Orders of the Day — MALAWI REPUBLIC BILL [Lords]

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1966.

Alert me about debates like this

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [15th July], That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question again proposed.

10.26 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Vickers Miss Joan Vickers , Plymouth, Devonport

When on a previous occasion I objected to the Bill receiving a formal Second Reading, I meant no discourtesy to the people of Malawi or to Dr. Banda, but we on this side felt that it would he worth while having a debate on the Bill, particularly in view of the Government's action. This is probably the first time—perhaps the hon. Lady will correct me if I am wrong—that there has been such a Bill in this House which has been retrospective. In other words, the hon. Lady has been out to Malawi to celebrate the fact that the country is a Republic and we are belatedly discussing the relevant Bill.

Malawi is a beautiful country. I am certain that, in declaring it a Republic, Dr. Banda, whom we all respect, has meant no disloyalty to Her Majesty. We can safely say that he is a friend of this country and a loyal member of the Commonwealth. The Republic has fallen into line with the pattern of the other African States, and the majority are now constitutionally Republics.

I first visited the country in 1951. I found it very congenial and the people very friendly. I was working for a voluntary organisation in connection with the welfare of the blind. I am glad to say that Dr. Banda has great respect for voluntary organisations, and I am sure that he will give them every support in future. He also has a very realistic approach to the current affairs of the African States. I met him on many occasions when I was chairman of the Conservative Party East and Central African Committee. He has proved that he has world statesmanship.

I am sure that he would like me to say that he has a real friend in the Governor. He has had tremendous help from Sir Glyn Jones and his wife. Under this Bill, Dr. Banda will become Head of State and will have supreme power, at least for four years. He will also be head of the Government. This fits in with the African idea of a chief, who is a father figure and executive head and can also face up to ceremonial occasions. Dr. Banda has always sought promotion on merit rather than on race or colour, and the Europeans and Asians have a sense of security living in Malawi State. I hope that that will continue under the Republic.

In view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister about a cut back in spending overseas, what is to be the future position of Malawi in this respect? In 1963 Malawi received about £30 million in aid of all kinds, not just from the United Kingdom but from West Germany, Canada, the United States, Israel and Nigeria. I believe that we are to give £52 million to Malawi for its Budget and £8 million for future development and that, in addition, we shall provide some technical assistance. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that there will not be a cut back in the help that has been promised to Malawi, particularly since that country has, since becoming independent, increased its trade and production very rapidly. We need an assurance tonight that Malawi's future programmes can be carried out. We want to be sure that the Republic can go ahead, because it is true to say that in the past Malawi has made excellent use of the aid it has received and that it still has a big public debt, representing a heavy burden on a small country. It has been a stable country in recent years, has given security to the people of the area and has had the strength and courage to stand on its own feet.

Malawi could be a real influence in Africa. At one time its major export was men, who had to go to either South Africa or Rhodesia to earn a living. But great strides have been made in recent years and today the Ministry of Natural Resources has about £25 million in its programmes for future development through the F.A.O. for increased exports of, for example, tea, tobacco, groundnuts and cotton. It is to be hoped that private investment will be allowed to go ahead.

I understand that when the Bill becomes law the Bill of Rights will not be included in the Republican Constitution.

I gather that in the new Constitution there will be the preamble to the sanctity of personal liberties as set out in the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. Under that, no person may be deprived of his property without the payment of fair compensation, and then only where public interest requires. I hope that the Minister will comment on this aspect, as well as refer to the pensions which might be offered to those who previously served Malawi and what conditions will be offered to those who will serve the new Republic.

My hon. Friends and I welcome the Bill. We wish Malawi good luck in the future and hope that, under the leadership of Dr. Banda, it can look forward to having a multiracial society in a secure State in Central Africa.

10.34 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth Vauxhall

It is not often that I address the House. However, this is the second time that I speak today. I do so briefly, merely because I wish to add a few remarks to those delivered by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickery ).

Three hon. Members and myself were fortunate to be in Malawi at the time of the declaration of its republican status. We were there at the request of this House, presenting a Speaker's chair to the Malawi Parliament. All hon. Members present tonight will wish to pay tribute to the Government and people of Malawi and thank them for the way in which they treated the representatives of this House.

The celebrations connected with the declaration of republican status were elaborate and remarkably well carried out. There were visitors to Blantyre and Zomba from most of the African states and, indeed, from many parts of the world. The Government of Malawi rightly thought the occasion a very important one.

The House should realise, in case hon. Members have any doubts about the matter, that the change in Malawi's status does not indicate any change in the fundamental relationship between the Government of Malawi and this country. Indeed, on all occasions—there were many occasions when we heard ministerial speeches, particularly speeches by Dr. Banda—emphasis was laid on the fact that there was a close association between the two countries, that the people of Malawi were very grateful for what had been done for them in the past by the people of the United Kingdom, and that they were most anxious to continue that relationship in the future, if possible in an even more friendly way. It was very satisfactory to find that close spirit of association between the two countries and the two Governments.

