§ 11.53 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I beg to move,That the Draft West Indies (Federation)Order in Council, 1957, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th July, be approved.As the House will remember, at almost exactly the same period last year this House considered, and most warmly approved, the British Caribbean Federation Bill, which became law on 2nd August, 1956. That, the House will remember, was an enabling Act, which has made it possible for the Federation, now to be called the West Indies, to be set up and to be provided with a constitution by an Order of Her Majesty in Council. It also required that the Order in Council should be tabled for affirmative Resolution in both Houses of Parliament. This, then, is the Order which the House is now considering.
The Order in Council provides for the establishment of the Federation of the West Indies, and includes an annexe containing the Federal Constitution. It has been drawn up in accordance with the "Plan for a British Caribbean Federation" which was published in 1953, as modified by the London Conference, over which I had the honour of presiding last year. It has also been thoroughly considered by the Standing Federation Committee, which was a body of West Indian representatives under the chairmanship of the Controller of Development and Welfare in the West Indies, which was set up by the London Conference to complete the arrangements for bringing the Federation into being.
Many distinguished people in the West Indies, both from the political and the sporting world, have been honoured visitors here in the last few weeks. All of us have most warmly welcomed them, and we have renewed many old friendships and made new ones. It has been a great pleasure for me as Secretary of State for the Colonies to be able to see so many of them personally. Their well-wishers throughout this country and the Commonwealth, and indeed the whole free world, sympathise with their aspirations and entertain for the new Federation 808 of the West Indies, which has been fashioned in consultation over twelve years in accordance with their own desires, the warmest good wishes.
In these circumstances, and knowing that this is an advance constitution and that it is acceptable to the people concerned, I commend the Order in Council most warmly for the Resolution of approval by this House which we now seek.
§ 11.56 a.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends I join with the Secretary of State in extending our warmest good wishes to the people in the West Indies upon the attainment of their new status of Federation.
Last September, I was privileged to visit for the first time some of these islands. Unfortunately, Parliamentary business called me back before I completed my tour, and I was able to visit only St. Lucia, Barbados and Trinidad. Everyone who has been there has shared my experience that they are a people whose kindliness, fine, good spirit and close association with us make them a people for whose future we fervently hope the very best. This is in many ways one of the most interesting adventures in the process of transforming our Colonies into independent States, for here are ten islands, separated by a thousand miles from north to south, which are joining together and seeking to create a new nation. It is indeed our desire that they will succeed.
I was glad to learn from an interjection made by the Secretary of State when we were discussing another Bill recently that the West Indies, after they attain the new status of Federation next year, will still be within the purview of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act and the Colonial Development Corporation. It is essential that we shall give all the aid we can to these people to raise their standard of life. I should like to see a Caribbean plan in which Canada would join with the rest of the Commonwealth and with America as well.
In sending our very best wishes to all our good friends whom we have been pleased to meet in the past few days, as on previous occasions, some of whom may even be listening to us now, I 809 express one last wish. I am not sure whether it is implicit in this Federation, but in the case of Southern Rhodesia some years ago I think we established a precedent. What I hope is that the Prime Minister of the new Federation will be welcome into the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. We look forward to the day when the West Indies attain full independence, and we know from experience that when they do, they will wish to continue their association with Britain and with the Commonwealth. To all their good people we send our best wishes, and we pledge ourselves to give every assistance to them we can make this great experiment the success we hope it will be.
§ 11.58 a.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I join with what the two right hon. Members have said. I am sorry that we are discussing this Motion on a Friday when the House is not very well attended, because I think that this draft Statutory Instrument is one of great importance. It certainly is important to the Caribbean, so if I may have the indulgence of the House, as we have plenty of time, I would like to deal with it in a little more detail than did the two right hon. Members.
First, if I am in order in doing so, Mr. Speaker, I want to say something about the appointment of the new Governor-General.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that is in order on this Motion. The Order in Council provides for a Governor-Genera], but the matter of his nomination for the post is a prerogative matter outside the Order.
§ Mr. Fisher
I anticipated that this might be your Ruling, Sir, and therefore I shall not pursue the point any further.
Before coming to the main provisions of the draft Order in Council which is before us today, I want to say something briefly about paragraph 6 on page 13, which deals with the site of the new Federal capital in Trinidad, and the negotiations which have been proceeding here in London during the last ten days between the leaders from the West Indies and the representatives of the United States Government, presided over, I believe, by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.
810 We saw an announcement in The Times yesterday, the terms of which lead one to suppose that this issue has not yet been finally resolved. The British Government handed over the site of the present American naval base to the United States Government during the war, and I hope Her Majesty's Government will now give the strongest possible backing to the claims of the West Indies to this site in their own island of Trinidad. I am advised—and I think so from my own knowledge—that it is the only suitable site in Trinidad for the new Federal capital.
I imagine that cash is one of the main issues, the amount of money sunk by the Americans in the base, and no doubt the expense of building and equipping an alternative new base elsewhere. I am not clear how much money is involved, but I should have thought that, whatever the cost almost, the good will of the new West Indian Federation to the United States, such near neighbours as they are, would be worth more to the great, rich, American republic than merely a matter of cash.
We come into it because Britain gave the United States this base. In a sense, it was not ours to give. It belonged to the West Indies.
§ Mr. Fisher
That is another issue which I am sure would be out of order in this debate. In some ways, the base was not ours to give. It is West Indian soil, and I hope we shall now support the West Indies and their leaders and ask the United States to return the site, not to us, but to this new Federation which both parties in this House welcome so warmly and in the creation of which both parties have played their part.
The Federation is a tremendous achievement for which the Colonial Office and both parties deserve a good deal of credit. I believe it was originally conceived by the late Oliver Stanley. It was certainly begun by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), and it falls to my right hon. Friend to complete it. The West Indian leaders deserve great praise too. They have sunk their island differences and local loyalties, which is not a terribly easy thing to do, to bring the Federation into being, and step by step over a decade 811 they have shown great restraint, wisdom and statesmanship. The least we can do now to help them is to try to secure for them what they want in this final hurdle of the site for their new capital.
I hope that we shall do something else. I hope that when the first Federal Parliament opens next year, representatives from both sides of this House will be present—perhaps taking from the House of Commons a gift, possibly a mace—to recognise the importance of the occasion.
I want to refer now to a provision in the Order in Council about which I have some misgivings. It is the provision in paragraph 22 of the Constitution, on page 19. The effect is that no one may serve in the Legislature of his own Colony and also in the Federal Parliament. In the long term that is no doubt wise and right; but is it right in this crucial initial stage, the first few vital years? I am not happy about it.
