HC Deb 07 February 1955 vol 536 cc1553-88

3.33 p.m.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 21, after "Council" to insert: (the Parliament and Government of the Commonwealth of Australia having stated that they will give to the inhabitants of the Cocos or Keeling Islands all those same rights which those inhabitants enjoy as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies)".

The Chairman

I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we took the Amendment to the Preamble, line 17, at the end to add: And whereas the Parliament and Government of the Commonwealth of Australia have stated that they will give to the inhabitants of those islands all those same rights which they enjoy as citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies.

Mr. Dugdale

I agree, Sir Charles.

During the speech he made in winding-up the debate on Second Reading, the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations expressed confidence in the Australian Government and said that they would do what was right for the people of the Cocos Islands. We would agree with him, and because of that and the confidence we have in the Australian Government we feel that there can be no objection on the part of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to inserting these words in the Bill. They simply express what we all know to be a fact, that there will be no diminution in the privileges of the people of the Cocos Islands as a result of their being taken over by Australia.

If the Government have any objection to inserting these words in the Bill, then I would ask what rights they think these people will not have. Will they not have freedom of speech or freedom of association such as we would give them? Will they not have the right to move where they like without any passports inhibiting their movements? Will they be subject to pass laws? Obviously not, but will they be told to separate and live only in special parts of the country as the unfortunate inhabitants of another part of the Commonwealth are being told to do? Obviously, they will not be so directed and they will not be deprived of their rights. Therefore, I think it is only correct that we should insert this fact in the Bill.

I know it may be argued by Government supporters that an unwritten constitution is always better than a written one. I think we would agree in the case of a free people. It is certainly better in our own case, but these people are not to be free. They are to be transferred from the power of one Government to the power of another. Therefore, the position is somewhat different.

For these reasons we feel that the Government will be willing to accept this Amendment which merely puts into the Bill facts about which all of us on both sides of the Committee and the Australian Government are in general agreement. We think it would, in fact, give a charter to the people of these islands, a charter which might be useful in the case of transfers of any other islands to other parts of the Commonwealth in later years. We hope that the Government will accept this very simple and reasonable Amendment.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would heartily approve of the terminology and also of the sentiments expressed in these Amendments. I would be extremely happy to see such Amendments in the Bill, but I imagine from what we heard on Second Reading that they are designed to enable the people of the Cocos Islands to move freely, for example, into Australia. I think that is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) has in mind; but I am open to correction and I shall be only too happy to give way to the right hon. Gentleman if I am wrong on that point.

Mr. Dugdale

Yes, and the Australian Government have given assurances which are satisfactory, at least to Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Gower

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the Committee, but my recollection of the Second Reading debate is that the Australian Government undertook to consider each application with great sympathy, which is something rather different from what the right hon. Gentleman is saying now. Of course, that particular agreement was negotiated in terms by the Government to which the right hon. Gentleman belonged.

As I said, I would be delighted to see such a form of words in the Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman is being a trifle unfair to the Committee when he suggests we can demand a form of words which the Government of which he was a member did not, for some reason, negotiate. That, as I understand, would be the effect of this Clause. I should like to hear my right hon. Friend say that there would be no difficulty in having such wording in the Bill, but I imagine, from our debate on Second Reading and the past history of this problem, that we have to accept the agreement negotiated by the Government previous to this one, which is that, while these people will enjoy all the liberties and rights which they already enjoy as members of the British community, including the right to go to North Borneo and to Britain—they have those rights already—they cannot easily enjoy these additional rights.

While that may be unfortunate, it was the impression which I derived during the Second Reading, and I am sure that on reflection the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that that was the whole meaning of what was said during that debate. I think, too, he will agree that he agreed by implication or expressly with that agreement when the Government of which he was a member made it. I should like to hear my right hon. Friend say that there will be no difficulty in arranging this but from what I have heard of the history of this matter, there will be some difficulty.

In any case, I am satisfied that the people of the Cocos Islands will have no rights taken from them by this Bill. On the contrary, rights have been added, an important one being that contained in the assurance given by my right hon. Friend that the Australian Government will consider with great sympathy each application to go to an additional place. These people already have the right to go to North Borneo or to come here, but the assurance has been given that sympathetic consideration will also be given to applications to enter Australia. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has very innocently presented this Amendment as if there were no difficulty, but I imagine that there is considerable difficulty.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

Unlike the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), when the general principle involved in this Amendment was raised on Second Reading some of us felt that the assurances then given by Her Majesty's Government were by no means satisfactory. The hon. Member is trying to shelter behind an alleged agreement to which my right hon. Friend was a party. If he was a party to such agreement, I did not know, but the fact that something was agreed two or three years ago does not deprive me, when the principle is brought to my notice, of the right to record my strongest objection to that principle.

While it is true that this Bill does not take away any right which the residents or natives of the Cocos Islands at present enjoy, it goes on to give them a kind of half-right which is the subject of argument now. That half-right relates, of course, to their Australian citizenship, and that is something that we, on this side, are trying to prevent. By the Bill as it stands we shall create, or give the Australian Government the opportunity of creating, two classes of Australian citizenship. There will be the first-class citizen who can live in Australia without any difficulty and who will not be subject to any restrictions. The second-class citizen will be he to whom citizenship may be granted only at the discretion of the Australian Government, and who will be subject to such qualifications and restrictions in respect of that citizenship as the Australian Government may seek to impose. It is to that that we object.

It is true that there are perhaps only a few hundred people remaining on the island who, by remaining there now and eventually applying for Australian citizenship, will be affected by this Bill, but the principle to which we must record the strongest possible objection is the creation, within the Commonwealth, of two different grades of citizenship. That is what is happening under this Bill and why I support the Amendment. That is why, if no satisfactory reply comes from the Government, I hope that my right hon. Friend will press the matter to a Division. A most important question of principle is at stake.

Air Commodore A. V. Harvey (Macclesfield)

I wish to raise quite a narrow point. For myself, I am quite convinced that the Australian Government and people will be generous and sympathetic to the wants of the islanders. My concern—and I hope I am in order—relates to air travel. As I see it, there is only one international airline operating through the islands, and that is an Australian company. While, no doubt, aircraft of the United Kingdom or any Commonwealth country would have the right to go through—and would do so—the fact remains that the servicing, and so on, would be carried out by that Australian company.

One knows what happens when there is a monopoly. I should like an assurance that in these islands, where air passage is important to the people, airline operations will not be limited or tied to that one company, and that it will not be able to place any embargo on any Commonwealth company having facilities similar to those which it itself enjoys.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)

I am extremely disappointed by the Government's attitude to the Cocos Islands. Throughout the speeches on Second Reading the suggestion was made by the Government—and, in particular, by the Under-Secretary of State—that all we wanted was to be achieved, and that the Cocos Islanders were really to have citizenship in Australia. But, in addition to making those promises—and I think they amounted to promises—the hon. Gentleman was sheltering all the time behind the supposed agreement of right hon. Gentlemen on this side to what was being done.

