§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The object of this Bill is to restore to Her Majesty the prerogative power to amend or revoke any part of the Malta Constitution. When the present Constitution, the 1947 Constitution, was granted the Crown then reserved power to amend or revoke only certain parts of that Constitution, and so has no such power as regards the other parts.
It is necessary at this stage to remind the House of some quite old history, but I will try to do it briefly. It is necessary so that we should understand better the constitutional problem with which the House is faced today. The Royal Commission on Malta, in 1931, writing of the story of Malta's constitutional life from 1849 until then—nearly 100 years—said:It would be almost possible to plot a graph of the constitutional history of Malta during the last 100 years showing the rise and fall of Constitutions modelled alternately on the principle of benevolent autocracy and that of representative Government.It is a fact that each new constitution granting a measure of representative government began its existence auspiciously, and yet before many years were over became unworkable. I think it is unfair to blame, entirely anyhow, statesmen in Malta or in the United Kingdom for this record of constitutional failure, for it is always a very difficult task to reconcile, among other interests, the natural aspirations of a people for self-government and the strategic needs of the territory and the benefits that they bring.
At the end of the First World War, however, the necessity for a compromise solution was publicly accepted in Malta and the form it took was the introduction of a diarchial Government. This was a system of government in which, as the then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies said—and he was later destined to become a renowned Colonial Secretary, and father of my hon. Friend the present 38 Under-Secretary—the people of Malta would be entrusted,with full responsible control of their purely local affairs, the control of the naval and military services and of such other services and functions of government as are connected with the position of Malta as an imperial fortress and harbour remaining vested in the Imperial authorities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1919; Vol. 121, c. 909–10.]This principle of diarchy was given effect to in the 1921 Constitution. It took into account the wishes expressed by the very valuable Maltese National Assembly—an unofficial body widely representative of Maltese opinion. One of the requests of this body was thatan Act of the British Parliament shall guarantee the Constitution which shall not be revoked or modified except by another Act of Parliament.Prerogative power to amend or revoke this Constitution was reserved only in respect of some of the provisions of the Constitution, and any major revision, above all revocation, was only possible by an Act of Parliament or if such an Act restored full prerogative powers to the Crown.
This Constitution, which began life under great and good auspices, proved unworkable, and in 1936 the Malta (Letters Patent) Act, 1936, was passed, restoring to the Crown the full power to amend or revoke the Maltese Constitution. I have re-read that debate to which, as a very junior Member, I listened at the time. The Bill which the House will he debating today is almost identical with that earlier Act.
The 1936 Act was followed by the revocation of the 1921 Constitution and its temporary replacement by Crown Colony Government. The first step towards restoration of responsible Government was taken three years later, but then the war intervened.
The 1947 Constitution also had its origins in a valuable Maltese National Assembly whose draft was discussed with Her Majesty's Government's Constitutional Commissioner. As a result of his recommendation, in Section 60 of the 1947 Constitution the prerogative power of amendment or revocation was only reserved in respect of those sections relating to matters within the Imperial side of the diarchy, the judiciary, official languages, reserved Civil List, religious tolerance and emergency laws. Furthermore, Section 60 itself may only be revoked or altered with 39 the concurrence of the Maltese Prime Minister.
The 1947 Constitution, therefore, restored the position that the Constitution as a whole could only be revoked by Act of Parliament or by restoring under an Act the full prerogative right to legislate. It is to achieve this latter purpose that the present Bill has been introduced.
I should now like to remind the House of the events Which have for the second time in a generation led to the need for a Bill of this character. In the summer of 1955 I had talks with representatives of the Maltese political parties. These were followed by the Round Table Conference which reported in December, 1955, and in March, 1956, Her Majesty's Government accepted in principle the recommendation that Malta should be integrated with the United Kingdom under suitable arrangements.
There followed negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and the Maltese Government which lasted between March, 1956, and November, 1957. They were long and arduous. There were over 50 meetings. Those who did not take part in them, and indeed some of those who did, will say that they were too long drawn out. It is quite likely that some historians will argue in this way, but others will not, for, after all, this was completely new ground in constitutional development.
There were many aspects on which people in the United Kingdom and in Malta felt deeply, and there were great differences of view in the United Kingdom and in Malta. There were religious problems concerning the Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches. There were many constitutional and financial details of great complexity. It might have been possible to rush the concept through and to deal with unresolved differences and varying interpretations later, but it could be argued, I think, that, in this way, much more enduring harm would in the end have come to our relations with Malta than the temporary course on which we are embarking today.
Anyhow, I think that I am entitled to say that Mr. Mintoff, who then wanted integration, and the very many of his countrymen who did not, knew all through this long period of talks what my own views were, namely, that integration 40 was the best answer to the problems of our constitutional relationship. This conviction, for it could have been nothing else, might have yielded a richer dividend of trust and confidence.
These lengthy talks would have been difficult enough anyhow, but they were tragically impeded and bedevilled by extraneous matters such as the adequacy or otherwise of Her Majesty's Government annual subvention to the Maltese budget and disputes between the Maltese Government and the Service Departments over defence matters, conducted by the former, I must say, in a manner which brought near despair to the advocates of integration and was inconsistent with the spirit of partnership.
At one point, indeed, in the summer of 1957, Mr. Mintoff's insistence that Malta should be guaranteed economic equivalence with the United Kingdom within a fixed period nearly led to a breakdown then. We had to withstand this demand, which would have been equivalent to signing a blank cheque on the British Exchequer, and we had to take the line that economic equivalence must be linked to increased productivity by the Maltese, assisted by United Kingdom financial aid.
By November, 1957, I was myself still very hopeful. By then, agreement was very nearly reached on most of the outstanding points in the integration plan. At about this time, however, there was a very important development affecting the Maltese economy. It was clear that, owing to the planned reduction of the Royal Navy, the volume of naval ship repair work available to the Malta dockyard would decline after 1960. Her Majesty's Government were giving urgent consideration to the provision of alternative employment.
In November, 1957, when agreement was almost reached on integration, I gave Mr. Mintoff assurances on behalf of the Government for the next three years, which was the most that, at that time, I was able to give. He must also have known that, for the years after that, with our long association with Malta and the mutual affections of our peoples, no British Government would ever abandon Malta to mass unemployment.
By mid-December, 1957, it seemed clear that Mr. Mintoff was losing interest in integration. Many efforts were made to stir up widespread anxiety about their 41 future employment among the Maltese people. Twice during December, 1957, public statements were made by the Governor and the Maltese Imperial Government. The second statement was issued on 29th December, with the concurrence of the Maltese Government. However, the next day, on the initiative of Mr. Mintoff, the Maltese Legislative Assembly passed a resolution threatening the severance of Maltese ties with the United Kingdom and her Allies. The situation was further complicated by a dispute about the size of the United Kingdom grant to the Maltese budget for 1958–59.
At the end of January, 1958, I wrote to Mr. Mintoff pointing out the United Kingdom's financial difficulties and the need to effect considerable economies overseas. I warned him of the need for a substantial reduction in our contribution to Malta for 1958–59. This was an inevitable but a highly unpalatable task, and one which I, as Colonial Secretary, had to undertake all round, doing it also for territories which had made far more use of their own financial resources than Malta had done.
After lengthy correspondence, I persuaded Mr. Mintoff to come to London in March, 1958, for further talks. He asked then for further extensive financial commitments by Her Majesty's Government, or alternatively, for the grant of independence. He demanded, also, that, until such time as full economic equivalence with the United Kingdom had been reached, Her Majesty's Government should concede Malta the right to opt for independence, and that, at the next election, the Maltese people should be offered the choice between integration and independence.
I do not think that any Government could have accepted that. As I said in the House on 25th March last year:… the Prime Minister of Malta refused to recommend integration to the Maltese people on the imaginative terms proposed by Her Majesty's Government. He attempted to attach a political condition, namely, the right to independence on a unilateral basis, which strikes at the root of a union in mutual confidence which was the basis of the integration proposals."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1958; Vol. 585, c. 227.]It was then clear that the prospects of integration were fast disappearing. In an effort to bridge the gap, Her 42 Majesty's Government offered an interim constitution for five years, broadly corresponding to full integration, but without the provisions specially designed for constitutional integration of Malta with the United Kingdom. This alternative provided for a review at the end of five years to see whether agreement could be reached to proceed with a more permanent arrangement for the achievement of full integration or for some other agreed constitutional and economic basis for Malta's future.
The details of this and of the full integration constitution were circulated in HANSARD on 25th March last year. Unhappily, however, it was not possible to make any progress with Mr. Mintoff on this basis. Indeed, soon after his return to Malta, and without any clearance with Her Majesty's Government, he proposed a budget which would have involved a deficit of £7 million, all of which would have to have been met by Her Majesty's Government. Then, on 21st April, 1958, he resigned on the specific ground of Her Majesty's Government alleged refusal to find a modus vivendi on financial aid for the period necessary to hold an election. He refused to form a caretaker Government, but agreed to remain in office while the Governor consulted the Opposition.
By this time, as the House will recall, there was serious rioting in Malta, which increased in violence over the next two days. Dr. Borg Olivier, the Leader of the Opposition, refused to form a caretaker Government. On 23rd April, the Maltese Commissioner of Police told the Governor that Mr. Mintoff in his capacity as Minister of Police had issued orders, at three minutes' notice: one, to withdraw the mounted police; two, to suspend all baton charges; and, three, to dismiss two named police officers. In the Commissioners' view—there were riots going on at that very moment—if these orders were carried out the Commissioner could not accept responsibility for keeping the situation under control. Therefore, in the interests of public safety, the Governor countermanded these orders and told Mr. Mintoff so as soon as he could contact him.
On the next day, 24th April, the Governor told Mr. Mintoff that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to give financial assistance for the period of an election campaign at an annual rate of £5 million, 43 without any conditions as to the situation after the formation of a new Government. At the same time, he asked for assurances from Mr. Mintoff that he would carry out his responsibilities for maintaining law and order. Mr. Mintoff was not prepared to give these, and the Governor, therefore, accepted his resignation. Then, as the House knows, there was a strike and a state of emergency was declared.
I then made arrangements for a conference. Before it assembled, Her Majesty's Government prepared a constitution based on the integration proposals, without representation at Westminster. Save for provisions dealing with the police and the public service, it was made necessary by pledges which I had given. It was a liberal constitution, even I think to the most critical observer. We very much hoped to get that accepted as a basis of negotiation. My efforts to have it discussed were frustrated by Mr. Mintoff's demand for immediate independence for Malta or independence by 1962.
To this, I replied that independence did not mean just political independence. It demanded a high degree of economic independence as well. I said that, in addition to making large annual contributions to her budget, the United Kingdom provided Malta, directly and indirectly, with nearly four-fifths of the foreign exchange which she needed for her imports, and that without United Kingdom expenditure on the island Malta would be able to pay for only 20 per cent. of her imports of food and other necessities. I pointed out to him that the United Kingdom activities in Malta generated three-quarters of the gross national product, that 27 per cent. of the people employed were directly, and a great many more indirectly, employed by the United Kingdom and that a sizeable part of the civilian population was sustained by the money spent by United Kingdom citizens.
If Malta became independent outside the Commonwealth, she would lose her preferential access to the United Kingdom market; her people would lose their status as citizens of the United Kingdom and the Colonies; the spending power of her people would certainly decline by over £10 million a year; her credit-worthiness would not support foreign borrowing; and she would no longer be eligible for budgetary grants.
44 To accede to Mr. Mintoff's demand would condemn the people of Malta to appalling poverty and mass unemployment, and it would be an irresponsible abdication of our duties. Such a demand—
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough) rose—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I want to develop the argument; we have plenty of time.
Such a demand, which Mr. Mintoff showed no sign of withdrawing, clearly made it unprofitable to discuss in good faith our interim constitutional plan, which was based on the continued association of Malta and Great Britain.
I explained to Mr. Mintoff that I was not asking him to commit himself to accept our interim plan as the basis of negotiation. We were ready to consider any other interim plan. As to the ultimate solution, I said that he might wish to maintain that this should be independence. We thought otherwise, but I said to him that these were matters which could properly be settled when the interim constitution comes to be replaced. But I made no progress there.
Since then I have read an article by Mr. Mintoff in an English weekly—"A New Plan for Malta." Certainly, this is not the plan which he put forward at the conference, but I have read the article with great interest.
§ Mr. Brockway
The right hon. Gentleman said that these would be the consequences if Malta obtained independence outside the Commonwealth. During those discussions, did Mr. Mintoff say that he would stand for independence outside the Commonwealth, or was he prepared to consider independence within the Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
No question of independence within the Commonwealth cropped up in my talks with him, although I have seen this more recently and I believe that it has now emerged as a possibility.
Admitting in the article that, if the British forces were to leave tomorrow and no alternative means of livelihood were found, no more than about a fifth of the present population would survive, admitting, also, as he does in the article, 45 that help could not be found in unification with Italy or from Egypt, Mr. Mintoff concluded that deliverance could come only in one way—the neutralisation of Malta as a free port with its freedom guaranteed by the Security Council. Malta would undertake to repair the merchant or naval ships of any nation.
Mr. Mintoff said that Malta would develop into alittle Switzerland in the heart of the Mediterranean … for weary, disarmed tourists.It would join the Common Market andform similar commercial bondswith neighbouring Arab countries. Malta would bethe bridgehead of industry and commerce between the Continent of Europe and the Arab nations.… Given a stable outlook, American and European capital would flow into our parched land and the harmless industry of the West would serve without strings the rapidly expanding demands of the Arab countries. To turn this dream into a reality, to change Malta from an arsenal of death into an oasis of co-existence, life and prosperity, would entail a capital investment of about £100 million.Such is the picture of Mr. Mintoff's Mediterranean Switzerland. It is an apocalyptic vision, of which the general effect is radiant but the detail is obscure. What is meant by describing Malta as at once a free port and a member of the Common Market? Why should the trade between Europe and Africa, for which the sea lanes of the Mediterranean are open, conveniently channel itself through Malta? What is there to attract the enriching flow of European and American capital? It is no service to the people of Malta to hold out this vision of an easily attained earthly paradise.
In an effort to diversify her economy, Malta starts without any natural advantages of raw materials or sources of power and without the advantages of a large internal market to support her industries. Her exports to Europe or the Arab countries will find outlets only in fierce competition with the larger industrialised countries. Her geographical position would be an asset for her ship-repairing industry, but she is no more a bridgehead than is Sicily or Corsica. After all, it is not neutrality that attracts tourists to Switzerland.
I note, however, the recognition by Mr. Mintoff that to launch what he boldly 46 described as "this first Christian experiment" would, he says,primarily necessitate the co-operation of the people of Britain who still feel towards Malta the moral obligation of rehabilitating her.And so do I. Perhaps, after all, Mr. Mintoff and the Government are not so far apart. Although we use less extravagant language, we too have a vision of a peaceful and happy Malta, with the dockyards repairing the ships of all nations, with busy factories employing the industry and skill of the Maltese people, with a tourist trade worthy of the beauty and historic interest of their island, and we are prepared to contribute generously to the fulfilment of this vision.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman says that there is not so much difference between the two ultimate visions, why was it that he insisted that Mr. Mintoff would have to abandon explicitly his vision of independence before the interim constitution could be discussed?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Because it seemed to be unrealistic to consider a constitution based on continued association with the intention to press for immediate independence in his mind, or in view of the only extension he made of that—full independence by 1962.