I do not blame the Colonial Office, for this was the choice of the West Indian leaders themselves. There are some very important men, men of great stature politically and intellectually, in the West Indies today, who are much needed as Federal leaders. They are men who are well known to hon. Members. We all know that the West Indies has men of very high quality, but there are not so many of them in quantity. The new Federation will need the very best. It will need men like Mr. Norman Manley and Sir Grantley Adams. Will they be there? That is what worries me. I think it is doubtful. I do not think they have yet decided.
It will also need men like Dr. Eric Williams, the new Chief Minister of Trinidad. I believe he has already decided not to run as a candidate for the Federal Parliament, and I think that is a great loss. The Federal Parliament will need people from the smaller islands, and it is even more difficult in the case of the smaller islands to find enough people of the right calibre. There is Mr. Bradshaw, the Chief Minister of St. Kitts. He may go to the Federal Parliament; I do not know. He has a good first lieutenant to leave in charge in St. Kitts.
Every leading man in every Colony in the Caribbean will be faced with this problem, and I am afraid that the individual Colonies may send to the 812 Federal Government the second eleven. That would be very prejudicial to the new Federation. I hope it will not happen, but it is easy to see that it could happen. Some leaders will probably consider it political suicide to leave their own Colonies. On the other hand, it may be a physical life-saver to people like Mr. Norman Manley, who works terribly hard in Jamaica. I think he would find the lesser duties in the Federal Parliament might actually prolong his life, because he would not have to work so hard there.
There are other considerations. To go to Trinidad means uprooting oneself. It means maintaining two homes. Some hon. Members know what that means, but in the West Indies, as the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths)indicated, it may mean maintaining two homes 1,000 miles apart. Financially, these things are difficult. We have to consider these practical issues as well. Will the Federal M.Ps. and the Ministers be paid enough? To be a Minister in one's own Colony will be far more lucrative financially than to be a back-bench Member in the Federal Parliament. Is it worth taking the risk? Most of these people are not rich men, and they have to consider these practical personal details. These are some of the problems that the West Indian leaders will have to face.
I am worried about it for this reason. Anyone who knows the West Indies knows that personalities are terribly important there, much more important than they are here. Politics in the West Indies are governed and conditioned by personalities, by men—by the politicians much more than by the policies. Good new men will no doubt arise in the future. I am sure they will. Examples like that of Dr. Eric Williams are cases in point. He has arisen very rapidly. But I should like to see the very best men now available in the first formative years of the Federation.
I want also to refer to the reserve powers in the Constitution. Are they too wide? Is too much reserved to the Governor-General? The reserve powers will actually mean that the Federal Government will be more restricted in its operations than some of the individual Colonies such as Barbados and Jamaica are at the moment. I wonder whether that is really necessary.
813 Lastly, there is the matter of the revenue of the new Federal Government. I understand that this will be limited to a maximum of 9 million West Indian dollars a year, which is about £2 million. I am informed that that is about one-tenth of the present revenue of the Colony of Trinidad and Tobago alone. That is a very small revenue for the whole Federation if it is only one-tenth of the revenue of a single Colony. I do not know whether the Federation can do a real job on such a small revenue.
Let me say that this again is no criticism of the Colonial Office or of my right hon. Friend, for the West Indian leaders themselves wrote this into the Constitution. They did it for an ordinary human reason which all politicians would recognise. They were afraid that the people in the West Indies might think that they would have to pay too heavily for Federation and would have to be taxed too highly to pay the expenses. The reason why I raise the point is that I think many leaders of West Indian opinion now regret that they fixed the maximum revenue so low. I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether there is any prospect at this late hour of altering it, whether it can be looked at again, and, whether, by agreement with the West Indies, it would be possible to increase it to something rather more realistic.
If the Federal Government is to succeed, it must be made important, as important as possible, and, as we know, the power of the purse is very great. If the Federation has the money, it will call the tune and really rule in the Caribbean and attract the best men into the Federal Parliament and the Federal Government. Only if the Federation is important and only if it has the best men in the West Indies available will it be a success, and only if it is a success will it create in the West Indies, instead of the local island patriotism which now exists, a much wider and much more important West Indian patriotism which I should have thought one of the prerequisites to Commonwealth status. I hope that that will come very soon. The West Indies are at least as advanced in political maturity as Ghana, probably much more so. I desperately want the Federation to succeed, because I want it to achieve for the British Caribbean what I am sure it can and should achieve—Dominion 814 status, certainly within the next five years.
§ 12.11 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I join with the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher)in expressing regret that the debate should have taken place on a Friday when there is such a small attendance in the House, because this is a momentous and historic occasion. It is an occasion which means not only the establishment of the Federation of the British Territories in the West Indies, but which opens the door to that Federation becoming a Dominion and entering the Commonwealth. I very much hope that our West Indian friends will not think that because this debate is taken on a Friday with a comparatively small attendance that we are not conscious of the great development upon which they are now entering.
This is a momentous and historic occasion because it is unique. Here we have in the vast bay of the Atlantic formed by the Southern Coast of the United States, a strip of Central America and the north coast of South America moving eastwards, this "Milky Way" of scattered islands. Among these islands, the British Territories, with very small exceptions, have agreed to federate. This is the first occasion on which Colonial Territories have agreed to federate by their own choice and where adult suffrage exists.
I do not take the view that federation is always a progressive step. I do not take the view that it was a progressive step in Central Africa where it was imposed on the mass of the people by a European minority. Here is a decision by the peoples themselves, with universal suffrage, to unite their territories in this political Federation. It is a pattern for the world. It is an example to the world, and the House ought to appreciate its historic importance.
It is the duty of the House of Commons not only to welcome the Federation but to give it an opportunity to be a success. Because I want our Parliament and our Government to contribute towards the conditions in which it may he a success, I want to raise three topics in some detail.
The first is to join with the hon. Member for Surbiton in urging that an 815 early opportunity should be found to make the Constitution of the Federation more democratic than it now is. The Constitution is already obsolete. We are not beginning to understand the tempo with which colonial peoples are moving towards self-government and independence.
We are now in the ironical situation that the two largest islands, whose populations make up the majority of the people in the Federation, already have constitutions which are more democratic than the Federal Constitution. Jamaica and Trinidad are now on the eve, even if they have not yet established them, of constitutions in their own territories with responsible Governments and responsible Ministers. Because the Federal Constitution was prepared before these changes in those two great islands, it retains undemocratic features which will not long be tolerated by the people of the West Indies as they move towards their political freedom.
