that really mean? I do not understand, and Mr. Burnham does not understand. When the right hon. Gentleman says that they will be waiting anxiously for the result of the investigation, does he mean that the conference cannot be held until the results are available, or that the conference can be held but that independence cannot be granted, or that even when the results are available Her Majesty's Government must make up their minds whether they can go ahead or not on those results? Those are questions which, if hon. Members opposite think they are not worth asking, are being asked by the Government and the people of British Guiana—and they want a detailed answer.
I must stress the seriousness of the position. If the present Government of British Guiana think that this Commission is to be used to stall on independence it will create wider suspicions in respect of every other aspect of Her Majesty's Government's policy.
One thing which must be remembered is that the Commission has not been formed yet. The members of the Commission have not agreed to serve on it yet. If they agree in due course, how long does the right hon. Gentleman think that they will have to go on? Let us assume that the Commission is set up. There will be a minimum period of several months before it can come to any conclusions. Will the right hon. Gentleman study those conclusions and then decide when British Guiana can have independence? Mr. Burnham is for independence on 1st February next year, and he must be given a more convincing reason why he should not go ahead.
I say this in no party spirit—but we must remember the racial considerations which operate in British Guiana. In those circumstances, it would be folly to procrastinate. If we did that it would lead to political and racial strife which have lessened since my right hon. Friend's arrangements for the election have led to the creation of a stable Government, who have earned increasing confidence throughout the world. More investments are flowing in than ever before. Her Majesty's Government should not throw this one chance away through any sort of uncertainty, because they do not have much longer before suspicions are aroused to such an extent that they will find it very difficult to allay them in the future.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir Frederic Bennett) will forgive me if I do not follow him in what he had to say about British Guiana. Like him, I want to concentrate on one subject and I shall therefore follow some of the points which he made about Rhodesia. I should first like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on a number of initiatives which he has taken since he assumed his office—the establishment of the Commonwealth Export Council, the proposals for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Assembly, the initiative which he took early in his tenure of office in settling the difficulties in Zambia on the eve of independence, the rôle which he has been playing in solving problems in Brunei and the initiative in the Rann of Kutch, all of which show that we have a Government on the move, constantly taking important initiatives.
As I said, I want to concentrate my attention on the problems of Rhodesia. As we look at the residual problems of the transfer from Empire to independent Commonwealth, it is a tragedy that it is in those countries where there are racial problems that my right hon. Friend and his predecessor have faced problems, whether in British Guiana or in Malaysia. But, above all, there is the problem of Rhodesia. The gap there between the white minority and the African majority is getting wider. I agree with the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) that this would appear to be the most difficult problem my right hon. Friend has to shoulder.
The Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia has said on a number of occasions that he does not expect to see an African majority in his lifetime, and he is a relatively young man. There are others in Rhodesia who take a much tougher line than he, who say that white supremacy must be established for all time in Rhodesia. We see the parallel between Rhodesia and South Africa growing closer and closer. I believe that the Prime Minister is a reasonable man and is anxious to find the way towards a genuine settlement. I am extremely glad that the hon. Member for Torquay said that we must all emphasise—however much we may express our concern—that we want to see genuine success, and that a breakdown in the negotiations could lead only to tragedy. I believe that the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia wants to achieve success. He has behind him, however, powerful pressures from those who want to cut loose straight away from the British connection. I do not believe that he wants to see it, but there are powerful forces urging him to do so.
There are those who want to see independence for Rhodesia immediately and who want Mr. Smith to have a free hand to change the constitution in the direction which they want to go, regardless of the views of the British Government. They want to modify the Declaration of Human Rights, to institute preventive detention beyond their present powers, to authorise new security measures and to bring in the chiefs in order that they may occupy the "B" roll seats. If I may disgress for a moment, it was interesting, in reading the verbatim report of the Indaba concerning the demand for independence for Rhodesia, to note some of the concluding remarks of Mr. Harper who, in addressing the chiefs, said:
It seems to me that the chiefs and headmen are all of one mind and your decision is to cut the strings without delay. I must ask, however, that if any of you would like to speak against this decision that he be invited to do so now.
Then, in brackets, is printed, "no reply." Mr. Harper went on:
If the chiefs are worthy to be consulted on such an important matter as independence, then they are worthy of playing a part in the making of the laws … there will have to be changes in the Constitution and you will be properly consulted when the time for changes
arrives. As you have made your decision already there will be no need to delay much longer today.
Here we see quite clearly that there are those behind the Prime Minister of Rhodesia who want to see quick changes in the Constitution away from the position of the 1961 Constitution.
The Prime Minister of Rhodesia may come forward to the British Government with a number of proposals. As Sir Robert Treadgold said during his recent visit to London, the Southern Rhodesian Parliament could pass a constitutional Amendment to a Bill incorporating all the Amendments which they wish and then come to the United Kingdom Government asking that they should comply with these changes, thus bypassing the legitimate means of amending the entrenched Clauses. When the British Government refuse, as I believe they would be obliged to do, it may be said that Her Majesty's Government are being unreasonable and obstructive and, therefore, this would be an excuse for a unilateral declaration of independence.
The hon. Member for Torquay said that it was not wise to repeat warnings of the consequences of U.D.I. I do not agree with him. I believe that it is important that it should be clearly understood in Rhodesia—particularly by those who are prepared to take the law into their own hands—how tremendously serious would be the consequences which would flow to them and to their place in the world if they were to act illegally. It was clear from the Rhodesian White Paper published on 26th April, just before the election, that they cast doubt on Britain's determination to carry out the economic measures which the Prime Minister had outlined in November. I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister clearly reiterated in the House on 29th April that the declaration of 27th October:
expressed the view that the economic effects of a unilateral declaration would be disastrous to the prosperity and prospects of the people of Rhodesia and that Rhodesia's external trade would be disrupted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1965; Vol. 711, c. 638.]
He went on to indicate many of the serious consequences which would flow. It is important that he should have done this and that it should be repeated.
The first consequences, of course, would be political if the Rhodesian Government were to take the law into their own hands. Rhodesia would be isolated from its friends in the western world, isolated from the other countries of Africa—certainly from those to the north—and it would be isolated from the Commonwealth. I believe that the hon. Member for Surbiton was quite right to say that if this country were faced with the choice between going along in the direction in which Rhodesia might want to take us and the Commonwealth, our choice would be clear.
It was fortunate, also, that many business interests in Rhodesia have emphasised the very serious consequences. The statement by the Association of Rhodesian Industries, the Association of Chambers of Commerce, the tobacco and sugar associations, the National Farmers' Union, all in their own way indicated the very serious consequences which would apply to Rhodesia if U.D.I. were taken.
I believe that the British Government have a clear responsibility. That responsibility is no different, because Rhodesia has a white minority Government, from what it would be if it had a black Government. The tradition has always been that British territories have been granted independence when they have a representative Government. I do not believe that it would be possible for the British Government to repeat the mistakes which were made when South Africa moved towards independence without the will of the people finding proper expression. I believe, therefore, that the British Government must make their position quite clear. It would be a tragedy if we were to desert the post at this stage. We all understand the difficulties of a Government. The British Government today face serious economic problems.
In this situation, with a small majority, all sorts of reasons could inevitably be given, if the crunch were to come, for not acting with firmness. I do not believe that the people of Africa or the people of this country would forgive a British Government if, for whatever reason, they did not act according to their principles. I believe that the Government will do so.
Her Majesty's Government have a clear responsibility not only to help the country to move towards independence and to promote opportunities for self-expression of the people but also to pre- serve law and order, which is never a popular thing to do. It has not been popular when there have been circumstances in British Guiana and when a breakdown of law and order has occurred. However, if the Rhodesian Government were to act in such a way as to stimulate a revolt in Rhodesia, the responsibility would be on Britain to preserve law and order, however unpopular that task might be.
There are many pressures on the Prime Minister of Rhodesia. Already the screw is being turned tighter. Political parties have been banned and their leaders placed in detention. More than 500 people are now in detention in different parts of Rhodesia. Under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act more than 20 people are now in prison under sentence of death. That is an extremely tough Measure which is reminiscent of the law in South Africa. It is right and proper that we should appeal to the Rhodesian Government not to carry through the death sentences on those people and not to continue with such repressive legislation.
In recent days we have seen the declaration of emergency in two parts of Rhodesia, as well as restrictions placed on Mr. Leo Baron, the white lawyer, who, I believe, is a man of great ability, integrity, moderation, an influence for good, who is close to the African nationalists and who is a person who could have been used as a bridge and instrument for bringing together both sides in Rhodesia.
I am urging that Her Majesty's Government must be firm. We should indicate that we would not permit independence to be granted in circumstances which did not give to the African people the clear prospect of an eventual African majority. We must recognise that many of the criticisms that have been levelled against Her Majesty's Government in debates in the United Nations have been irresponsible and have shown a lack of understanding of the difficulties and limited power which Britain has. Of course, Her Majesty's Government must be reasonable. We felt a sense of pride and satisfaction when my right hon. Friend went with the Lord Chancellor to Rhodesia, when they met the white and African leaders and created an improved atmosphere which, now that the election is over, gives some hope, as my right hon. Friend said, that the talks can begin again.
We must say to the African people that they must not expect to achieve majority rule overnight and that as long as there are negotiations, which we all hope will succeed, acts of violence will not help to create the right atmosphere. We must also say to the white people of Southern Rhodesia that we cannot expect the Africans in Rhodesia to be prepared to accept any system which will not give them, within the foreseeable future, an opportunity of participating fully in the Government of their own country.
The time may come when Britain will have to exert authority. We must always realise the possibility, if the negotiations do not succeed, that a constitutional conference will have to be called. What we must now do is to give every opportunity to those who, we hope, will have the good sense to come to the conference table to see that these negotiations produce results. I hope that an opportunity will be provided for Mr. Smith to visit London and have discussions here with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
I was glad to note that in answer to a Question recently, my right hon. Friend said that he would be only too happy to visit Rhodesia if that would seem to lead to the possibility of improved negotiations. We all realise that my right hon. Friend has a delicate and difficult task. We wish him Godspeed in that task and in the recognition that probably the biggest responsibility on his shoulders is to try to lead Rhodesia peacefully towards its independence on the basis of fairness and equality of all men regardless of the colour of their skin.