I think it is plain that what right hon. Gentlemen on this side agreed to was that the Cocos Islanders should have full citizenship. Surely, those right hon. Gentlemen would be pardoned for assuming from that that citizenship meant at least the right for these people to settle in Australia, and to practise, if they wished, as doctors, barristers or whatever they chose. Perhaps none of them ever will want to do that, but the point is their right to do so.

This is a matter of principle. Although we are now considering the transfer of a very few hundred people to a country like Australia which, on the whole, has enlightened laws, at a later stage we might be considering the transfer of far more people to a Dominion which had no such enlightenment in its policy. If we agreed to this today without saying anything we should be held to have agreed to the principle of handing people over to something very much less than citizenship in the full sense of the term.

It is less than courtesy to the Committee to pretend that one large section of it has agreed to the handing over of a few hundred people in these circumstances when what, in fact, right hon. Gentlemen on this side agreed to—and if I am wrong I hope I shall be contradicted at some stage—was that full citizenship in Australia should be given to the Cocos Islanders.

Can it in any way be said that full citizenship is given to them if they are not to be given the right to go freely to Australia, to settle there and do whatever they wish in the way of earning their living? They are not, apparently, to be allowed that now as a matter of right, though I have no doubt that generous consideration will be given to them under the terms of the agreement between the Australian Government and Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.

I hope that we shall have a very full statement. Let us be under no misapprehension at all. No one on this side, as far as I am aware, agreed to the handing over of the Cocos Islanders on terms by which they would receive anything less than full citizenship in Australia. It is cowardly and, in my submission, quite wrong for the Government to pretend that they have full agreement to anything less than that from my right hon. Friends.

I support the Amendment, because it tends to clarify the position. If the Government are so satisfied that they are to get for the Cocos Islanders from the Australian Government what they say they think they will get, why do they not agree to the Amendment which makes it plain beyond a peradventure that the Cocos Islanders will get something very much more than the second-class citizenship to which, apparently, Her Majesty's present advisers have agreed?

Mr. Gower

The hon. and learned Member spoke of handing these people over to something less than citizenship. Did he also recall my hon. Friend's assurance that these people were to retain their full rights of British citizenship?

Mr. Mallalieu

Yes. I was talking about Australian citizenship.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

That is the whole point.

Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)

The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) spoke of two kinds of citizenship which might result were this Bill to pass unamended. I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether there are not, in fact, two kinds of citizenship in New Zealand and in Canada and whether we ought not to bear these difficulties in mind. We cannot expect similarity between different countries each of which has a different geography and a different history. I thought I would call attention to that point by means of this question.

Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)

The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) gave the Committee, I think unwittingly, the impression that the Cocos Islanders would benefit as a result of being transferred to the Government of Australia. I submit that under the terms of the Bill as it is, unamended, they will get no benefit at all.

What will happen is that the Cocos Islanders will exchange one benevolent Government with interests in their development for another benevolent Government which is interested in their development, and no more. It will be as though they were moving from one pleasant house with a pleasant view to another pleasant house with a pleasant view, but they will get no more than that, because, unless they are given the right to move into and about Australia in exactly the same way as any other Australian citizen, they will be denied citizenship.

Surely it is our responsibility to try to arrange the lives of the colonial peoples in such a way that we improve their lives and increase their advantages. It is because this Bill does not do that, that I suggest that the Government ought to accept this Amendment. In what I am saying I am not criticising the Australian Government for their relations with native people. They will make mistakes, in the same way as we have made mistakes and, no doubt, will continue to do so, but I recognise that they approach this problem in a spirit of good will.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in the very reasonable speech that he made in reply to the Second Reading debate last week, made it clear that what we were arguing about—and certainly what I was arguing about—was a point of principle and not a point of substance. I agree that the future happiness of the Cocos Islanders is a minute drop in a great ocean of humanity, but this is a really important matter of principle.

The argument has been stated over and over again that the Australians are in a difficulty. I heard the Australian Prime Minister say on television the other day that the "White Australia" policy was supported by both parties in that country. It is argued that we would be putting the Australians in a difficult position if we were to insist on this Amendment, because the Australian Government would have no support at home for granting the Cocos Islanders complete citizenship, by reason of their colour. But I would point out that there is an open door in Australia, and that there is a very strong feeling in that country that a restrictionist, exclusive White Australia policy is very bad for Australia. I think it would be very bad for the Cocos Islanders. It is a bad thing to have a colour bar anywhere. I advance this argument in support of this Amendment and, if I may be so impertinent, in the interests of Australia and her people also.

I commend to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the annual Social Justice Statement made by the archbishops and bishops of Australia, responsible and respected persons, in September, 1951. In that document they say: Is there any valid moral reason why we should strive for the survival of Australia as a nation predominantly European? The answer to this question is all-important. The moral justification of Australia's survival will not simply be found in Australia's own achievement. This achievement, great in many respects, has been marred in others by manifestations of human frailty of which we can hardly be proud. … Nor will the necessary justification be found in any false assumption of racial superiority which too often underlies, the so-called White Australia Policy. Here the leaders of religious thought in Australia expressed the fears which my hon. Friends expressed last week and are expressing again today. On the last occasion I said that this was an affront to coloured peoples all over the world. I know the difficulty in which the Government find themselves. I know that they have gone a long way to get the Australian Government to agree to view with reasonable sympathy any application by any Cocos Islanders who want to go to Australia, and I know, too, that the Australian Government have gone a long way to meet the wishes of Her Majesty's Government.

This Amendment asks that we should go just one step further in ensuring that we add to the rights, privileges and happiness of the Cocos Islanders in this respect because it is our responsibility.

Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)

I think that all hon. Members will agree with what the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) has said about the colour bar. In my view, no reasonable person condemns anyone for the colour of his skin.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

A publican in Coventry seems to take a different view.

Mr. Craddock

It is a long way from Coventry to the Cocos Islands, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, with all his experience in this place, realises that if I were to go into a dissertation on what Coventry thinks, I would be out of order on this Amendment.

As I said, I think everyone agrees that it would be wrong to condemn any person for the colour of his skin, and, as far as I am aware, that is the general view in Australia, too. What I surmise is the Government's difficulty in accepting this Amendment is that the terms of this arrangement have already been agreed with the Australian authorities, and, indeed, they were agreed by the late Government. Therefore, I think it is rather difficult at this late stage for any change such as is suggested to be made now. It seems strange that such a suggestion should come so forcibly from hon. Members opposite who, in fact, agreed to the terms of the transfer.

In answer to what the hon. Member for Deptford has said about the statement of the Church authorities in Australia, I should have thought that the best course would be to let this Bill go through as it stands, and let the agitation, if any, come from the Australians if any of the inhabitants of these islands are refused their just and lawful rights such as they have enjoyed under the British Administration, it is surely right and proper that the people of Australia should agitate to rectify the position.

I hope, therefore, that hon. Members opposite will agree that, as they approved these arrangements, it is rather late in the day for them now to come forward with other suggestions, and that they will let this Clause go through as it stands without amendment.