The Constitution establishes two Houses. Some of us are at times critical of the Upper Chamber in this country, but at least the Government have an opportunity to appoint members of it. Under the Federal Constitution, the Government elected by the West Indies will have no such right. The entire membership of the Upper House, the Senate of nineteen members, will be appointed by the Governor-General. In view of the democratic surge which is now arising in the West Indies, it is very unlikely that this feature, which was inserted into the Constitution before the great change in the political character of Jamaica and Trindad was achieved, will long be accepted by the people as they become part of the Federation.
Secondly, we have the patronising proposal to the people of the West Indies that three members of the Council of State, which will become the Government of the Federation, must be members of the Upper House who are not elected and not even appointed by the Government, but who are to be nominated by the Governor-General. That undemocratic feature cannot long remain in the Federal Constitution.
The hon. Member for Surbiton referred to my third point. He and I often clash 816 in debates here, but I endorse everything he said today. That probably means much more to me than it does to him. Important powers are to be in the hands not of the Government but of the Governor-General, still the representative of this country. Such reserved powers are being abolished in Jamaica and Trinidad. Why should they remain in the Federal Constitution? Once more I say that they will not long be tolerated.
The fact must be faced—if I may be partisan for a moment—that the parties which share the philosophy and the programme of the Opposition in this House have had sweeping victories in Jamaica and Trinidad. It is almost certain that they will have sweeping victories in the Federal election and that we shall have a Prime Minister there—I hope that he will be Mr. Norman Manley—who will reflect the democratic principles of the Labour Party in this country.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that such a Prime Minister will tolerate for very long these reserve powers? Does he think that he will tolerate for long an Upper House which is entirely nominated by the Governor-General? Does he think that he will tolerate for long an imperative order that he must appoint three members to the Council of State from that undemocratic Upper House?
In my opening remarks I said that this occasion is historic, because we are all hoping that it means that the Federation of the West Indies will be moving towards the Commonwealth. I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman put it as emphatically as this, but I say that the West Indies are ready for Commonwealth membership now.
§ Mr. Brockway
I am glad that he agrees with me. I submit that they are ready for four reasons. First, they have political leaders of outstanding ability. If we look over the whole colonial sphere I am not sure whether we can find leaders of greater stature, for example, than Mr. Norman Manley in Jamaica and Dr. Eric Williams in Trinidad. India was very fortunate in this respect; the West Indies are fortunate now. No one can suggest that the leaders in the West Indies are not capable of administering the entire self-government 817 which Dominion status and Commonwealth representation would signify.
Secondly, the West Indies have had the experience of adult suffrage. The right of every man and every woman to vote is not something which has to be introduced; it has become a part of their common life. It is not only their common experience; it reflects a democracy which is capable of entering into complete independence.
Thirdly, their standard of education is higher than it is in many of the territories which have already gained independence and have become members of the Commonwealth.
Fourthly—and this is tremendously important—there is a Civil Service in the West Indies which is competent of carrying on the administration. Their islands have been fortunate in possessing certain secondary schools. and one pays tribute to the religious organisations which have established them, from which have come members of a staff of civil servants as competent as that of any of the Colonial Territories which have emerged towards independence. These secondary schools have created not only great cricketers—and I would say to the West Indians who are in this country now that they should not be downhearted because of the fact that they are being beaten by an English team which could beat a combination of cricketers from all parts of the world today—but civil servants who are absolutely competent to administer a territory with Dominion status.
I urge the Secretary of State today to give some indication that the Government are prepared for an early review of the Constitution so that Dominion status may be achieved.
To those remarks I want to add one incidental reference. One of our disappointments is that British Guiana is not in the Federation. I believe that we will solve the problems of British Guiana if we can encourage it to join the Federation by giving the Federation the status of a member of the Commonwealth.
That is the first point which I want to urge today and which I believe is absolutely imperative if the Federation is to succeed. My second point is that we should not only continue but should strengthen economic aids to these territories to enable the federal experiment to be successful. Many of us on both 818 sides of the House have been alarmed at the decision of the Government that economic aid given to Colonial Territories by way of the Colonial Development Corporation should not be continued for any new economic developments after those Territories obtained self-government. I want to urge upon the House that when we take that rigid view we are overlooking the historical circumstances which are leading to Dominion status and independence.
I will not use the word "taught" because it is patronising, but it is one of the prides of this country and this House that because of our own experience of democracy the peoples of the Colonial Territories have learnt the principles of self-government. This has been called the Mother of Parliaments, and the democratic experiment of this House has been copied by peoples in all the Colonies as they move towards self-government. Britain has a right to be proud of the contribution which she has given to Colonial Territories.
But this country has not deliberately aimed at and planned at building in those Territories an economy which is necessary for successful self-government. I do not suggest for a moment that that has been a malicious omission; it has been quite natural. We have thought of the Colonial Territories, primarily, as providing the food which our people need and the raw materials which our industries need. Because that has been the motive an unbalanced economy has resulted in these territories, and that unbalanced economy is a very uncertain foundation for political independence.
The West Indies are a very remarkable illustration of this. Their production and exports have mostly been in raw sugar. Raw sugar has been exported; it has come mostly to a large British combine; it has been refined in factories in Britain, and we now have the ironical position of the West Indies being forced to import the very sugar which they have grown in its natural state.
Why should not those refineries have been in the West Indies? What is the effect of making the West Indies a wholly agricultural production economy? It means seasonal unemployment. It means that when the harvest of sugar is gathered thousands have no work to do. 819 If we had been thinking in terms of a balanced economy in the West Indies we should not only have been making a demand for agricultural products and raw materials for our industry; we should have planned to establish in the West Indies themselves the processing plants which would have enabled the seasonal unemployment to be engaged in the industrial activities which follow.
The same thing is now happening even in relation to bauxite. Bauxite is a valuable raw material, but that bauxite is being exported to Canada for the finishing process of conversion into aluminium. I want to be fair; the reason is that the cost of electrical power is much less in Canada than it would be in the West Indies. What I am submitting to the House is that when we establish the conditions of political independence and fail to establish the conditions of a balanced economy, the duty remains upon this Parliament and Government to enable those political freedoms to function on a secure economic basis.
When we are dealing with constitutional matters, we ought to be seeing in our imagination the conditions of the life of the people for whom the constitution has been established. There is appalling poverty in the West Indies. Where industrial development has occurred one sees good housing estates, and I pay my tribute to those who have created them; but there are the shack towns—wooden huts. There is the island of Barbados, with sixty or seventy children in a school class and with three persons in a bed in the hospitals. I am urging that if this Constitution which we have debated today is to succeed we must deal with this problem of poverty.