This debate is proving to be a useful prelude to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference. It is far removed from some of the debates which we had in the past when violent controversy raged between the parties, usually pinpointed on one particular territory. The only suggestion of controversy has been the somewhat ironic prospect of a Conservative Opposition pressing a Labour Government to move speedily towards granting independence to a Colonial Territory.
We will listen to the Prime Minister's reply tonight with great care and attention to see whether the specific undertaking which was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), when he was colonial Secretary, in regard to British Guiana is being adhered to, both in the letter and, indeed, to the last comma. So often the controversies which we have had in the House relating to Commonwealth territories have not been on matters of principle, but on matters of timing. So often we have conceded to violence when we could formerly have conceded to reason. I hope, therefore, that British Guiana will not be a case in which there will be undue delay.
If, for the moment, one strips the Commonwealth of any emotional ties and considers it from a purely economic point of view it would seem that the value of it to the developing nations is in terms of investment, technical aid and trade. It is interesting to consider how the British Empire, later the Commonwealth, evolved. Traders—whether of the Hudson Bay Company going to Canada, or of the East India Company or any of the other great trading concerns—moved in first and established trading relations and were followed by British political influence moving in to give protection.
In many parts of the Commonwealth we are reverting to our first rôle as a trading nation. It is tremendously exciting to see British firms playing a great part in the development of many of these territories, whether it be the Dunlop Company in East Nigeria, clearing many hundreds of miles of forest, whether it be the Canadian firm of Alcan clearing land in Jamaica for agricultural purposes in connection with the bauxite industry, or whether it be some of the companies in Malawi experimenting with tobacco. One can find expatriate firms doing a first-class job of helping to raise the standard of living of the people living in these territories.
It is on the question of technical aid and trade that before the General Election the party opposite attached great importance to giving these matters high priority. I have no doubt that, emotionally, that is still their desire. The Leader of the Opposition quoted some
remarks made by the present Prime Minister on 6th February last year, when he said:
To fulfil Commonwealth requirements for developmental capital we should agree to expand those sections of our industrial system where existing capacity is inadequate…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1964; Vol. 688, c. 1381.]
It is a fact that the economic policies of the present Government, whatever one may say about the necessity of them for domestic reasons, have definitely impeded Commonwealth expansion. The rise in the Bank Rate to 7 per cent. will not have the effect of expanding investment in the Commonwealth as a whole, but the reverse. It is significant to note that Lord Howick stated in the annual report of the C.D.C.:
The rising trend of new commitments has since been checked by the impact of sharply increased interest rates on CDC's Government borrowings, which were raised in February, 1965, to record levels ranging from 6½ per cent. to 6⅞ per cent.
Nor, indeed, will the Corporation Tax have a great beneficial effect, unless we secure some unexpected concessions tomorrow. In fact, it will have an adverse effect on overseas companies.
Again, the right hon. Gentleman said:
We should ask for a specific preference in awarding contracts to Britain … instead of tariff preferences we should have preferences in the way of capital contracts and apply to take part in Commonwealth development. … In return, we should undertake to provide guaranteed markets for Commonwealth primary produce in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1964; Vol. 688, c. 1380.]
Again, the 15 per cent. surcharge, now reduced to 10 per cent., has not exactly assisted Commonwealth producers. Therefore, it is vital to remember that a sound competitive economy here can do more than anything else to assist the Commonwealth, in terms of investment, in terms of trade, and in terms of technical assistance.
The Secretary of State mentioned the possibility of a Parliamentary Commonwealth Consultative Committee. It is perhaps ironic that we have in Europe the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg. We have the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians. There are many other organisations of a similar character. However, we have as yet nothing for the Commonwealth. Therefore, I warmly welcome this move and wish it well.
I believe that there are many useful jobs of work which such a Commonwealth Consultative Assembly could do. I should like to see various committees of Commonwealth Parliamentarians sitting to consider specific problems. For example, a legal and general committee might go into the whole question of the right of asylum, particularly in regard to the Fugitive Offenders' Act, which we in this country, unfortunately, perpetuate and which gave rise to the Enahoro problems a few years ago. An immigration committee might go into certain problems—for example, the possibility of greater information being given by Ministry of Labour representatives in the country of origin; the possibility of health checks being carried out in the country from which the immigrant intends to sail to this country, provided that doctors were recognised by this country, so that immigrants would know that the obstacles which might face them could be effectively overcome in their own country. There could be a very useful committee on trade and technical assistance.
One problem which such a Commonwealth Consultative Committee could look into is the problem of the non-viable areas in the British Commonwealth. This will be one of the great problems. There are far too few facilities for Members of the House to go out and see what the situation is in those countries for which we are responsible. The Minister of State, Commonwealth Relations Office, was affectionately known in the House on occasions as "the hon. Member for Anglesey and St. Helena", because he set himself up as a sort of Menai Bridge connecting St. Helena with the House. There are many other territories where the lack of development and investment would horrify hon. Members.
I have just returned from a part of the world which does not come under the Commonwealth Relations Office. It comes under the Foreign Office. We have certain obligations in regard to development in that country. It is to me a staggering thought that the total amount of investment has been raised from £100,000 to £200,000 a year and the British Government are now quivering on the brink to raise it a further £50,000. Our record of investment in many of the non-viable countries like St. Helena is something which we ought to explore and something which could well be considered by a Parliamentary Commonwealth Consultative Committee. We would find that in islands for which we are responsible in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean the standard of living should be greatly improved.
Since it has now become the fashion to send recruits to another place in perhaps greater numbers than has been the case for 40 years, we should have more Commonwealth representatives, more people who could come and speak on Commonwealth affairs with the authority of being indigenous. There might well have to be some convention that they did not vote on domestic matters, in the same way as there is a convention that Lords of Appeal in Ordinary do not vote on very controversial political matters. If it were possible to have representatives from Caribbean and African countries in another place, it would enrich our deliberations and be a strengthening force for the Commonwealth.
Suggestions have been made about the possibility of a Commonwealth court. I shall not go into those in great detail. It was the idea of the late Lord Simon that there should be a sort of Privy Council going on circuit and that the majority should be made up of judges indigenous to the country of appeal. I think that we have gone too far ever to have an appellate court of that kind. We might well have a tribunal for the second purpose which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, namely, for the settlement of disputes between members of the Commonwealth which were prepared to submit their disputes freely, in the same way as with the International Court of Justice at The Hague, for a third member of the Commonwealth to arbitrate. This suggestion might well be considered at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference.
I want to ask the Secretary of State two questions. First, with regard to Aden, I always had a rather jaundiced view of federation in Aden, for the very same reason that I had a jaundiced view of federation in Central Africa, namely, that I did not think that either was based upon genuine political consent. I have always taken the view that federation will never be secured unless Aden Colony becomes independent and then itself opts to federate with the other territories in that part of the world.
What will be the terms of reference of the Commission? Will they be as great as those of the Monckton Commission? Will the Commission have the power to recommend the dismemberment of the Federation, if that is thought to be the wish of the majority of the population? If the Commission were to find that there was a genuine hostility to a continued Federation in that area, then let us recognise what we should have recognised right back in 1952 in Central Africa, namely, that a federation is a farce and is doomed to failure unless it has majority support.
Secondly, with regard to Rhodesia, I agree with almost everything said by the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Ennals). The right hon. Gentleman, like Agag in the Old Testament, was treading delicately. He covered his intentions, which were distinctly honourable, with a cloak of both respectability and almost anonymity. I apreciate that he cannot go into great details as to what policies Her Majesty's Government will raise and how the negotiations will go. Obviously, there will be the question of increased aid for African education. Obviously, there will be the question of getting more Africans to qualify for the B roll vote.
I think that the African Nationalists have made a very great mistake in boycotting the elections in Rhodesia. They should have done everything they could to get the maximum amount of representation and then say to the European minority, "Look how responsible we are. Look at the contribution we have made in the Salisbury Parliament. How can you resist our claim for greater political rights?". I do not think that they have played it very sensibly.
I believe that they should have gone about it in the same way as Julius Nyerere went about it in Tanganyika. He proved the ability of the African population to take greater and greater control of the situation. He not only made his point, but he allayed the fears of the European minority in Tanganyika. Therefore, when independence was reached in Tanganyika there were not the same stresses and strains which, in my view, will be inevitable in Rhodesia.
One matter on which I sense a little danger ahead is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards immigration. This has a tremendous impact in the British Commonwealth. The Pakistan newspapers had more about Smethwick and incidents in Birmingham than about any other issue relating to Anglo-Pakistan relations. It may well be that we shall he told that tighter controls are needed because of housing and integration problems.
Many reasons may be advanced, but I say to Her Majesty's Government that I hope that one of the reasons for tightening up immigration will not be because there are political pressures, because hon. Members who have a political problem in their constituency are suggesting that this could well be a political liability and that already it is becoming an embarrassment and that there is a risk that the Conservative Party will be exploiting this matter at the next election.
There is no question of the Conservative Party exploiting this situation at any time, either between elections or at elections. We have made it quite clear—and I think that the Government's position is the same—that in any proposal we make we shall insist that any immigrants in this country shall be treated exactly the same as any British citizens of our own here in these islands. Therefore, there is no question of any political exploitation of this matter, and I hope that the Liberal Party will resist any temptation to make it.
I am delighted at what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Perhaps he will now respond to the challenge which I remember the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) making, and disown utterly the sort of racialism which impartial observers, not party politicians, clearly indicated existed during the Smethwick by-election, which was perhaps one of the most disgraceful and discreditable episodes in British history at any election this century. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's statement will cover that situation as well. If it does he has disowned racialism beyond a peradventure. If the sort of campaigning that we read about in Smethwick and some of the speeches which we read in reputable national newspapers are not disowned, there is always an element of doubt which ought to be allayed.