I also had valuable discussions with the Nationalist Party, but it wanted more precise assurances on Malta's eventual position in the Commonwealth than I was in a position to give. As the delegation was under a mandate from its party not to enter into discussion of interim arrangements in the absence of such an assurance, there could be no substantial discussion of Her Majesty's Government's proposal. I also had useful exchanges of views with the Progressive Constitutional Party delegation. [HON. MEMBERS: Why?"] I have answered questions about why before and I stick to the same view that I had then.
I should like now to say something on the interim constitution which we were prepared to discuss and of which there are copies in the Library. This offered, in many respects, a further advance towards complete self-government. It was based on the outline constitutional integration arrangement without Westminster representation. Malta would have self-government on all matters save defence 47 and external affairs and with certain reservations concerning the police and public service. The representative of the Crown in Malta would have acted in accordance with the advice of Maltese Ministers on other matters. He would have had no responsibility for defence and foreign affairs, which would have become the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with machinery for joint consultation. Appointments, promotions, transfers and disciplinary control of the public service and the police would still have been vested in the Crown's representative, but instead of exercising them on the advice of Ministers, he would have acted on the advice of an independent public service commission.
Constitutional responsibility for the police would have been vested in the Crown's representative acting in his discretion. For this proposal, I came in for a great deal of criticism, but my reasons were, I think, sound. During last April, there was, without question, political interference with the police while actually engaged in the task of restoring order. There then were threats of later retaliation against police officers who were named. I then gave certain undertakings in public to the police. There was no other way in which I could discharge my promise that the police would not be victimised, or that there would not be further political interference. I certainly hoped that it would not be necessary to continue this provision, which, in any case, would be reviewed regularly, for very long. However, for the reasons I have already stated, the general discussion on the interim proposals did not take place and the best course of action—indeed, to me, the only course—seemed to be to try to make a fresh start. It is the fresh start to which I am asking the House to agree today.
Our intention is to advise Her Majesty to revoke the present Constitution and replace it by interim arrangements which would vest for the time being the power to make laws and the executive authority in the Governor. He will be advised by a Council with official and Maltese unofficial members who will be nominated. I need hardly say that I deeply regret this step and I very much hope that it will last only for a relatively short time. Her Majesty's Government, who did not want to take this step and would have been 48 glad to avoid it, could, however, see no alternative. Throughout, as will continue while the present situation lasts, I am very anxious of the need in every step we take to build bridges which will make it easier to return to responsible government.
Now may I say a word about economic problems? Her Majesty's Government are, of course, always concerned with this question, but in view of the nature of the interim constitution we are more than usually involved in the economic problems of Malta. We can never forget that over the last twenty years, work for the three Services has given jobs, on an average, to 19,000 people out of a total labour force of 83,000, the largest employer being the Admiralty in the dockyard and the base.
The House knows of the plans, which are now very far advanced, for the conversion of the Malta Dockyard to a commercial yard and its transfer to a commercial ship-repairing firm. I and other Ministers had a number of talks with Mr. Borg, of the General Workers' Union of Malta, and some of his colleagues. On 9th December last, I made to the House a lengthy statement, the conclusion of which was that with the co-operation of the Maltese unions and workers there are good prospects of maintaining a high level of employment in the dockyard and in the base.
The dockyard, valuable in itself, should attract new industries to Malta. It is now very largely in the hands of the people of Malta to make this a success. There are, of course, many other plans to diversify the economy and, incidentally, to give jobs to the young people who will be entering industry for the first time. Their future is in their own people's hands. For our own part, we will not let them down.
There are many dockyard changes in the world. Portland and Sheerness, in the United Kingdom, are closing. I have had the melancholy task of hearing at first hand of the grief of the people of Bermuda at the closing of their historic dockyard. Hong Kong, with its complicated employment problem, is seeing its dockyard closing in November this year. Because, however, of their particular circumstances and the reliance of the people of Malta on the dockyard, special action is being taken in Malta. But there is a limit to what we can do on our own. We will do all we can, but we cannot 49 ensure a high level of employment without full and, indeed, enthusiastic local support. This applies to the dockyard conversion, to its transfer and to all other industrial schemes.
Constitutional solutions may, perhaps inevitably, provoke controversy, especially when, as now, they take away something which people have for some years enjoyed. The industrial plans, which take away nothing but give much, surely should evoke universal support. I very much regret that some of what we must now do will result from plans made since the dissolution of the House of Assembly. I wish it were otherwise. Some of the plans, however, I readily recognise, were initiated while Mr. Mintoff was in office and he tackled them with the drive and vigour which, despite all our difficulties, has made it, to me at least, at times a pleasure to work with him.
The deep water harbour, the construction of factories, electricity and water development and aids to industries legislation are in the forefront of the Government's plans. No doubt the House will have noticed that a day or two ago, on 30th January, the Aids to Industry Ordinance was published. Among other things, it establishes an Industrial Development Board. This Board will carry on the admirable work already being done by Lord Hives's Industrial Advisory Committee on which he and Sir George Dowty, Sir George Schuster and Mr. Thomas Brand, now Lord Hampden, have already done so much.
I am glad that they have agreed to serve on the Board, where they will have as colleagues Maltese members. In addition to their original task, they will now, under the Bill, be able to recommend relief from Income Tax—that is, tax holidays of up to ten years for industries—relief from Customs duties for a period on materials and articles for construction of industrial undertakings and on goods needed for manufacture for export. Nor is that all. It will also be possible for industries to apply for direct financial assistance in the form of Government grants and loans out of United Kingdom funds.
There is also the tourist industry, which can make a valuable contribution to the future economy. A Tourist Board with executive powers has been set up under Mr. Barker Benfield. He was for seven 50 years director of publicity and then chief executive in the Jamaica Tourist Board. I know from my own responsibilities elsewhere of the vigorous and successful work which he has done. Plans in this field should bear fruit this year.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the cost of this to the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Not at the moment, but I am coming to the question of our contribution. It is a substantial one to all forms of development and diversion.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
About £1 million.
It may well be argued that to bring to an end fruitful negotiations in many other fields than that was, on the part of the Maltese Prime Minister at that time, rather a tragedy. I think that if ever the right hon. Gentleman had my job to do he would realise that we have obligations in many Colonies all over the world and that we cannot reasonably ask that the burden should be concentrated on one or two Colonies and not spread fairly all round the Colonial Empire.
It is also very desirable to stimulate emigration, a very necessary thing to deal in part with the rapid increase in population, while, of course, keeping a watch on the effects of emigration on the age structure of the population.
In these plans of Her Majesty's Government, capital assistance plays, and will play, a great part. It has already been announced that the United Kingdom will contribute up to £29 million over the next five years towards the cost of capital programmes, the conversion of the dockyard and the encouragement of new industries.
In conclusion, I hope that the interim constitution will be genuinely interim and the industrial development will be genuinely permanent. We will do our best to ensure both results, but this we can only do if we have co-operation, particularly in the industrial plane, on plans 51 which are designed to help Malta to achieve self-sufficiency and security in the future.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I do not intend to spend very much time on some aspects of the Minister's case. For example, I will not speak for more than a moment or two about his personal controversies with Mr. Mintoff. I am not really interested in them. In point of fact, the House must remember that we have been listening to a one-sided statement of the controversy itself. Mr. Mintoff's case has not been heard by the House, so we must take what the right hon. Gentleman has said not only with a pinch but with a bar of salt. In the very nature of things, his statement was an ex parte statement.
Furthermore, the House is not fundamentally interested in the pawkiness of Mr. Mintoff. No doubt he is a very difficult negotiator. I dare say that he would take the same view of the Colonial Secretary. But it is the duty of Ministers, especially in an Imperial Parliament like this, to remember that when they meet representatives of resurgent Colonies they meet awkward and prickly people. They would not be there if they were not awkward. They would not be representatives of rebellious elements in the Colonies if they had been smooth and easy-going people. We have always had to deal with difficult men whenever we have had to settle the independence of Colonies.
The American colonists were not easy people to deal with. They still remain somewhat difficult. We had some very difficult people in India; we put a lot of them in gaol. They were very difficult men to deal with. One was once described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) as a naked fakir. Then there was Michael Collins, a particularly awkward chap to deal with, and Dr. Nkrumah. It is, therefore, no answer at all to us to say that in dealing with the representatives of Malta the Colonial Secretary has had some very awkward people to handle. It is his job to handle awkward people, and if he cannot handle then he ought to get out and let someone else have a chance to do it.
52 I am quite prepared to admit that Mr. Mintoff is difficult. He is a man of very considerable talents, great energy, great imagination and drive and recognised on the Island of Malta as much their first public man. Of course, all our strengths are accompanied by our weaknesses. He is a man of infinite fertility of mind and, therefore, we can always expect him to come up with a large number of solutions. I am not, for example, surprised that he made the speech from which the right hon. Gentleman has quoted in speaking about the future of Malta. The right hon. Gentleman has just told us himself about his conception of the future of Malta, and that it was not very far removed from that of Mr. Mintoff's. We must remember—and hon. Members opposite should also bear in mind—that Colonies become a little impatient when they find that their economic destinies are made the incident of Conservative financial policies.
We have just been told that, at the very moment when these negotiations were taking place about the economic future of Malta, owing to the pressure of the Treasury the right hon. Gentleman was compelled to tell the Colonies that there would have to be a reduction in capital investments from here and that, of course, Malta had to face £1 million reduction. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The right hon. Gentleman has just said so—£1 million that year.
That is the usual Treasury behaviour. Whenever there is financial stringency—I have mentioned this in the House before and it is now beginning to percolate a little to the opposite benches—the Chancellor looks round all the spending Departments, and each spending Department is called upon to make its contribution despite the consequences that may be involved in making it. The Treasury, because it deals with figures—I have said this before and I repeat it—always thinks that there is democracy amongst facts, that each fact is of equal importance and that £1 million found by, say, the Ministry of Health ranks equally with £1 million found by Malta, although the repercussions are, of course, infinitely more serious.
I want to go back a little over the history upon which the right hon. Gentleman has not touched. We have heard a lot about the past Constitution of Malta. I 53 do not blame him because he has to establish the constitutional background of the present Bill. In February, 1955, Mr. Mintoff fought an election in Malta on the issue of integration. His party secured 23 places and the Nationalists 17. As a consequence, Sir Anthony Eden, then Prime Minister, announced the setting up of the Round Table Conference. That Round Table Conference was a very formidable affair. It consisted of a large number of right hon. and hon. Members of this House, and was presided over by the Lord Chancellor.
Whatever else we may say about the Lord Chancellor, he cannot be described as a flighty person. Then there was my right hon. Friend, now Earl Attlee, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), who was then the Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons, the late Mr. Walter Elliot, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—myself, of course, I mention in passing—my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, Earl Listowel, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay), who is now Secretary of State for Scotland—heaven help us—the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. W. T. Aitken), the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), the Earl of Perth, the hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) and the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood).
Whatever we may say about it, it is a formidable list of names. We, that is to say, the members of the Round Table Conference, were instructed by the Prime Minister to consider terms of reference and particularly to inquire into the merits of integration. Some people, of course, expressed doubts about integration, and have expressed them most strongly since. I shall deal with some of those doubts now.
It is said, of course, that this is just a marriage of convenience. I do not know that we ought to sneer at marriages of convenience. If there had been fewer of them there would have been more emaciation in the other place. There are those of us with proletarian backgrounds on this side of the House who rush into the holy ties of matrimony rather more 54 passionately. Hon. Members opposite ought not to sneer just because the Maltese are impecunious people and we are much better off. We ought not to sneer at their desire for a marriage of convenience, considering that there are right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite many of whom have carried out the old Puritan maxim, "Do not marry money, but marry where money is." Or do not love money. I shall not particularise.
There was the very natural desire on the part of the Maltese people, for reasons which may not have been purely altruistic, to establish integration with Great Britain. The important point is that after we had listened to all the evidence—and we listened to a very great deal of evidence—we decided that Mr. Mintoff had made out his case. I want to remind hon. Members of what that case is, because it is still with us. It has not been answered. Whatever Mr. Mintoff may say about it, the fact is that the arguments which he advanced to us in the course of the sessions of the Round Table Conference were and are quite overwhelming. What he said was this. "Every Colony inside the Commonwealth is entitled at some time or another to look forward to independence."
It may come by slow stages, it may conic by quick stages, but, nevertheless, it has been laid down by all parties in this House that it is the natural destiny of every dependent territory in the Commonwealth at some time or another to achieve full nationhood. It is on the basis of that statement that we have managed to maintain the peace to a remarkable extent in the Commonwealth, and once we departed from that principle we would have trouble in a great many places where there is peace now.
But this constitutional advance was closed to Malta. It is closed by the right hon. Gentleman's speech today. He has emphasised today that owing to the peculiar relations between the Imperial Government and the fortress and island of Malta, we cannot envisage independence for Malta. He is nodding. Therefore, we must start off on the assumption that the road to progress which every Colony is entitled to march along is blocked to Malta. [An HON. MEMBER: "And to Cyprus."] It is not blocked to Cyprus in exactly the same sense but, nevertheless, there is a certain parallel. 55 But the main point for us to remember is that having faced that, and having faced it courageously, Mr. Mintoff had to say to his people, "Where do we go from here?"
Dr. Borg Olivier did not face it. He has not faced it yet. Indeed, we had to reject his proposals at the Round Table Conference because they were so ambiguous that we did not quite know what sort of constitutional animal Malta would be if we accepted his proposals. He wanted to have full Dominion status for Malta with Great Britain still having defence rights and foreign affairs rights over Malta.
Of course, everybody will recognise immediately I mention it that that is entirely impracticable. We cannot have that sort of constitutional entity inside the Commonwealth because under the Statute of Westminster a member of the Commonwealth can march out of it whenever it wishes. It is a concept of full nationhood in a voluntary cooperation. Therefore, when anybody speaks even of independence inside the Commonwealth he is using contradictory terms. Membership of the Commonwealth implies independence and it implies qualification of that independence by mutually accepted obligations. Therefore, the proposal put before us by Dr. Borg Olivier was unacceptable.
We were, therefore, driven back to integration, and when we put our case before the House on 26th March, 1956, the House of Commons accepted our position. There were reservations about the uniqueness of the proposal that a Mediterranean island, with a climate far different from ours, should have representatives in this Chamber. It seemed to some people to be so wild an experiment that we ought not to embark upon it. I entirely disagree with them.
It would be a very good thing if the House were refreshed now, after so many centuries of insularity, with some freshets from outside. Surely it is not difference of climate that should make a difference? Otherwise, the union of the American States would fall apart. It cannot be a question of distance either.