In order to keep within the rules of debate, I will not discuss the constructive planning which has already been prepared in Jamaica and Trinidad. I will say only that what has been done in Puerto Rico, where there were 45,000 unemployed after the war, but where the mass production of consumer goods has now meant an economic revolution, and what has been done in Dutch Guiana, which was behind British Guiana in 1945 and is now ahead because of its timber development, indicates that great economic advance can be made. I am urging that we must assist in that 820 economic advance if a stable political federation is to be established.
The third point that I want to urge is this. If this Federation of the West Indies, with 990 miles between Jamaica and Trinidad—where the capital is to be—and with other islands scattered over hundreds of miles, is to be a reality, there must be a very much improved system of communication between them. It is really almost humourous that there is only one boat, the S.S. "West Indies," which makes the tour of those islands. I will not say that it is very efficient—it is certainly slow and it will spend three days at an island before turning round—but it is the only means of communication between those islands which are to become a federal political unit.
§ Mr. Fisher
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would wish to pay tribute to the British West Indies Airways, which has really made Federation possible from the point of view of communications, and which has enabled the leaders of the Colonies to get to know one another quite well.
§ Mr. Brockway
That is the next item in my notes. I was saying that this one ship, the S.S. "West Indies," because of its losses, is apparently to finish its career this autumn. There is, however, the alternative of the air service, and I was about to pay tribute to the contribution which has been made by the West Indies Air Service.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman this. Because of the absolutely essential character of communications if Federation is to be a reality, will he press ahead with the establishment of landing strips on the islands which need them for this air service? It may be that some of the islands are not able to have such landing strips, although I have seen extraordinary things carried out in that regard. If not, would it not be possible to develop an amphibious air service so as to meet the needs of the islands? All cannot afford, however, to travel by air, and I would urge that there should be concentration upon the development of a rapid passage of ships, both passenger and freight.
I have only one other point to mention, and that is in regard to the capital. I join with my hon. Friend in urging that 821 all should be done, and as speedily as possible, to enable Chaguaramas in Trinidad to become the capital of the Federation. There is a feature concerning this which disturbs me very much. This is the decision to hand over this area to the United States which was reached by two individuals, President Roosevelt and the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). I find it almost intolerable as a democrat that a part of a territory or island in which people live should just be handed away like that for 99 years. I do not know whether others share this democratic conception, but it seems to me to be an infamous crime that any two people, important as they are, and even in a period of war, should have the right to hand over a part of one's territory, without consultation, to another Government. I am urging upon the right hon. Gentleman that, in view of the long delays during this past week's discussion, he should speed up a decision upon this matter.
I conclude as I began. I regard the decision of this House today as a great hope not merely for the West Indies but for Colonial Territories in alt the continents and for the future of the world. One of the great features of the West Indies is that there is no racial discrimination among the people—Africans, Asians and Europeans live together as fellow human beings. There may have been some racial discrimination in a few hotels for Americans who visit the islands as tourists but here is a great example to the world of people democratically deciding without difference of race that they will become a federal union. I very much hope that the beauty of human life in the setting of the loveliness which Nature has bestowed on this island group may become as great as the wonders of its sea, its shore and its sun.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Sir Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)
At this stage of the debate it must be abundantly clear that the new West Indies Federation carries the good wishes of all of us on both sides of the House. I was interested especially in the speech of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). He spoke with warmth and feeling about the West Indies and expressed his hope that their Government would reflect the feelings of his side of this House of Commons.
822 We on this side take a rather different view. We would hope that the Governments of the West Indies would reflect democratic opinion there, whatever it might be. I think that we should say that we would give our support to the Government of the West Indies whatever Parliamentary view they might support. It would not make any difference at all. Over the years, a great many of us have had the pleasure of the friendship and acquaintance of so many West Indians, a lot of them holding political opinions different from our own. We have found them good men, we admire them, and we will support them in their work.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough thought it right to say that the West Indies are very well advanced politically—we agree. He said that they had leaders of outstanding ability—we agree. He then said that in many ways this new Constitution was undemocratic. I do not think that we can go so far as that. In the main, it has been drawn up by outstanding political leaders in the West Indies themselves. It is the Constitution which they drew up by voluntary agreement amongst themselves, and it is the Constitution with which they said they would like to start their new Federation on their own—
§ Mr. Brockway
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that this was before the great changes, and before the emergence of the new democratic movements in Jamaica and Trinidad.
§ Sir R. Robinson
The Constitution, of course, has been drafted only recently, and we in this House are aware, as are the people of the West Indies, that political climate changes from day to day. Indeed, we on this side firmly believe that freedom slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent: and because the West Indies have a new Constitution now, which is fitting to start with, it surely does not mean that it is for ever sacred in its present form. I think that, with the effluxion of time, quite clearly it will develop and advance as more and more power goes into the hands of the political leaders and the people in the West Indies.
That is the kind of theory which we support. Quite clearly, at some time there will be change, but this Constitution is democratic in that the main initiative as to its form has been in accordance with the wishes of their leaders. I am perfectly 823 certain that as time goes on and as the Constitution works, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be prepared to help them in further political development and advancement, because that is what we would all like. At this stage, I would not ask for any alteration in the Constitution.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher)that it was possibly a mistake in the beginning to say that a man could not be a member of both Houses—that is, the Federal House and, say, the House in Jamaica or Trinidad—at the same time. Clearly ultimately, the idea of being in one House only is good, but I feel that, in the early stages, the leaders in the West Indies should be given time to find their feet and to discover in which of the two Houses, Federal or Territorial, they find their real métier. I think that that would have been helpful, but if they wish to start in that way we should accept their view and allow the thing to go through.
I believe that although we are now giving this Constitution to the West Indies we are not giving up all our responsibilities. We have a great responsibility to the Governments and to the people there to help them on their feet. They have a very difficult task ahead in the next few years, and I know that they will want a great deal of financial and economic help, and we should tell them, here and now, that we are still available; that, under their leadership, we will come behind them and do everything we can to help them in the social and economic life of their own country.