More instruction about the British Commonwealth should be given in our schools. We have a tremendous amount to do in this respect. It is tragic to think that Commonwealth day in Zambia is still a public holiday but the Commonwealth in this country is something about which the average school child may be able to name only three or four countries and then his knowledge comes to an end. We should have a far more dynamic approach to the education of our young people about the Commonwealth and its possibilities.
I impress upon the Minister the need for urgency in setting up the Commonwealth Assembly. It can do a tremendous amount of good. Anyone who has been privileged to see Members of Parliament from 12 to 15 different countries sitting down together at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association here in London will have been tremendously excited by the feeling of belonging to one great family of nations and a feeling that there are all sorts of common problems which we can solve together. This is the sort of good will that exists and this is something which we must develop.
In debating this subject today we must begin by realising that the Commonwealth is in a fascinating state of development historically. First, we had the long positive, heavy period of empire building. It was something which many of us today would not have agreed with, but, nevertheless, there was purpose and point behind Britain overseas. Then, very much accelerated from 1947 onwards, there was the task of changing the Empire into a Commonwealth, and this House was clearly aware of its task and duties. There were the Lancaster House conferences and visits by the Colonial Secretary to this and that country on the way to independence. Everyone was concerned about and knew what the Empire changing into a Commonwealth was about. The Commonwealth was an example not of an Empire breaking up, but of an Empire growing up.
Now we have come to the dangerous period when most territories have passed on to full independence within the Commonwealth. At the same time, there is within the Commonwealth today fissiparous tendencies, to grouping particularly of African and Afro-Asian States, and there is the position of the Organisation of American States. I have a feeling that at this stage at the centre of the Commonwealth the sense of purpose is not strong enough and that it will be the job of our leaders, regardless of party, in the immediate five years ahead to establish this purpose. Unless, with the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the ideas of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and assistance to overseas territories, we can introduce a third stage in the Commonwealth, then this experiment of ours in friendship around the world will collapse and disappear.
Against this background of transition I should like to raise three different aspects of our Commonwealth at present. I have chosen a very small territory of which we are completely in control. I want to refer also to Aden and, finally, take a look generally at the Commonwealth and the Far Eastern crisis. As for the small territory, Gibraltar, I have had the privilege of visiting it many times and I have many personal friends there. In an Adjournment debate before Easter we had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Gibraltar, as it is now besieged due to the policy of the Government in Madrid. It is a common characteristic of public affairs that points come up to a crisis—Vietnam is a good example and so is San Domingo—but then simply by the sheer pressure of other events, this item gets neglected. I am passionately concerned that we should not forget this small territory of Gibraltar, of which the living area, no bigger than Hyde Park, has a population of 25,000. We should not rule out of our minds the discomfort which these people are now undergoing.
I brought to the attention of the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies the housing conditions of two families on the Rock. I know that anxious steps are being taken to arrange various facilities for these families. These are British families driven out of the Campo area due to the action of Franco Spain. If the Commonwealth is to have a sense of dynamic purpose, Britain must be able to guarantee to a beleaguered territory like Gibraltar that its people will not suffer because of the bullying of a territory nearby. I shall not rest until the sufferings of the dispossessed in the Campo area have been attended to.
Then, what arrangements are to be made for the tourist trade in Gibraltar and for commercial ship repairing? These are small things compared with the great problems of life and death, but the heart of the Commonwealth will be judged as much by the comfort of one Gibraltarian as by any matters in the United Nations or elsewhere.
On the surface the Aden situation is extremely gloomy. We have Mr. Makawee threatening a demand for immediate independence. The alliance of all nationalist forces now in Aden, including Abdullah al Asnaq, now demand that we accept the United Nations resolution for immediate elections and the end of the Aden base. But, at the same time, while one has bad news at the moment, it is possible to see a little further ahead to encouraging developments.
For example, we now have in the neighbouring territory of the Yemen a new Republican Government which seems to be more sympathetic towards friendly relations with Aden and the South Arabian Federation. The very fact that there is a political unity in Aden now means at least that we are negotiating with one group and not with a series of individual political organisations. What is lacking, and has been lacking over a period, in general British policy regarding Aden is that, in many respects, British people never recognise the aspirations of Arab people to be united and to have a sense of identity. For instance, it should be possible for us to say, "Yes, we admit that, in time, Aden will be united in some kind of federation with the rest of Arabia". If we freely admit that we are in favour of good relations and, perhaps, political unity between Aden and the Yemen, so much of the sting is then taken out of the present crisis.
I have always thought that, in our Commonwealth of Nations, we have avoided the harsh and bitter logic of the type of choices which the French have made. The French have their "Jamais". We once had an unfortunate remark in this House to the effect that a territory would never have self-determination. The late Sir Winston Churchill dealt with that, I think, by saying that "never" was a relative term which could vary according to the situation then prevailing, and we got over that. But the great thing about the Commonwealth is that we have never said, "Never". We have sometimes said, "Somtimes" or "Perhaps". There are many examples which come to mind, for example, India remaining within the Commonwealth as a Republic, the rotating rulers of Malaya, electing a king who recognises the Queen, and so on. This is illogical, and the French would say "Jamais".
As regards Aden, we should, I suggest, think not so much of what is the logic of the situation but what is the common sense of it. We should recognise that they are Arabs. They will always wish to be associated and have a sense of spiritual affinity with the Arab world, and it would be ridiculous to deny it. The great thing about history is that one should not try to resist it; one should get round the front of it. Britain needs, on balance, to be a chameleon with principles. Over the Aden question, we should recognise this Arab affinity. Let us say, "Why can you not, while belonging to the Arab world, be a member of the Commonwealth?" Again, the French would say, "Jamais", but this is something which we could attempt. The facts of life are that Aden makes its living out of the trade and commerce which sails by, and Aden will never be satisfied until it has some form of political unity wider than the present association with the South Arabian Federation.
For my third point I turn to the much wider question of Britain and the Commonwealth and our relations with the Afro-Asian world. It seems to me that our leaders—I know that we are trying to keep this debate on reasonably non-party lines—have historically never really understood the feel, as it were, of Asia. Looking for a moment at leading ex-Ministers and spokesmen on the Opposition side, one sees that they have an admirable European background.
If I may, perhaps, make an exception for my own Front Bench, I know that some of them at least are aware of territories in Africa and Asia. But, basically, I sometimes think that the Asian Commonwealth is not sufficiently in our thoughts. For instance, since the present Government came into office, there have been several visits, visits to Washington, visits by our Prime Minister to Paris, to Rome and to Bonn. I should have preferred to see the Commonwealth figuring in our priorities, too, with visits alternating between the European and Western nations and the Afro-Asian bloc.
It is very difficult for us in this country, when we use the word "Communism", to realise that it has an entirely different meaning in, for example, North Vietnam from the meaning it has in, say, Eastern Germany. It is very dangerous to assume that the kind of menace of Communism of which we speak when thinking of Eastern Europe is automatically an evil thing among the people of the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam. Communism in the present Communist world varies vastly between Albania and Hungary and China.
So when we think in our Commonwealth of the dangers in the Far East, in Vietnam, for instance, we must have a keener perception of the Afro-Asian world, and we must have it particularly in this country at the heart of the Commonwealth. We have had approaches to the Vietnam crisis by our own country individually, by Russia, by France and by America. I hope that, at the forthcoming Prime Ministers' Conference, great thought and care will be devoted, in full session, to the Vietnam crisis. If the Commonwealth means anything at all in international relations, it must do more through the coming conference than merely make a polite remark about the need for a peaceful solution. It would give an example of virility at the moment if the Commonwealth could tackle the most urgent problem now facing the world.
I have tried to deal with three different aspects of the Commonwealth today. One thing is quite certain in terms of its survival. It will not survive by mere words, formulae or communiquôs. It can survive only by the increasing interchange of Commonwealth interests. To conclude on an optimistic note, this is where I believe that, although there are dangers and we may have lost our way, if we can keep our Commonwealth scientific conference going and our Commonwealth education conference going—we have a new Commonwealth radio and television association now—and if we can keep our Commonwealth defence associations going, there will be real hope for the future.
I could be cynical, of course, and say that in those circumstances there would be so many free trips going that nobody would dare to cancel out the Commonwealth, but, on the other hand, we should have so many shared friendly interests that the Commonwealth, in spite of its present dangerous sense of torpor, could go on to further strength.
The House will have very much enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Jackson). I was particularly struck by a phrase he used at the beginning of his speech, when he said that he thought that, perhaps, the throb of the Commonwealth might not be strong enough in the future. There is a lot of wishful and inaccurate thought about the Commonwealth, and I accept all that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said earlier about how important it is to decide what the Commonwealth is not.
It will never be, or is unlikely ever to be, an economic unit like the United States of America or the Common Market in Europe. We all know the reason why. Its constituent members in one way or another want to protect themselves, and the rich countries which have a higher standard of living that we have in the United Kingdom continue to be determined to protect and foster their young and expanding industries. Britain herself, as my right hon. Friend said, because of the needs of war and now because of our balance of payments difficulties, rightly buys agricultural produce more dearly from home than she need do if she bought from overseas. The vast bulk of the Commonwealth, which is very poor by our standards, has a chronic balance of payments problem, worse than our own, and it wants not only aid but protection for as many of its new and infant industries as can possibly be started.
The economic standards of the many Commonwealth countries are so completely different that a full partnership on that economic plane would make us poorer and the other countries not very much richer. That is why many people believe that our future ultimately lies with Europe. If we safeguard the future of our own industries by getting them fair competition inside Europe, we ourselves will become richer and therefore able to buy more from the Commonwealth and to give the Commonwealth more aid and, above all, to invest more in the Commonwealth.