§ Mr. Bevan
I believe that the hon. Gentleman is a professor of history, and, therefore, I should not like to quarrel with him, but I thought we had a little one of our own, too, with some sanguinary consequences in unexpected places.
However, I should not have thought that difference of climate would have made all that difference. Then there was, of course, our old friend we have heard so frequently, differences in standards of living, especially expectations arising out of different standards of living because of different climatic conditions. However, we faced all those. We examined them squarely.
There is nothing foreign to us in differences of wages because of different circumstances. Indeed, we on this side of the House have been accustomed to negotiating wage agreements which are different in the Metropolitan and the provincial areas. We have had to take into account all kinds of considerations in deciding differentials, and there does not seem to us to be anything at all impracticable in arranging over a period of years a formula by which standards of living in Malta could more and more approximate to the standards of living of the people of Great Britain, although the cash payments themselves might be different. We argued that for a very considerable time and we decided that there were not very difficult obstacles to that.
Thus we recommended—with the exception of the hon. Member for Carlton and the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, the right hon. Gentleman's minority report has not got quite the substance and weight that it should have because he was not at many of the sessions of the Round Table Conference, as he had much more important business to do at Strasbourg.
The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary therefore found himself in a unique position. I do not suppose that any Colonial Secretary in the history of the nation has ever been presented with a more favourable set of circumstances than was the right hon. Gentleman. He had with him the declaration of the people of Malta twice repeated in favour of integration; he had with him the two Opposition parties in the House of Commons; and he had with him the vast majority of the House of Commons on his own side.
57 During the debate on 26th March, 1956, he said:The House is now entitled to know the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards the Report.I wish the House to note the next words carefully.The constitutional aspects are really the heart of the matter.The right hon. Gentleman has spent 75 per cent. of his speech today on the financial aspects of the matter, but on 26th March, 1956, considering the Report of the Conference, he said:The constitutional aspects are really the heart of the matter. Other questions, like economic aid, have a most important bearing, but the central theme of the Report is to find a constitutional solution which is, in the words of the Report: 'consonant with the interests and requirements of both the United Kingdom and Malta, and with the responsibilities of the Imperial Parliament'.Here we have a declaration of an unequivocal kind. It was not qualified by formulae as to the future financial relations between Great Britain and Malta, because the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:I must, therefore, state quite categorically that Her Majesty's Government are in favour of the proposals in the Report.He said, "quite categorically", and he continued:This means all the proposals, including the recommendation for Maltese representation at Westminster. There is no question of the Government accepting the Report conditionally. We accept it unconditionally. That is our position.I want to be quite fair to the right hon. Gentleman. He then said:But, as the House knows, the Report itself contains conditions which I must now examine as briefly as possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1956; Vol. 550, c. 1784–90.]The right hon. Gentleman then went on to discuss the financial implications, but the House must remember that at no time did he say that the acceptance of the constitutional recommendations of the Round Table Conference was conditional upon the working out of mutually acceptable financial formulae. In fact, he had rejected that already by saying thatthe constitutional aspects are really the heart of the matter.What then happened? We then had what everybody, I imagine, would accept as a most unusual set of circumstances. Alt was set fair. And then the right 58 hon. Gentleman went wrong. It may be that Mr. Mintoff went wrong, too, but the main responsibility rests upon the Government because, after all, we were now seized of the whole matter. We had accepted a responsibility for further steps. I should have thought that the right thing then to do would have been to have brought the constitutional proposals before the House of Commons—to have brought before the House what the Government would regard as being a suitable statutory vehicle for giving effect to the recommendations of the Round Table Conference and effect to the will of Parliament. Although Parliament had not accepted this by formal Motion, it had accepted the Minister's statement.
The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) shakes his head. He had better not intervene before he has read his own speech. He had better read his own speech, when he will find that it would embarrass me, because in the course of that speech he said that I had persuaded him.
§ Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)
Surely we are flogging a dead horse. After the troubles in April we had a debate on the suspension of the Constitution and why the Constitution had had to be suspended. The right hon. Gentleman appears to be using this debate to go all over the old ground instead of looking forward. I do not want to repeat all the arguments to him. He knows that I have answered his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), now sitting on his right, about the House not having given formal expression of its view. We have covered all that. Let us now look forward.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member always wants us to look forward when we are looking backward on the Government's blunders. It is the case of the prisoner in the dock who does not want this record of crimes to be taken into account when sentence is being pronounced. It is necessary that we should see it in perspective if we are to come to a proper judgment about the present situation.
It was a blunder of the first water for the right hon. Gentleman not then to have come forward with constitutional proposals, because it was perfectly obvious, and ought to have been obvious to Mr. Mintoff—indeed, I told him so on more than one occasion—that if he allowed 59 himself to get into that cat's cradle with the Treasury he would never get out again. He ought to have kept his sense of direction, and it was the right hon. Gentleman's duty to help him to keep his sense of direction and not to involve him in all these formulae, because the great difficulty about the financial relationship between Malta and Great Britain is that the Maltese people and their representatives cannot predict the course of financial events in Great Britain and ought not to be asked to do so.
I remember that at one phase in the negotiations—the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned it today—it was said that the Government could not give the Maltese people a blank cheque and that the help that they would give to Malta—I want hon. Members to note this phrase—must be dependent upon the productivity of the island and upon the exertions of the Maltese people in raising the level of productivity. Hon. Members should mark that phrase: it comes from a Conservative Government. That is a good Conservative doctrine. No British Conservative Government accepts the responsibility for raising the level of productivity in Great Britain.
I remember speaking to Lord Perth about this at the time. I said that it was not a formula to try to adjust the differences between Malta and Great Britain; it was an attempt to put an ambiguity in the way of a proper agreement, because who in the name of heaven can assess productivity in that sense? How can we assess quantitatively the level of productivity on the island of Malta in expressing the financial assistance to Malta from here? It is a subjective test, not an objective test. I defy any statistician to express it.
It was a piece of arrant nonsense, and it was obviously arrant nonsense, because it flew right in the face of every Conservative principle. It is a Conservative philosophy, in so far as they can be said to have one at all, that productivity is itself an expression of private economic adventure. But they were expecting the Government of Malta to make themselves responsible for productivity on the island.
Of course, if what they meant by that—and Mr. Mintoff has taken them at their word—is that there ought to be a Socialist Administration in Malta, there is a lot to be said for it. But it certainly 60 was an absurd statement to make, and hon. Members must have realised, when they listened to the right hon. Gentleman making that statement this afternoon, that he was putting up the major obstacles to an agreement. I am not entirely blaming him. He is the innocent victim of the pressure, but it was the unfortunate fact—[AN HON. MEMBER: "He is rapidly losing his innocence."] That may be, but, at any rate, the point was that once the constitutional negotiations had been dropped, or suspended, and the financial negotiations had started, we found ourselves where we have found ourselves over and over again, in the position where the Government were prepared to sacrifice hundreds of pounds to save a few pence. That is where we are at present.
I am coming to the hon. Gentleman's question about the future. What is the position of Mr. Mintoff or of anyone who accepts Government responsibility for the island of Malta? It has been said over and over again that the main employment on the island of Malta is a function of Her Majesty's Government's defence expenditure. But what conclusion follows from that? If as a result of our economic policies and of our financial stringencies employment on the island of Malta is affected, then the Government of Malta would have responsibility without power.
Mr. Mintoff has said over and over again, and his case is unanswerable, "What Her Majesty's Government want me to do is to make myself responsible for Maltese administration when the real power will be in Westminster." He says, therefore, "What Her Majesty's Government are asking me to do is to make myself a whipping boy or"—to change the metaphor—" a shock absorber between the Maltese people and the policies of Her Majesty's Government." That is Mr. Mintoff's case. It is his case for the future. It is the case of any Maltese Prime Minister. They cannot be expected to accept the economic results in Malta of decisions taken here over which they themselves have no control. It is because of that situation that Mr. Mintoff advocated integration. It was because he saw that the economic lives of the two countries were so closely interwoven that there was only one solution for it, and that was for Malta to 61 become a constituency of the United Kingdom. If Malta was to become a constituency of the United Kingdom, it was obviously foolish to have negotiations with the constituency. Once the central decision had been taken about integration then it was quite wrong to have gone on trying to negotiate the future financial relations between this country and what would then have become a constituency of the United Kingdom.
The logical thing to have done would have been to convert Malta into a constituency, and then the responsibility for the welfare of the island would be here in the House of Commons in the same way as in the case of Chatham, Sheerness or Devonport.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The right hon. Gentleman has perhaps forgotten that a further requirement—and this is generally accepted on all sides—is that there must be unmistakable evidence of the views of the Maltese people. Therefore, it would be hard to ask them to come to an unmistakable conclusion unless they knew what were the other advantages that integration brought. That is one of the reasons why we had to have that sort of discussion.
§ Mr. Bevan
And one of the reasons why they could not know what their financial relations would be, because the Secretary of State had said that it would depend on the productivity of the island.
We see the muddle into which the right hon. Gentleman has got. It is a real muddle, because he now says that this would depend upon the co-operation of the Maltese Government although that Government, it seems, would only be exercising residual powers in Malta because Malta would have become a constituency of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman had not made up his mind what he was dealing with, whether Malta was to be a new constituency or whether there was to be a Maltese Government with all the power and authority of a Government.
As a matter of fact, we were trying to take the whole thing to its logical conclusion and say, "All right, provided you are prepared to entrust your welfare to Westminster, then do so, and then when you are at Westminster expect that you will obtain from the Parliament here 62 exactly the same treatment for the Maltese as for any other citizens of the United Kingdom." That was our position and that is the very thing from which the right hon. Gentleman has departed and the reason why he has muddled up the matter from the beginning until now.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The right hon. Gentleman has made an important statement there. Is he saying that the view of his party is that there should be complete equality between the standard of life in Malta and the standard of life in this country?
§ Mr. Bevan
I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it was extremely intelligent and moderate evidence. When we specifically asked Mr. Miller, "Do you mean that the dock worker in Malta must have the same cash payment as the dock worker in Britain", he said, "Certainly not. What we expect is that when the Maltese dock worker has spent his wages in Malta he should have relatively the same standard of life as the British dock worker when he has spent his wages."
What is wrong with that? The hon. Gentleman does not really know what he is talking about. It is an attempt to find out whether when a worker spends his wages in one part of the country, having regard to all the circumstances, he will enjoy the same standard of life as a worker in the same occupation spending his wages in another part of the country. It is not difficult at all.
The same would happen to the social services. It was not even ruled out. It has been accepted over and over again that emigration had to be regarded as one of the solutions for the Maltese problem. It was not argued against for a single moment. Indeed, when I discussed this with Mr. Mintoff on several occasions, he said, "All we are afraid about is that some decisions in London 63 may suddenly find us with some thousands of unemployed workers on the island of Malta with no means of subsistence at all. Therefore, we want to have a guarantee that if as a result of action in London unemployment rises in Malta we shall have finances to make it good."
I said that I did not think that was a reasonable request. What I say is this—and the formula has been accepted by the Government—that if unemployment in Malta rises above the average level in the United Kingdom and remains at that higher level for six months, the United Kingdom Government will accept responsibility for taking special action in Malta. Indeed, it is exactly the same formula which we hope will be applied to areas of mass unemployment in the United Kingdom. It is exactly what the Government are saying that they are trying to do.
All these seem to us to be extremely relevant matters, but there is not a single one which justifies a breakdown in negotiations. I come back to my point and then I will leave it. I consider that it was a strategical blunder. Having left the solution of the constitutional Maltese problem to founder on financial and economic considerations, it will be a very great mistake for the right hon. Gentleman to conclude that, however, beneficent and successful are his economic plans—and we should remember that it is only within a few months that he is now announcing these generous plans after having reduced the grant showing how uncertain the policies of hon Members opposite are; they are expansive today and restrictive tomorrow—they will satisfy the political aspirations of the Maltese people.
It is the French thesis, and the French thesis is shown to be without foundation. We will never get a people who feel a pride in their own national life to accept an inferior status merely because they are getting a bigger hand-out. The French are failing and we would fail if we did the same thing. In fact, a higher economic status feeds the desire for equal status politically, and, therefore, we are back once more with the same problem.
It might have been better, before the right hon. Gentleman came to the House—I make this statement on my own responsibility—to have asked the Round 64 Table Conference to meet again, to let us have another look at the problem. Unfortunately, it is difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to do it now, because if we met now we would have advocates for the Government's policy at the Round Table Conference. The Lord Chancellor could hardly be expected to reject the policies of the Cabinet. Presumably they have accepted the right hon. Gentleman's advice. The same thing is true now about the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State, who was a very enthusiastic supporter of integration.
There are five members of the Government who were members of the Round Table Conference and it is unfortunate that they have had so little influence with their colleagues; assuming, of course, that they have been fighting for a solution and have not been genuinely in search of employment. It is extraordinary that the Lord Chancellor has not been able to do it. It is extraordinary that the Secretary of State for Scotland—who, after all, could be expected to fall in with the majority of his colleagues—has not been able to do it. It is very unfortunate indeed that we are brought to this gloomy conclusion after so bright a start.
I most earnestly hope, and I express this hope on behalf of my hon. Friends here, that even now the people of Malta will not resort to illegal action to try to satisfy their ambitions. I hope that they will not be irritated into folly by the greater folly of Her Majesty's Government. I hope that we shall not create between ourselves and Malta unbridgeable and irremovable barriers. I hope that the good faith we saw when we were there can be reproduced.
Even at this late hour I hope that the Government will not proceed with this Bill. We really do not want British troops in Malta to pay the price of the Government's blunders, as they have had to pay the price elsewhere. We on this side of the House feel that it was a most unfortunate fact that the policy of integration with Malta occurred during the period of Conservative insanity in 1956. We believe that the right hon. Gentleman has bowed over and over again to some elements in the ranks of the Parliamentary Conservative Party who have inflicted grave damage both upon the material interests and upon the reputation of Great Britain abroad.
65 We hope that even now, at this late hour, the right hon. Gentleman will take his Bill back and will let us have another chance to settle this problem. I can assure him that if he does so he will have the hearty co-operation of the Opposition.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Sir Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
I speak on this topic with the very greatest regret and with no positive confidence. I feel, perhaps mistakenly—I shall be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) will listen to me because I listened to every syllable of his with great care—a good deal of negative confidence, a good deal of conviction about the things that would not do and the things that will not do. I feel very little conviction about what will do, now, in at all a long run. I think it is fairly clear that what the Government now propose for the short run is right.
The first duty of a Government we are all a little apt to forget, I suppose, is protection, and perhaps many of us forget also that, as regards Malta, in many parts of the world it may be said that it was violence, or something else reprehensible on our part, which put us in the position of owing protection to the inhabitants of those territories—that may be argued about some territories, though I think very few: but not about Malta.