As far as we were able to judge, the President and the Government of Malawi have their feet firmly planted on the ground. They are tackling the very considerable problems confronting them in a practical way and they are doing nothing and making no gestures which might appeal to the emotions and passions of the people of Africa inside or outside Malawi. They realise that the problems are real. They are tackling them in a serious way and are not making any promises which they feel they cannot fulfil.

In particular, they are most anxious to retain the help of the Europeans who are today serving in Malawi in the Government, in the armed forces, and in the whole range of official bodies which are helping to run the country. They realise that they have not as yet got sufficiently well-trained Africans capable of doing this sort of work. They also realise that the people who are doing it—the Europeans, most of whom have lived there for some time—are doing it very well.

However, it goes rather beyond that. They want this association to continue. They want, more than anything else, Malawi to develop into a multi-racial country where Europeans and Africans will live, work and prosper together without one side being jealous of the other or one trying to oust the other. Dr. Banda emphasised on several occasions, and gave an absolute guarantee, that no European serving in Malawi in any form would be ousted by any African just because that man was an Africa. They hope that in time to come, when they have trained their own people, they will have sufficient men and women of competence to take the highest positions. They are desperately anxious that Malawi should develop into a country where there is majority government—of Africans, naturally—but where Europeans can live in comfort and prosperity and bring up their families as happily as if they were living in Europe. That is the ambition of Dr. Banda and the whole of his Government.

It is obvious to everyone in the House that Malawi is desperately poor. It is probably the poorest country in Africa. It cannot survive on its own resources for many years to come. About 40 per cent. of the budget comes in the form of aid from this country. The Malawi Government and Dr. Banda are exceedingly grateful for the help which this country and other European countries are giving. Dr. Banda acknowledges his gratitude on every possible occasion.

The problem is whether the help which has been given up to now and which is paying for the practical schemes of development in agriculture and in a variety of matters will continue and, if possible, increase. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able to allay our fears and give us an assurance that the financial and technical help we are giving to Malawi now will not be adversely affected by the restrictions which the Government have had to impose as a result of the sterling problems. I imagine that it will not be. I very much hope that help will continue as before. It would be a grave disappointment to the people of Malawi if it were in any way restricted.

It is terribly important that in this part of Africa there should be one government at least which is wholeheartedly friendly with this country and which wants to do its best to maintain and improve that association. So I hope that we shall be told that there will be no interference with the help we are giving to the Malawi Government. From their past record and the enormous efforts which they are making the country deserves every success in future. I am sure that it is the wish of the whole House that it will achieve that success.

10.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Vaughan-Morgan Mr John Vaughan-Morgan , Reigate

Like the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), I have recently been on a delegation to Malawi. I welcome as he did the opportunity to express some of our gratitude to our hosts in Malawi for the hospitality which they showed us.

I would never have believed it possible that I could find it in my heart to go to Africa and rejoice in a country changing its status from a monarchy to a republic, but I was converted on this occasion. I cannot help adding to what the right hon. Member said a reminder that on almost every occasion when we drank the health of the new President of the Republic it was coupled as soon as possible with a toast to Her Majesty the Queen as head of the Commonwealth. Sometimes it was a little hard to realise that there had been very much of a change in status.

It was the first visit I paid to the country for more than 10 years. Despite all the natural worries about the economy of this not very viable State, I should like to put on record that during the last 10 years, including the years spent under the Federation, there has been remarkable progress in Malawi. The really outstanding feature of the country today is the relationship between the races, not only between Africans and Europeans, but between Africans and the other minority, Indians, who should not be forgotten in the multiracial complex which has arisen in Africa. To be in Malawi and then in Rhodesia or Zambia one begins to realise that here is one country where they seem to have found the answer to multiracial problems. There is a measure of good will towards each other on the part of the races which is unexampled anywhere else.

One or two small incidents brought this home to me. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall will remember that at the opening of the Assembly we saw a number of Europeans taking the oath of loyalty as citizens of the Republic of Malawi. These were the members whom the new President had nominated to represent various interests, Europeans in particular. It was quite remarkable that among those citizens swearing allegiance was Mr. Michael Blackwood, for many years an opponent of Dr. Banda politically who represented in Malawi Sir Roy Welenski's party and Government. There was also the son of Sir Malcolm Barrow who at one time was Deputy Prime Minister of the Federation. The lesson of it all was that Dr. Banda has shown tolerance towards his former opponents, a tolerance which has been reciprocated by them in the same spirit showing that they wish to build up the future of the country with him. It is with some faith in the future that we wish this Bill well tonight.

10.45 p.m.

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Cheltenham

I should not like this occasion to pass without adding a few words to what has been said on both sides of the House about Malawi. It is a striking fact that three territories are to reach full independence or become republics this week. I do not think that any other Chamber in the world, nor, indeed, possibly this one, will have debated three Bills of this kind in one week.