Of course, as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough has said, a great deal has to be done to help them with their communications, but I do not think that the picture is quite as black as he painted it. There are air services, which are developing quickly. I do not think that it is quite accurate to say that there is only one ship which goes round serving the people. There are many more. Some of the lines, of course, start outside the West Indies—in other countries—but they do pass through, and many of them are rendering good service to the communications. There remains, however, a great deal to do, and I think that the hon. Member was quite right in saying that 824 we should give more help in this direction—
§ Sir R. Robinson
I quite understand, but I think that a fairer picture is painted by pointing out that there are a great many ships ploughing backwards and forwards. We should not make the picture too black by saying that one ship, and one only, does a circular tour.
I have said that we should do everything we can to strengthen the West Indies Federation. In my opinion, the Federation will be strengthened in the long run if and when British Guiana and British Honduras join it, but, as I stressed earlier, the Federation is a voluntary thing, and it would be wrong for us at this stage to put too much pressure on either British Guiana or British Honduras to come in. Nevertheless, I believe that if the Governments and people there see the benefits of Federation they will, in the long run, of their own volition ask to join it. It is good that this new Constitution makes provision for such an event when the time comes.
As to the site of the capital, it is quite correct that the leaders in the West Indies chose the site in Trinidad. It is equally clear that that site, which is at present occupied by the American base, is by far the most suitable site available. It occurs to me that this is a very great opportunity for our American friends, in the interests of real democracy, to make a great gesture to this new Federation as it is coming into being.
I believe that free opinion throughout the world would be electrified if the American Government were to say "Here is our contribution to a new country—your capital site", without any charge being incurred at all. If only America would do that, it would do so much to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the United States, this country and the Federation. I hope that our American friends will consider that, because it is most important.
There are great tasks ahead for the leaders in the West Indies during the next few years. We should all like them to know that all of us in this House are behind them; that we wish them well, 825 and that we wish them success, whatever their political colour. We hope, too, that Lord Hades, the new Governor-General, will have a very happy term of office as the representative of Her Majesty the Queen in what will, I believe, prove eventually to be one of Her brightest Dominions.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Reeves (Greenwich)
I did not intend to speak this morning, especially as my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway)had covered the situation so admirably. I fully endorse what he said about most of the problems involved in the establishment of the Federation.
This is a very important event. Speaking to some West Indians only a few days ago, I described the new Federation as "World government in miniature". 'That may be an exaggeration, but when one realises the multiplicity of peoples that are represented in the area and the remarkable way in which they have developed over the years, with mutual understanding and a very great measure of political sagacity, one sees the prospect of larger developments elsewhere because of this pilot scheme in the West Indies.
We all ought to be most proud, and both Government and Opposition are most proud, to be associated with the institution of this new form of government which is unparalleled in history. It has been described as a unique event; that exactly describes the development. We must give it all the help we can. There is no doubt that the West Indians have produced the men to carry the burden. Names have already been mentioned this morning. Most of us are associated with the leading figures in this remarkable area and have learned to appreciate their wisdom and their broadmindedness of approach to democratic government.
In a way, they have advanced very much more politically than they have economically. We have a great responsibility ourselves. In years past, we have not felt that we had the economic responsibility for that area that we ought to have had. We have allowed things to drift until, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough has said, the area had an unbalanced economy. I have visited the area and have seen the way in which affairs are conducted. There 826 is not the slightest doubt that they are very poor indeed. The standard of living is very low and unemployment in certain of the islands is a most intractable problem because the economy has not been developed along balanced lines.
They are importing food from all over the world. They are importing tinned food from America and Canada when they ought to be able to produce it themselves. There is no doubt that we should encourage the development of secondary industries. Their economy will not become viable unless they have considerable help from outside.
I know it is a terrible responsibility for us, because we are not nearly as well off as we were in the days gone by and we have no spare cash such as we had in the past. We have been associated with these islands for nearly three centuries and we cannot put off our responsibility merely on account of the fact that they are achieving self-government in the years ahead. It has been said that until the West Indies attain Dominion status we will continue the plans that have already been initiated and that as soon as they attain Dominion status we shall feel that they must carry on, on their own responsibility. Our responsibility must go further than that because it will take years to create a viable economic constitution in this area.
They are doing a very great job for themselves and a considerable measure of initiative is being developed. I had an opportunity of seeing some of the very worth-while experiments that are being conducted in Jamaica. These include the building up of their cattle population, which is a great credit to them. The Jamaicans are naturally very proud of establishing what they call the "Jamaica Glory" which is a breed of cattle between the Jersey strain and the Indian strain. It has now become pure after twenty years of experiment. The Jamaicans are now exchanging the calves of the new breed with some from the old stock which farmers are prepared to relinquish.
In all manner of ways experiments are going on. Reclamation schemes are going ahead apace and large areas are coming under cultivation which, in days gone by, were mere marshes. The development of technical education is, of course, very slow, and we have to give what help 827 the West Indians need. The work of the University College is going along well with professors whom they themselves have produced and others who have come from this country, and they are doing a remarkable job. The university teaching hospital is doing magnificent work. As soon as the West Indians get sufficient technicians to undertake the development of various industries in the islands the development will be quicker than it has been in the past.
They need our help and we have to give as much of it as we can all along the line. They will respond and will do their level best to make their island economies viable and complete in every way. It is magnificent that they should be realising Federation in such a short time.
§ 12.57 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I listened to the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves)and other hon. Members who have a certain advantage over me, with great interest, because I have not visited the West Indies. I hope I shall be able to do so one day. The only reason I dare to intervene is that, in addition to adding my congratulations to the territories concerned and wishing well to this new Constitution, I have a particular interest in constitutional reform. There are certain aspects of this Constitution which are most important and which may have to be altered as time goes on.
Because we are so very reluctant in this place and in other place to amend our own Constitutions we may be missing our opportunity here. We have a sacred principle, which is regarded as Parliamentarily sacred anyway, and which is "No taxation without representation". We also have the principle of grievances being aired before Supply is voted. I have been studying the origin of all these things and have been comparing those origins with certain parts of this proposed Constitution. Taking the Senate first of all, I have been looking at its powers, and, in particular, the powers regarding the introduction of Bills. In Clause 32 (2)of the Constitution, I read:A Bill other than a Money Bill may be introduced in either chamber of the Federal Legislature. A Money Bill shall not be introduced in the Senate.828 In the following Section we see that even if the Senate rejects the Billwithin one month after it is so sent to that Chamber",then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall present it tothe Governor-General for assent notwithstanding that the Senate has not consented to the Bill.I have been studying our own constitution to see how this aspect of control over expenditure has developed. In the constitution for the West Indies we are embodying certain principles which were laid down as long ago as the Statute of Edward I, 1297 on tallage, which reads:No tallage or Aid shall be taken or levied by Us or our Heirs in our Realm without the good will and assent of Archbishops, Bishops, Earls, Barons, Knights, Burgesses and other Freemen of the Land. No officer of ours or of our Heirs shall take any corn, leather, cattle, or any other goods of any manner of person without the good will and assent of the Party to whom the goods belonged.That is the very first we see of this development, and the next is in the reign of Edward III, in 1340. May I make a quotation from that? It reads:Nor that they [the people] be from henceforth charged nor required to make any Aid or to sustain charge if it be not by the common assent of the Prelates, Earls, Barons and other great men … of our said Realm of England.I come, next, to a point 300 years later.