However that may be, it cannot be argued about Malta. The population of Malta has, to its great glory, earned its living for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years in only one way. That has been in assisting some greater Power to prevent hostile forces from east of the Mediterranean from penetrating into what, in the narrower sense, is the Western world. That is what Malta has done. She has done it with an almost unanimous and a very deep—I think, but no doubt some times a mistaken—Christianity, but that has been the only way, to justify and maintain themselves. That is what Malta could do for the universe and that is what Malta has done. For that we all owe a great debt to Malta and the Maltese. I should be the last to doubt it and one of the first, I hope, to be personally moved by thinking of it and by remembering my own direct Maltese friends.
The right hon. Gentleman devoted almost all his arguments to the mistakes that were made by Her Majesty's Government between the acceptance of inte- 66 gration and some date, I do not quite know when, but at any rate before today. That is the period to which almost everything he said has been addressed. With respect to the right hon. Gentleman and to his rhetorical capacities, that is I think very largely irrelevant to the question of what must be done today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I think very largely; I know it is relevant to what can be done today and to what may follow, but the House must consider preponderantly today what can be done today to protect the Maltese people from an immense economic threat and from an immediate threat of faction, sedition, intimidation, and victimisation, and there have been and are very great such threats.
Let nobody here forget what horrible things those are. I have the most careful and candid respect for Maltese feelings of nationality but it is fair to remember, as has been known since Aristotle and I dare say far longer, that the nature of things does alter with scale. One can make something too big to be a boat or something so small that it is only a toy boat, and one must remember that the People of whom we are talking—People with a capital P—is a People whose working force we were told this afternoon is about 80,000. So the scale, especially economic, is in a very special kind of relation to questions of national independence, and that makes immense difficulties.
I speak with reluctance today for another reason also. I think the Maltese have been led into some errors—no doubt we have made many, too—by quite excessive, and in some cases, I think, really disgracefully careless optimism in economic matters. With respect for Her Majesty's Government and for the Secretary of State himself, I must say I think they have been, and that he in his speech this afternoon was still, excessively optimistic. I wish the Maltese economically all the good that can come to them; I hope they may find oil wells and water wells, and everything of that kind that can come to them I hope will come to them; but I think that what are being held out to them as the possibilities have been largely based upon really shameful wishful dreaming of the most extreme kind, and that has made the whole thing much more difficult.
I speak with reluctance for another reason still. The right hon. Member for 67 Ebbw Vale said we must not sneer at the Maltese for being poorer than we are. I hope I have never sneered at anybody for being poorer than I am, but there was a good deal of sneering in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. This is a topic on which it is so important to avoid unnecessary ill-feeling between one Maltese and another, between Maltese and British or between one of us and another, that we should be immensely careful not to say anything which will make things more difficult.
I did not understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant about productivity. I am not saying that to be funny, I mean I did not quite understand it. It may be that I have not remembered some of the things which were said in the Round Table Report. For all I know, it is fair to say that one cannot really correlate productivity in any strict sense and the necessity for outside financial aid, which I understand was the right hon. Gentleman's point. But it cannot be altogether impossible to make some such correlation or it would never have been practicable to do any of the things which were done by Marshall Aid and all that, nor to do any of the things which were promised by Colombo Conferences and so on and which are generally assumed to be panaceas for political difficulties in countries where production is low—generally so assumed, though not by me.
§ Mr. Bevan
What the hon. Gentleman is forgetting all the while is that in the circumstances envisaged Malta would be a constituency of the United Kingdom, and the Government of Malta would be exercising purely residual powers there, and, therefore, to make them responsible for the productivity of the island seemed to me to be absurd.
§ Sir K. Pickthorn
What the right hon. Gentleman forgets, if he will forgive me, is that I am making this speech. To make this sort of speech, and without continuous notes, is not facilitated if people get up and put a different argument. I thought he was going to say something directly relevant, to refer to some obvious failure of logic or some misstatement of fact that I had made, but that did not happen.
We are talking mostly about a period during which, upon the right hon. Gentleman's own case, integration was not the 68 next thing, during which, upon his own case, the Secretary of State had made such blunders that integration was off. I would say that it was largely Mr. Mintoff's fault that integration was off. During most of the period about which I am talking integration was off. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's argument does not need any further answer than that.
The point I am trying to make is that the right hon. Gentleman thought there ought to have been an agreement with the Maltese Government which contained some sort of very specific agreement as between Malta and what the right hon. Gentleman, in his nostalgic way, calls the Imperial Parliament. There should be some specific agreement between Malta and the Imperial Parliament about finance. That surely must have been necessary. I do not think anyone could have done it otherwise.
There was the expert who was chosen, I suppose, by the Maltese, among other reasons, because of his sympathy with their line. When he was asked what industrial assets the Maltese had, he was quite clear that the only industrial asset the Maltese had was low wages. I remember, I think accurately, an hon. Member opposite examining one of the Maltese trade union officials upon the point, suggesting that the Trades Union Congress might have something to say on that, that the Trades Union Congress might take very seriously the integration into our economy of a population, even though of only 80,000 workers, whose sole industrial asset was low wages.
It seems perfectly certain that my right hon. Friend was in duty and in honour bound—I say "in honour" because the worst thing that could come out of the negotiations was that the marriage should have taken place and that forty-eight hours later the girl should say that she had been got on false pretences—to make some sort of financial agreement, and I think that any such agreement was bound to contain something about the necessity for the Maltese to use their own financial resources, to use their own capacity for attaining higher skills, in order to put up the amount of production in the island. It seems to me a great deal kinder to the islanders to say that than to tell them that if only this and that happened—"this and that" being 69 quite trifling—all the people who at present spend their money in Monte Carlo and Florida would spend it in Malta: they would not.
I want to finish what it seems to me had to be said, by me; I do not mean to assume it is of such importance it would have had to be said by anybody else. Suppose integration had gone on and come off. It is a difficult thing to talk about. One does not want to say "I told you so". I am not suggesting that the fact that it failed proved that I was right. There is no way of proving these things. One cannot go back and try it the other way. The moment the House accepted what was proposed, I did my best not to do or say anything which would make it more difficult to come off.
One of the things which made it more difficult to come off—this is controversial—was the feeling in Malta of a great deal of very close sympathy from the Left in England. I was about to say "with the Left", but the more important half of the relationship was the sympathy from the Left. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the Imperial Parliament. One cannot be an Imperial Parliament, one cannot be a Commonwealth Parliament, one cannot be a Parliament trying to exercise any sort of authority or to use any sort of force outside one's own immediate shores if whenever one tries to do so the Opposition half within one's own economy—it is always likely to be getting on for half—is always on the side of the gentlemen whom the right hon. Gentleman told us always were awkward anyhow. It is apt to make them a great deal more awkward.
§ Sir K. Pickthorn
I do not want to go back and talk about Northern Ireland. I could do so, but I do not think it would be very strictly in order. If it is true that English Unionists are much to blame for what happened in Northern Ireland, then the right hon. Gentleman opposite is condemned out of his own mouth. If at that time it was condemnable, then at the other times he listed it has been condemnable, too.
The thing being where it is now, and with particular memory of what I have just said. I think now, whatever the mistakes begun with the acceptance of integration, there is nothing to be done but 70 what is now proposed by Her Majesty's Government immediately.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I deeply regret the present situation. The people of this country dislike quarrelling with anybody, but most of all they will dislike a quarrel between themselves and the people of Malta. We have been associated for more than 150 years, and together we have faced the greatest dangers which have beset humanity at any time, during two world wars. There is a warm respect and a warm affection by the people of this country for the people of Malta. We were all delighted and thrilled when His Majesty King George VI awarded the people of the island the George Cross in recognition of their courage and what they had been through.
As the hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) said, for centuries the people of Malta have been under the dominion of one great Power or another. However in spite of that, they have kept their own language, their own customs and their own traditions, and they have not lost sight of their identity, and they are rightly proud of it.
With my views, it is natural that I should believe that any people who desire to choose their own form of government and look after themselves should do so. I think that that is the view of all parties in the country today and that everyone has realised the difficulties which arise when, with power to grant or refuse self-government, we decide to refuse it. To judge from the correspondence between Mr. Mintoff and the Secretary of State, that is now the position.
This island, to which we owe so much, is in a rather different position today compared with any other territory under our control. We have more than merely been associated with Malta. We have altered the whole mode of life of the Maltese. We have raised their standard of living. We have raised their education standards. Without doubt, we have given them a new sense of importance and we have encouraged a very proper ambition.
What is their financial position? When we first went to Malta, there were some 80,000 people. Unfortunately, they were all fairly poor and they have never been able to provide sufficient food for themselves. Food has always had to be imported. Today, there are more than 71 320,000 people, more than four times the original number. As I have said, their standard of living is very much higher and, as the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said, it is a standard which compares with that in this country. The money income is not the same, but the ideas of the Maltese and the ways in which they fulfil and carry out their desires are very much the same as in this country. In fact, it is their proud boast that their standard of living is higher than that of anybody else in the Mediterranean, and I believe that that is true.
However, the position of the Maltese is difficult. They have no minerals, no oil, no coal, and not even any timber. The greatest difficulty of all is the shortage of water. They have to depend upon a rainfall of only about 20 inches a year, and it is difficult to catch even that. Anyone who suggests that it will he possible within a short time to attract a number of industries to Malta is not doing the Maltese a good service. In fact, it is cruel to mislead them in that way. Everything they need has to be taken there and exported, once manufactured. Before anything can be done, even to increase agricultural production, the water problem will have to be tackled.
That was the position which confronted the Maltese when I had the honour, with other right hon. and hon. Members and with noble Lords from another place, to be a member of the Round Table Conference. It was Mr. Mintoff and his party who suggested that the only way Malta's problems could be solved was to have integration. All along, with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, I have regarded that as putting Malta in exactly the same position as every constituency in this country, particularly putting it in the position of Chatham or Devonport, in that it is dependent on the amount of work which the Government can provide, so much so that about one-quarter of the working population is directly employed by the Government, with many more indirectly employed through the work required to be done for those who are directly employed. About 20,000 out of the 80,000 working population are directly employed by the Government.
72 Another question for the Round Table Conference concerned their method of paying for their imports upon which they had to live. My recollection is that the amount of exports was little more than £1 million, whereas imports were about £20 million. It was obvious that the Maltese would require assistance for a long time. How was that assistance to be given? The only way which appealed to me was that suggested by Mr. Mintoff and his party—integration.
That was then the position and I want to know why we have departed from it. Our Report came before the House in December, 1955, more than three years ago. It was decided that the problem should be tackled in the way we suggested. What has happened to change that position? I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. The right thing to have done would have been to have treated the financial negotiations as purely interim at that time and to have gone for what the Secretary of State himself said was the heart of the whole matter—introducing the necessary legislation to make the Maltese constituents, so that their future could be discussed in the House of Commons and not by the Colonial Office. I cannot understand what has happened to change that view. I am delighted with the liberal attitude which the right hon. Gentleman displays with regard to so many of the matters under his control, but on other occasions something happens and he seems to antagonise those with whom he is negotiating. It has happened in other cases, and it has certainly happened in this one.
That being so, what are we to do? I am sure that it was wrong to introduce the Bill. It will only stir up feelings much more in Malta—and they are sufficiently bad as it is. The right thing to do is to withdraw the Bill, and if we cannot reconstitute the old Commission I suggest that the Government should seriously consider the appointment of a similar one, which can go out to Malta and do its best to negotiate an agreement—which our people are anxious should be arrived at—so that not only is there no ill will between Malta and ourselves but rather complete agreement. By doing that we should in future be able to look after the Maltese in the way in which they should be looked after.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington, South)
This is the first time that I have intervened in a debate on Malta since I sat on the Round Table Conference. I join with those who have already spoken in saying with what regret we find ourselves in the present position. At the same time, I want to dissociate myself from the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), who have indicated that the Conference was in favour of the integration of Malta with this Parliament, and that all questions of finance would be left to the indefinite future. That is jobbing backwards in the most disgraceful manner.
I have the Report of the Conference in my hands. Part I deals with financial matters, and if hon. Members refer to Clause 60 they will see that it says:There should be, at the outset, a clear understanding about the maximum amount of assistance which could be given annually by the United Kingdom Exchequer over a period of years. This would assist the Maltese Government in drawing up its annual budget and would reduce the possibilities of friction in the annual examination of Malta's requests for assistance towards meeting recurrent costs.It is certainly my recollection that in our negotiations out there we spent days and days on the financial problem, and discussed the total amounts that this country might be able to provide. It was quite clear that it was an absolute sine qua non of any recommendation for integration that a financial arrangement should be made between this country and Malta—and made on generous terms, because we realised what a tremendous lot we owed to Malta, and what our responsibility was to her. It was therefore not surprising that financial negotiations were immediately taken up. It is disastrous that they should have failed. Whose fault it was is not for me to say, but I am quite certain that the fault is not only with this country, or with Her Majesty's Ministers.
In our Report we emphasised—as was clear from the evidence put before us—Malta's immense importance to us and to our Allies, from the defence point of view. Since we put those paragraphs in the Report our defence strategy has greatly changed, and the importance of preserving Malta as a centre of defence may not be so great today as it then was. But that does not relieve us of our responsibility for Malta. It may be that 74 our responsibility now rests on rather different grounds from those upon which we thought it rested when we made our Report, but that we are responsible somehow or other for preserving the well-being of Malta there cannot be any kind of doubt. The only question is, how can it be done?
When Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was Foreign Secretary, at the beginning of this century, the Government had to suspend Malta's Constitution and proceed to rule by Orders in Council for a period, and it is tragic to see history repeating itself. I am sure, however, that the elasticity which is given to Her Majesty's Government in the Bill holds out far more promise for restoring responsible government in Malta than anything else that we can do at present. It is a lamentable method to employ, but I am quite sure that it is the right one. It puts power into the hands of Her Majesty's Government to use as and when favourable opportunity comes, and if only the people of Malta will co-operate more generously and freely than they have during the last few years the interval of non-representative Government will be a very short one.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I have always respected the judgment of the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), but I think that he is optimistic in describing as possible any co-operation between the people of Malta and ourselves under the Bill. If I understand it aright, it is suspending the Constitution and creating a situation where a clash is far more likely than co-operation.
I start by saying that, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), I remain an unrepentant believer in integration—as I am sure the Under-Secretary does. That is the only sane and rational solution for Malta, precisely because it is unique. I am not in favour of integration, as such, but I think that it was the majority view of the members of the Round Table Conference that it was precisely because of the unique character of Malta, and because no other Colony had been so tied up with our home economy, that this course could be proposed without setting a precedent. It is tragic that we should now have 75 reached a situation in which both Mr. Mintoff and the Colonial Secretary seem to despair of the only sane solution.
I should like to add something m amplification of what was said by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery about economic integration. In our Report we discussed in detail all the economic problems of Malta. It was essential, if the Maltese were to accept integration, that it should not be a purely constitutional integration; it had to bring with it social parity—not immediately, but as an objective within a reasonable time. That did not mean identical wages, because there was a reasonable understanding among trade unionists on both sides that parity does not mean mathematical equality.