Before that is likely to be achieved, I suspect that we might have to take some very disagreeable decisions about our own population. This is something which ought not to be shirked. On the whole, multi-racial societies have succeeded in very few places in the world. We have heard about the difficulties in Mauritius, Fiji, East Africa and, of course, in the United States. One of the difficulties is not the colour but that culture is different. The Indians and the Pakistanis are a proud race. They have a civilisation much older than our own and they keep together, rather as the British kept together when we were in India. It is difficult at times to absorb these blocs which get together in certain towns, and one of the great problems we might have to face is the integration of those who are already with us.
I am sure that we are prepared to spend more on our schools and hospitals and other amenities and to accept people to do the jobs which on the whole the English shun, but I am not sure that this is right and that it would not be better for us to rely more on machines in future and to integrate all those from the Commonwealth whom we have here. It may well be that because we have to import food and so many other materials for the people who live in this country the future will see more emigration out of England. Who, knowing the charms of New Zealand and the good climate of Australia, would not prefer them to our northern winters? It is quite possible that in future we will have more emigration than immigration. Therefore, there is little future for Commonwealth free trade.
But nor is the Commonwealth a military alliance. The bulk of the population and, I believe, the bulk of the countries of the Commonwealth are unaligned. They do not want to be caught up with any particular ideology. They want help for development and many will take it from whatever quarter it is offered.
Yet we should be very proud of how we have led so many countries to independence within the Commonwealth. There are a few more to come—Mauritius, British Guiana—and no doubt the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State will have seen the letter from Mr. Luckoo of 24th May in The Times. There are also Southern Arabia, the Little Seven and, one hopes, Rhodesia by agreement. Perhaps the Prime Minister will say how he sees the future of some of the islands and other small territories which could never be viable, territories to which the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) referred.
Are they to accept, say, the Western Samoa Constitution, or are their wants to be heard in the voices of temporary peers in another place—and, after all, the bishops are temporary and it is possible that these territories could have voices speaking for them in another place, if with much shorter Parliamentary lives than the bishops have. That would not affect the Government of this country and it would still give these territories a sounding board.
But when all that is negative has been said, members of the Commonwealth in this distracted world have a special way of getting on with each other, and we might well be copied by many other countries. But is it enough? This is the question which the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough asked. Personally, I fear that if nothing more is done there is a danger of the Commonwealth going the way of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Prime Ministers are about to meet. Rhodesia, India and Pakistan and the confrontation in Malaysia are intractable problems. The Prime Ministers will look out on a world where expansionist Chinese Communism threatens all South-East Asia. They will see, I regret, an enfeebled United Nations. What can they, helped by their new Secretariat, do to enable world order to triumph over increasing world chaos?
There are six things which can be done. In 1961, the Prime Ministers called for disarmament and inspection and a permanent ban on nuclear weapon tests. Despite a partial nuclear test ban, unfortunately the world today is a gloomier place than it was in 1961. I still think that action could be taken on the establishment of a prototype directly recruited Commonwealth peace force on the lines suggested by the Prime Minister of Canada. After all, we are like-minded nations.
Not all would agree to such a course. India might object, feeling that such a force might be sent to the Rann of Kutch or elsewhere, but if such a force had been in existence it would have been very helpful in Cyprus or East Africa in the past. It could never be used, except at the request of a Commonwealth Government, inside its own territory and at least it would be a minor agent in reducing the danger of a political explosion—and there are other places where other explosions are threatening. At least it would show the way to a greater international peace force in the years to come.
Secondly, the conference might stress the value of the English tongue. Even if our language did not exist, it would have had to have been invented as a means whereby hundreds of millions of people could talk to each other. Even in India where I was the other day—as Madras showed a few months ago—it is in great demand. What more can be done to see that it is taught?
The Commonwealth Educational Conference last year recommended the use of the Initial Teaching Alphabet as a medium of teaching English as a second language and £30,000 has been granted to Ibadan University for an experiment with I.T.A. As by September of this year 50,000 British children in British schools will be working with the I.T.A., cannot more be done in the Commonwealth? Since there is such a demand for teachers and trainers of every kind in the Commonwealth, cannot the Prime Minister may that more will be done to safeguard the places on the ladder of promotion of those who volunteer for tours overseas?
Thirdly, despite the Finance Bill and its emphasis against British investment overseas—and one regrets that the right hon. Lady the Minister of Overseas Development is not here—could not some Commonwealth scheme of insurance against political risks for new investments in developing countries be devised? I know that this has been considered and that there was a Question about it earlier today. If this could be put through to reality and we could have a scheme of insurance comparable with those in the United States, Japan and Germany, much could be done, because private enterprise brings with it technicians who can teach whereas public aid is paid out in large dollops and one then goes elsewhere to get the technicians to teach.
Too many countries have in the past hurt investors in Asia and Africa and that is one of the reasons why private investment has been falling. If new investment could be insured against political risks I believe we should see private investment going up again, to the benefit of everyone, and I am quite certain that we should be prepared to pay the necessary premium.
Fourthly, should there not be more teachers at all levels and more accommodation here for students and apprentices from the Commonwealth? I have known difficulty in my own city of Liverpool where we tried to take over the old Liverpool Chest Hospital for use as an overseas hostel only to find that our local education authority thought it would be better employed for its own purposes. This may be understandable in the short-term, but some of our visitors return to positions of importance in their own countries and many go home far from happy with their reception here.
I had a letter the other day from a Commonwealth Minister who had had dinner with us. I read the letter with shame, because he said at the end of it that mine was the first private house into which he had ever been. This can be found often in this country and we ought to remember how well the partnership in the old Indian Civil Service worked. Many of the Indians and Pakistanis who have spent some time in this country now hold positions of immense importance on the subcontinent. We must germinate the same spirit, as in the old days, with these overseas visitors.
Fifthly, it seems to me that what the Commonwealth want more than anything else is cheap air travel. The Commonwealth is tremendously dispersed and it is very expensive to travel about it. It is also very expensive for many of the Commonwealth taxpayers who have to subsidise uneconomic airlines. Is it not possible in certain cases to follow the example set by the Scandinavians and for some of the countries to get together in the establishment of a similar airline? I know there are difficulties about I.A.T.A. but it would help greatly in drawing the Commonwealth together.
I am aware of that and I am aware of the work of other airlines, such as Ghana Airlines. I believe that much money can be saved and the Commonwealth spirit engendered by partnership of that kind.
Lastly, it is well to remember that man does not live by bread alone. He likes and enjoys medals and awards. Is it not time that there was a Commonwealth Order of Achievement, rarely granted and stemming from the Head of the Commonwealth, on the advice of Presidents and Governors-General? Is there any reason why this country should not be put on the same basis as Canada, Australia and others and have our own Governor-General, thereby freeing Her Majesty from some of her purely United Kingdom work? One must bear in mind that at some time in the future—a long way away, one hopes—there might be a minor on the throne of Britain and the high office of Head of the Commonwealth might have to be moved, for a time, elsewhere.
Some may think these ideas very bizarre—like those of a Commonwealth court of appeal or a Commonwealth assembly, even expanding the annual meeting of the C.P.A. But organisations, like businesses, either go forward with the times or sink into obscurity. It is my belief that, if only some of the ideas suggested in the House today are adopted, the Commonwealth and its people will enjoy an even more glorious page in history than ever in the past.
Sometimes the duty of back benchers, in a short time, is to pick up some of the pieces which have dropped through the riddle of high policy wielded by Front Bench spokesmen.
The first piece which I should like to pick up is that referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin). He referred to conditions on British ships operating from Hong Kong and specifically named the Blue Funnel Line of Liverpool. This was the company with which I served and, although it is a long time ago, it is right that I should put forward the opinion that in the transport of passengers from this country to the Far East the Blue Funnel Line and the Glen Line have conditions of service for their servants, whether they be British officers or Asian crews, second to none in this country and are leaders in transport throughout the world. I hope that my hon. Friend will make it clear at some other time that he was not criticising that Line.
I came to the debate as one who believed that the patron saint of politicians should be St. Thomas the Doubter. Over the years I have grown to have some doubts about the value of the Commonwealth. This was not always so. Twenty years ago I left my village believing absolutely implicity in the righteousness of the British Empire and Commonwealth and proud that I left my own home with the names and addresses of up to 50 jeople who had gone from my village and county to settle in various parts of the Commonwealth. I found, as a merchant seaman who served in the war for over five years, that there was not a port in the world where one could not find British people to whom England was still the old country and home.
My first doubts about the virtues of the Empire arose in Calcutta, when I found that boys aged 7 were used to clean out the ship's boiler. The second doubt arose when I went to Australia and found, after buying a map in that country, that instead of Britain being the centre of the world, as we were taught at school, according to Australians, Britain was the little island tucked on the top left-hand side of the map and that Australia was the centre of the Commonwealth. I suppose that it depends how one looks at things.
It was right for both Front Bench spokesmen to ask what were the virtues and uses of the Commonwealth in 1965 and that as the Empire is now an association of free and independent States we should ask what is its virtue and purpose. I welcome the efforts made to increase Commonwealth trade—enlightened self-interest, one might call it—and to form a permanent Commonwealth Secretariat and the suggestion that we should have, in the not-too-distant future, a Commonwealth Parliament. I hope that we might even achieve a Commonwealth court, to which disputes between neighbours, whether they be geographical neighbours or otherwise, could be referred by process of arbitration and that the decisions of such a court would ultimately be accepted. I hope that in the long-term the English-speaking dominions will form the basis of a Commonwealth association which, after we have passed from these benches, may lead to a world Government.
Today, I had passed to me from friends in Liverpool a request that I should raise a very lighthearted matter. It followed on a Question which I was hoping to ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about relations between this country and Spain. I have been asked to refer to the fact that Spain has protested that a Miss Gibraltar has been entered for this year's Miss World Contest in London and to urge the Prime Minister to give such support to this young lady as she needs. That is an invitation which may be more acceptable to him than some of the duties which he has to perform.