Sir L. Plummer

Has the hon. Gentleman not grasped the point that the Australian Government have asked for these islands, and we are now discussing the terms on which we hand them over to the Australian Government? That is a much more important point than the hon. Gentleman seems to have grasped.

Mr. Craddock

With great respect, as I understand, that is not the case. The present arrangements were agreed by the previous Government with the Australian authorities.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

I am sure we all agree that the Australian Government behave in a generous and sympathetic fashion, and no one on this side of the Committee wishes to snipe at that Government in any way over their so-called "White Australia" immigration policy. It is more a white elephant policy when we look at the empty spaces in the north which it is impossible to have colonised by coloured people, never mind Anglo-Saxons.

But we cannot compare the handing over of the Cocos Islanders with whatever the Government of Australia may do about being swamped by millions of Asians with lower standards of living—Chinese or Indians, for instance, coming from South-East Asia. That is the reason for the anxiety on this side of the Committee. In the last debate on this matter the Minister said: We are dealing with a group of Cocos Islanders about whom the Australian Government have said, in the course of negotiations, that any applications for transfer of residence will be considered most sympathetically. That is not a consideration which they apply to any other group."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 31st January, 1955; Vol. 536, c. 729.] We are guardians of these islanders and before we finally hand them over we must look very carefully at any arrangements which are made. Are the Cocos Islands unique in this matter? I wonder whether they are. I was talking in the Lobby today to a guest from Australia and I asked him what would happen to the Cocos Islanders when they were handed over to the care of the Australian Government. He replied, "I suppose they will be the same as the Lord Howe islanders." I have not been to the Lord Howe Islands and I wonder whether even my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) has been there.

Mr. M. Follick (Loughborough)

I have been to Norfolk Island.

Mr. Johnson

These islands lie off the east coast of New South Wales. Their history is similar to that of the Cocos Islands; three Europeans went there with a harem of Maori ladies in the 1830s and the islands' population has blossomed in the same way as the Cocos Islands' population has blossomed. The Lord Howe Islands are now governed by the New South Wales State Government and I wonder what their status is and whether the Cocos Islands will have better conditions than the Lord Howe Islands have been given, as we hope will be the case. After all, the Cocos islanders may go to Australia and play cricket. The Aborigines play cricket and the famous Eddie Gilbert once bowled Don Bradman first ball for a duck. He played for Queensland but has no vote in that State.

In view of the fact that mechanics and even pilots of the airways will mingle with them, the Cocos islanders will have contacts with Australians, will go to Australia, will marry Australian girls and will wish to settle in Australia. It is natural that we on this side of the Committee should wish to make quite sure in our minds what will be the future status of the Cocos islanders.

Hon. Members opposite have said that we on this side of the Committee entered into an agreement on these lines in 1951. I wonder whether the details of the agreement were settled in 1951, I asked a Question in July, 1951, about the airstrip being handed over to the Australian Government, but I wonder whether, when in Government, we arranged the details of the status and the conditions which the islanders would enjoy when they were handed over to our sister Dominion. There may be doubt about it.

Whatever we did or did not do four years ago, we want now to make quite sure that their conditions are as they should be, for the best, if and when the islands are handed over. I hope the Minister will make it clear that full citizenship will be given to the islanders when they wish to leave and to intermarry on the mainland, and I hope we shall have some definite statement about what the status of the Cocos Islanders will be when compared with the status of the Lord Howe Islanders.

Mr. Bernard Braine (Billericay)

I think all hon. Members understand the very proper motives of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in putting down the Amendment. When we are considering the transfer of territory, whether it be large or, as in this case, small, we are concerned not with land but with human beings. The Committee must address itself very much on such an occasion as this to the welfare and the well-being of the people concerned.

Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling that in this instance we are making a little of a mountain out of a molehill. To a certain degree—I will put it no higher—we are showing lack of trust and confidence in one of our fellow member nations of the Commonwealth and one which has an exceptionally fine administrative record in its own overseas territories. I have particularly in mind the Australian record in Papua and New Guinea. It is a first-class record. The end of the war found me not far from those parts of the world. I think anybody who knows anything at all about Australia's administrative record would be the first to say that anybody entrusted to her charge is entrusted to a nation which cares about human beings.

In this case we are concerned with the transfer not only of very small islands but also, I understand, of only 303 people. The population in 1946, I am told, was about 1,300, but between 1946 and today the vast majority have emigrated to Borneo. That is not surprising since the majority of the inhabitants of the Cocos Islands are of Malay origin. I remember that on Second Reading somebody asked what would happen if they wanted to go to their motherland. Their motherland, obviously, is Malaya or Indonesia, because that is where their ancestors—most of them, at any rate—seem to have come from. The fact that the arrangements make it possible for the remaining 303 to retain their British citizenship or to enter Singapore or to go to Borneo gives them opportunity to make the necessary arrangements for their future if they dislike the idea of living under Australian rule.

Moreover, this is not a matter which has been left to chance. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations made it quite clear on Second Reading that the Australian Government have said, in the course of negotiations, that any applications for transfer of residence will be considered most sympathetically. I think that is a fair indication of their intentions. If the Australian Government say that to me, then I accept it; I do not question the word of Australia. What the Australians have said makes it unnecessary for the Committee to vote on the Amendment.

I do not think it is competent for us to pronounce on the "White Australia" policy, as it is called. The people of Australia are a sovereign people. Their motives, I understand, are designed to protect the relatively high living standards which the Australian people have won from their own soil, and, in my judgment, they are perfectly at liberty to say who shall and who shall not enter their country. In this instance, they have said quite clearly, as my hon. Friend made plain, that if any one of the 303 inhabitants still living in the Cocos Islands wishes to move from the islands to Australia, then the application will be considered sympathetically. For me, and, I hope, for the rest of the Committee, that is a sufficient assurance.

Mr. Follick

I thoroughly agree with the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) and also hope that there will not be a Division on this Amendment, but I wish to say something about the conception of the "White Australia" policy. The way in which we are talking about it is as if it were something new, but when I first went to Australia, in 1906, they had a "White Australia" policy. The "White Australia" policy then did not preclude the Kanakas coming into Queensland so long as they agreed to go out again.

Mr. J. Johnson

is it not a fact that in Queensland, in 1890, they wished to admit Kanakas and even wished to secede on that very question?

Mr. Follick

This matter has been brought up on account of a little discussion I had with my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer). He looked down on me because I had not been there more recently than he had, but I certainly had been there before he was born. Even in that far-off epoch they had a "White Australia" policy. The idea was not to keep out a few of their own citizens, but to keep out the Japanese. They were afraid because the Japanese were so near and were getting so powerful after their victory over the Russians in the war of 1905 and 1906. The Australians saw a very powerful, rising Japan, a small territory, thickly populated, which, sooner or later, might want to have Australia. That was the conception of the "White Australia" policy; it is no new thing but has been there almost since the beginning of the century.