I should be much more contented if the hon. and gallant Member would come right up to 1957 and to the Caribbean and North Atlantic Territories Order, which is what we are dealing with now.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I thought perhaps you might feel inclined to say that sooner or later, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am trying to explain why I think that perhaps it is unwise to suppose that these restrictions over the Senate in the new Constitution should be imposed in respect of money Bills. I was trying to recite as briefly as I could matters other than the Parliament Act, 1911 and the Act of 1949. There are only two other short items in that history which I should like to place on record. One is the Order made by this House on 14th April 1671 which said that any impositions levied by the Commons could not be altered by the Lords. Then, on 3rd July. 1678, 829 there was a Resolution of this House which said thatall aids and supplies to His Majesty in Parliament are the sole gift of the Commons; and all Bills for the granting of any such aids and supplies ought to begin with the Commons …We no longer have an absolute monarchy in the political sense—whether hon. Members regard James II or some other monarch as the last absolute monarch I do not mind—and there is not the slightest likelihood of our ever having one again. This seems to suggest that it might not be entirely necessary for us to bind ourselves too rigidly on this question of where money Bills should be introduced, as long as we preserve the great principle that there should be no taxation without representation; in other words, provided that we leave the elected House with the final say.
It seems to me that one of the weaknesses in our present Constitution is that although we have men of the highest experience in finance and economic matters in another place, none of those noble Members of another place can introduce legislation on finance. I am most anxious to preserve to my dying day the principle that legislation for the raising of money should be finally decided, one way or another, by those who are elected by the people who have to pay the money, but I am by no means certain that it is necessary to have this ban on the introduction of Money Bills in another place.
This is the one flaw in this constitution for the Caribbean. I believe that what they have to do is to establish an aristocracy in its true meaning. I know that the word aristocracy has an unfortunate association in this country; members of the aristocracy are described as degenerate or irresponsible or tyrannical, but I was thinking of it in the true meaning of the word, the Greek word άριστός, meaning "best." What I want to help the Caribbean Islands to do is to produce in their Senate the best possible people.
Earlier, the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway)condemned appointments to the Senate by the Governor-General on the ground that this was undemocratic. I wonder whether he would see this argument if he were here—and I am sorry that he is not here: what his case amounts to 830 is that nobody should ever be appointed by Her Majesty to the House of Lords in this country. That is his argument if he wishes to be consistent. In other words, it seems to me that somewhere, someone has to find an aristocracy to build into the democracy of the Caribbean. I do not see how we can do that unless somebody is given powers to select and recommend. In my view the hon. Member's argument fails on that ground. He did not suggest how this should be done, unless he was arguing that it should be purely an elected second Chamber. I am not at all sure that an elected second Chamber would do anybody any good.
When the hon. Member for Eton and Slough was speaking I could not help being reminded of the story which is going round at present about Vice-President Nixon's visit to congratulate Ghana on getting her freedom. When he met a coloured gentleman he said to him that he was proud to congratulate him on getting his freedom and asked how it felt to be free; to which the coloured gentleman replied, "You've got me wrong, brother, I'm from Alabama."
I am not at all sure that an elected Senate is a better second Chamber in the United States, and I am not at all sure that an elected Senate in the Caribbean would be the right method to adopt, if that is what the hon. Member for Eton and Slough suggested in his somewhat self-contradictory speech. At one time he said that the Caribbean Islands are ready for Commonwealth status but at the next moment he implied that they are not ready for self-government because their economy has not been sufficiently assisted by the United Kingdom.
It seems to me that one of the first things we ought to ensure is that we do not make haste too quickly and that we give them some chance of getting their economy on sound grounds before we bother them too much with elections, not only for the House of Representatives but also for a second Chamber. One thing for which we can thank our stars in this country is that we do not have the perpetual electioneering atmosphere which seems to prevail in the United States, preventing anything sensible from happening while the elections are on. It would be a great pity if one of the first things we inflicted on the Caribbean 831 Federation at its birth were a perpetual air of elections. I can think of nothing less likely to lead to a happy future. I should have thought that it could only add to bitterness and that the Federation would be well advised to fight shy of any proposal which would involve more elections.
I still feel that in the Constitution we are making the mistake of assuming that because in the past we in this country had to take certain steps to restrict the Sovereign in the use of power, it is automatically necessary now for the Caribbean to go through the same motions. The Order in Council provides that the Prime Minister must always be a Member of the House of Representatives. If he becomes ill, a special instrument has to be made under public seal by the Governor-General, who under Article 65 has to appointone of the other Ministers (not being a member of the Senate)".It may be said that although in many ways an enormous responsibility is being given to the Senate, on the one issue—finance—which so often decides whether something can be done the Senate has virtually no power at all. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson)said this morning, the Constitution was originally devised by the people themselves in that part of the world.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is as interested as anybody possibly could be in ensuring that there is the maximum amount of agreement for any constitutional change. I still feel that in this instance we may perhaps have been a little too reluctant to offer sound advice. It may be that at the beginning we have to accept the Constitution as it is—in fact, we cannot amend it now without rejecting it completely, which is the last thing I would wish. It may be that we must leave it as it is for the moment, but I am sure that before long considerable amendments will have to be made to this part of the Constitution, because such a change is long overdue here.
One of the reasons why this House is so powerless today is because the Constitution has been allowed to stand still too long. I would hate to feel that the Caribbean Federation was to suffer that 832 same impediment to its progress. My feeling is that in setting up a new written Constitution of this kind, there are certain advantages and disadvantages. I hope that one of the disadvantages of the Constitution will not be the logical conclusion to be drawn from the remarks of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough that it will become a law of the Medes and Persians that can never be changed.
I agree that it is a mistake to start suggesting reforms before something is actually put into operation. Nevertheless, on the whole, it is sometimes wise to look ahead, as long as, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)once said, one does not try to look ahead further than one can possibly see.