The Bill, which, of course, we welcome, is a formality which adjusts our laws to the actuality of the change which has already taken place in Malawi. It is also worth pointing out again that it is in no way derogatory to the Crown, as right hon. and hon. Members have pointed out. Dr. Banda has already been quoted as saying that when Malawi was a monarchy her ties of friendship with Britain were cemented and strengthened. I agree also with those who say that, since 1945, there has been a number of instances where it might have been better if a country had gone at once from dependence into republican status because I believe—though not in the case of Malawi—there has in some cases been a certain misunderstanding before and when the time came for republican status.

I should like to wish god-speed to Malawi, having had something to do with the country in the ten years after the war. I first went there in 1947 as Chairman of the Joint East and Central African Board, with great assistance from Mr. Arthur Creech Jones, who, I am sure, will be delighted with the events taking place here today. I worked there for one of the original tea producing companies, at a time when, just after the war, as the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) will remember, one of the great problems was to get production going of primary products all over the world in view of the world shortage.

Nyasaland, as it then was, is one of the pleasantest parts of Africa, and I have been lucky enough in the last 30 years to have seen most, if not all, parts of the continent at one time or another. The people of Malawi are some of the friendliest I have ever met in Africa.

They are, indeed, quite experienced because, although their country is rather tucked away in a corner, they probably travel as much as anyone in Africa not only to Rhodesia, but to South Africa and elsewhere, and most of them return home. if it is not sophistication they enjoy, it is an experience which I believe will be helpful to them in developing their own country.

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) in paying tribute to Sir Glyn Jones and to all our countrymen and also to the Indians I have encountered in my commercial work who have helped and who are still helping Malawi to progress. It is also worth saying that this was the country in which Livingstone first preached his doctrine of "Christianity and Commerce". I believe that these two, hand in hand, can still do a lot for the future of Malawi, which, poor as it is, has a potential greater than that of some other African countries which have been developed somewhat earlier.

I should also like to say a word of good will to Dr. Banda, the first man from his country to qualify as a doctor and with whom I have had very friendly personal relations since I first met him here in 1950. We did not always agree about the political future when I was at the Commonwealth Relations Department, especially about Central African Federation which, as far as I am concerned, was a genuine attempt to build a multi-racial or non-racial superstructure in the territories of Central Africa. I am certain that one day, as we are finding here vis-a-vis Europe, Malawi will be, as an independent republic, part of a bigger economic and defence grouping in East and Central and Southern Africa.

I am certain that when that time comes—I hope it may come sooner rather than later in circumstances which Dr. Banda can approve—Dr. Banda can play a very considerable part in facilitating future co-operation. As he has shown in the course of his work in the last few years, he has set a first-class example as a real pioneer of racial co-operation in Central Africa. I wish him good fortune—I am sure that many of his former patients in Kilburn will do the same—as the first President of a country in which he has always set such a fine example of friendly and constructive co-operation.

10.50 p.m.

Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking

I join other hon. Members on both sides in paying tribute to the Government of Dr. Banda and their friendliness and wishing the new Republic, which came into being on 6th July, all good fortune in the future.

I was fortunate in being one of the four who formed a delegation from this House, under the leadership of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), to present a Chair to the Parliament of the Republic of Malawi. We all greatly enjoyed our experience there. We were all sad that we had to return so soon. We were in the process of establishing very firm friendships with a wide range of people in Malawi, not only the people of Malawi but the people who had settled there from India and the people who had come from this country to work there, some of whom had already taken up Malawi citizenship. It was one of the most delightful features of our visit to see the interplay of opinions and discussion between the various groups who were in the country and were working together with their ideas, industry and initiative to develop the country economically.

We met a tremendous welcome there. We met a warm-hearted people who were very independent and individualistic in their views. This was one of the reasons why we found it very easy to communicate with them. I think I would not be telling secrets out of school if I said that our discussion ranged through the evening and very late into the next morning that is, the morning that comes before the dawn. We had great pleasure in this. I hope we did not exhaust our hosts; they nearly exhausted us. Our enjoyment was only partly due to the great hospitality of the Government and the boundless kindness of the various hosts who put us up. At bottom it was the friendliness of the people themselves that caught all our imaginations.

The future economic development of Malawi seemed to be a subject of interest to everybody with whom we were able to communicate. It was the main topic of conversation whether we were talking to our own countrymen serving there or Malawi people or Indians, whether rather young Malawi Ministers or some of their older leaders. The same thing was the burden of discussion: How can we get our country forward more quickly? Always—here I agree greatly with the statement made by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall—we got the impression of a country whose leaders had their feet firmly on the ground and were practical in their approach to the country's problems. This is not unnatural, for these people have had to make money go a very long way. The average income per head is now £13 a year—the lowest income anywhere in Africa that I am aware of.