Having had a land handed over to them with only 300 very nice people living on it, I do not see that the Australians would want to make special laws against those people. I have been in New Zealand and I have seen the affection the New Zealanders have for the Maoris; it is an absolute affection. In the course of time, when the Australians have mixed with the inhabitants of the Cocos Islands—a great many Australians will be looking after installations there—and finding them nice people, I do not see that they would have any objection to any of those 300 people going to Australia. On the other hand, I cannot see any of the inhabitants of the Cocos Islands wanting to go to Australia. If they are to have their land made so nice for them they will want to stay there. I do not think the Australians will make themselves disliked and, if the inhabitants of the Cocos Islands want to go to see their new mother country, I imagine that will be made easy for them.

I hope we show a little common sense about this matter and let it go through without a Division.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

I did not intend to intervene in this debate until I heard the very dangerous speech of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine). That brought me to my feet because, once again, he was discussing this matter in a way of which I thought he had disposed on Second Reading—as if it were a very small matter of 300 people who may never wish to go to Australia. That is not the important point. A matter of principle is involved which, although it is small, might be invoked at a later stage on a matter of far greater substance and importance.

Mr. Braine

I am sure the hon. Lady does not wish to do me an injustice. Of course there is a question of principle and I admitted that at the beginning of my speech. But, in respect of the 303 inhabitants, we have an assurance from the Australian Government, of which I think we should take note, which nullifies so much of what has been said.

4.15 p.m.

Mrs. White

I do not think we can agree about that in the least.

The whole point of our argument on this Bill, as we have said again and again, is no particular mistrust of the people or the Government of Australia, but we wish to have the principle firmly established. One may sympathise with the feelings of many in Australia, although not necessarily agreeing with their wish to have "White Australia" legislation, but if the Australian Government feel unable to give an absolute citizenship in no way different from that of persons living in Australia, we should have come to some different agreement. They should have acted in some way as agents for the United Kingdom Government because of their air interests, and so on, but not have taken over full administration with responsibility for citizenship.

That is what we are worried about—that they are taking over responsibility for citizenship without being able to give anything other than what we consider to be second-class citizenship. We have raised this matter primarily because it establishes such a very dangerous precedent. It may be a fair party point to say that the previous Administration, in 1951, through the Governor of Singapore, went quite a considerable distance in this matter. I am not sure what details were discussed. It is not easy to find out from the two published written answers in July, 1951. However, I think that that is irrelevant to this point of principle, although one may use it across the Floor of the Committee.

The real question which disturbs us is that we may be establishing a very dangerous precedent. We are worried most of all about the question of first-and second-class citizenship. In fairness to the people of the Cocos Islands, it is our duty to make as sure as we can that within their own country their rights shall be assured and that there shall be no kind of diminution of those rights in the future. The geographical situation is such that there is never likely to be great activity on the islands; nevertheless, they will become increasingly important as an international air base. One is entitled to ask that there shall be an assurance, enacted in the Bill as we suggest by these Amendments, that the islanders' present rights shall be in no way diminished.

Various points were raised on Second Reading, which I shall not mention now. We have a double obligation to these people—to see that their rights at home are in no way diminished and to place on record our concern about the suggestion that within the Commonwealth we should be handing over people to one of our own fellow nations which has a perfect right to come to its own decisions on its own conditions of citizenship but which, in this particular action, seems to us to be establishing a very dangerous principle. If we cannot get a better agreement on this matter of citizenship and real certainty of it—not just a friendly assurance—we ought to have come to a different arrangement.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I, also, was rather alarmed by what was said by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine). He and other hon. Members opposite have seemed to imply that previous arrangements had been reached by right hon. Members on this side of the Committee in 1951, when they formed the Government, and that as a result we should agree to anything that is being suggested here today.

This is the first time that Parliament has been asked to pronounce on this question. Our duties as responsible Members of Parliament require our taking the same attitude towards the transfer of 300 people as to a transfer of 300,000 people. For anyone to suggest that it is not competent for us on this occasion to pronounce on our attitude towards the "White Australia" policy is completely to miss the point.

We are deciding the conditions of transfer of about 300 Cocos Islanders to the control of the Australian Government. Our present responsibilities are not for the Australian Government, but for the 300 Cocos Islanders. From the point of view of their advantage and of what will happen to them, we, as Members of Parliament, are concerned with what the whole conception of Commonwealth should be towards this matter.

It is very competent for us on this side to consider how the Cocos Islanders will be affected when the transfer for which we are responsible takes place. It is for that reason that I ask the Government to look at the question again. I do not think that any of us can contemplate with any degree of pleasure the idea that a form of citizenship should be given to the Cocos Islanders which would not give them free access to the country that gives them citizenship; that is quite ludicrous. There is no guarantee whatever in being told that when the question comes up, the matter will be considered sympathetically and that, therefore, we should be satisfied. I seriously ask the Government to look again at the Amendment and, if possible, accept it.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

Reference has been made to 1951 and to the early discussions on this matter, which occurred when I was Secretary of State for the Colonies and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) was Minister of State for Colonial Affairs. That was three and a half years ago, and even though I charge my memory it is difficult to recall everything after that lapse of time. I stand by whatever agreement we made, but I do not recall discussing the detailed arrangements for the transfer; I may have discussed them, but I do not recall doing so.

There were two aspects of the matter. The Australian Government, as was brought out during Second Reading, proposed to establish an important airport on the Cocos Islands which would perform important functions in the develop- ment of certain of Australia's civil airs lines. There were also defence aspects so far as that base was concerned.

In the discussions which took place at the time, there was an agreement that discussions could begin about the transfer of the Cocos Islands to the Government of Australia. For some considerable time, the administration of the Cocos Islands was linked with the Colony of Singapore. From an answer given by my right hon. Friend, it was clear that when the initial approach was made, the first thing that we did was to approach the Governor of Singapore, who, it appears from the answer, consulted the unofficial members in Singapore about the transfer. As far as I remember, the matter was left there.

I do not think that the arrangements were concluded. I do not remember detailed discussions about citizenship, and I certainly have no recollection of discussions about first-and second-class citizenship. For some reason or other, the legal instrument for the transfer now comes before us, three and a half years after the first discussions.

I am placed in a difficulty in trying to recall something that happened three and a half years ago—and a lot which has happened since. I do not know why there has been this interval of three and a half years. I should like the Minister to say what, if any, detailed arrangements were made in 1951, what arrangements have been made since, and what discussions have taken place.

The point of the Amendment is that when this enabling Bill goes through, the transfer will not become effective until an Order in Council is made after the Bill finally reaches the Statute Book. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) had a lot to do with the citizenship changes for the Commonwealth and Empire in the 1948 Act, for which he was responsible. I should not dare to venture into that field, but no doubt my right hon. Friend will intervene and give his views. It seems, however, that at the moment the people of the Cocos Islands, like the citizens of any other Colony, are full citizens of the United Kingdom. If they came to this country and settled here, they would be as much a citizen as I am—that is clear.