I would stress to my right hon. and hon. Friends the need for more information about the Commonwealth. I went to Australia believing that most of the natives there—not the kangaroos—spent their life surf riding at Bondi Beach, but then found that it was not so. Last year, my great niece came from Sydney thinking of this country as the land of Beefeaters, fog and bowler hats. She, too, found that it was not so. More accurate information should be exchanged; and if the B.B.C. and I.T.V. could be brought in more than they are at present, it would be a very useful way of disseminating information.
Finally, I ask my right hon. Friends to give us more specific information about those islands in the South and South-West Pacific to which—and here I must be careful how I phrase things—my neighbour and friend from Liverpool also referred. I hope that it does not get him into any political trouble. There are islands in the Pacific that flare into the headlines and have one great moment of glory, after which they seem to be neglected. More information about what the Government propose to do to help these areas would be appreciated.
As was to be expected, a number of hon. Members have referred to the forthcoming meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I think that we are all glad that this debate should have taken place on the eve of that important meeting. I am very glad that it has been decided to hold another Commonwealth Prime Minister's conference a year after the last meeting—in fact, slightly under the year. There have been occasions when 18 months or two years have elapsed between meetings. This is too long, and I certainly hope that these will now become regular annual events. I very much agree with the Commonwealth Secretary when he stressed the value of regular informal exchanges between Commonwealth Prime Ministers; it should not need a crisis or a very special problem to bring the leaders of the Commonwealth together.
A number of important new initiatives were launched at last year's Commonwealth Prime Minister's meeting. While I was in very general agreement with what the Commonwealth Secretary said, I was a little disappointed by the amount of information he gave us about the progress of these various new projects. He listed them, but did not tell us very much about each as he came to it. I hope that the Prime Minister may be able to give us a little more information.
I have no doubt that by far the most important of the new initiatives which were launched last year was the decision to set up a Commonwealth Secretariat and I hope that the Prime Minister may be able to tell us something about its terms of reference. Nobody can say how the Commonwealth Secretariat will evolve, but my own personal opinion is that, at any rate in the first instance, its main function should be to disseminate information provided by Governments, and to facilitate the exchange of views between Commonwealth Governments on current international issues.
The Commonwealth Secretary was right when he said that, on the whole, Commonwealth Governments have closer contact with Britain than they have with one another, and that we must help to change that if we can. It is right and natural that Britain, being the founder and centre of the Commonwealth, should continue to be expected to play a leading part. But if the Commonwealth is to perform its unique rôle in the world, I am quite sure that all its members must continuously maintain touch with each other and not just with Britain.
They must all the time be explaining to one another their aims and their actions; they must continuously make an effort to understand each other's problems and feelings; and what is probably the most difficult thing of all, particularly for a young country, other Commonwealth Governments, like Britain's, must sometimes be prepared to modify their policies in the interests of Commonwealth unity. That is the essence of our Commonwealth relationship. In this task I believe that the new Commonwealth Secretariat can play a most constructive part.
The Government have said—the Commonwealth Secretary referred to it today—that they intend to propose to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers the setting up of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Assembly. In his opening speech, the right hon. Gentleman said that the purpose of this was to increase contacts between Commonwealth parliamentarians. Like the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), I warmly welcome any step which can be taken which will increase contacts between Members of Parliament in the different Commonwealth countries. We must, however, be careful how we go about it. We must make sure that this new Assembly, which, I hope, will be created, exercises a unifying and not a divisive influence.
In a recent speech, the Prime Minister compared the idea of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Assembly with the European Assembly at Strasbourg and others, including the hon. Member for Devon, North, have mentioned this. We would make a great mistake if we tried to create a Commonwealth counterpart to the European Assembly at Strasbourg, for the simple reason that the European relationship is so totally different from the Commonwealth relationship.
The nations which are represented at Strasbourg are pledged to a greater or lesser degree to integration and, naturally, their debates are focused on the means of achieving that integration. It is, therefore, appropriate that they should have formal parliamentary institutions and that they should vote resolutions. The Commonwealth, however unlike Europe, is not a homogeneous group of neighbours with a common economic and political objective. It is a collection of nations of different races spread all over the globe, nations with totally different historical backgrounds, totally different political outlooks and totally different economic problems.
The unique characteristic of our modern Commonwealth is that it brings together not like-minded peoples, but unlike-minded peoples. That is its unique feature. It helps these people to understand and respect one another. In this way, it exercises a direct and indirect influence for peace and tolerance throughout the world.
To ask a body of that kind, representing such diverse nations, to vote resolutions—and I assume that those who think of producing a Commonwealth version of the Strasbourg Assembly must be thinking in those terms—would have the effect of crystallising their differences and consolidating them into opposing camps. I hope, therefore, that any arrangement which is made for setting up a Commonwealth Parliamentary Assem- bly will be organised on the most informal lines; and I urge that it be channelled through the organisation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The influence and importance of that Association have been growing year by year and it would, I suggest, be the greatest pity to do anything to duplicate its work or to undermine its position in any way.
The last Government increased the annual grant to the C.P.A. from £13,000 to £55,000 a year and I believe that the whole House would agree that that was money well spent. This has made it possible to hold two annual meetings of Commonwealth Members of Parliament in London and greatly to increase the flow of British Members of Parliament to Commonwealth countries overseas. I feel sure that the present Government will continue to give their full support and encouragement to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
The Commonwealth Prime Ministers regularly review the world situation and discuss any problems which threaten the peace. I hope very much that on this occasion they will put the spotlight upon the armed attacks on Malaysia by Indonesia. In such a situation, any Commonwealth country should be able to count upon the unqualified moral support of its fellow members.
I am sorry to have to say it, but the fact is that Malaysia has not received the full backing which she is undoubtedly entitled to receive from her fellow members of the Commonwealth, whether in the United Nations or in international conferences of various kinds. Some Commonwealth countries have shown hesitation about taking sides between two Asian countries and have been reluctant to express approval of the despatch of British troops to help Malaysia to resist invasion.
The events which have taken place since the last Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting leave no room for doubt about the conciliatory attitude, to which the Commonwealth Secretary referred, of Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Malaysian Government. Nor do they leave any room for doubt about the expansionist ambitions and bellicose actions of President Soekarno. The Commonwealth Secretary reminded us that President Soekarno had openly declared that his aim was to crush Malaysia.
There is also, I think, no longer any doubt that unless Britain had quickly come to Malaysia's aid a Commonwealth country would have been overrun and conquered. Let us hope, therefore, that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers at this coming meeting will show themselves as keen to condemn aggression as they have shown themselves keen, and quite rightly, to condemn racial discrimination and other injustices.
The Commonwealth Secretary made an important statement, and, I think, a new one, on the question of Commonwealth immigration. He said that we must take in only as many immigrants as we can properly absorb. I hope very much that the Prime Minister will arrange for a frank discussion of this whole question of Commonwealth immigration at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting. This is more especially necessary if, as it seems, the Government are contemplating a change in their immigration policy, and perhaps the Prime Minister could tell us whether that is the case.
I say that there should be a frank discussion because there has been altogether much too much woolly talk about the question of immigration. It has been said that this is not a racial problem, that it is rather a problem of assimilation. That is really a different way of saying the same thing. We all know that if all the immigrants were Australians it would be quite easy to absorb them, but when they are people of different races, sometimes of different religions, and speak different languages, the problem of integration is very much more difficult.
We are all agreed that once he is here an immigrant must be treated as one of us, without any racial discrimination of any kind whatsoever. But the prevention of discrimination by itself, as I think everyone will agree, is not enough. If the newcomers—and this is the point which the Commonwealth Secretary has rightly emphasised—are admitted faster than they can be absorbed, then friction and tension is bound to develop, and this is bound to increase as the numbers grow. This will inevitably lead to further friction and tension, and, I am afraid, sooner or later, to shameful incidents which would have a most disastrous effect on our relations with other Commonwealth countries.
It is of the utmost importance to the whole Commonwealth that we should prevent the development of a racial problem in Britain. It is important for us. It is important for our Commonwealth partners. Above all else, it is important for the immigrants themselves. That is why I feel that there would be every advantage in having a frank discussion of the whole question at a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting. I think it will help to clear the air, and I believe the Prime Minister will find that there is more understanding among his Commonwealth colleagues for our problem than perhaps he imagines.
Several hon. Members have spoken about independence for British Guiana, and references have been made to my pledge. I should like to read it to the House. At the independence conference that we held in 1963 I gave the following undertaking:
After the elections are over, the British Government will convene a conference to settle any remaining constitutional issues, and to fix a date for independence.
That is absolutely plain, absolutely clear. I asked the Colonial Secretary a Question about it the other day, and he confirmed that the pledge stood.
Unfortunately, in his speech today the Commonwealth Secretary threw some doubts on the intention of the Government to honour that pledge in full. I do not blame him; it is always difficult when Ministers have to talk about Departments other than their own. He said that he was not certain that the conference, which would be held at an unspecified date, would fix the date for independence. I do not think that he meant in any way to amend what his right hon. Friend had said.
I do not wish to pursue the point, but the Prime Minister should make the position absolutely clear and say that the present Government stand by the last Government's pledge, without qualification. I hope that the Prime Minister will also tell us either when the conference will take place or the reasons for the delay in making an announcement.
Conditions in British Guinea are still far from perfect, but everyone who is in touch with the position will agree that the situation is considerably improved. People who left the country are now returning, outside investment in increasing, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) said, a new air of confidence is developing.
It is important to realise that all the races are now asking for immediate independence. It is not a question of one race asking for it and another being opposed to it. Even Dr. Jagan's People's Youth Organisation has now come out with the slogan, "Independence Now". I therefore submit that there is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by further delay in convening this conference. If we put it off much longer there will be deep resentment, and it will lay the Government open to the charge of a breach of faith.