This tends to give us the impression of a people overcome by their straitened circumstances. On the contrary, they were self-reliant and determined. These qualities have been recognised in neighbouring countries, where the Malawis have also established a reputation for initiative, resourcefulness, and industry. These qualities are being drawn into effective work by the most robust leadership of their president, Dr. Banda.

It is fortunate that there was this period between independence and the setting up of the Republic, because it made it possible for Dr. Banda's great friend and trusted colleague, the Governor-General, Sir Glyn Jones, to go on playing a dual role in getting a really effective effort from all sections of the community, focused on the development of Malawi. It was largely due to the leadership of these two men, that harmony in race relations in Malawi has been so successfully achieved and intensified during the last four years. They have set a fine example and were greatly supported throughout the various communities to which they made an appeal. This is not just a matter of leadership—it is a response to leadership, which has been very wide in Malawi.

Here we ought to pay tribute to those who went before in the administration of Malawi and the tradition that they built up of close relations with the people —good human relations. Far beyond that was the important foundation stone —the efforts of the earliest missionaries. Theirs was one of the greatest contributions to the present strength of Malawi. It gave people confidence in the goodwill of strangers, and that confidence— although there have been shadows across it—is strong today under Dr. Banda's leadership. I would like to pay a tribute to the early work done by those missionaries and the continuance of that work now, chiefly in education.

We were able to travel widely in Malawi and we saw the growth of industry round Blantyre, the capital. We saw agriculture, in some areas highly organised and on a modern scale, and in others at its most rudimentary. When we talked with people we learned the facts of the agricultural potential of that great country.. with mountains, lakes and great stretches of fertile soil, whose surface has only been scratched.

There is a great potential for agricultural development. Dr. Banda and the able team of young men whom he has gathered round him have set their eyes on agriculture, and modern techniques in agriculture as the keystone of the future prosperity of their country. This country has a helpful role to play within the area of the developing countries. We have a Commonwealth Development Corporation, which has pioneered work in the organisation of peasant agriculture combined with modern capital, management, and techniques. This could be an Increasing contribution to agricultural prosperity in Malawi.

I hope that when she intervenes in the debate the hon. Lady will tell us that the range of aid from this country to Malawi will not be cut owing to our own difficulties at this time, and that within that aid every encouragement will be given to the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which is having such outstanding successes in neighbouring parts of Africa in dealing with similar problems of bringing peasant farmers into active collaboration with good management, capital investment and modern facilities. This is the route of speedy agricultural advance. Through this organisation, Britain has made some of the most important advances in this respect, and I hope that Malawi will provide, as Kenya is doing at the moment, another opportunity for the organisation to show the way to the world outside.

Any aid that we give to Malawi will be carefully used. There is no evidence of waste there. I went over schools and visited a number of organisations. I have been over a great number in Africa, but I have seldom seen small amounts of money put to better use. The money that the British taxpayer is allocating through the Government to support Malawi is being properly spent by people who understand the value of money and are determined that it shall not be wasted, because the needs of their people are so great.

Each of the four of us who went there can give that assurance. We found no waste, and there was determination that corruption should not cut across the proper use of money, both internally generated and that received from outside. My main hope is that the robust, vigorous and daring leadership of Dr. Banda, and the help that he is receiving from a talented group of young men that he has gathered about him, will continue to catch the imagination of the people of Malawi. That depends on their keeping a sense of momentum in the economy.

Above all, I hope that in his efforts to lead fast Dr. Banda is able to give those young men a real sense of participation in decision making, because if he does their leadership, plus the natural resources of the country, the advances that have been made in education and the industriousness of the people, will well repay any help that this country can give by way of aid or technical assistance. I hope that when the hon. Lady intervenes she will give us reassurances about this.

11.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

I had not intended to intervene in the debate, but a number of remarks from hon. Members opposite have provoked me into doing so. I have three reasons for wanting to intervene. First, like the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), I have practical experience of working in Africa, and he and I served in the same part of Africa. That gives me an added interest in the debate.

Secondly, it would not be appropriate if all the congratulatory speeches going out from the House were made by the Opposition. Some, at least, of my hon. Friends should take an interest in this member of the Commonwealth.

My third reason for intervening is that I felt that the House was just about to be drowned in a gallon of smugness and self-congratulation. All hon. Members, and possibly even the Monday Club, wish the Government and people of Malawi well and hope that Malawi will be happy and prosperous in its newly constituted status. Indeed, many of us would have some harsh things to say if there were any suggestion that the economic aid to that country should ever be cut down.

Something else needs to be said, however, by way of atonement for the past. It is all very well hon. Members. opposite singing the praises of Dr. Banda now, but it did not inhibit them from locking him up a few years ago as a political prisoner. It did not inhibit them either from violating their function as a protector when, as the Government, they forced the country into an alien Federation and nearly denied its people the birthright that was theirs.