Even assuming that something else was settled in 1951—but I do not think it was—what we ask in the Amendment is that the Australian Government should agree that the Cocos Islanders' status vis-à-vis Australia shall be exactly the same as their present status vis-à-vis the United Kingdom. That is the simple principle that is involved.

Mr. Braine

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the transfer does not take away from these people anything that they already possess? They will still remain British citizens after the transfer.

Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)

Even in South Africa?

Mr. Griffiths

If the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) is right, they will still remain citizens of the United Kingdom. They will also be citizens of Australia—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—or will they not? I should like the Minister's help on this point. As I understood, when the transfer takes place, the Cocos Islanders will be citizens of Australia. The question was whether when they become citizens of Australia, it would be citizenship on the same terms as they are now citizens of the United Kingdom.

It is not impossible that other transfers of this kind might develop in the future of the Commonwealth, but it is important that when these exchanges take place there should be no loss of citizenship rights by the people for whom responsibility is transferred from one member to another. What we want the Minister to explain is whether there is a danger, as my hon. and right hon. Friends thought there was from the Second Reading debate, that if the transfer takes place, the residents of the Cocos Islands will become citizens of Australia but not citizens with full rights; that is, that they will be citizens of the second class, without full rights.

4.30 p.m.

I find it very difficult to believe that the Australian Government would desire anything of that kind to take place or that there should be any impression of that kind. My first discussion of this problem was with the Australian Prime Minister in 1951, when he was in this country on the occasion of a Commonwealth conference or something of that kind. I ask the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, or the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, to clear this matter up and to make it plain, without any doubt whatsoever, that when the transfer takes place the people on the Cocos Islands will be citizens of Australia and that they will then have citizenship in quite the same way as that which they have now in relation to us who are at present responsible for them.

I do not think that Australia itself would desire a transfer on terms which were less advantageous to the people of the Cocos Islands.

Mr. Beresford Craddock

With respect, I do not think that the Amendment has the same object as the right hon. Gentleman seems to have. The Amendment says: … all those same rights which those inhabitants enjoy as citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies.

Mr. Griffiths

I took it that the purpose of the Amendment, if not its immediate effect, was to ensure that they have the same rights in Australian citizenship as in United Kingdom citizenship. It states: (the Parliament and Government of the Commonwealth of Australia having stated that they will give to the inhabitants of the Cocos or Keeling Islands all those same rights which those inhabitants enjoy as citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies). The rights which they enjoy as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies is that their citizenship is of exactly equal status to that of any of us. That is what it is suggested should be arranged with regard to their citizenship of Australia. Surely that is not an unreasonable thing to ask.

I do not care to think that the Australian Government would wish to deny it. We should like to have that point cleared up and an assurance given upon it. If the point cannot be answered now, surely this is a matter which the Prime Minister of Australia, who is now in this country, would gladly discuss with the Minister before we come to a final decision.

Mr. Gower

The right hon. Gentleman said that he desired that the Cocos Islanders should have equal rights with us in Australia. Nobody in this country has an unrestricted right of entry into Australia. Although we are very free citizens we have no unrestricted right to walk into that country, though I am sure that our applications for permission to enter are sympathetically considered.

Mr. Ede

We are not Australian citizens.

Mr. Griffiths

The people of the Cocos Islands have a right to come here. If they come they are full citizens, as are any people from any part of the Colonial Empire, and they enjoy full rights in this country. That is the point which is at stake and which, I hope, will be cleared up.

The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. Henry Hopkinson)


Dr. Morgan

I tried to catch your eye, Sir Rhys, but you were looking elsewhere.

Mr. Hopkinson

We have had a useful discussion on an Amendment, which the Government have considered very carefully. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) put his finger on the point when he said that the Amendment, and the subsequent Amendment to the Preamble on the same lines, do not do what the Opposition seek to do. All they do is to say that the Australian Government will allow these new citizens to enjoy the same rights as they do today, which are the rights of British subjects. Naturally, the Australian Government are not in a position to say whether they shall maintain rights in this country, in Singapore or anywhere else. That is for us to say.

Quite apart from that, the Australian Government have, in fact, gone a great deal further. They have offered the Cocos Islanders the right to go to Australia on the understanding that all applications for right of entry into Australia will be most sympathetically considered. I understand perfectly well what the Opposition are trying to achieve in these rather complicated Amendments. They seek to include in the Bill the assurance which we have received from the Australian Government that the Cocos Islanders will have the same rights of access to Australia as Australian citizens from the Commonwealth itself enjoy at the present time.

The fact is that just as the Australian Government could not attempt to legislate to bind Her Majesty's Government in any way, so we cannot attempt to legislate to bind the Australian Government. That would be quite wrong. I think the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) would be the first person to agree that we cannot attempt by our legislation to bind the Australian Government. What the Opposition would really like is to have the assurances put in some form of treaty. We cannot put these things in a treaty, because we have treaties only with foreign Governments. Even in the case of foreign Governments one would never attempt by British legislation to determine what is done by another Government in their effort to carry out a treaty.

Mr. Follick

The right hon. Gentleman is making a mistake. When we handed Heligoland over to Germany we laid it down that no citizen of Heligoland should serve in the German Army unless he volunteered. He must not be conscripted.

Mr. Hopkinson

I had Heligoland very much in mind when I was thinking about the Amendment, because that provision was laid down in a treaty under agreement and not in an Act of Parliament. That is the point which I am trying to make. We cannot have a treaty with the Australian Government because they are not a foreign Power.

We are doing the next best thing. The assurances do not cover merely the point of citizenship which we are now discussing but also the rights of the Admiralty in the islands, and the question of air facilities to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) referred. In passing, I might add that negotiations about the final details of air facilities have not been concluded, but the equality of treatment for British airlines, which my hon. and gallant Friend raised, will be borne in mind. All these details will be put into an exchange of letters between the appropriate Australian Ministers and the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Australia.

Mr. Dugdale

The right hon. Gentleman says that these points will be put in an exchange of letters. Do we understand that certain words similar to the words used in our Amendments will be put in the exchange of letters and will give us the things for which we ask? Are we to understand that we shall be given these things in the form of an exchange of letters rather than in the form of an addendum to the Bill?

Mr. Hopkinson

I was coming to those other points. The position which we found when we came to office was, as the right hon. Member for Llanelly said, that this matter was the subject of an agreement. The right hon. Gentleman, in a Written answer on 22nd June, 1951, said: … the United Kingdom Government, after consultation with the Government of Singapore, … have accepted an Australian proposal that the islands should be transferred to Australia. He went on to refer to the airstrip and added: The necessary instruments of transfer will be prepared in due course."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd June, 1951; Vol. 489, c. 92.] Later, on 4th July, the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), made it clear that the Governor of Singapore had consulted the unofficial members of the Singapore Legislative Council. But the decision had been reached by the British Government, although the instruments had not been drawn up. I am not trying to make any party point, although one or two have been made across the Floor of the Committee this afternoon, but it might have been wiser to have gone into this matter before instead of after saying that they accepted the transfer to the Australian Government. However, it remained for Her Majesty's present advisers to go into the details, and we found that the question of access to Australia was not covered by the agreement as it had been reached up to then.