What I have tried to put before the House this morning is something which I have been studying from our own Parliament's point of view for some years. By producing the Constitution in exactly this form, we have, perhaps, missed an opportunity which would have enabled the Mother of Parliaments, as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough called us, to take a little advice from one of her children. However, it remains to be seen how it works out.
This is a noble thing that we are doing today. It is of the greatest importance for the future and, as one hon. Member said, it is almost unique. I hope, however, that whether it be unique or whether it be a pattern for other similar developments, we shall bear in mind the possibility, to which the right hon. Member for Lanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths)referred, of bringing in the Dominions financially and economically as much as we can.
The Prime Minister of Canada has said that he is prepared to increase trade with England by 15 per cent. The right hon. Member for Llanelly today suggested that Canada might be asked to consider how she could help economically in this matter. I hope very much that that opportunity will not be missed, that the offer of Prime Minister Diefenbaker will be followed up and that it will not be assumed that it is only the United Kingdom who is interested. The more that we can associate the old Dominions with the new Federations and the other Colonies as they come towards self-government, the better for the future of 833 the Commonwealth and, because of that, for the peace of the world.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I am glad to have the opportunity of saying a few words in support of the Motion as one of those who had the good fortune to visit this happy and delightful part of the world two years ago in company with my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher)and the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves).
I begin by supporting the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton when he said he was sorry that this debate was taking place on a Friday, when so few of us are present. If that has been done to suit the arrangements of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, we would all fully understand the reasons for it, because no Minister has had a greater burden placed upon him in the last year and a half than has my right hon. Friend in the enormous number of demands from all parts of the Commonwealth for consultation concerning self-government, extensions of government and matters of that kind.
If that is the reason why both the Order and the recent Bill dealing with the Federation of Malaya have been dealt with on Fridays, we have no complaint. If, however, it is due to the fact, as often happens, that the "usual channels" sometimes regard colonial affairs as something of lesser importance which can be taken on a Friday, I hope that that tradition, which has persisted so long, will soon come to an end and that it will be realised that the affairs of the Commonwealth and of the Colonial Territories are nowadays so important that they must rank in importance with anything else that this House has to consider, and that, therefore, we should have fewer occasions when colonial affairs are discussed on days when there are other calls on our time.
Having looked through the records of the last seven or eight years, I know that there have been a number of occasions when events like Royal garden parties have called Members away from the House and it has been decided to have a debate on colonial affairs. That also is a tradition which, I hope, will cease. I hope that the representatives of the usual channels who are present will convey to 834 their chiefs the feelings of a large number of us on this important topic.
One regret which I have concerning the Order is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson)said, that it does not include British Guiana and British Honduras. I shall not say anything about British Guiana, because I have not visited it, but I have visited British Honduras. While it is quite right that we should not try to force either of those two territories to join if they do not wish to do so, I hope the time will come when they will voluntarily apply for admission.
In that connection there is, perhaps, a little more encouragement to be derived from what has recently happened in British Honduras than one might have expected. As hon. Members know, there was an election a few months ago which resulted in a great change, certainly among the members of the Legislature who are now Ministers. Those who were elected originally took a rather extreme view and some of us had a little foreboding as to the attitude they might take. I understand that Mr. George Price, the leading Minister, is co-operating wholeheartedly with the Government and the powers that be and that he and his chief colleagues recently attended the Queen's Birthday Parade celebrations there.
Let us hope that that means that the elected Ministers or Members of the Legislature of British Honduras will continue to co-operate most warmly with the Government and will realise that, in the end, the only hope of bringing greater prosperity to that Colony is by full cooperation with the other territories in the West Indies and with the West Indian Federation.
I think I am right in saying that most of the trade of British Honduras is either with this country or with other British territories in the West Indies, Canada and possibly also the United States. There is, I believe, hardly any trade with Central America, and I know that at one time it was the custom of some of the politicians in that country to look more towards the Spanish-speaking territories of Central America than to their British friends. I hope that there will be a departure from that policy, and that British Honduras will eventually enter the West Indies Federation.
835 It has been said that the West Indies is at least as ripe for Commonwealth status, if not more so, than Ghana. I think that the West Indies is very much more ripe than Ghana for Commonwealth status, inasmuch as some of the territories have been associated with this country for over 300 years. The association of Barbados dates from 1625, and that of Jamaica from 1655, and no island territory has become British later than 1814, so that there is a long tradition of association with Britain, which I think goes further back than the association of many parts of Africa, and shows that these territories may be far more ripe for self-government than almost any other part of the Commonwealth which at the moment has not received it, including even Ghana.
There is only one other point I should like to make. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway)and the hon. Member for Greenwich talked about secondary industries being developed in these territories, and the hon. Member for Eton and Slough regretted that sugar was brought from the West Indies in its raw state, refined over here and sent back to the West Indies for consumption there. I think the hon. Gentleman might be interested to know that there is a great deal of industrial development going on there now, which was not the case many years ago. Surely, that is because the Governments there, particularly in Jamaica, have passed laws designed to encourage secondary industries to establish themselves there, and new laws have in fact been passed only recently.
I think that, as a result of that encouragement, industrialists are now considering developing industries and factories out there when they probably would not have done a few years ago. Surely, if these countries are to get the capital they need for further development, it will be only by encouraging them all we can and by making it absolutely clear that we can help them to overcome this problem.
Like all those who have spoken in the debate, I wish this venture all possible success, and I hope that before very long this delightful area containing ten different island territories will take its place in the Commonwealth as a self-governing State, and will derive as much happiness from its association with the 836 Commonwealth as the older self-governing States have done in the past.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If I may have the leave of the House to speak again, I should like to comment on some of the points that have been made in this most interesting and helpful debate.
My hon. Friends the Members for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher)and Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson), and other hon. Members, have referred to the recent discussions in London on the Federal capital site. This is a difficult problem, and we shall not make it any easier by pretending that it is simple. It is difficult, but I think we are all delighted at the results of the conference. The conference was presided over very ably and very cheerfully, as I know, by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who I am sorry is not here today to receive in public the bouquets which I, the West Indian leaders and the Americans have all given to him in private, on the admirable way in which he handled this conference, but he is on an official visit over the weekend to Gibraltar.