Dr. Livingstone has been mentioned. It must be remembered that the first missionaries went to that part of Africa to protect the peoples there from enslavement. In those days, it was enslavement from the Arabs and from the incursions of the East. We in this country, in our folly, nearly consigned it to the same kind of status as that under which the unfortunate African peoples of Rhodesia and South Africa are now condemned to live. It may be said that that belongs to the past. but the fact remains, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government once said, that the British are extremely good at forgiving those whom they have wronged.

I wish the country well. I only wish that some of the hon. Members who are so fond of pointing out Dr. Banda's excellent qualities—and he has many excellent qualities—would, perhaps, be a little more discriminating in their comments. I do not like dictatorship of either the Right or the Left, but I sometimes think that if the policies that Dr. Banda had been pursuing had the same ideological tint as those of Dr. Nkrumah, the amount of praise would not have been so great.

I cannot be quite unqualified in my remarks of praise. I seem to recall a number of arbitrary actions that have been committed in that country. We must, however, not be complacent, and we must not be self-righteous about this. These countries must work out their destination. When the hon. Member for Dorking reminds us that the per capita income of the country is, even now, no more than £13 a year, I as a former colonial administrator hang my head in shame that after all our years of protection, after all the years we had to work, that is all we can say at the end.

With all my heart I wish the country well. I beg my hon. Friend the Minister of State, when she replies, to have no thought whatever of cutting back the economic assistance. I only hope that we shall go on for many years trying to help this country to make up for the opportunities that were missed in the past.

11.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr Henry Brewis Mr Henry Brewis , Galloway

It is appropriate that a Scottish Member of Parliament should express good wishes to Malawi on behalf of Scotland. Scotland has a very long connection with the country, starting with Dr. Livingstone, who rediscovered the country, although it was known to be there, and going down to Dr. Banda who is, of course, an elder of the Church of Scotland. As other hon. Members have said, the Church of Scotland has made a great contribution in that country, both to the abolition of slavery and to education and to medicine, and so, indeed, have Scottish firms in industries such as tea planting.

I think, too, that all hon. Members will be glad that Malawi is remaining a member of the Commonwealth. Malawi has always been particularly active in Commonwealth Parliamentary Association affairs and any hon. Members like myself who have been to the country have had a great welcome from the Ministers of the Malawi Government, and particularly from the Speaker of the Malawi Assembly.

Since independence, Malawi has had a very testing time. One has only to mention the neighbours of the country —Tanzania, Mozambique, Rhodesia and Zambia—to realise what a realistic path Dr. Banda has trod since July, 1964, when his country became independent. Indeed, one can say that Malawi is now politically standing on her own feet, keeping realistically in mind that she needs good relations with South Africa and Rhodesia for work for her people, and also with Mozambique for cornmunications with the outside world for her trade.

It is remarkable, too, that there was so complete and abject a failure as there was by Mr. Chiume and Mr. Chipembere when they tried to put forward their pro-Chinese policies for Malawi, their intervention being a complete flop in Malawi. There is no doubt that Dr. Banda's stock is very high among the Europeans in that country.

As the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee), who has now left the Chamber, said, there is a great deal of leeway to make up in Malawi. At the time of federation, industry did tend to go to Rhodesia rather than Nyasaland, as it then was, and because of the common social services and police rather high standards were raised for the resources of Malawi to keep up. Therefore, I hope that our aid will continue on an undiminished scale. It is remarkable that between 1891, when the Protectorate was first formed, and 1964 only 28 Africans received higher education, and only two qualified in medicine, so that the President of Malawi, Dr. Banda, in fact forms half of the qualified medical practitioners in the entire country. But there are at the moment no fewer than 500 Malawians in higher education.

We can be quite sure that any money we spend in this country will be spent very wisely, particularly through the Malawi Development Board, which is sensibly concentrating on projects which will help agriculture and primary industries in the country and also in developing hydro-electric power, which is so important in a country of this sort, where coal has to be imported. While they have got the possibility of hydro-electric power, as we in Scotland have, of course, as we in Scotland know, it is extremely expensive. Therefore, I hope that we will continue our aid. I thoroughly agree with the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) that the aid we give will be spent wisely, and I hope we continue aid to her.

11.13 p.m.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Smethwick

I should like to intrude on the time of the House for a few moments because I think I must be one of the few Members of the House who have actually spent some years living in Malawi, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the great company of saints, if I may say so, of the Scots missionary community in what was still Nyasaland. My father and mother spent a great part of their lives devoting their energies and interests to the intellectual and spiritual improvement of the people of Malawi, and provided a benefit from which those people are still reaping a great deal. It is not an accident, I think, that the Africans of Malawi speak better English—as we Scots speak better English than the English do—than the Africans of Rhodesia and the Africans of Zambia.

I was also fortunate enough, by one of those strange historical accidents which happen, to have known Dr. Banda as a student in Edinburgh. He was then, if I may say so, and the House may read what it likes into it, a somewhat different man from the one we met when we returned to Malawi recently. [An HON. MEMBER: "We all change.") We all change as the years pass, some for the worse—

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Smethwick

—and some for the better.