The right hon. Gentleman asked why it had taken so long for the agreement to be placed before the House for ratification. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was present when I referred to the matter in my speech the other day. I explained then that the delay was due to consideration of the question how the transfer should be made: whether it should be by Order in Council, by Order in Council under the Prerogative, or by an Act of Parliament. There was a great deal of correspondence between the Australian Government and Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom on this point, and, finally, it was decided that from every point of view it would be more desirable to have an Act of Parliament as making the position perfectly clear and completely watertight.

It enabled us, at the same time, to consider all the assurances that we wanted from the Australian Government about the transfer. An assurance on this matter was one of them, and we got the assurance which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations read to the House the other day. It will be embodied in the exchange of letters. It is not expected that any substantial number of Cocos Islanders will desire to go to Australia, but the Australian Government have indicated, in the course of negotiations about the transfer, that should any such applications be received they will be most sympathetically considered.

That gives the Cocos Islanders, or at least those of them who decide to become Australian citizens—they have the right to opt to become Australian citizens—the assurance that any application to enter Australia will be most sympathetically considered by the Australian Government.

Mr. J. Griffiths

When they do go to Australia, what kind of citizens will they be? Secondly, there are not only an exchange of letters and this Bill, but I understand that a Bill has also been before the Australian Government recently. Are the assurances to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred incorporated in the Australian Bill, since it is a matter for the Australians?

Mr. Hopkinson

The Cocos Islanders, when they go to Australia, will have full rights of citizenship, as I understand. There is no question of second-class citizenship here. They will have full rights in Australia, and, as has been said by the Australian Government, their applications for entry will be most sympathetically considered. I believe that this represents an advance in Australian policy generally, and I feel that we should be wise not to press for anything further in respect of this matter.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

The right hon. Gentleman says that when the Cocos Islanders go to Australia—in other words, when they have been admitted—they will have full citizenship rights. I do not think any of us doubts that, but that is not quite the point we are getting at. We are asking that they shall have the right to go to Australia to enjoy the full citizenship rights, and all that we can get from the right hon. Gentleman so far is that their applications to go to Australia will be sympathetically considered. That is what we are referring to as second-class citizenship.

Mr. Hopkinson

I should not regard that as second-class citizenship at all. There are a great many other countries where this sort of rule applies. We cannot go to Jamaica as of right. Indeed, certain hon. Members are at the moment considering the possibilities of obtaining legislation to prevent British subjects from other territories coming here. It is certainly not a matter of creating second-class British subjects.

Earlier, I was asked a question about nationality. The Cocos Islanders have the right to acquire Australian citizenship. Even if they exercise that right, they will not lose their United Kingdom and Colonies citizenship unless, under Section 19 (1, a) of the right hon. Gentleman's British Nationality Act, 1948, they specifically renounce it. Therefore, they will retain all their rights as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, and, in addition, they will get the rights of Australian citizenship.

I was also asked about Australian legislation. The position is that a Bill has been passed under which the Australian Government request and consent to receive this territory if it is passed to them. The second stage is for an enabling Bill to be passed through this House under which Her Majesty will act by Order in Council and will ultimately agree to the transfer. There will be a further Act of Parliament passed by the Australian Government dealing with the status of the islands as a territory belonging to the Commonwealth of Australia. There again, it would not be possible for us in this House to attempt to lay down what should be inserted in any Australian legislation.

Mr. Follick

The inhabitants of the Cocos Islands have privileges in Britain, but has the right hon. Gentleman any record at all of any inhabitant of the Cocos Islands ever having come to Britain?

Mr. Hopkinson

The only records we have are of Cocos Islanders going to North Borneo and to Christmas Island under the arrangements made by the right hon. Gentleman.

The position is perfectly clear. We have received assurances from the Australian Government about the entry of the Cocos Islanders into the Commonwealth territory which are an advance on Australian policy in many respects. We believe that the Australians will give the Cocos Islanders all the facilities that they require. We believe that this represents an advance on the part of the Australian Government, and we are grateful to them for it. I do not think we can ask for any further assurances about the matter from the Australian Government. We are satisfied that the Australian Government will carry out the assurances in the letter and the spirit. The assurances will be embodied in the exchange of letters which will accompany the transfer, and we believe that the rights of the Cocos Islanders and the principles concerned are fully safeguarded.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what will be included in the exchange of letters and what will be included in the Order in Council? Will the problem that we are discussing now be included in the exchange of letters or the Order in Council?

Mr. J. Johnson

Can the Minister answer my question which was, "What is the status of Lord Howe Island and how does it compare with the conditions in the Cocos Islands?"

Mr. Hopkinson

Without notice, I could not give an answer on that point. The exchange of letters will cover this and all the other points to which I referred in my speech the other day when moving the Second Reading of the Bill. It will refer to the status and citizenship of the inhabitants, to the interests of the Clunies-Ross family, the Royal Naval wireless station, operating facilities on the airstrip to be maintained by Qantas Airways and facilities for Cable and Wireless at the cable relay station.

Dr. Morgan

I have listened to this discussion, since I was most politely asked to attend a Committee meeting and I am thankful to the hon. Member who gave me that invitation. This discussion, as is usual in debates of this kind, has been skimming all round, but not getting to the bottom of, the problem I put before the House in the debate on Second Reading. We have stuck to the problem of the position of citizens of the Cocos Islands vis-à-vis British citizenship in Australia. I want something more. I want the citizens of the Cocos Islands to have the right that British citizenship gives to any man throughout the whole Empire and Commonwealth of Great Britain.

This Amendment does not deal with that problem. The problem is the position of the Cocos Islanders when they leave the islands for any legitimate purpose as British citizens to travel throughout the British Empire. What, for example, is the position—I asked this on Second Reading and I would like someone to be kind enough to tell me the answer—of those who, instead of going to Australia and trying to enjoy Australian citizenship, which would probably be given to them, go to South Africa?

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

I do not think it would be in order to discuss that on this Amendment.

Dr. Morgan

The point we are discussing in this Amendment should be whether an alleged British citizen in the Cocos Islands could leave there and travel abroad. You are ruling, Sir Rhys, that the discussion must be confined to those who leave the Cocos Islands and go to Australia. I dare say you will rule me out of order, but I should have liked to discuss what the position would be if these citizens left the Cocos Islands and went to any other part of the British Commonwealth. I should like to see them enjoy citizenship of that part of the British Commonwealth.

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Member was quite right in his expectation that I would rule him out of order in doing that.

Dr. Morgan

I can only accept your Ruling and say that it is unique that one can discuss the Cocos Islanders vis-à-vis Australia, but cannot discuss them vis-à-vis any other supposed Dominion. With great respect, I should like to submit that we should include the position of these Cocos Islanders if they went to and hoped to be citizens of South Africa. But as you have ruled me out of order, I can only bow to your Ruling with great regret and say how sorry I am that we cannot discuss this most interesting problem of citizens of one province being considered eligible for citizenship in one Dominion.