The Commonwealth Secretary spoke of Aden and South Arabia. Here again, the Government have given the impression of fumbling and hesitation. As I said recently in the House, the Colonial Secretary appears to be frantically trying to avoid the responsibility for taking a decision. He has even tried to call in the United Nations to help him, but U Thant, quite correctly, has put the ball back into the right hon. Gentleman's court.
Nobody likes the right hon. Gentleman's international Commission. I am glad that the Commonwealth Secretary made it clear that that is what it is—an international commission. The Aden Government are opposed to it. All the Aden political parties are opposed to it. The Eastern Protectorates do not like it. The Colonial Secretary said that the Federal Government welcomed it. That is a distortion of the facts. It is true that they have indicated that if the commission comes into being and comes to Aden they will not boycott it, but apart from that they have given it the coolest of receptions.
The situation in Aden, in the Federation and in South Arabia generally is very complicated, but certain basic facts are absolutely clear. The first is that Aden and the rest of the Federation belong together. They are linked together not only by geography, but by economic and political necessity. However much they may quarrel with one another, each needs the other. There can be no question of separating Aden from the Federation.
The second fact is that the British military base at Aden must be retained. If British protection were withdrawn, we all know that the 50,000 Egyptian troops in the Yemen would stream over the border. I have no doubt that they would not be any more successful in subjugating the tribes of Southern Arabia than they have been in the Yemen, but they would have little difficulty in capturing the port and town of Aden if British protection were withdrawn.
The base is, of course, equally important to material prosperity. It brings in, I think, at least £12 million a year. The Economist estimated it at £18 million. Without that, there is little doubt that the Aden economy as it now is would virtually collapse. At the conference on South Arabia last summer, the representatives of both Aden and the Federation specifically asked that the British base should remain after independence.
The delegates from the Federation and from Aden request that, as soon as practicable, the British Government should convene a conference for the purpose of fixing a date for independence not later than 1968 and of concluding a defence agreement under which Britain would retain her military base in Aden for the defence of the Federation and the fulfilment of her world-wide responsibilities. The Secretary of State"—
that is, myself—
announced agreement of the British Government to this request.
There is, therefore, no need for the right hon. Gentleman to have any inhibitions about saying that the British troops will stay.
Another basic fact is that, while Aden has the status of a Colony whose future can be decided by this Parliament here in Westminster, the relations between the other States of the Federation and Britain are governed by treaties concluded between them and Her Majesty's Government. Some of these treaties are recent and were approved by this House. It follows, therefore, that the British Government cannot add new States to the Federation or alter the Federal Constitution without the agreement of the Federal Government, which is free to give or to withhold its consent. In an effort to please everybody, I fear that the right hon. Gentleman has lost the co-operation of all.
I urge him to drop this international Commission, which nobody wants. He must realise that its report will have to be published. It will contain nothing which he does not already know and it will have the effect only of restricting his freedom of action when he comes to take a decision. Let him take this whole matter back into his own hands, where the responsibility belongs. Let him make it clear that the protection of the British base will continue. Let him by all means study the views of all the elements and interests involved, but let him realise that his first task must be to regain the confidence of the Federal Government, for without their co-operation there can be no settlement.
One does not need to be a prophet to foretell that the subject of Rhodesia will be raised at the coming meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I am sure that the Prime Minister will agree that it is very important, once again, as was done on the last occasion, to make it clear just where the responsibility rests.
The communiqué of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers on the last occasion said:
The Prime Ministers of the other Commonwealth countries recognise that the authority and responsibility for leading her remaining colonies to independence must continue to rest with the British Government.
The communiqué also said:
emphasised that the Government of Southern Rhodesia was constitutionally responsible for the internal affairs of that territory and that the question of the granting of independence was a matter for decision by the British Parliament.
That was and still is the position. I hope that once the other Prime Ministers know that negotiations are in train they will not press the British Prime Minister to enter into any commitments with them which would fetter his freedom of action in the negotiations.
I am very glad indeed that the negotiations have now really started, as the Commonwealth Secretary said today. I also very much welcomed the right hon. Gentleman's words when he talked about "realistic negotiations". I welcomed his reference to the need for patience and compromise on all sides. As he said, the problem is to find a realistic and generally acceptable solution. If that can be done I am sure that it will satisfy reasonable opinion here and throughout the Commonwealth.
Nobody is more aware than I am of the difficulty of these negotiations. Deep anxieties, sincere convictions and strong emotions are involved. However, I believe that there is one powerful factor which may tip the scale in favour of agreement. That is the realisation of the consequences of failure. More and more people on all sides are coming to realise what a break between Rhodesia and Britain would mean. The Commonwealth Secretary referred to the appalling consequences and there is no doubt that for the Rhodesians it would spell disaster. But, as the right hon. Gentleman said, they are not the only people who would be affected. It would confront Britain with one of the most painful of dilemmas. The whole of Africa—indeed, the whole of the Commonwealth—would be thrown into confusion.
It would not be helpful for me to express any thoughts of my own about the terms of a possible settlement and still less about what action would be appropriate in the event of a rift. All I will say tonight is that we wish the Government every success in these critical negotiations, on the outcome of which so much depends.
I begin by thanking the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) not only for his concluding words, but for a great deal of the rest of his speech, not least the very statesmanlike references he made, as did the Leader of the Opposition and other hon. Members who have taken part in the debate, to the highly delicate question of Rhodesia, to which I will come shortly.
Although I have not heard all the speeches, I have heard enough to know that this has been a very useful and constructive debate. It was widely agreed on both sides of the House that it would be of the highest value for us to debate the problems facing the Commonwealth and the issues which it will be right for my Commonwealth colleagues and myself to discuss at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference before that conference begins. This is a new departure. We did not have a debate last year on the eve of the Conference, though the House will recall the searching discussion which we had, and the right hon. Member for Streatham quoted from it, in a debate which he opened on 6th February last year, four or five months before the Conference.
While obviously I am not free to comment in detail on many of the things which have been said, I can certainly assure the House that the analysis of Commonwealth problems and the constructive suggestions which have been made from both sides of the House will be closely examined by my right hon. Friends and myself before the Conference begins.
I should like to have felt freer to say a good deal more about what I hope is going to happen at the Conference, but I know that the House will understand the difficulties about this. For something like six months now the Government have been preparing for this Conference, examining—and sometimes dismissing—possible ideas and initiatives which might be put forward. During this period we have been in touch, as is the practice, with other Commonwealth Prime Ministers. In addition, I have myself, whether in Britain or overseas, had the opportunity of meeting no fewer than eight of the 20 heads of Government of the Commonwealth countries who will be at this month's Conference.
The House will understand if, with the preparations which have been going on, I am somewhat inhibited in replying to some of the points raised, not only by the obviously confidential nature of the pre-Conference communications, of which right hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite have so much experience, but also by the fact that on a number of points where we hope to take initiatives and make suggestions to our colleagues there are difficulties in my saying what these are in a public sense now before I know the views of my Commonwealth colleagues on them.
Right hon. Members on both sides of the House between us have had long experience of these Conferences. I first had the opportunity of sitting alongside Lord Attlee at one of the first of these Conferences 17 years ago in 1948. The Leader of the Opposition, in more than one capacity, has attended a number of these Conferences. So has the right hon. Member for Streatham. All of us agree that the best results will be achieved if we leave as many of these issues as possible for informal and confidential discussion between Commonwealth colleagues, with the most earnest hope that I could give as full a report as possible to the House when the Conference is over.
A number of questions have been asked of a factual character. Perhaps I might refer briefly to the point about the Commonwealth Secretariat raised by the right hon. Member for Streatham. Since last year's communiqué there has been as the right hon. Gentleman knows, a conference of very senior civil servants, mainly at Cabinet Secretary and similar level—External Affairs Secretary level—in London to work out the general guide lines, rules and organisation of the Commonwealth Secretariat. It is well known that there have been some discussions between Commonwealth Prime Ministers about possible names. All this—both the general organisation of the Secretariat and the choice of a secretary-general—falls for discussion at the Conference and therefore I cannot say very much more about these matters at this stage. I would hope that, if the details are not published as fully as the right hon. Gentleman and the whole House would like—I hope that they will be—I will be able to make a statement about how this will work.
I agree very much with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Commonwealth Parliamentary Assembly. This should be designed and organised in such a way as to be a unifying and not a divisive conference. I agree with some of the warnings he uttered. I confirm that we propose to work in the closest co-operation with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the organisation of this important Conference.
As to a Commonwealth court, a point mentioned by a number of right hon. and hon. Members, here again it is a question of seeing how far our Commonwealth colleagues are in support of the idea. We certainly support in principle the idea of a Commonwealth court of this kind, providing a court of appeal of the very highest calibre, especially for litigants from those countries whose resources might make it difficult for them to maintain a high level court of appeal themselves. The court would be of great assistance in helping to ensure, not exactly a uniform, but at any rate a harmonious development of law throughoutr the Commonwealth. We must see whether there is a general demand for it. If there is, we shall certainly do all our power to help to promote the setting up of this court.
I turn to one or two of the specific problems referred to by the Leader of the Opposition and by the right hon. Member for Streatham before I come to some of the more general issues raised by the Leader of the Opposition. First, Malaysia. I agree with everything which was said by the right hon. Gentleman and with the importance of this subject in relation to the forthcoming Prime Ministers' Conference.
I trust now that no one in the House or anywhere in the Commonwealth will be in any doubt about the determination of this country to make the fullest contribution within our power to the requirements of Commonwealth defence generally and to meet any calls upon us for assistance to our Commonwealth partners.
As right hon. Gentlemen have said, both of our Governments have shown an unhesitating and massive response to the needs of Malaysia in the confrontation with Indonesia. About 10,000 men are now in Borneo and 40,000 in Western Malaysia. Certain of these are actively engaged in support of Malaysia's own security forces and one should not, in paying tribute to Commonwealth troops there, fail to pay tribute to what Malaysia's own forces are doing in playing a leading rôle against Indonesia's incursions and in repelling Indonesian attacks. Of course, not all the 40,000 are involved in this particular confrontation, because Singapore is in the area and therefore they have more than one purpose.