I was delighted that the House gave me the privilege to join the delegation which presented the Speaker's Chair to the Parliament in Malawi, and I have rarely spent a week of my life so happy as that—not only the welcome and the friendliness of the Africans of Malawi, but also the extraordinarily good comradeship of the three gentlemen I travelled with. I shall long remember as one of my warmest memories the extraordinary look of delight that spread across the genial features of the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) when my fairly ample frame was enclosed in the much more ample grasp of my old nanny at Karonga, the place where I was brought up. It was a very warm welcome. I was given the traditional eggs, which we turned into an omelet that night in the Government guest house. It is one of the many very pleasant memories which I brought back from our visit.

I am not quite so sanguine as some other hon. Members about the prospect of future developments in Malawi. Without doubt, at the moment Malawi is—and I use the phrase advisedly—enjoying the benefits of benevolent dictatorship. I spent rather more time than the other members of the delegation with the younger intellectuals and university students in Blantyre. There is a fair amount of worry about the future development of Malawi. They see a situation in which a country with a rather unviable economy is being run very strongly and determinedly by one man and by a complaisant Parliament. They are intelligent and educated people, and they do not see an immediate prospect of playing much part in the development of Malawi. I can only hope that they get the opportunity.

The House should not dismiss too easily the contributions that other people who are at the moment exiles from Malawi may play in the future development of the country. The gentlemen who have been dismissed or have withdrawn from the frontiers, Mr. Chipembere, Mr. Chiume and Mr. Chisiza, have some contribution to make. Do not let us misunderstand that. They are going to play a part in the future of the country.

One can only hope that the President, who is a wise man, somehow or other will heal the wounds that have disturbed the political development of the country since independence.

I greet the appearance of the Republic of Malawi with delight, as I am a firm believer in the principle that people should be able to choose the way they wish to conduct their own affairs and make whatever mistakes they want to make in the process. I pray that there are not many of these mistakes, and I wish Malawi godspeed and great success in handling her many problems.

11.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

On behalf of my Liberal colleagues, may I follow the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) and extend our good wishes to Malawi as this Bill passes through the House.

If I may say so, the hon. Member for Smethwick and the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) were unduly modest about the contribution which Scotland has made to the country. It is one of the many countries of the Scottish empire which we have seen coming to independence in recent times.

I was glad that the hon. Member for Smethwick reminded the House that the President of the Republic is one of the many distinguished former students of the University of Edinburgh. I was pleased, too, to hear the hon. Member for Galloway remind the House, quite rightly, of the contribution of the Church of Scotland and that it was the very experience and knowledge of the Church of Scotland in former Nyasaland which occasioned the very strong stand that the Church's General Assembly took over the question of opposition to enforced federation in that part of the world.

The hon. Member for Smethwick has referred to possible mistakes on the part of independent Malawi. However, there is no country which has managed to progress to independence and mature government and not made mistakes. In wishing the country well, naturally we hope that those mistakes will be ironed out. We hope that the people of Malawi will continue in the successful pattern that they have shown already of multiracial co-operation and success towards building up a really satisfactory and co-operative economy.

11.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

In the speeches which we have heard so far, there has been notable omission which needs remedying. We want to thank the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) for the fact that we are having this debate at all.

The matter came forward on Friday afternoon at 4 o'clock with an attempt to get the Bill through on the nod. Had it not been for my hon. Friend—and while detracting nothing from her efforts by saying that there are one or two other hon. Members who might have made the same effort—we should not have had this interesting debate, because the Second Reading would have gone through on the nod. I am sure, therefore, that I am expressing the gratitude of the House in thanking my hon. Friend for making the point that she did on Friday.

Despite some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) —[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] The hon. Member left rather rapidly after his oration. As I was saying, despite some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, I have no wish to introduce a controversial political note into the debate, but I think that for the sake of the whole House we ought to register the fact that, though it is not for me to suggest how the Government should run their business, there is an element of discourtesy, which I ask the hon. Lady to dispel for the sake of the dignity of the House and Malawi, that this Bill is brought forward retrospectively three weeks after the occasion has come into effect—[Interruption.] I am not making just a party point. The Bill refers to 6th July. Nearly every speech has been in favour of the Bill, but I do not think that it is courteous to the House, to the President of Malawi, or to Malawi, that we should have to indulge in retrospective legislation, even in a formal matter like acknowledging republic status. I know of no precedent for introducing a Bill of this sort nearly three weeks after the event has taken place.

I think that an apology, or at least an explanation, is due from the Government as to how it comes about that three weeks later we are doing something which has been celebrated in Malawi.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

Is the hon. Gentleman under the impression that what we are doing in this Bill is granting Malawi republic status?

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

On the contrary. The hon. Lady has missed the point. I think she will find that I am right in saying that there is no precedent for debating a Measure late like this which does nothing more than endorse something which has taken place. It is a discourtesy to Malawi and to the House that we are discussing this Measure three weeks after the event has taken place.

