approach. It is because that has failed, and that we are back to the division of black and white which exists everywhere else in Africa, that I regret the passing of federation, an experiment which, if it could have succeeded, would have produced a truly civilised society.
The Second Clerk Assistant at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker from the remainder of this day's Sitting.
Whereupon Sir WILLIAM ANSTRUTHER-GRAY, THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, took the Chair as DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.
- 7.59 p.m.
Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North) We have listened with interest to the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett). It seems to me that his clear argument about the futility of arranging shot-gun political marriages is, when taken to its logical conclusion, the justification for dismemberment of the Federation. With that I agree.
I hope that the House will forgive a little levity, but I thought it rather foolhardy of the hon. Member to refer to a case which he was sure would have brought down any Government in this country, whatever its complexion. The precedents of recent years show that that was a rather foolhardy statement. But I take the point.
The First Secretary of State is faced with an enormously complicated task which he is tackling with considerable skill. I congratulate him, as have hon. Members on both sides, on the progress he has made to date. One must be very careful, in congratulating him, in no way to add to his embarrassments, but I think, without indulging in unduly flamboyant language, that he is the best First Secretary of State we have. His power to bring together dissident groups in discussion may bode well for the future of his own party.
It has been suggested that this is a melancholy occasion. Some of us who have taken part in many of these debates on the Federation and who have had the privilege to go out there have at least experienced tonight an element of realism which has been lacking in the past. I have always taken the view that the Federation was an organisation which was doomed to failure from the moment it was founded. Not only was it then apparent to many of us, but it was subsequently confirmed by the Monckton Report in which it was said that the hatred which the Northern Territories felt for the Federation"was widespread, pathological and sincere".
I do not want to go too much into history, but it is necessary to get the record right not only for the Government's part but for the Labour Government's part. I was opposing the idea of Federation and the steps then being taken to implement it when there was a Labour Government. This was something which I put to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley). The evidence of African opposition to federation was overwhelming when the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) went out to the Federation in August and September, 1961.
In Nyasaland, the right hon. Member for Llanelly was told on 1st September by the African Protectorate Council, which was an advisory body, that it was wholeheartedly opposed to federation. Initially, it refused to send any delegates to the Victoria Falls conference and only relunctantly agreed at the very last moment to send three.
On 28th August, at Lilongwe, the Nyasaland African Congress expressed its opposition and complete refusal to go to Victoria Falls. The same opposition was found in Northern Rhodesia from the Chiefs of the Eastern Provinces on 3rd September at Fort Jameson; the Northern Rhodesian Trade Union Congress in its memorandum; the 150 chiefs on 18th August, from Mashonaland, and the African Rhodesia National Congress from Southern Rhodesia.
It is true to say that before that conference met those responsible for the affairs of this country had received overwhelming evidence of African opposition. It was against that background that the Victoria Falls Conference took