It meant that the moment a constitutional bond was implemented it became a binding duty of the mother country to bring up the standard of living of Malta to that of other parts of Great Britain as quickly as possible. In my view, it would have been done infinitely more quickly after political and constitutional integration than it will ever be done without it.
If I understand them correctly, the economic proposals which we put forward were interim ones, and dealt with what could and should be done pending the passing of the Bill. We were not proposing a final solution. We were saying, "If you want the Bill to pass it is essential to show that the intention is sincere on our side by a really generous economic offer." What seems to us so lamentable is the bickering which went on for two years, and the abandonment of the idea of integration by both sides because of the £1 million which divided the Colonial Secretary from Mr. Mintoff.
We have listened in to these negotiations. I do not think that all the fault was on the Colonial Secretary's side, but it is impossible to put the blame 100 per cent. on Mr. Mintoff for the failure to reach an interim financial agreement. I must say—and I wish that the Colonial Secretary were here to listen to me—that when I heard all those phrases in his speech—"fresh start," "anxiety to build bridges," "the future of Malta is in the hands of the Maltese people"—I began 76 to appreciate just how irritated poor Mr. Mintoff must have got when he was given all these pleasant phrases all the time—and nothing else. The difficulty is that some people never accepted, deeply and profoundly, the notion of parity as recommended by the Road Table Conference. For if that notion is accepted, then, in order to achieve it, there must be a generous economic offer from Britain to begin with.
It seems inconceivable that the Colonial Secretary should have handled the financial negotiations as he did. He said to the Maltese, "We are trying to stop inflation in Great Britain, and there is the prospect of unemployment. Unfortunately, we must cut our capital investment in Malta. Will you please take that cut, because the Government of Great Britain have failed to maintain their control over inflation?" When they heard that I am not surprised that the Maltese got irritated and that Mr. Mintoff said some very wild things.
I want to give another example—it has not. I think, so far been mentioned—of the kind of thing that has been said and done by the Government which could be misleading and dangerous. I saw in The Times of, I think, 16th January a notice in an inconspicuous place, headed "Royal Fusiliers for Malta". It went on to say that the Secretary of State for War had announced in Malta the previous day that the Royal Fusiliers would soon be arriving there.
At first sight, there might seem to be nothing significant about an announcement by the Secretary of State for War that the Royal Fusiliers were to arrive in Malta, but the Maltese are quite expert in the significance of troop movements. They know that we have not had an infantry battalion in Malta since 1947. They also know that for the last four or five years the Royal Fusiliers have been trained extremely arduously for security operations in Kenya. They are one of the most highly trained security forces we have, and they have recently been in Bahrein in the Persian Gulf, on call for security duty in Kuwait.
What happens? The Secretary of State for War goes to Malta and announces that this crack security battalion is now to be moved to Malta. I very much hope that this has no political significance at all, because, if there is to be trouble, one 77 security battalion will not be enough. I hope that we shall have a clear denial that the movement of the Royal Fusiliers at this time has any security significance at all. On the other hand, if it has not, it was rather strange to have it announced in Malta instead of having it announced, formally, by the Colonial Secretary in London.
I return, briefly, to the notion of independence. When we debated this in March of last year I said that, in my view, it would be very unwise to write off a responsible spokesman for a Colony just because he insists upon independence. We have to face the fact that people may insist on things that we think crazy, but, after what we have seen in Cyprus, we should have learnt to avoid saying "never" when anybody brings forward such an idea. I am very glad that from this side of the House there has been no suggestion that we turn down flat Mr. Mintoff's idea of independence.
I was sorry to hear the facetious tone of the Colonial Secretary on this point, because, apart from the economic side, it seems that Mr. Mintoff's idea of the future of Malta, with its declining military importance, has a certain political reality today. It is true that we, as a Round Table Conference, recommended integration, but we did so in the conviction that Malta had a great and permanent military value to this country, and that it would be, almost in perpetuity, a British base. Of course, the Government's views on military matters change so often that it is difficult to keep up with them, and we now gather that what they categorically stated to us three years ago is now completely out of date—as we can see by the decision to turn part of the naval dock there into a civil dock, although this will cause considerable unemployment.
It is clear that the Government do not now put the same military value on Malta as they did three years ago. Frankly, with the coming in of nuclear warfare, I think it likely that the value of Malta as a naval or military base will decline further and further. Any realistic person, and especially a Maltese Prime Minister, has to face the fact that his country is a dwindling defence asset, and that Britain attaches less and less importance to the island.
I believe that the main reason for Mr. Mintoff switching from integration to independence was in desperation over the 78 Colonial Secretary's attitude towards the problem of economic parity, combined with a desperation caused by the revelation of the declining importance attached to Malta by the Minister of Defence. Perhaps he was wrong, but I think that it was the combination of those two things in his mind that drove him, in desperation, to put forward the notion of independence.
If independence is the wrong policy, if it is something that must be rejected for economic reasons, if we are not prepared to pay the £100 million mentioned by Mr. Mintoff, then integration is the only alternative. I want to emphasise this. There is no halfway house for Malta. There can be no perpetual colonial status for a proud people. They have the right to equal freedom with us.
The Round Table Conference could see no other way forward. We looked at independence and rejected it, but we did not just say that and nothing more. We said that because independence was impracticable there must be integration, and if we are now told that integration is impossible. I warn the Government that the Maltese have the right to insist on independence, even if the cost were to be a four-fifths depopulation of the island and a good deal of misery. People have chosen misery before now for the sake of freedom. People have chosen suicide rather than to live under someone else's rule.
We cannot deny the Maltese this principle of freedom. That is why I plead with the Government not to reject integration, and not to believe that this Bill does them any good at all. It only makes it more difficult than ever to get the right atmosphere for any kind of negotiation. One thing the Government must face. We cannot stay in Malta except by the agreement of the people there. We cannot put any great value on a naval base if the population is against us—sulky, sullen and passively resisting.
The Government must not make the same mistake about Mr. Mintoff as they did about Archbishop Makarios, and think that by getting rid of an awkward person they have solved the problem. To underestimate Mr. Mintoff's influence in the island is crazy, but that is just what this Bill does. It does underestimate that influence, because it envisages a continuation of colonial status, when 79 colonial status is untenable for more than a few months.
On one point I am in slight disagreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I say that colonial status is untenable for more than a few months because, like him, I believe that we have to get back to integration, and to an atmosphere in which we can restore confidence between Britain and Malta. It is because of that belief that I still wonder whether it would not be possible to recall the Round Table Conference.
My right hon. Friend said that the other side are committed. Committed to what? To just this Bill. Beyond this Bill, we are offered nothing by the Government—no settlement. Surely it would be worth while to recall the Round Table Conference to see if it could get that confidence of and agreement with Mr. Mintoff that the Colonial Secretary has so lamentably failed to get in the last two or three years—
§ Mr. Bevan
My difficulty is this. Even if the suggestion were adopted, I do not want merely to transfer the debate from the House of Commons to the Round Table Conference. In other words, if these other people have taken up their positions and will not move from them, what is the good of having at the Round Table Conference the protracted arguments that we are having here?
§ Mr. Crossman
Personally, I do not think that either in terms of a long-term settlement or of an interim settlement they have adopted a position at all. I listened to the Colonial Secretary very closely, and what struck me was the complete absence of a policy—beyond this Bill. All the right hon. Gentleman wants is the House to pass the Bill. After that, what? There is a vacuum. This gives me some hope. It means that the Lord Chancellor and the other Tory members of the Round Table Conference are not yet committed. Last time, they advised the Colonial Secretary very wisely, although it is true that he ditched the negotiations after he had been given the chance to start them.
I think it is utterly futile to think that another body or committee could be set up now which would be able to give that confidence in Malta which the Round Table Conference achieved. If its recall is possible, it is the only body that I 80 can think of which can revive the idea of integration and make a reality of the agreement in principle, which we achieved three years ago.
I oppose the Bill. I think that we have to vote unanimously against it because it may wreck the chance of getting negotiations started again.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I hope that Mr. Mintoff reads the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). The hon. Gentleman has asserted that integration is the only solution, and I entirely agree that it is the only long-term solution, but integration has been rejected by Mr. Mintoff—completely rejected in his latest statements. He has said that independence is now the answer. Even the hon. Member for Coventry, East, with his well-known ideas about freedom for the Colonies, has said that independence is not the right answer for Malta, but that is what Mr. Mintoff is now asking for.
§ Mr. Wall
The hon. Member will agree that independence is no economic solution for Malta, and the Round Table Conference and the right hon. Gentlemen opposite rejected it.
I very much doubt whether Mr. Mintoff really wanted integration, except on his own terms. These would have been terms designed to make him the supreme political power in the island. I believe he wanted integration on his terms only. No one will disagree that Mr. Mintoff is in supreme charge of his own party in Malta; there is no question of splits or that he has not been the outstanding Labour Party politician in Malta.
If we look at the activities of the Labour Party in Malta just after the Second World War and even before integration was thought of, we find that in 1949 it was Mr. Mintoff who inspired the ultimatum which was later toned down by the Maltese Cabinet, hut which proposed a referendum by the Maltese people on whether they wished to continue their allegiance to Britain or preferred to throw in their lot with the United States of America or any other major Power wishing to make use of the naval base. Mr. Mintoff was the brains behind that proposal in 1949, and later on, in 1951, he 81 wrote his famous article on the atom bomb, at a time when a debate was going on concerning whether N.A.T.O. should have its headquarters in Malta. I should like to quote one sentence from this article, because, although I do not see anything essentially wrong with it, it seems strange that a man who later advocated integration with this country and with the Western Allies should then advocate this kind of thing. This is a sentence from a long article on the atom bomb:In the past, we were the servants of our overlords. But since the Boffist-Nationalist Coalition allowed the American Army to use our island as a base, without any kind of conditions, we have become the servants of servants.That is a point of view which he may well have held, but it is hardly the kind of argument which one would expect from one advocating unity with this country.
There is a monthly review published by the Labour Party in Malta called "The Knight", and in its issue for August, 1952, it published an article on the amount of water allocated to the people of Malta. There was a great shortage of water in the island at that time, and the argument was that the British troops were allowed more water than the Maltese people. I wish to read a paragraph from this article:I do not mean to say that a British soldier does not need nine gallons of water to clean himself—he needs plenty more. Nine gallons couldn't wash him clean of all his dirty blood stains if they were sulphuric acid instead of water. The whole water of the Nile would not suffice to wash him clean of the filth his actions have plastered him with in Egypt. And do you think the Indian Ocean could ever suffice to wash away the stains of murder and imprisonment the British soldier has covered himself with in MalayaIs it not rather strange to read that in a political journal of a party whose leader has been advocating unity with this country and with those very troops who are denigrated in that statement? I will not weary the House with other quotations, but there are similar quotations to be found in 1953 and 1954.
Suddenly, Mr. Mintoff changes his ground and advocates union with this country, in spite of his anti-British writings in the Press and in his speeches in the years after World War He wants integration but on his own terms. Reference has been made very frequently during the debate to the economic aspects 82 of this matter. We know that Mr. Mintoff asked for £8 million in the Budget of 1957–58 and that he got £6 million. The following year he asked for £7 million and he got £5 million. Mr. Mintoff's power and prestige have been built up mainly on the fact that he was an able negotiator with the British Government. It was said in Malta that this man could get more from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the British Government than any other Maltese. Therefore the Maltese people said, "This is the man we should have to lead us". We now come to the arguments about economic equivalence. I tried to get a definition from the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), but it did not seem to me to be a very straightforward definition, any more than the one we got from Mr. Mintoff. Did he mean that economic equivalence meant the same relative standards as those of the British worker or absolute equality? Unless this is defined, I cannot see what he is after.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Gentleman will not understand at all if he does not want to, but there were, in fact, discussions and agreement on what equivalence meant. It means that if we spend a certain sum of money in Malta, a worker of the same class with a worker in Great Britain will be able to enjoy the same standard of living as is enjoyed in Britain, although there may be some cash differences.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member does not realise that there is nothing very difficult about this. We have in this country varying wage rates and differing salary rates in the teaching profession, in order to try to give weight to differences in the social environment. In the case of Malta, therefore, we should take into account that, in the case of clothing, for instance, there would, because of our climate, be a greater expenditure in Britain than in Malta. These things are capable of approximate weighting; though they would not be exact, they could be practicable.
§ Mr. Wall
I follow the right hon. Gentleman, and I am grateful for his explanation, but I think he will agree that it is a definition capable of many interpretations and considerable argument. The difficulty is to equate the Maltese and British standards in relation to standards in the Mediterranean economy which, in any case, means considerable and lengthy negotiations.
When the threat came to the dockyard in the winter of 1957, Mr. Mintoff demanded a guarantee that any person discharged from the yards should be reemployed. What employer, Government or otherwise, could possibly give such a guarantee? All the time his hand has been overplayed, and even Mr. Mintoff himself, with his well-known ability, must have realised how he had overplayed his hand and had only succeeded in wrecking the whole idea of integration which he had originally proposed.
Her Majesty's Government made a fine effort to save integration. The "five-year plan" was based on pretty generous financial aid, with £25 million for five years, half the expenditure on education, half the expenditure on health and a quarter of the expenditure on the social services, plus help for unemployment if unemployment arose. The House cannot deny that that was, as it should be, very generous help towards Maltese economic advance. The answer from Mr. Mintoff, as we were told in the House at the time, was to demand another £22½ million for an industrial fund and another £5 million for an unemployment fund. Every time we negotiate with him on economic matters he increases his demands.
There is a great deal of support for saying that Mr. Mintoff himself did not really believe in integration except on his own terms, which terms would have left him with supreme power on the island. He realised that if he were the supreme political power in Malta he would clash with the other two powers on the island, the Church and the Imperial Government.
I visited Malta two weeks ago. Last month the Bishop of Praeto, whose diocese in Italy comprises one of the most Communist areas in that country, gave a lecture at the Royal University in Malta. He described how the Communists never attack religion. But its leaders—they never attack the Church from the religious point of view—always attack it on the grounds that it is not implementing the 84 rights of the workers, and so on. That lecture had a great effect in Malta particularly when the people thought back on the past three years and upon what had been happening in the island during the time when Mr. Mintoff was in power. They thought of the happenings in the schools, where in some cases the crucifixes were removed, and they realised the dangers implicit in integration if the Church were not given the guarantees for which it asked.
As to the Imperial Government, it was inevitable that the Prime Minister of Malta would clash with them as Dr. Borg Olivier and Mr. Mintoff had clashed with them. We should not forget the cutting down of the rediffusion wireless poles when Mr. Mintoff disagreed with an Imperial Government broadcast and the attack made against the Commissioner of Police who was doing his duty in protecting the Maltese people but who was described by Mr. Mintoff as the greatest traitor in the history of the island. Those are the words and acts not of a democrat but of one who seeks political power for himself. That is the danger which Malta faced.
Independence was not mentioned from the benches opposite in this debate until we had the speech from the hon. Member for Coventry, East. The history of Malta is that she has always been dependent on one or more of the great powers, from the time of the Knights and of Napoleon down to the present day, but Mr. Mintoff wants a status of independence, cut off from the Commonwealth and from the Western Allies.