This cannot be due to a congestion of the Parliamentary timetable, because this Measure could have been discussed some time ago. If the hon. Lady reads the Bill she will see that it says: This section shall be deemed to have had effect from 6th July 1966. I suggest that it would have been better if we had discussed it before then, and I would have made this comment whichever Government had been in power.

What is the present aid position? I hope that the Minister will make it clear whether the aid situation has been affected, or will be affected, by the measures announced to the House last Wednesday. We are entitled to know whether there will be any interference not only with the aid already granted, but with the aid planned, for Malawi. I say no more, because it is in terms of an inquiry.

We are here seeing the transfer of yet another of Her Majesty's former dominions from a monarchy to a republic. I do not think that anyone in this House does not regret that this pattern has extended as far as it has in Africa and Asia, but I realise that this is part of the pattern today, and no useful purpose is served in being nostalgic about it. There may be those who feel that if, much earlier, a different attitude had been taken, when the move was undertaken from a former dependency to independent status, whether the term "Governor-General" was the best word to move to from "Governor", perhaps things might have been different. But today we have to live with the fact that with few exceptions all over the Afro-Asian world members of the British Commonwealth are transferring to republics. Although we can be forgiven if we regret this state of affairs it would be altogether wrong if, in expressing this purely formal regret, we were to be taken as wishing it to influence our remaining Commonwealth ties.

I want to pay tribute to Dr. Banda. I have known him for a long time. One of the most surprising things about the development of the British Commonwealth in Africa has been that it is precisely those gentlemen about whose political futures we have had the most serious doubts who have turned out to be the best bets for the assurance of continued friendship with this country. I admit having had doubts in the past as to whether things would turn out this way, but by common assent Dr. Banda has turned out to be one of the real statesmen—as opposed just to one of the political leaders—in Africa.

He has shown himself to be preeminently a realist. Some people have spoken of being worried about his authoritarian ambitions. We in this House must be careful about trying to export our ideas of Government to other parts of the world. We should be very grateful when we have leaders in these countries who have had no great tradition of democratic rule under us but have long been subjected to our paternalism and have then had to move to a form of Government of their own. Dr. Banda is a very good example of one who has achieved a substantial measure of sensible and sane realism in a Continent which is undergoing considerable troubles. He is giving a lead which others would be well advised to follow.

The hon. Member for Reading has now returned to the Chamber. I was not sure whether he was pro or anti the present Government of Malawi. If he had made his contribution a little longer, or had stayed for one or two subsequent speeches, we might have had a clearer idea. He talked about atoning for the past. As far as I know Dr. Banda's feelings of friendship for this country and its leaders do not extend to one political party. If he were here tonight I am sure that he would say that his feelings of appreciation for the past as well as the present relationships between Malawi and this country extends to all political parties and all Governments.

Only one remark is being made by various hon. Members in terms of the present attitude of Malawi in the great racial problem that faces the world today which I venture to query, and that is the term that has been used over and over again"multiracial". I believe that Malawi is doing something in Africa which is rather different from the mere production of a multiracial society; I believe that it is trying to produce a genuinely nonracial society. This is a very important difference. Far from trying to balance one race against another in the allocation of power, privilege or influence, Dr. Banda is genuinely trying to produce a community which others, both white and non-white, should form—a community in which race plays no part. For this reason above all, whatever other feelings we may have about Malawi, we wish this country especially well. We have no objection to the new Constitution in its relation to this country. I think everyone will agree that it carries with it the good wishes of Britain in every sense.

11.30 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

Before expressing my agreement with most of what has been said, I would comment first on the acrimonious tone in which the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) began. He will correct me if I am wrong, no doubt, but I cannot remember whether he was here at four o'clock on the Friday that his hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) began the Second Reading debate on the Bill—

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

I hate to interrupt the charming hon. Lady so early. Not only was I here, but I was here from 11 o'clock to four o'clock, and nearly missed my 4.30 train to Torquay.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

I asked to be corrected if I was wrong, because I was in much the same position. The hon. Gentleman should therefore recollect that if the previous debate had been as short as it might have been, we could have given as much time to the Bill that Friday as we have been able to give today. I was very happy that the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport gave us the opportunity to have full discussion of the Bill on a later occasion rather than trying to get it through "on the nod" with no debate.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would therefore be kind enough to withdraw any, possibly unintentional, imputation that we have been trying to get the Bill "on the nod"—

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

When my hon. Friend rose to speak, I, as the hon. Member on this side responsible for the conduct of the Bill, had received no indication of the hon. Lady's happiness that the Bill should go through other than "on the nod".

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

Let us not proceed much longer with this. The hon. Gentleman will know that, at half a minute past four, the procedure of the House makes it difficult for hon. Members on either side of the House to express their views other than with a word behind the Speaker's Chair.