It is a strange position that we are accepting. We should be strong enough to stand up for Commonwealth citizens, whether Cocos Islanders or not, who go to South Africa and ask to be allowed permanent residence there and to be regarded as citizens of South Africa.

Mr. Ede

This matter is not quite as simple as the Minister tried to make out in his reply. We are not concerned merely with the people now resident in the Cocos Islands. They have the right of opting whether they will be citizens of Australia, or remain citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. They can, of course, if they adopt Australian citizenship, relinquish the other citizenship. But we were told on Second Reading that the effect of this transfer will be that all persons born in the Cocos Islands after the transfer becomes effective will be citizens of Australia and not citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. That will be true of children of, let us say engineers who go out from this country to serve on the airstrips and the children of citizens of this country who go to the Cocos Islands for other purposes and there have children born.

What will be the position of such a person who then wants to get into Australia? Is such a person to be the subject of favourable consideration by the Australian Government? Presumably he will be in just the same position as an immigrant into Australia who was born in this country, but who, at the moment, has no right of admission to Australia. He might, of course, have a special status under the "White Australia" policy, that is to say, if both his parents are British subjects he might have a better chance than a person who is the child of Malay parents.

What will be the position of the person who has a father who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and a mother who is a Cocos Islander? I believe that such a person can be born. There is nothing in the laws of nature against it. Let us take this astounding position; let us assume that a child entirely of Malay parentage, now a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, who either does not opt or is born after the date of transfer, desires higher education. If he desires to come to Oxford or Cambridge, he can enter this country without question. Once he is a British subject he can enter the Kingdom without question and go to such educational institutions in this country as may be willing to accept him.

5.0 p.m.

Suppose he prefers to go to a university in Sydney, being rather nearer to it. If he is an Australian citizen in the Cocos Islands, either by birth or because he was born earlier than the transfer and opted for Australian citizenship, does he have to get this special permission and favourable consideration before he can enter one of these great universities which he has chosen on the Australian island continent?

This point demonstrates that the Bill is not quite the simple matter which the right hon. Gentleman led us to believe it was. It also emerges that unless the House of Commons consents to the Bill and passes it forward to another place, none of these conundrums need arise. The islands will remain a British Colony. Every child born there, whether before or after any particular date which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind for transfer, will be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. It will be the duty of the right hon. Gentleman's Department to attempt to get for that citizen the most favourable consideration in any part of the world to which he wants to go.

My hon. and right hon. Friends have been pressing that a further arrangement should be made with the Australian Government. I asked on the last occasion about the position, and we were told that a Bill had passed through all stages in the Australian Government. I asked whether it had received the Royal Assent, but I had no answer. I do not blame anybody on the Government Front Bench for that, because the question was sprung on them. May I be told now whether this Bill has had the Royal Assent?

Mr. Hopkinson

Yes, it has.

Mr. Ede

Then we can see the exact position from the examination of the Australian Act. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind what was said from this side of the Committee. We are not merely dealing with 303 Cocos Islanders, but laying down a precedent on a great issue of principle which might not be as easily dealt with in relation to other of Her Majesty's self-governing Dominions as it can be in relation to Australia. I hope that nothing said in this debate will be read in Australia as expressing doubt of their good faith in this matter. If Australia were the only Dominion I am not sure that I would be worried as much about the matter as I am.

We may have other Bills of this kind for the transfer of some other place to some other Dominion. An innocent Member will rise and say to the Government Front Bench, "What precedent have you for this?" The answer will at once be, "The famous Cocos Islands Act, 1955." This miserable little Measure, dealing with 303 people, might quite well be given as a reason for dealing with a couple of million people somewhere else in the Queen's Dominions. This is not a small matter. No one can say that it has been debated in a small way on either side of the House. We all realise the seriousness of the position with which we are faced.

It would be good and establish a precedent for the great advantage of the British Commonwealth of Nations if we could get from the Australian Government at some stage an assurance that they were prepared to accept these people as Australian citizens, with a right of access to any part of the Australian Dominions of Her Majesty. That is the issue at stake. What happens to an Australian citizen in New Guinea, which is within the Australian Dominions?

Mr. Hopkinson

New Guinea is trust-held territory.

Mr. Ede

I imagine that they have to get favourable consideration and an answer in the affirmative when they apply for admission to Sydney or Melbourne, let us say.

Mr. J. Johnson

What is the position of the Lord Howe Islanders?

Mr. Ede

They are the special concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson). I am not favourable to Lords myself, but the right hon. Gentleman must realise that these islanders are not less worthy of favourable consideration for that reason.

Let the Committee realise that we hold the key to the future. If the Bill is defeated on Third Reading all these issues will not arise. I hope that before we part with the Bill we can get something a little more emphatic from the right hon. Gentleman and those who sit beside him.

Mr. Dugdale

My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has rightly stressed the very great importance of this question, as a matter of principle. We are naturally anxious that a change should be made, but we do not want to press the matter to a Division simply for the sake of a Division. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can assure us that consideration will be given between now and the Third Reading to an alteration in the terms of agreement. If we can get some consideration we may achieve what we want.

There is a unique opportunity, the Prime Minister of Australia being present in this country. If we could get the assurance that consideration would be given and nothing final done until the Third Reading, we would not press the matter to a Division. I hope we shall get that assurance so that I may be able to withdraw the Amendment. A discussion with the Prime Minister of Australia might result in something more favourable being achieved for the people of the Cocos Islands.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I hope it is not too much to ask the Minister to give an undertaking that he will give further thought to the matter, and so enable us to withdraw the Amendment. Will he not respond to this appeal?

Mr. Hopkinson

As we shall go straight on to the Third Reading it will be very difficult for me to communicate with the Prime Minister of Australia or with anybody else. I understand the point of view of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. Griffiths

The Third Reading is not on the Order Paper, but only the Committee stage. There is no reason why the Third Reading should be taken

now. Hon. Members have not been notified that the Third Reading will be taken. In view of that, would it not be better to conclude the Committee stage today and not proceed with the Third Reading? That would give the Minister an opportunity to consider the matter between now and Third Reading and the passage of the Bill to another place. My hon. Friends feel so strongly about this matter that, if that is not done, they will press it to a Division. Surely it would be far better for the Minister to give an undertaking to reconsider this.

Mr. Hopkinson

I think I should be wrong to say that I agree with the proposal not to take the Third Reading now, because I should be giving the impression to the Opposition that I believe we could get a substantial alteration in the terms of the assurances given to us by the Australian Government. They have given assurances which, I believe, go a very long way and are a great advance on anything ever said before in this matter. I consider that I should be quite wrong if, by saying that I or my right hon. Friend would go to the Australian High Commissioner, I gave the impression that we should succeed in obtaining some alteration. I do not believe that we should. I think that we have had far-reaching assurances and we should be satisfied with them.