§ Mr. Brockway
Where does Prime Minister of Malta say wishes to have the island cut off British Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Wall
Mr. Mintoff has cited Libya as the type of country that approximates to his idea, free to receive grants from both East and West. He envisages a neutral zone, standing between East and West, with both sides competing with financial help to keep it out of the control of the other. He has promised the people of Malta a future similar to the present 85 position in Jordan, which broke away from Western subsidies in order to try to get them from the East and then, failing to get them, tried to obtain them once more from the West. Is that to be the future of Catholic Malta with its civilisation which goes back hundreds of years? Mr. Mintoff is condemning the island to an alliance with either Colonel Nasser or with the Kremlin. That is why he is no longer supported by the vast bulk of the people of Malta.
§ Mr. Wall
I think that will be clear tomorrow when Mr. Mintoff's day of national mourning is held. He has said that he regards tomorrow as the great test. He is reported in today's The Times as saying:If the majority is not behind us we will stop and rest.Surely we will know tomorrow how much his position has been weakened by his advocacy of this lunatic solution for the problems of the people of Malta.
What about the future? The whole House, I am sure, agrees that the first problem is to solve the basic economic difficulties of the island. The first thing to do is to make sure that the civilianisation of the dockyard is successful. In spite of the efforts of Mr. Mintoff to wreck that solution, I believe that the political parties in Malta are willing to help him in that economic aim. I believe that the vast majority of Mr. Mintoff's own supporters, who after all come from the dockyard, are prepared to do their best to see that Baileys are successful. They know that their future depends upon that. The Nationalist Party, which is still suffering from a grudge against Her Majesty's Government for the support which they gave to Mr. Mintoff, support from both political figures in the island and some of the leaders of the administration at that time, will, I believe, also co-operate in economic matters. Certainly the wing led by Dr. Herbert Ganado will do so, and the same applies to the Progressive Constitutional Party, which is gaining in support.
It is incumbent upon us in this country to make quite sure that this civilianisation is a success. It is absolutely necessary for the future of Malta and the future of our relations with that island. I call upon Her Majesty's Government to be as 86 generous as necessary, not as possible, to make quite certain that men are not discharged from the dockyard and that the volume of work under civilian auspices is as great as it was under the Admiralty.
In addition to the dockyard, there is the deepwater harbour and the question of housing. Neither the Nationalist Government of Dr. Borg Olivier nor the late Labour Party Government tackled the problem of housing for the poorer sections of the community. That is a matter which should be done within the next year or two when the Government of this country are in direct charge of Maltese affairs. There is also the question of emigration. It should be started up again. It came almost to an end under Mr. Mintoff, but we must recognise that with the prevailing birthrate in Malta emigration should be helped as far as possible.
Therefore, let us have none of those niggling financial deals of which we hear so often in colonial affairs. I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs to say, when he replies to the debate, something about the grants promised to the Royal University of Malta, which has a subvention of £28,000 a year. It was promised that as from 1st April that subvention would be increased to £60,000. If that is not paid it will give a very bad impression. It will make the Maltese believe that when our national Government are in charge there may be niggling cuts and that economies may be made with these funds which matter so much to the intellectual life of Malta. I hope that my hon. Friend will assure us that all these grants will be paid in the near future.
As to the constitutional problem, the Maltese people obviously, and rightly, resent the fact that there is to be this break in the Constitution, but they should be made to understand that it is only for a short period of a year to eighteen months at the most, that it is not a question of going back to an old constitution of dim ages past, and that as soon as the economy is straight Malta will have back a liberal constitution under which she will run her own affairs in her own way by means of an elected Government.
I hope that that will also be made clear by my hon. Friend and that when we discuss these constitutional matters with the political parties in Malta it will be made 87 plain that the police and the Civil Service must be taken out of direct political control. This is not a reflection on the Maltese people. The police, the Civil Service and the B.B.C. do not come under the direct administration of the Prime Minister in this country as has been the case in Malta. It should be made clear that it is no reflection on Malta that in a new constitution these matters should be taken out of the sphere of control of party politics and out of the Prime Minister's direct control. I suggest that we should also reconsider the question of reintroducing the Senate, but I do not labour that point. I merely put it forward for the House to consider at a later stage.
I should like to make one point concerning the Governor's Advisory Council. We are told that the Governor will have an Advisory Council of Maltese to help him during the time when he is, so to speak, in supreme command of Malta. I hope that invitations will be given to all four political parties to send representatives to that Advisory Council. It may well be that they will refuse to be represented, but the fact that they are asked seems to be of great constitutional importance. They should be given the opportunity of advising the Governor during this interim period if they so desire. I hope that great care will be taken in the matter of taxation during the time when there is no elected Government of Malta so that no cry can be raised about taxation without representation.
The House should pay a tribute to the present Governor who, I understand, is due to retire in the near future. Sir Robert Laycock has had no easy time in Malta. On the occasions when I have been in the island since he became Governor, I have found that, although some people may have disagreed with him, he has earned the respect of all parties, including Mr. Mintoff himself. Hon. Members should, I believe, express their thanks for the able way in which he has handled the affairs of the island during the past difficult few years.
Some organs of the British Press have tried to cite Malta as following the path of Cyprus and have tried to show that a similar situation is developing in the two islands. That is totally wrong. The 88 Maltese revere two things—the Church and the Crown. Mintoff himself now lacks support in the island because of his policy advocating independence. I should like to quote one more short paragraph written by Dr. Ganado, the leader of the breakaway Nationalist Party, which is very true and emphasises the importance of making a success of the civilianisation of the dockyards:Mr. Mintoff knows very well that, if enough money continues to go around and if the country is economically put on its feet, the legend that he is the indispensable man will fall to pieces. And all the rats will then abandon the sinking ship. If Baileys succeed, as we all hope they will—provided they are given the necessary aids on a generous scale"—and I emphasise "a generous scale"—Mr. Mintoff's days as the strong man of Malta are numbered. He will therefore try to save his face by wrecking the country. Are we prepared to take this too?I believe the people of Malta are not prepared to follow that line. It is, however, now entirely the responsibility of the Government for what happens in the island of Malta. I hope that they will be generous and imaginative, and above all, I hope they will obtain results during the next twelve or eighteen months. I hope they will prove themselves worthy of the inhabitants of the island of Malta who in 1802 submitted themselves voluntarily to the protection of our King and after long and mature deliberation bound themselves and their posterity to Britain for ever. It is a very great responsibility which falls to Her Majesty's Government who now exercise direct control over the affairs of Malta. I hope they will show that they fully justify the hopes and aspirations of the inhabitants of George Cross Island.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I apologise to the House for being yet another Member who served on the Round Table Conference and who wishes to speak from this side of the House. I can only plead the same defence as the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), when he spoke from the other side, because I have not previously spoken in the House since the Report of the Round Table Conference of Malta was published.
When the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) began to speak he raised very high hopes in my mind. He confessed—and it needs to be emphasised—that he sees integration as the long-term 89 solution to this problem. He sees no other long-term solution. It was a pity, therefore, that towards the end of his speech it appeared that he was willing to give the island all the money it wants, that the Government had to be generous to the island and that we should give every one of the very expensive things that he mentioned so long as we did not have Mr. Mintoff back.
As a matter of fact, according to the hon. Gentleman, it will be worth paying more than Mr. Mintoff has asked for to keep him from getting into power on the island again. I am bound to say that, as a statesmanlike approach to the subject, it disappointed the high hopes that I formed when he started to speak. I cannot believe that along those lines there is any real hope that the Constitution will ever be restored.
§ Mr. Ede
That is the unfortunate part about it. I think that the hon. Gentleman has expressed views which are quite right, but he has proposed such an impracticable way of putting them into effect.
Why do we have this Bill now? Of course, the answer is that under the existing Constitution the Maltese Parliament has to meet at least once a year and the Constitution will be in violent breach after 21st April, or somewhere about then. I believe that that is the correct date but, no doubt, the Under-Secretary of State can put me right. About 21st April, under the Constitution, this Maltese Parliament must meet or there will be a serious breach of the Constitution. That is why we have to have this Bill now. I cannot help thinking that the best solution would be for the Maltese Parliament to meet under this Constitution and face the Government and the Maltese with the impasse which, somehow or other, between them, they have created.
I want to make it clear that I do not think that all the faults are on one side. I believe that there is a balance of fault against the Government of this country, but I do not think that all the things that have been done by the Maltese Government and the Maltese Prime Minister have been the sort of things that should have 90 been done in the circumstances. I hope that the Bill with be withdrawn, as was suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), so that both parties will have to face the facts that now confront both countries involved in this controversy.
I stand, as my colleagues have done, quite unreservedly in favour of the recommendations that were made in the Report of the Round Table Conference which had, at any rate, at that time and which, I gather from what he has indicated by his nodding this afternoon, still has the support of the Under-Secretary. If I may say so—and I hope that he will not think this is in any way an attempt to patronise him; this is a genuine expression of feeling—my opinion of his capacity in handling public affairs rose very considerably with the contributions that he made in the public sessions of the Round Table Conference and particularly in the private sessions where we had, after considering the evidence, to formulate a policy.
One of the hopeful things, I believe, is that the hon. Gentleman is now in a responsible position in the Colonial Office, where he may have, I hope, some opportunity of bringing there the point of view, and the warmth of the point of view, that he expressed when he was serving on the Round Table Conference.
It is very deplorable that we should have reached the stage of having this Bill this afternoon. I cannot help thinking that it will be disastrous for our influence in the Colonial Territories that are still administered by the Colonial Office if there is this breakdown of the Malta Constitution arising in the circumstances in which it has. It has been rightly said by more than one speaker that, possibly, the bargaining power of the Maltese—this is quite apart from Mr. Mintoff—may have dropped because of the changed defence policy of this country.
It will be a bad thing for future negotiations with Colonial peoples aspiring to be free if it is thought that they will have from the United Kingdom sonic equivalence of their value to us, but that, if their value goes down, their past services will not be thought of, on the ground that the mill will never turn with the water that has passed.
91 Let us be quite certain that there is no people in the world to whom, in the last 150 years, we have owed more than we do to the people of Malta. I had a young cousin who was on one of the two ships that managed to get through in the convoy which had that appalling experience in going to the relief of the island. Anyone who had had such an experience, or who heard how the people there were enduring the fury that was loosed on them because it was realised by the enemy how essential their little rock was to the defence of liberty which we were then conducting, would realise that, if we were ever not prepared to listen to their plea, because their military value was now less, there would be a tremendous reaction in all the countries which may at any time be negotiating for full self-government within the British Commonwealth.
I accept all that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Haltemprice has just said about the difficulties of the situation. I have met Mr. Mintoff. I have met the other people. I am bound to say that I thought it was a bit thick of Mr. Ganado, as soon as he had run away from his own party, to talk about other people as rats. That certainly showed a power of invective that he ought to have kept under control until his party had really proved that he did not leave Dr. Borg Olivier but that Dr. Borg Olivier left him. Then he might be able, perhaps, to talk about rats with a better sense of proportion than he has shown up to the present.
We had high hopes, which, I think, were shared by the hon. Member for Haltemprice, when the Round Table Conference reported. I am bound to say that I went into that Conference with the gravest doubts about integration, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) knows. In the earlier preliminary negotiations and conversations that one had with Mr. Mintoff, I gave very strong reasons why I did not think that this country could contemplate integration with Malta. I received a bit of a shock at the first meeting we had when we were told by the Colonial Secretary what the position was in Malta. I say frankly that I was convinced by the arguments which were put in front of us by the various political parties in Malta and by the discussions that members of the Round Table Conference then had in private when we were formulating our Report.
92 I cannot think that any sensible Maltese, when he looks at the situation seriously, can contemplate independence. I can understand him having a desire to be in a position where he can express independently his views about the policy of this country, but, with 320,000 people on that island and nothing but their own resources to sustain them, I cannot think that anyone would care to take on the job. Therefore, I ask the Colonial Secretary to believe that, sometimes, people are forced into saying things when they are in a difficult situation that they would not like to be bound to if they had to face another situation. I once even heard a young Conservative Member of this House say that he was proud to be a supporter of General Franco. It sounded very well on the night. I wonder sometimes whether he has always felt since that his pride was justified. I urge the Colonial Secretary, having got the last Government of Malta into a rather desperate situation, to find a way in which some of their steps can be retraced without too great a loss of face.
Whether we like it or not, what Malta gave to us during the Second World War was assistance so priceless that we are entitled to believe that all who were associated in that great enterprise had, in the long run, the same ideals of liberty. Our problem is to find the machinery by which they can be given effect. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Bill. Let the Maltese Parliament meet on 21st April, or whenever it is, and let both sides then face the issue that that recall will involve. After all, the Short Parliament was a failure, but, to some of us at least, the early days of the Long Parliament were the greatest in the history of this House.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)
I am not sure that I can go quite so far as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in his comments on the activities of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on the Round Table Conference. I am very glad, as I am sure that many of his friends are, perhaps the whole House, to see him following the path that his father blazed so well in earlier days. We wish him every success in his office, in which he will help my right hon. Friend.
93 Nearly a year ago the events took place which gave rise to the suspension of the 1947 Constitution. It is unfortunate that today's debate, at least so far as the other side is concerned, has virtually assumed the guise of a day of mourning, almost anticipating by one day the day which Mr. Mintoff has selected for mourning in Malta. Surely the appropriate day of mourning was when the events took place last April which caused the Constitution to be suspended. I am not sure whether the main regret expressed about those events is that there was a suspension of democratic government in Malta or that those events postponed for a very long time, if they did not altogether destroy, the hopes of those who entertained them for the coming about of the scheme known as integration.
I, for one, will confess at once that I was not sorry to see go by the board the scheme known as integration, because it was not two-way traffic. Under what has been described as the crucial part of it, representation at Westminster, whereas Maltese members sitting in Parliament here were to have an equal say with any British Member about what took place in the domestic affairs of the United Kingdom and were to enjoy all the rights of representation here, they were not prepared at that time to allow us to have any say in the internal affairs of Malta itself, in which their own Parliament was to remain sovereign.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
Is not this House now concerned with the internal conditions of Malta in not allowing the Maltese Government to determine their own future?
§ Sir P. Agnew
Yes, of course. I will come to that point in a moment. I was only fairly reminding the House of what my own attitude has been to integration, and saying that I was not sorry to see that scheme postponed for a very long time.
§ Sir P. Agnew
Yes, with a very important qualification. The words to which I think the right hon. Gentleman is referring appear towards the end of my speech, when I said that if the scheme of integration is the price which we have to pay—and I was referring to representation 94 —for bringing peace and harmony to the people of Malta, then I think that we should pay it.
I am afraid that it has been since revealed in the intervening two years that Malta, as it was controlled and directed by the political party then in power under Mr. Mintoff, showed only too well that integration would not bring that peace and harmony. I therefore felt entirely absolved from any pledge of support which I had given because my qualification has not been carried out.