I want to make quite clear, as I hope I have done repeatedly, at Question Time, that the Government agree whole-heartedly with the views expressed by so many hon. and right hon. Members that the negotiation of a settlement of the problem between Indonesia and Malaysia would get the fullest backing of all of us. But, having said that, there does not seem to me, as I have said before, to be much to negotiate about, because the whole problem has arisen from the refusal of Indonesia to recognise the fact of Malaysia. It is not that the Indonesians do not like Malaysia, but that they do not recognise that it exists, despite the fact that it is a full member of the Commonwealth and a partner and ally of ours and a full member of the United Nations. Therefore, if one describes the situation on the Malayan-Indonesian border as a war it is an unnecessary war, and if it is a confrontation it is an unnecessary confrontation.
Sometimes the suggestion is made that Her Majesty's Government should mediate and use our good offices in securing a solution, but I have to make clear what the difficulty is. Any initiative on our part would be regarded by the Indonesians as an admission that Malaysia, which they regard as under our tutelage, is something less than fully independent. We are partners of Malaysia and we seek no separate deal with those guilty of aggression on Malaysia, but any easing of this unnecessary tension, whether by direct negotiation or through the help of a third Power, whether in Asia or elsewhere, would be welcome to all of us.
Let me make clear again, I am sure on behalf of the whole House, that we seek nothing for ourselves in Malaysia except the carrying out of our obligations as partners and allies. As I said in welcoming the S.E.A.T.O. conference in London, if Malaysia and the Asian members of S.E.A.T.O. were to say to Britain, "Thank you, but all outside threats to our independence have ceased and we no longer need your help", nobody would be more pleased than the British Government and, I am sure, all hon. and right hon. Members in this House. While referring to Malaysia I must mention, since this is a Commonwealth debate, what the right hon. Member for Streatham has already mentioned, and that is the help which Australia and New Zealand are giving both in Western Malaysia and Borneo and in the combined naval operations devoted to the task of deterring and repelling Indonesian aggression.
I should like to refer briefly to Southern Rhodesia. All that can be said was said rightly by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations this afternoon. There is no difference between the two sides of the House. We, then in Opposition, were kept fully informed of the meetings and conferences which the right hon. Gentleman had with the Prime Minister of what was then Southern Rhodesia last September. I also saw him and there was no difference between the parties at that time. There has been no difference at any time since. I saw the full minutes of those meetings. I completely agreed with what was said on behalf of Britain on that occasion, and I think that it can be said that everything that we have done since has been in continuance of the policy then stated. We have had to make some pretty tough statements and I think that those have been understood and supported throughout the House and I believe, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that they have had their effect. But I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the problem is tremendously difficult. Nobody in any part of the House will underestimate the size of the gap which has to be bridged, and the right hon. Gentleman did not try to underestimate it.
It is our duty to try to secure by negotiation an arrangement which we regard as democratic—because without that there can be no going forward—an arrangement which can form the basis of independence for Rhodesia. This is what we are trying to do. I hope that none of us will underestimate the difficulties, which are very big, but, so long as these talks continue, there is hope. I did mention even before the end of the election and before the resumption of the negotiations that one could see at least a ray of hope, and it is the job of all of us to try to turn it into a reality.
Hon. Members have expressed concern about the position in Aden. I share their concern. We wholeheartedly support and are attempting to continue the initiative begun by the right hon. Gentleman leading to independence in three years' time. All of us in the House have deeply deplored the continuing incidents, stimulated from outside, which have led to outbreaks of disorder, and worse, of murder, in this area. For reasons which are well known to the House, we are not getting the co-operation we should like to have in mapping out the road to independence. There have been significant changes since the conference to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, two changes in Government there and changes in attitudes.
It is for this reason that we have suggested a constitutional commission under a very wise and skilled administrator, Sir Evelyn Hone. Frankly, it is not easy to secure acceptance of this Commission. One point which the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps, failed to make is that, while it is certainly true that this Commission is not being received with unfeigned enthusiasm in the area—I think he was right there—a purely British one would have been totally unacceptable. The proposal we have made is one which may or may not secure acceptance, but it is the only thing which has any hope of securing acceptance, and it is extremely important that it should. For this reason, we have suggested that the Commission should include representatives of the Commonwealth and a non-Commonwealth representative as well.
The right hon. Gentleman referred just now to the base. His account of what happened at the conference which he convened last year was, of course, fair, right and, in those circumstances, encouraging. Our position was stated from that Box a year ago. I said then that on all the information available to us, we thought that we should need this base. It is difficult to say from the Opposition Benches; but I said, and I stand by this, as we all do, I am sure, that no base is militarily or morally defensible unless it has the support of the people of the territory in which it is sited.
All of us have learned this lesson over the past few years. There was an article in The Guardian this morning, which we have all read, I imagine, suggesting that the total cost of all bases which were built up at great cost and later abandoned because of local hostility exceeds even the total cost of abandoned missiles and other weapons—not excluding Blue Streak, since the right hon. Gentleman is here. Thus, if the total cost of all these abandoned bases exceeds the total cost of all missiles abandoned, one is really speaking in the language of superlatives here. I hope that we have all learned the lesson that the selection of a site for building a base or maintaining a base cannot be purely a question of the convenience of ourselves, or, indeed, purely a question of how strongly we feel that the base is needed for obligations of a totally international character. It is a question of ensuring that we carry the local people with us if the base is to play a prominent part in our defence arrangements.
Whether Aden will, or should, play a permanent part in our arrangements, or to what extent it should play a part, I cannot say until the defence review is complete. Right hon. and hon. Members know all the arguments adding up to the need for it. They also know some of the difficulties. What they have not paid quite so much attention to, perhaps, is the cost of the sum total of these bases and other commitments. Whether it will, or should, be needed we shall know when the defence review is completed.
Whether it can be used will depend on our ability to secure both acceptance of our constitutional proposals and acceptance of the continuance of the base after independence. It is for this reason, I assure the right hon. Gentleman, that my right hon. Friend is proposing to constitute the Commission on the lines which have been mentioned.
The right hon. Gentleman connected the setting up of this international Commission with the question of the base. I am not quite clear about that. Surely, this international Commission will not decide whether we need the base or not.
Not in the slightest. That is completely outside its terms of reference. The question of whether we need a base there or not is entirely for us to decide, until independence comes; and it is for us to negotiate, if we can, as the right hon. Gentleman set out to do, a defence agreement with the newly-independent country in advance of independence to ensure that we have a base. I hope I have said nothing to throw doubt on that.
I do not think that we shall improve an already difficult situation by starting to draw analogies with other countries, least of all in Central Africa. All of us will agree that, of course, the Commission will report what it decides to report, but equally we shall all agree with the right hon. Gentleman that Aden and the Federation can only make sense really as one.
I come now to British Guiana. I want to clear up any possible misunderstanding. It is absolutely clear that we intend to call a constitutional conference as early as practicable. I shall be very disappointed if it does not take place by the autumn of this year, and certainly one of the tasks of that conference will be to fix a date for independence.
A considerable part of the debate related to Commonwealth trade. A week or two ago, the right hon. Gentleman pointed out at Question Time that, after last year's Conference, I was somewhat critical of the small amount of effort and energy, to judge by the communiqué, at least—I know that communiqués are not always representative of the effort and energy—devoted to trade. For the reason I mentioned at the outset of my speech tonight, I cannot indicate what initiatives we are proposing to take. We shall be taking initiatives, and there will be a chance to report to the House afterwards. I certainly do not underrate the importance of some of the issues discussed by the right hon. Gentleman which came out of last year's conference, not purely within the field of aid, but, for example, the Commonwealth Foundation—the right hon. Gentleman is right on that—and also the question of education and matters of that kind. If I have time, I may say a little about that later.
On trade links between the Commonwealth, I feel that new initiatives need to be taken. I do not underrate the difficulties which we have had in trading with the Commonwealth and I do not want to disturb the constructive and largely non-controversial character of the debate by an attempt to estimate how far these difficulties are due to real problems arising from the nature of world economic relationships, as to some extent they are, and how far they are due to a failure to maintain the impetus of Commonwealth economic associations which were so successfully developed in the years immediately following the war.
I want to say right away that, despite the discouraging trends of recent years, I reject the doctrine, as my right hon. Friend did this afternoon, that Commonwealth trade is necessarily and irrevocably condemned by some mysterious historic and secular forces to a continuing decline. Of course it is true that the figures for the past few years have been discouraging. In 1951 and 1952 40 per cent. of Britain's trade, both ways, was wish the Commonwealth. Since then that proportion has declined by a quarter. What is serious is that this dismal trend has accelerated in recent years.
Taking the five years from 1959–64, the percentage of British exports which were accounted for by our shipments to the Commonwealth fell from 37 per cent. in 1959 to 29 per cent. in 1964. Similarly, the percentage of our import trade coining from Commonwealth sources fell over the same five years from 36 per cent. in 1959 to 31 per cent. last year.
I know that there are many sophisticated explanations of this trend. We are told that Commonwealth economic activity is expanding much less rapidly than that of more dynamic areas such as Western Europe. I am not sure that that is true and I shall come to that argument later. We are told that the growth of indigenous manufacturing industries in all Commonwealth countries, whether advanced or developing countries, places a severe limit on what we can do in trading with those areas, though while that is true I have never followed the argument which some draw from these facts that we must therefore concentrate our trade on the even more economically advanced countries of Western Europe. If one cannot trade with a half-developed country, I am not sure why it is easier to trade with a fully-developed country.
Certainly analysis of the figures—and I have had the chance of going through them again this weekend—does not bear out this dismal theory that the Commonwealth is stagnating or is so slowly growing an area that there is not much in the way of a market for us. What it suggests is that, whether through deliberate policies, whether through neglect or indifference, or whether through a failure of our exporters to seize opportunities in Commonwealth countries, whatever the explanation, over the past few years we have failed to hold our own in the expansion of Commonwealth trade.