I would only say this: if, having discussed it with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, he thinks it possible to make any further advance in this matter, it would perhaps be possible to make an Amendment when this Bill goes to another place. I should be glad to suggest that to my noble Friend. Otherwise, I should not wish to mislead the Committee by suggesting that we can expect to obtain any further substantial change in the assurances.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 112, Noes 163.

Division No. 30.] AYES [5.14 p.m.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Castle, Mrs. B. A. Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)
Attlee Rt. Hon. C. R. Clunie, J. Deer, G.
Bing, G. H. C. Collick, P. H. Dodds, N. N.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. C. Collins, V. J. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)
Bowden, H. W. Corbet, Mrs. Freda Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Bowles, F. C. Cove, W. G. Edwards Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)
Brook, Drydon (Halifax) Crossman, R. H. S. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Daines P. Fienburgh, W.
Follick, M. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Royle, C.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. MacColl, J. E. Shurmero, P. L. E.
Gibson, C. W. McKay, John (Wallsend) Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. McLeavy, F. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) MacPhersono, Malcolm (Stirling) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Hamilton, W. W. Manuel, A. C. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Hardy, E. A. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Hargreaves, A. Mason, Roy Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Hastings, S. Mellish, R. J. Swingler, S. T.
Hayman, F. H. Messer, Sir F. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.) Mikardo, Ian Turner-Samuels, M.
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Mitchison, G. R. Viant, S. P.
Holmes, Horace Moody, A. S. Wallace, H. W.
Houghton, Douglas Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Warbey, W. N.
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Watkins, T. E.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Moyle, A. Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, c.)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Oswald, T. Weitzman, D.
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Owen, W. J. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Jeger, George (Goole) Pannell, Charles Wheeldon, W. E.
Jeger, Mrs. Lena Pargiter, G. A. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Johnson, James (Rugby) Piaton, J. Wigg, George
Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech Plummer, Sir Leslie Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Popplewell, E. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Proctor, W. T. Willis, E. G.
Keenan, W. Reeves, J. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Lawson, G. M. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Yates, V. F.
Lewis, Arthur Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lindgren, G. S. Ross, William Mr. Wilkins and Mr. John Taylor.
Aitken, W. T. Ford, Mrs. Patricia Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Alport, C. J. M. Foster, John Marples, A. E.
Arbuthnot, John Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Armstrong, C. W. Fraser, Sir Ian (M'ombe & Lonsdale) Maude, Angus
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Godber, J. B. Medlicott, Sir Frank
Banks, Col. C. Gower, H. R. Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Barlow, Sir John Gresham Cooke, R. Molson, A. H. E.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Nabarro, G. D. N.
Boll, Philip (Bolton, E.) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Neave, Alrey
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eve) Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd) Nugent, G. R. H.
Bishop, F. P. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Oakshott, H. D.
Black, C. W. Heath, Edward O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Boyle, Sir Edward Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Page, R. G.
Braine, B. R. Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Peake, Rt. Hon. G.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Holland-Martin, C. J. Peyton, J. W. W.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Hollis, M. C. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Brooman-White, R. C. Hope, Lord John Pitt, Miss E. M.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry Powell, J. Enoch
Bullard, D. G. Horobin, Sir Ian Ramsden, J. E.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Rayner, Brig. R.
Burden, F. F. A. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Carr, Robert Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Remnant, Hon. P.
Cary, Sir Robert Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M. Renton, D. L. M.
Clarke, Col. Sir Ralph (E. Grinstead) Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H. Ridsdale, J. E.
Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.) Iremonger, T. L. Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
Cole, Norman Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Robertson, Sir David
Colegate, Sir Arthur Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Roper, Sir Harold
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Kerby, Capt. H. B. Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Kerr, H. W. Scott, Sir Donald
Cooper-Key, E. M. Leather, E. H. C. Sharples, Maj. R. C.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Shepherd, William
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbr'gh, W.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Linstead, Sir H. N. Spearman, A. C. M.
Crouch, R. F. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Spent, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (K'ns'gt'n, S.)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Deedes, W. F. Longden, Gilbert Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Donner, Sir P. W. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Doughty, C. J. A. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Studholme, H. G.
Drayson, G. B. Macdonald, Sir Peter Sumner, W. D. M.
Drewe, Sir C. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. McLean, Neil (Inverness) Teeling, W.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Heref'd)
Finlay, Graeme Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Fisher, Nigel Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Thompson, Kenneth (Walton) Vane, W. M. F. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Thompson, Lt-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. P. (M'nm'th) Vosper, D. F. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Touche, Sir Gordon Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.) Woollam, John Victor
Turner, H. F. L. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Turton, R. H. Wall, Major Patrick TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Redmayne and Mr. Wills.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Hopkinson

I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, to leave out from "and" to the end of line 3 and to insert: any Order in Council in force in respect of the said Colony under that Act and the British Settlements Acts, 1887 and 1945, as applied by that Act. The Amendment is a purely technical one. It is necessary because the subsection contains a reference to the Singapore Colony Order in Council, 1946. That Order in Council was subsequently superseded by an Order in Council establishing a new Singapore Constitution, made on 1st February. That will come into force before the passing of this Measure, and it is, therefore, necessary to introduce the Amendment, which substitutes for the present reference to a specific Order in Council a reference to the two Acts under which are made the Orders in Council which at present define the relationship of the Cocos Islands to Singapore.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended, considered.

5.23 p.m.

Mr. Hopkinson

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

We have had a long debate upon this Measure. Although comparatively simple and, as some might think, trivial in itself, it has raised points of principle about which hon. Members on both sides of the House have had strong feelings and have expressed views. I need not enter again into the arguments which I adduced during my speech in the Second Reading debate, in giving the main reasons for the Bill, or the detailed points which we have considered today during the Committee stage. I would only say that I am quite satisfied that the assurances which we have obtained from the Australian Government in regard to the point which has caused some anxiety among hon. Members opposite will give us all that we and they require.

The first Amendment which we discussed in Committee just now would not have attained the desired results if it had been carried. I am certain that the exchange of letters between the Australian Minister concerned and the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom in Australia will contain the assurances desired.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. J. Griffiths

We have had a discussion upon an important matter, and I am sure that hon. Members who have listened to the debate will be seized of the fact that hon. Members on this side of the House thought that it was one which was of real concern at this stage in the development of our Colonies. I hope that the Ministers concerned will take an opportunity to discuss this matter with Mr. Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia, before he leaves, and that when we come to the exchange of letters particular attention will be paid to this problem. I understand that it will be.

I wish the Minister had been able to give us the assurance for which we asked, so that we could have avoided a Division upon the Amendment. However, that is now over. We certainly accede to the Third Reading of the Bill, but I hope that when the exchange of letters takes place those letters will be laid upon the Table, so as to be within the knowledge of the House. I also hope that some consideration will be given as to the manner in which, in the exchange of letters, the assurances desired by us, and, I think, the House, may be effected.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.