I do not want to look back, but to look forward, as I think we have to do now. As has been said by other hon. Members, we must now begin again at the beginning. I want to ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who, I understand, is to reply, about an entirely practical point. Many of the Government's economic plans for Malto, due to the abatement of naval activity there, will rest upon the commercial venture which is to centre in the dockyard. The name of the firm Messrs. C. H. Bailey is public property in that the dockyard is shortly to be transferred to it and the enterprise is to begin very soon.
I want to ask a question about the details of the conditions under which the firm will occupy what has hitherto been property in the occupation of the Admiralty within the context of some rather old documents which, I understand, still have a relevance in these matters, namely, the letters patent of 12th December, 1887, and an Order in Council issued relative to them on 26th October, 1896.
This point must have arisen quite soon after the beginning of the first self-government in 1921, when the Duke of Devonshire, who was then Colonial Secretary, wrote to the Governor of Malta on 5th July, 1923, to the effect that any lands or buildings no longer required for military defence were to revert to the civil government of Malta, that is to say, the Maltese Government as envisaged in Section 69 of the Letters Patent then current, those of 1921.
This appears to have no practical relevance during the time that there is not a democratic constitution functioning in Malta because the civil government of Malta will be controlled by my right hon. Friend. But if the time comes, as I think all hon. Members, including myself, hope, that a liberal constitution of some kind will come about in Malta, then a situation 95 could arise when the Maltese Government of the day might have a difference of opinion as to the continued usefulness of Messrs. Bailey or any other firm continuing to occupy a site in the heretofore naval dockyard for commercial exploitation. A question, therefore, arises about the future security of tenure which Messrs. Bailey, or any other firm which might succeed them, would enjoy.
I want to ask my hon. Friend whether he can explain how the negotiations with Messrs. Bailey have been carried on so that the firm will have the satisfaction of knowing that it has reasonable, perhaps absolute, security for a certain number of years, or, at any rate, tell us what security it will have. Only if a firm knows that it can carry on its business for a reasonable time, sufficient, at any rate, to write off the capital put in, will there be satisfaction about the conditions of employment.
I want to ask a question, too, about the very limited Constitution that, according to the statement announced by the Colonial Office on 5th January, is to come into being shortly, when Malta will be ruled by the Governor with the assistance of a nominated Council. The point to which I want to draw attention is that various statements have been made in the Press suggesting that Maltese politicians, as opposed to other people of substance in Malta who are able to give some kind of contribution and likely to assist the Governor, will not be invited to become members of the nominated Council.
I refer particularly to the statement reported in The Times on 5th January, when the Lieut.-Governor said—I do not have the exact quotation with me, but I read it again only this morning—that non-politicians would be preferable. If invitations to join the nominated Council in Malta were to be restricted to non-politicians, that would militate against the nominated Council standing any chance of succeeding. No doubt there are men who combine the qualities of being politicians and good business men and financiers, and if they did not get into the Council as politicians they might come in under the latter heading of business men or financiers.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that Mr. Mintoff, Dr. Borg Olivier and Miss Strickland should be invited?
§ Sir P. Agnew
My suggestion is that it is only right that in a limited Constitution like this, the Governor, who, I presume, will be responsible for tendering the invitations to join the Council, should surely ask the leaders of the political parties to suggest a name or names to him. They could either suggest themselves or the names of other members of their parties who would be willing to serve.
§ Sir P. Agnew
Or, of course, alternatively, they could say, "No, neither I nor any member of my party will serve." I do not believe that the constitutional forms would have been properly carried out unless, in those circumstances, the Governor had at least given to each political party the chance of nominating somebody to serve on the Council. It is entirely a matter for the political parties whether they accept.
Let me follow that through. Suppose a refusal is made by the leader of a political party. Then, I would suppose, the Governor would be absolutely free to choose any individual whom he wished, even an individual in the party the leader of which had refused to allow anybody in his party to serve. It then becomes entirely a matter within the Governor's discretion.
I have not been in Malta as recently as my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), but I was there last September. The information I was able then to collect was that, individually, people of good will, anxious to make a contribution and helping to give the Governor advice, would come forward and serve, and that if the invitations were sent out the acceptances of them would, in the event, cut right through the ordinary party affiliations in Malta.
I had no opportunity of testing the veracity of that allegation and I could not conduct anything in the nature of a Bournemouth, East poll to try to find out, but from conversations I had there I am inclined to believe that when it is tapped, a surprising amount of good will will be shown by a proud people who have had to go through the shame that they must feel that their democratic Constitution, on which they have built such great hopes, has once again, and for the second time within a generation, collapsed. I believe that that good will will still be there.
97 I felt that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was less than fair to my right hon. Friend when he suggested that the Bill was doing no more than inaugurating a period of repressive Crown Colony rule and that that was all there was to it. I felt that in the tenor of his remarks the right hon. Member had entirely omitted to read the Colonial Office statement which was put out on 5th January, and part of which states:It is Her Majesty's Government's intention to hold further discussions in due course with a view to reintroducing elected representative Government.That statement is quite clear. Those who read it, certainly the Maltese, would interpret it as a pledge that this narrow period of Crown Colony rule is but a period when more voices can be collected and more counsel taken as to what shall be the best form for the new liberal constitution when it can be introduced.
I believe that in the recent talks that took place under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend, in November and December, there were those who had hoped that the first limited Constitution would have been something in the nature of a revival of the type of Constitution known as the Macdonald Constitution, introduced in 1939, when the first attempt was made to restore representative government after its suspension in 1933.
That Constitution consisted of a Council of Government of 20 members, half of whom were nominated and officials and the other half of whom were elected. I was not present at the recent talks and I do not know whether it was possible to give serious consideration to that proposal, but I can think of one reason why, if it had been seriously considered as desirable by Her Majesty's Government, it would have been undesirable from the viewpoint of timing is that it would have involved quite a period of delay, pending which constituency boundaries would have to be worked out in Malta. This would have meant that the present unsatisfactory situation concerning new laws, in which Malta has to rely upon ordinances enacted under emergency powers, would have been prolonged to an unduly long period.
It may be that when this interim Constitution is shortly inaugurated it will be the precursor to the new, full, liberal Constitution which it is hoped will be introduced as soon as new talks can be 98 held again and the conditions are such that those talks are likely to be fruitful, when that time comes to be selected. It is surely easy to see that it would be no use attempting now to have a repetition of the talks which took place in November and December, when no sort of agreement or unanimity could be arrived at.
Surely a new situation has to come about which will cause wiser counsels on the part of the Maltese politicians to prevail. I suggest that those new conditions will come about when there is the realisation that, although the withdrawal of full naval activity has come like a black cloud over Malta, the efforts, in substitution, by Her Majesty's Government to introduce commercial activity there have been shown to be successful and that Malta is on its way, in a period of transition, to a time when it will approach economic viability. When that can be seen as a target that is attainable, I am sure there will be quite a different atmosphere in any talks or conversations that may be held for a new, liberal constitution.
I pause for a moment to consider what sort of Constitution that will be. I certainly shall not adopt the rigidity which has been expressed by several hon. Members in the debate this afternoon in saying that there is no other solution except integration and refusing to look at any other possible solution. I would not suggest now what should be the details of a liberal Constitution, because I think that it would be quite premature to do so, but I know very well one of the cardinal principles which should be contained in it. It could not have been better illustrated than by the sinister events in April last year, which culminated in the suspension of the 1947 Constitution. They concern the control of and use to which the force at the disposal of the Government for maintaining law and order—the police—was at that time put.
If a new Constitution were to be introduced prematurely, which was liberal in all its aspects but which maintained the police as a reserve power, I think that it would be foredoomed to failure at the start. There is great hope, I think, for taking the police, as has been suggested, out of the political arena, out of political control altogether, and putting it in the hands of some kind of public service 99 commission. We cannot, however, escape—and we must face up to this proposition—that in the ultimate account, if law and order are themselves threatened, the power to maintain them and maintain security must reside in the man who is doing the duty of the head of the State, the Governor. That condition must prevail in any dependency or wherever the British Crown rules.
One principle which the future liberal Constitution must contain, when we come to consider it, is that it must not only have as its feature freedom for representative Government, elected by a wide franchise, to exercise their full powers, but it must also contain what the recent Constitution in Malta, as used by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Mintoff, failed to show that it had, namely, freedom for individual citizens to enjoy the law and order which they are entitled to have in going about their daily lives.
It is not an exaggeration to say that was in jeopardy for a few hours in Malta in April, 1958, and that it was only safeguarded by the prompt action of the Governor of Malta, Sir Robert Laycock, in taking over control of the police from the Prime Minister, whose normal constitutional function it was to control the orders given to the police at the time.
We owe a very great debt to Sir Robert Laycock, in the term of his governorship, for having been a man who scrupulously observed the working of the 1947 Constitution under Mr. Mintoff, the Prime Minister. We owe a great debt to the man who was responsible for taking the decision to safeguard orderly government in Malta when law and order were threatened in the citadel of the law itself, threatened by the order to withdraw the necessary forces of the police. He stopped the mob from overrunning it.
I have said that we ought not to spend too much time looking back and that we ought, in this debate, to look forward. If we look forward we ought to have some idea as to what the ultimate solution should be. If we reject the notion of Mr. Mintoff's independent Switzerland idea, because we must reject it, knowing that not in the near future can Malta be economically viable and it must have a financial subvension from somewhere, then I say that for the time being let us in this House give willingly and 100 generously. I think that the Government's proposals have never fallen short of being generous, having regard to the difficulties which we have had to face in our own country.
We look forward to the time when, consistently with the obligations which rest upon both the United Kingdom and on Malta, and which are enshrined in the Declaration of 1802, the position will one day be attained when the Maltese people will be able, as other peoples in the Commonwealth, to exercise the controlling voice in their own destiny. I, for one—and I think that many would share my view—am profoundly hopeful that the voice of Malta then, when that time comes, will be raised in support of a continuing and close association with the United Kingdom.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) said that this is not a day of mourning. He rather suggested in his speech that this is the dawn of a new day for Malta, the beginning of fresh hope for its future and prosperity and happiness. He is the only hon. Gentleman who has spoken so far to express those sentiments. I think that all of us feel that this is a day of disappointment, and there is no getting away from it. The hon. Gentleman said that the Bill will clear the decks to make a fresh start possible. The suggestion, then, is that the decks are cluttered with junk and impedimenta and that they need to be swept clear so that a new beginning can be made.
§ Sir P. Agnew
They are cluttered with impedimenta, the impedimenta of temporary, emergency ordinances.
§ Mr. Houghton
That brings me to my next point. It is not the Constitution of Malta which has failed. The Constitution, in some respects, has been suspended by a declaration of a state of emergency, but the Prime Minister of Malta resigned and the Leader of the Opposition in Malta refused to form a Government. It is that, really, which has brought a state of inactivity in the working of the Constitution. As I see it, if the state of emergency were called off then the full Constitution would resume its operation.
101 I thought that the Colonial Secretary did not explain sufficiently clearly what the real constitutional position is. The state of emergency suspends quite a lot of the Constitution embodied in the Letters Patent of 5th September, 1947, but, as the Colonial Secretary explained, that did not revoke certain parts of the Constitution, one of which is, presumably, Article 18, which deals with sessions of the Assembly. He did not go on to explain what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) referred to, namely, the need, under the present Constitution, for the Assembly to be recalled within a year of its last meeting. If that is the position, that the Assembly must at present be recalled before 21st April, which, I understand, was the date of the last sitting of the Assembly, why is it that Parliament cannot he recalled?
What is this Bill trying to do? It is apparently trying to remove the constitutional necessity for the recall of the Assembly within the next two or three months. Why is the Bill trying to do that? Are we afraid of Parliament being recalled? Cannot the Government, through the Governor, address the people of Malta at the time of the recall of Parliament and put all the issues before the people of Malta and ask them to consider them, and their elected representatives to do the same? What about an election in Malta?
Up to now, only integration has been put to the electorate of Malta, once in the General Election, and later by referendum. Mr. Mintoff has come forward with a new proposal, a very drastic proposal in sharp contrast with the one which he previously put to the Government and to the Round Table Conference. The people of Malta have not been able to pronounce on that either by election or by referendum. There are constitutional processes which may still be appropriate even in this difficult situation.
The Bill completely suspends the Constitution and transfers all the power to the Crown. It will be exercised through the Governor. That seems to me to be a retrograde step, and that we must all admit it to be a retrograde step. The hon. Gentleman canvassed some of the possibilities and the composition of the Advisory Council to the Governor. That flows from trying to impose an old type 102 of colonial government upon a mature electorate, a developed democracy, which has a legislative assembly and which has had governments of different political complexions acting in the constitutional way. It is quite unrealistic to think that in this situation, where the whole of Malta will feel affronted by the complete suspension of the Constitution, people should be found willing to serve on an Advisory Council to the Governor and, at the same time, able to retain the confidence and respect of their fellow citizens.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) uttered a formidable indictment of Mr. Mintoff, but when he had said it all he did not say what he proposed to do about Mr. Mintoff or with Mr. Mintoff. He is still the strongest personality and the most representative political force in Malta today. At least, there is no evidence to the contrary yet. We cannot sweep Mr. Mintoff away. Is the purpose of this Bill to give the people of Malta time to get rid of Mr. Mintoff, or wait for him to die, or emigrate, or something?
The hope was expressed by the Colonial Secretary, and, indeed, by the hon. Member for Haltemprice, that complete suspension of the Constitution would be of short duration, and the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South was bold enough to outline a more liberal constitution, which, he hoped, would follow the period of suspension of the Constitution. I may be quite dull about all this, but I think that that kind of attitude is quite unrealistic.
I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite fully appreciate the explosive political material that they are handling in so calmly assuming that one event wilt follow another in the inevitable course of peaceful, historical development. We know from experience in other territories that we cannot rely on that, and we certainly cannot expect it.
I was a member of the Round Table Conference. I apologise to the House for inflicting a third speech on the subject in the debates we have had in recent years, but those of us who did serve on the Round Table Conference probably came back more encouraged, indeed inspired, by our experience on the Round Table Conference than was possible for other hon. Members of the House.
103 With one or two notable exceptions, we came back fully convinced that integration was the only answer to this extraordinary economic and constitutional dilemma. We had high hopes, when the matter was first discussed, and as a result of quite unequivocal statements on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that integration would come about; a unique development in Parliamentary affairs, and something quite exceptional in the history of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
What went wrong with integration? Looking back, I think that there is, perhaps, something in the criticism made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) about not having put the constitutional change first. That would have been the symbol of integration. It would have been, so to speak, the spiritual change that was to take place between Malta and this country—the marriage service first, and the marriage settlement afterwards. But we followed the conventional pattern of putting the marriage settlement first, so there has not been any marriage. It was a pity that the rather sordid but important financial details got in the way of the realisation of the conception of integration.
At all events, I think that it would have been possible for Her Majesty's Government to have negotiated the constitutional change—on which, apparently, no very great difficulties were anticipated, and on which there was a large measure of agreement—and, at the same time, to have put the financial issues fairly and squarely to the Maltese people, saying, "That is what we envisage by integration." The people of Malta could then have given a verdict on the combined exercise of constitutional change and progressive achievement of economic equivalence between Malta and the people of this country.