I fully agree with and appreciate so much which has been said in welcoming the Second Reading of the Bill. On the hon. Lady's point about the Governor-General; for those who, like the Parliamentary deputation and myself, were in Malawi during Republic Week, one of the most moving moments was the moment of the departure of the Governor-General, because of the indications of the tremendous affection in which he had been regarded by Dr. Banda, by the Government and by the people of Malawi. Sir Glyn and Lady Jones can leave Malawi knowing that rarely can such work as they have both done been so completely appreciated.

Something has been said about the present aid which Her Majesty's Government are giving Malawi. At the moment, we provide budgetary aid to Malawi to a maximum of £5.3 million this year, and shall be doing the same for the next two years. In the same three-year period—that is to say, in the next three years—Britain has promised Malawi an interest-free loan for general development of £7 million and a grant of £1 million for capital expenditure on the new Malawi University. Those who have recently seen the rapid rate of development of the university and the way it is beginning to set up its new departments and recruit its staff—it has now completed its first year of having students and will be growing rapidly in the next two or three years —will be glad that this is one of the development items to which the Government are making a substantial grant. We have also promised loans totalling £2.75 million under the Overseas Service Aid Scheme, in addition to which we give substantial technical assistance.

As hon. Members know, the overall aid programme has to suffer some cuts because of the measures announced to meet our economic situation. At the moment the consequences of this are being studied and it would be premature for me to make any statement now about any individual country. However, this must not—and I emphasise this point—in the least be taken as implying that we are specifically contemplating any cuts now in respect of Malawi, but clearly one cannot consider this in isolation from other countries. Indeed, we are tremendously concerned that the developing countries should continue to be able to raise their living standards. However, I regret that I cannot tonight give a final reply covering the whole of the cuts that will be necessary in overseas aid.

The hon. Member for Devonport raised the question of the Bill of Rights. She rightly pointed out that provision has been made by the Republic of Malawi to recognise personal liberties via the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. All I need do is to confirm that the hon. Lady's statement of the position was accurate. The Malawi Government considered, first, that the laws in Malawi were sufficient to protect individuals; secondly, that, as a member of the United Nations, Malawi had publicly guaranteed its respect for the comprehensive kind of personal liberties enshrined in the Charter of Human Rights; and thirdly, that formal guarantees in a Bill of Rights would tend to invite conflict between the Executive and the judiciary in this respect. As I understand the position, the Government of Malawi decided that it was best to have its protection for personal liberties as set out in the U.N. Charter of Human Rights.

A number of points have been made about the future development of Malawi under the leadership of Dr. Banda. I endorse everything that has been said about the tremendous respect and affection in which Dr. Banda is held by his people. Several hon. Members have referred to the past and indeed there were tremendous difficulties, but Dr. Banda has survived them all and has come through the struggles for leadership. As the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) and the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) pointed out, much of the past, and the present, of Malawi is bound up with Scotland. Indeed, I was happy when in Malawi to be able to convey to Dr. Banda the good wishes not only of Her Majesty's Government but of Blantyre in Scotland, which is only a mile or so from my constituency.

We have in Malawi—although it is by no means the only one in Commonwealth Africa which is doing this—a State which is seeking to establish a non-racial society. It has a long way to go because it still must face the process of Africanisation of those who are in charge of the professional affairs of the country, and that applies to several aspects of its administration. It is a long process, but what matters is not the length of time it takes but the clear intention that, whatever the future may hold, there shall be equality and respect among Europeans, Indians and Africans—something on which so much of the future of Africa depends and which is so much in the thoughts of hon. Members in relation to current events in that part of the world.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) considered the past and the present and rightly said that at present in Malawi there is a one-party State, as is the position in other African countries. Everyone in the House now recognises that there are many aspects of political development in Africa in respect of which we must hope that the Africans will find their own way forward. We must recognise that we are not able, nor would it be reasonable, to seek to impose upon African development precisely the same course of parliamentary historical development that we have been lucky enough to have in this country over a period of hundreds of years.

To say that one is at this moment in a one-party system in Africa is also to say that one is not necessarily precluding the capability and the desire to move on to a perhaps more sophisticated, more evolved, form of democracy. Nor is it to say that in their own way they are not for themselves working out a system of democracy that perhaps, for them, can be more appropriate. Therefore, we cannot be arrogant in our comments on whatever stage of political development we find.

In Malawi what matters, as has been stressed tonight, is that there are friendship and warmth and, above all, emotional participation in concern about their own country.

I am glad that the House has given such a warm welcome to the Bill. It is a retrospective Bill. This is not intended as any discourtesy. It is simply that what we are doing in the Bill is to ensure that the laws of the United Kingdom will apply in relation to Malawi under its republican status as they applied to it before it achieved its republican status. I am certain that nobody in the House would not want, with those who have spoken, to convey to Dr. Banda and to the people of Malawi the warm good wishes of the whole House for the future development and prosperity of this new Republic of Malawi.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Walter Harrison.]

Committee Tomorrow.