I know that we welcome the decision to establish a joint commission, and that we hope very much that this commission will succeed in finding a way out of these very real difficulties. Hon. Members may perhaps not have seen the exact words, and I do not propose to read them all, but will quote only the relevant parts:Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago. the British West Indies, the United Kingdom and the United States have agreed to the establishment of a joint commission composed of representative technical experts to investigate all aspects of the British West Indies request to make Chaguaramas available, taking into full account military and economic considerations The Joint Commission shall be set up and shall report to the parties concerned as early as possible.My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton made a very interesting suggestion about possible visits by Members of both Houses to the first Session of the Federal Parliament. I will gladly consult with the proper authorities on that matter, and some opportunity will be taken of making some further statement on that suggestion.
My hon. Friend also referred to paragraph 22 on page 19 of this Order, the reference being to the question of dual membership, and my hon. Friend the 837 Member for Blackpool, South took up the same theme. This also is a problem that has caused a good deal of discussion over the years, and on which opinions have in fact changed more than once during the passage of time. As the House will know, the provisions in the Constitution lay down that a member of the Federal Legislature or Executive Council cannot continue to be a member of a Territorial Legislature or Executive Council.
The original recommendation of the Standing Closer Association Committee was omitted from the 1953 Federal plan, but it was reinstated in the Report of the conference over which I presided last year, and the provisions of that conference have now been endorsed by the Standing Federation Committee. I know there are points of view on both sides of this matter and strong arguments both ways, buy. I think this is essentially a matter to be settled locally, and it was settled by the West Indian leaders themselves.
There was a certain amount of discussion, not wholly confined to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, about the alleged undemocratic shortcomings of this constitution. This constitution was also fashioned by the leaders themselves—the people who are going to work it, and who will be responsible to the people who are to live under it. Even though this is a Friday, I hope I shall be allowed to show a little indignation at some of the language used by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough. This constitution was fashioned by local leaders in the full knowledge of the fact that, in Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados, constitutional changes were impending which would give very considerable powers to these great territories, and also that in other smaller territories, inevitable but quite proper and desirable constitutional changes were on the way. The language which the hon. Gentleman used suggested that those from Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados were wholly ignorant of what was going on in their territories. That is completely untrue. The reserve powers substantially follow the proposals which were made by the British Caribbean Standing Closer Association Committee, of which, hon. Members will remember, Sir Hubert Rance was Chairman. Apart from Sir Hubert, it was entirely composed of West Indians, and 838 only the Chairman was from outside. The conference last year decided to make general the power of the Governor-General to reserve Bills, instead of specifying particular categories of Bills. This was a decision freely arrived at by the local leaders themselves.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Eton and Slough got very eloquent about the leaders of the Federal Council, and he asked me, rhetorically speaking, of people with whom I am in close and continuous touch as Secretary of State, how long will they tolerate the imposition by the Secretary of State of these undemocratic provisions? Frankly, even though it is a Friday, I must say that that is absolute arrant nonsense. I quite agree with him that the Mother of Parliaments has got a lot to teach other people, and I do not see anything to be ashamed of in that fact, but I hope that rather reckless inaccuracies of that kind are not among, the things we are anxious to export.
§ Mr. Brockway
I am accustomed to the right hon. Gentleman's language as he is accustomed to mine. I put this to him Is it not the case that the great change in the West Indies has been the change in Trinidad, which has altered the whole picture, and that the acting Leader of the House in Trinidad, who will occupy such an important position in the new Federation, had no say at all in the Constitution which has now been proposed?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman would not, I take it, suggest that the whole thing should once more be thrown into the melting pot? Because before the matter was resolved there would be another election, and the same arguments could be used again, and Federation would be indefinitely postponed.
He spoke of the imposition of new methods of appointing the Senate, but the truth of the matter is that the method of appointing the Senators follows the express wishes of the West Indians themselves on this matter.
At this point, I would say to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke)how interested I was in his dissertations on the various constitutional problems raised by this Constitution, and that I join with him in recognising that it would be unwise for any Colony or Colonial Territory automatically to try to follow every detail of the British constitutional system. I 839 quite agree with him that some of the protective habits of our people which were enshrined in our Constitution gradually through many generations were due to the desire to protect the Commons House from dangers which no longer exist, or which exist but in a different form or in other forms of conflict.
However, I think that the question of the second House having the power to initiate legislation dealing with money matters is bound, of course, to be tied up in the problem of the composition of the second House. In this case, as he himself recognised, it was the wish of the West Indian leaders that the appointments should be by the Governor-General in his discretion after consultation with the territorial Governors, and in this sense consultation with the territorial Governors means with the territorial Governors in Council, and though the final appointment is by the Governor-General in his discretion, there will have been that previous consultation.
The presence of officials without voting powers, in the Council of State which the hon. Gentleman mentioned as well, was agreed to by the West Indian representatives at the Conference last year, The West Indian representatives themselves asked that officials should not be given full membership of the Council of State with voting powers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton and other hon. Members raised also the question of finance and financial problems in general. It is, of course, the fact that the Federation will not have a very great deal of money with which to start on its great and romantic journey, but there will be no difficulty about amending the Constitution to provide for a higher financial ceiling once the Order in Council has been made, as hon. Members will see if they look at Article 117, if the West Indian territorial Governments, and the Federal Government when it comes into being, should so wish. Then there is a very proper desire on the part of the West Indian leaders, facing the great problems of Federation and its opportunities, to provide cautiously for financial requirements rather than rush without proper consideration into what are largely uncharted seas.
The Government have made certain definite financial undertakings which are 840 in no sense dependent on the continuance of the Federation as a dependent Federation and which would continue even if its status changed. The first is the grant of £1 million for the Federal capital, and the second is the undertaking over a period of ten years to make available under the British Caribbean Federation Act of last year sums of money by way of grant in aid to help the poorer territories in the Federation. I recognise that this is a real obligation and one which our people are very ready to discharge. The grant in aid will not be less than the average amount granted over the last three years. The actual sums for the first five years will be calculated some three months before the beginning of the relevant financial year.
But it is not only in finance and obligations of this kind that our people recognise their continuing obligation to lie. Our close association with the West Indies, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell)has reminded us, has extended over many centuries, and in the hearts and feelings of our people our West Indian fellow citizens rank as high as it is possible for anyone to rank. I personally know that there is no part of the British Colonial Territories with which it is a greater happiness to deal. I have found this in the last three years as Secretary of State in dealing with the leaders and others from the West Indies, and I am only endorsing the views of everybody in this House when I wish them God speed on the journey on which they are about to embark. To all of them, leaders and people, and to the civil servants who are doing so well already in the West Indies, and to the Governor-General designate—to all of them—I know that the good wishes of our House and people will most warmly go.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Draft West Indies (Federation)Order in Council, 1957, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th July, be approved.