Let me deal with the suggestion that the Commonwealth market has lost its dynamism about imports from Britain and other countries. From 1959–64, Commonwealth imports rose by £1,989 million. While Commonwealth trade with the whole of the world increased by that figure, nearly £2,000 million, British exports accounted for only £65 million, and one would have thought that Britain, well established in these markets and still aided by substantial preference margins, would have been able to account for a higher proportion of this increasing trade of £2,000 million. However, in fact with nearly £2,000 million increase of imports into other Commonwealth countries, British exports accounted for only £65 million. In some countries there has been an actual fall over that period. In one or two countries there are special factors at work, as I said in the debate 15 months ago, in India, for example, where so much trade has gone to the United States because so much of the aid which India has had has been from the United States and has been tied aid. However, there are many other countries where that has not been the case.
Putting the problem in a different way, it can be seen how far we have fallen behind other predominantly industrial countries in supplying this growing Commonwealth market. Of the total increase of Commonwealth imports of nearly £2,000 million, we managed to corner a bare 3 per cent., Germany 4 per cent., Japan 12 per cent., and the United States 46 per cent., even though we had the benefit of Commonwealth preference over a wide range of goods in those markets.
If we look at the figures of individual types of commodities, with industrial goods, where we ought to have had a flying start, the position is, if anything, almost worse. Imports of chemicals into the Commonwealth showed a £85 million increase, of which we accounted for only £3 million. In non-electrical machinery, there has been an increase into the Commonwealth as a whole of £223 million, of which we have accounted for only £15 million. In electrical machinery of £80 million increased imports we account for £19 million. In transport equipment there has been an increased rate of import into other Commonwealth countries of £65 million, while our exports to those markets have actually fallen by £40 million. Taking other manufactures as a generic group, Commonwealth imports have risen to £184 million while our manufactures have actually fallen by £54 million. Taking manufactured goods as a whole, imports into the Commonwealth have risen by £682 million while the total from Britain has actually fallen by £59 million over these years.
No amount of theorising and no attempt to explain away a pretty dismal record can account for the figures which I have just given to the House. I am not trying to say this in any controversial way, but it may have been due to a feeling by our Commonwealth partners, especially after the unfortunate Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference of September, 1962, that as a nation we were turning our backs on them. It may be—and I suspect very much that it may be—that this record represents a poor rate of achievement by some of our exporters who have obviously failed, as compared with our rivals in other advanced countries, to seize the opportunities open to them. In recent years there has never been the same sense of urgency and drive towards Commonwealth trade which has been shown in other directions, for example, in trade with the dollar areas, or with Western Europe.
This afternoon my right hon. Friend expressed his surprise that we did not have a Commonwealth Export Council. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that he was glad that it had now been set up and he wished it well, but last year when we were pressing for it to be set up he could think of every kind of reason for not doing so. We have one now. I think that all of us would like to pay tribute to the energy that has been put into it, not only by those responsible for the work of the Commonwealth Export Council as a whole but also by those industrialists, exporters and bankers who are giving so much of their time to the work of the separate councils for individual Commonwealth countries.
I do not think that anyone would be in any doubt of the difficulty of reversing this trend, and getting back to anything like the 1951 figures. I am sure the whole House will feel we cannot allow this drift to go on. We cannot abdicate our still by no means insignificant position in these Commonwealth markets, so we shall have proposals to make to our Commonwealth colleagues and, even after all that has occurred, I hope that something useful and constructive will emerge.
There has been a good deal of reference today, not least by the hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to the question of aid and the question of development. I should like to have had more time to say something about the work of the new Ministry of Overseas Development which has replaced—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is the Minister?"]—She is not here.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—This afternoon right hon. Gentlemen emphasised the importance of associating Europe with us in this work of development. She has been spending the whole of the afternoon and evening in conference with her opposite number—with the Minister in charge of development in Germany—and if the result of this is a greater German contribution to Commonwealth development even right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think, will be able to console themselves for her absence.
For my part, I readily pay tribute to what was done in its limited field by the work of the Department of Technical Co-operation. The building of the work was started by Ernest Bevin 15 years ago with the Colombo Plan which did a great deal to provide the skilled manpower and the specialists of all kinds for the developing countries. There are now, as my right hon. Friend said, 18,000 British people working in developing countries under technical co-operation programmes.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about aid figures. He speaks of the figure he had allocated for 1964–65. We can share the credit for it. Let us not argue about which part of the year it was in. We actually exceeded the estimate of £175 million and the total was about £190 million. These figures will be still higher in 1965–66. He asked about education. We are increasing our capital aid to higher education in developing countries to £5 million a year. We are starting a scheme to give 1,000 British students, mainly graduates, the chance to study for a year in developing Commonwealth countries and to serve for at least a year after this. We are arranging to help these countries to retain British staff in university posts while also starting a particular drive to help with teacher training.
On U.N.C.T.A.D. there was a meeting in April of the Trade and Development Board in which we played our full part.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to investment in the Commonwealth and the possible effects of the Finance Bill. I do not think there is time for me now to rehearse all the arguments we may hear in the next few weeks and I think I should be out of order if I were to anticipate those debates. All of us agree that Britain must be put into a position where we can make the maximum contribution to overseas aid, whether by aid or development investments. This means a surplus on our balance of payments. The then Chancellor, Lord Butler, recognised this in 1953 when he called for a minimum surplus on our balance of payments of £300 million. Allowing for price changes it would be about £500 million today. We are not anywhere near that figure, and last year, so far from a balance of payments surplus of £500 million there was a deficit of £800 million. When we are forced to borrow from abroad we cannot afford such overseas investment as we can when we have a surplus.
I should have thought, therefore, that point one is that we have to get the balance of payments deficit down, and we are doing this. Point two is that in overseas development there must be priorities. In the past few years there were moments when I used to point out that it was easier to get British investments for property in Manhattan, some of which proved highly unprofitable, than to get investment funds for development projects in hungry countries. So, within any given scale of investment, the direction is important.
Point three. Within any given total of investment, there is an important distinction between direct investment, which creates new assets and which very often helps our exports, and that kind of investment which simply increases portfolio investment. Given these three points, it can be said that my right hon. Friend's Bill is designed, at any rate marginally, to reduce the total flow of overseas investment, which we need to do so that we can invest more in Britain, which we need for our economic strength, and, secondly, to ensure that the emphasis within overseas investment is on direct investment, creating assets and aiding trade, rather than on portfolio investment. If the right hon. Gentleman has had the chance to study the Amendments put in the Vote Office at 7 o'clock, he will find that they contribute further to these points.
I should like, finally, to refer to the words of the Leader of the Opposition in the concluding part of his speech about the Commonwealth and Europe. He tried to analyse how far his reviving enthusiasm for joining the Common Market would mean injury to our trade with the Commonwealth. I want to pay this compliment to the right hon. Gentleman. Although he has been "all over the shop" on this question in the past year, his speech today was completely consistent with the first speech which he made on this subject in another place in 1961. It was a very important and historic speech. Some weeks before Mr. Macmillan's Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman was then a member, decided to seek entry to the Common Market, he stated his own position very clearly and very much on the same lines as he stated today.
The right hon. Gentleman was then for total immersion in the Common Market even before the then Prime Minister put a toe in the water to see what it was like. The right hon. Gentleman's argument today was still the same. He felt that Commonwealth development depends on a degree of economic strength on the part of Britain which could be achieved only by our being a part of the wider European Economic Community. He said that our experiences in aircraft underlined this, that with modern costly, sophisticated industrial products involving a high research and development charge we needed the largest possible market. This is what we are doing in the field of aircraft. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman never used his influence to see that the same thing was done in the field of computers, where very similar arguments apply.
It is right to say that the right hon. Gentleman's speech tonight was very different from the language in which he spoke in the months preceding the election. There was no suggestion then of the Conservative Party wanting to join the Common Market. South Dorset was fresh in its memory. In his own by-election in Kinross, the right hon. Gentleman did not say that his Government had secured entry and had been rejected, which is what Mr. Macmillan and the right hon Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) said. He said, "When we applied for entry the terms were not suitable, so we stayed out". That is not the general historical view.
Every time that I asked the right hon. Gentleman the conditions on which he wanted to join the Common Market, he said that it was not an issue and would not be an issue in the election—presumably meaning that it would not be an issue in the present Parliament. In the election he said that the whole issue was a "dead duck". The manifesto had all sorts of beautiful pictorial stuff on the Commonwealth and about half a line on Europe about joining the Common Market. He said that we had no chance to do it anyway. [An HON. MEMBER: "What did the right hon. Gentleman say?"] I said then what I have said ever since. What I said in the election was what Hugh Gaitskell said at Brighton, what I said in Rome and what I said in E.F.T.A. last week. But, within three months of the election, the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind and is now sounding a clarion call for entry. Fair enough.
I want to conclude by giving the right hon. Gentleman one warning. We have said the conditions on which we are prepared to go into the Common Market. [Interruption.] There is a difference between that and going in on terms which would totally disrupt Commonwealth trade. The right hon. Gentleman must realise—[Interruption.]—the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to sacrifice the Commonwealth for going in: we are not. The right hon. Gentleman must realise that the situation on agricultural policy in the Common Market would mean a levy of about 80 per cent. on every ton of wheat imported from Canada or Australia. This would put an enormous burden on our balance of payments—I do not know how many tens of millions a year, possibly £100 million. It would greatly increase our cost of living, therefore our wages and therefore our export costs, and the gain of getting under the tariff barrier would be lost.
If the right hon. Gentleman proposes to go on making these speeches, I beseech him to recognise that this is not an issue of theology or of being or not being a good European. We have stated our conditions, whether for staying out or going in. It is a matter that cannot be glossed over by frivolous speeches or sloppy slogans.
I am sorry that I have not been able to say more about our expectations of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. I hope to be able to give the House a full report when the Conference is over.