It was not done that way. It went on the financial rocks. Perhaps it is a tragedy that this important matter affecting Malta came before Her Majesty's Government at the worst period for a liberal settlement; when there were economic difficulties and disinflationary policies, and a search for economy was going on. I think that, undoubtedly, it made all the difference between success and failure in the financial discussions.
104 As for the transitional financial provision, it was a difference of only £1 million a year and while we accept the right hon. Gentleman's reminder that other territories were looking for aid from us, that we were under very big obligations in various parts of the Colonial Empire, nevertheless this was a proposal upon which so much seemed to hang for the future peaceful development of Malta as to set it apart, so it seemed to me, from the other financial matters that we were discussing with other Colonial Territories—
§ Sir K. Pickthorn
Could the hon. Gentleman say how many millions of pounds it would have cost Malta, not to mention other overseas territories, if there had been another devaluation of the £?
§ Mr. Houghton
We were constantly told by Her Majesty's Government that there was no conceivable prospect of another devaluation of the £.
§ Mr. Houghton
There was then never any stage when the difference between what Malta wanted and what the Government were prepared to give would have undermined our financial stability. Many millions of pounds were spent in other directions during that time—to nothing like the same effect. However, just recalling the past, that seems to have been the critical period in the discussions that may have mattered much more than appeared at the time.
Mr. Mintoff wanted a limit put to the period during which equivalence should be attained. There was disagreement about that. That was probably due to some lack of confidence, either in the future value of Malta for defence purposes or in this Government, or future Governments honouring the undertaking to bring up Malta to broadly the same standard of life as we have here. Whatever it was, it was another stumbling block at the time. Whether further negotiation would have produced a more reasonable approach to this point of equivalence, I do not know, but it was fully agreed that it was to be gradual, that it would be in real, and not in money terms, and it was fully agreed that another aspect of the matter had to be brought into account.
That matter was the level of taxation, in which, as the House will understand, 105 I was very interested. It seemed to me that if there was to be equivalence of standard of living in Malta, an equivalence of social benefits and an extension to Malta of the comprehensive social services of this country, the Maltese should be prepared, relatively speaking, to bear the same burden of taxation as we were. These were matters upon which mutual accommodation was necessary.
It has all gone, but what surprises me is that when Mr. Mintoff came for the recent talks, and said that integration was dead—and I believe he added that the sooner it was buried the better—the Colonial Secretary did not reiterate his own belief, the belief of the Round Table Conference, and the belief of this House, that integration was not dead; and that it was still the only rational solution.
I can confirm, if confirmation be needed, the statement of the Colonial Secretary that he himself had strong convictions in favour of integration before even the Round Table Conference had done its work. He certainly left us with that very firm impression when we saw him at our prelminary talks. Therefore, none can accuse the right hon. Gentleman of having dragged his feet during the discussions solely because he was not a believer in integration, and had it, and the Round Table Conference, forced on him by decision of the Government.
That was not the case, but in makes it all the more surprising that he did not stick on this question of integration—go back and ask, "Why did we fail last time? Cannot we now look again"—perhaps under more favourable financial conditions than existed in 1956–57—"at the matters upon which we previously failed to reach agreement?" Apparently not. Integration was taken by the Colonial Secretary as being dead, and it seems to have been buried.
Then came Mr. Mintoff with this demand for immediate independence and in the course of correspondence—and there seems to have been more correspondence than discussion—he put a time to it. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was quite unrealistic to look at an interim constitution that was based on the assumption of continued association between the United Kingdom and Malta if immediate, or even early independence was the demand of the Malta Labour Party.
106 Was it wise to have taken that step? If the Colonial Secretary is not prepared to press integration, if he is not prepared to revive it, if he is not prepared to impress on Mr. Mintoff the overwhelming support for that idea which has gathered over the last two or three years, why is he not prepared to consider the alternative which Mr. Mintoff put forward?
Independence as an aim is the right of any Colonial Territory. If Mr. Mintoff wanted to put too early a date on the realisation of independence, it would have been very profitable, and perhaps salutary, to have discussed that in detail and to have examined it very closely to see what the economic consequences were likely to be and how they were likely to be met. I do not think that Mr. Mintoff had in mind that by 1962 he would irrevocably sever his connection with the United Kingdom, cut his moorings and sail into the wide open sea.
I think that what he intended was either to have sufficient assurance of economic stability before then, by United Kingdom grant or investment in Malta, or some continuing support after the date of independence. I cannot believe that without one of those two he could contemplate all the dangerous risks to the people of Malta of fixing a date for ending association with the United Kingdom—without any assurance of support before and after that date and substantial investment in Malta in the interval.
In fact, it is very difficult for any of us looking at these proposals objectively to conceive how they could take effect without catostrophic results to the people of Malta, unless we had given a pre-assurance that we would keep Malta afloat as a friendly gesture, even if she had declared her independence and even if she had gone out of the Commonwealth. None of that was discussed. Although in the course of his letters and memoranda the Colonial Secretary set forth his views on the subject, there was no getting down to brass tacks.
Mr. Mintoff says that integration is dead. The Colonial Secretary says that he cannot discuss an interim constitution so long as the Maltese press their demand for immediate or early independence. The result is deadlock. The Bill removes the last vestiges of the Constitution so that Parliament need not be recalled and that the Governor, with or without an 107 advisory council, can rule as an absolute monarch in the name of Her Majesty the Queen.
Apparently, we are seeking to find a basis for the future development of Malta by disfranchising the people of Malta, by ignoring their political leaders, by dismissing all representative opinion in Malta, except that which the Governor will nominate to his Council to give him advice, with all the risks of political irresponsibility and civil unrest which may follow this step.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones (Watford)
is it not true that the three party leaders in Malta have completely refused to make any kind of Constitution work? Has the hon. Member any alternative other than what is contained in the Bill?
§ Mr. Houghton
I think that we can confront the people of Malta with the situation in time, before the Article 18 of the present Constitution comes into effect. I believe that between now and 21st April the Government can put the situation plainly to the people of Malta and show that if the Constitution is to work Parliament must be re-assembled and there must be some form of Parliamentary government in Malta, saying that, otherwise, the Constitution cannot work and that it might then be necessary to relieve Her Majesty's Government of the need to call the Assembly together in order that government may be carried on.
However, I do not believe that we have yet reached that stage, at all events, not until we have put the issues plainly to the people of Malta and given their representatives a further opportunity to discuss the matter. It has been suggested that the Round Table Conference should be reconvened, or a similar body called together, to see whether anything could be made of the present state of deadlock. I am not convinced about that. I think that the issues are plainly in the hands of Her Majesty's Government and that they have to find a way out. The House has now assumed responsibility, and will certainly do so if it passes the Bill, for the future of Malta.
It is possibly unrealistic to think that the Government will feel able to withdraw the Bill at this late hour. However, it would help if the Government 108 would say that although the Bill is being passed they profoundly hope that it will be only as a safeguard and that not a moment will be lost in a fresh attempt to see whether agreement can be reached to enable a further basis to be provided for the future government of Malta.
I agree that it is an extraordinarily difficult and complicated situation, but the Bill is not the answer. I know how the Colonial Secretary must feel after his long exchanges with Mr. Mintoff over a considerable period. One has only to read the correspondence to see the tone and content of some of the letters sent to him. It is a great trial to have to conduct discussions in that atmosphere, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale pointed out, that, unfortunately, is the kind of ordeal which the Colonial Secretary has to go through
One must realise that it is the holders of power, the givers of concessions, who can behave calmly and responsibly and with an attitude of statesmanship. It is those who are denied and frustrated and who feel themselves to be in a cage, with no way of realising their ambitions for the fulfilment of nationhood, who will kick and fling their arms about and make wild statements and do wild things.
Surely that is the lesson of history. We are not likely to go berserk, since we are in the seat of power. We have the power to concede. We have the power to offer the basis of agreement. However, that puts the responsibility firmly on us and it requires us to make full allowance for things which we find irrational, tiresome and perhaps irresponsible.
Considering the history of other countries in the Commonwealth, there is hope to be found. There was a time when we thought that the leaders of the national movement in India were irresponsible and wild, and saying and doing wild things. We told them that they were not ready for self-government and that they would be exposed to all the dangers of predatory Powers who might wish to invade their territories. There were always reasons for not giving them what they wanted. However, let us consider the astonishing results. Men who were not only frustrated, but imprisoned, are now the leaders of a Government which we are proud to have within the Commonwealth.
109 There lies the hope, if only we can understand the feelings of the people of Malta and their claims upon us as the only George Cross island in the world, if only we can look at the situation with understanding, sympathy, generosity of spirit, and reasonable financial liberality. That is the only approach likely to break the deadlock. But if, unhappily, integration is really dead, and if Mr. Mintoff feels that his claim upon this country in respect of the value of Malta, for defence purposes, weakens his position and he, therefore, feels that independence is the answer, we should be willing to discuss it with him and let him see where he is going, besides letting the people of Malta make up their minds whether they want to go that way.
We ought not to be vindictive about it and dismiss the whole thing as the railings of a crazy politician, smitten with the love-hate complex. We should treat it as a serious proposition, and if the people of Malta rejected it—as I feel sure that they would have to when they have looked closely at it—we should find that the other alternative was more acceptable. But if the people of Malta decide, of their own free will, that they want to leave the Commonwealth, cease their association with this country, and take the consequences, I do not see that we have the right to stop them.
Apart from the well-being of its people, our main concern with Malta is as a fortress and a defence post. As its usefulness in that respect is rapidly dwindling, very shortly we shall not have any vested interest in Malta except our feeling for its people and our wish to see them prosper and lead a happy life. Anything that we can do to assist that, whether Malta becomes part of the United Kingdom or goes completely outside the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, we should do, as a generous gesture to the citizens of Malta.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
For many years the House has come to look to the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) for wisdom and commonsense, and I hope that he will not think me unkind if I say that I was a little disappointed with his speech this evening. He begged the Government to withdraw the Bill, and I look forward to hearing from him some feasible alternative. His alternative was the reassembly of the 110 Maltese Parliament and the confrontation of the Maltese people with the situation as we see it.
Was ever anything more unrealistic suggested in this House? How can recall a Parliament with any hopes that it will lead to a settled state of affairs when all the leaders of the various parties refuse to play and when the Leader of the Maltese Labour Party, Mr. Mintoff, has proclaimed his intention to victimise those who have assisted in the maintenance of law and order, and have assisted the Governor? Does the hon. Member believe that a series of speeches, or the publication by the Government of White Papers or even books dealing with the position as we see it, will have the slightest effect? The actual situation faces the Maltese people every day, and we can talk to them until we are blue in the face with no result.
The alternatives open to us are either to pass the Bill or to wash our hands of the situation altogether. That means passing the Bill, because the recall of Parliament would lead only to chaos, and there is no other alternative which will give us a little breathing space. I agree with hon. Members on both sides of the House who have said that a breathing space will be of no use unless we do a great deal of thinking, and I should like to see the Government announce, at the earliest possible moment, say within the next few weeks, their plans for rethinking the whole situation. I am sorry that, for the first time, I have been disappointed with a speech by the hon. Member for Sowerby.
I had intended to begin by saying how much I liked the speech of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) spoke as if there was some vindictiveness on our part, and as if we thought that this was a day of triumph. It is a day of disappointment, and of course this is a retrograde step. But there is nothing vindictive in our feeling towards the people of Malta. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) accused us of sneering at the Maltese people because of their poverty. Nothing is further from the truth.
But the right hon. Member for South Shields hit the nail on the head when he said that there was an enduring affection and a feeling of gratitude towards the 111 people of Malta on the part of our people. To no other people do we owe so much for our survival. If, as a result of this debate, a message goes out from this House to the people of Malta it should be that that affection is undying and undimmed, and that, whatever political differences may arise between us and some people in Malta, that affection will endure for eternity. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his speech, although I disagree with his suggestion about the recall of the Maltese Parliament.
In common with the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), I declare myself an unrepentant believer in integration. I accept the logic of this argument that, finally, there is no alternative to integration but independence. I accept the implied argument of the hon. Member for Sowerby that the full consequences of independence have only to be deployed for it to be quite evident that it is impracticable, and I am therefore driven back to my belief in integration.
In talking about our affection for the people of Malta we must not forget that it was a very bold step on the part of a member of the Government to commit his party—the Government Party—to integration. There was by no means unanimous support for it in the Conservative Party, and it was a very brave thing to do. I do not like using the word "generous", because it implies something rather patronising, but it was the most generous gesture that any country could make to a Colony, and we should not underrate the magnitude or big-heartedness of that gesture.
It may be that a more liberal Constitution will prove to be workable, and acceptable to the people of Malta, but in the long run I believe that we are faced with the clear alternative between independence and integration. Independence is not feasible, and we are therefore driven back on integration.
We are trying a brand-new experiment in Malta. We are trying to start again with a clean sheet. It is very easy to go back on the past—to consider past negotiations, and to blame the Government, It is a fruitless and thankless task to dig up the past—a past which, in this case, is so complex and ravelled up with negotiations that the greatest archaeologist in the world could never find out 112 the truth about it. I know the Colonial Secretary very well personally, and have done for about thirty-five years. He is not a difficult negotiator; he is a man of the utmost generosity of spirit, and if Mr. Mintoff had met him to the extent of going even one-quarter of the way these negotiations would not have broken down.
Mr. Mintoff is also a personal friend of mine, though not of such long standing. I have a genuine affection for him, and I hope that if he reads these words—which he probably will—he will believe me when I say that that friendship will not be destroyed by political differences. But we must not get away from the real truth, which is that Mr. Mintoff lost belief in integration—if he ever had it—and that he and he alone was the cause of the breakdown in the negotiations. I am not impugning his sincerity, judgment or intelligence, but it is clear that after a certain stage he did not mean integration to succeed. I do not believe that the breakdown was brought about by the £1 million difference. I do not believe that the rock upon which this ship split was a financial one. I believe that for reasons best known to him—a very able but complex character—he turned against integration.
Indeed, I think that he was amazed when the principle was accepted by the Round Table Conference. I do not think that he really wanted it all along. What he does want I do not know. I am sure that his ultimate intentions are good, but I question their wisdom.
I said that we were trying a new experiment in starting with a clean sheet in Malta. It is easy to under-estimate the gravity of the situation, but it is equally easy to over-estimate it. I do not underestimate the gravity of the situation when we are driven to suspend democratic institutions, nor do I under-estimate the gravity of the situation when no political party in Malta, except one very small party, will co-operate with us. Nevertheless, we must not be too gloomy. The hon. Member for Sowerby was right, if I may humbly say so, to call attention to what happened in India. Do not let us make false analogies with Cyprus. The Maltese people like us, just as we like them. They are a kindly, friendly, affectionate people. We have a great deal in common with them, mentally and 113 emotionally. There will not be another Cyprus in Malta. Even if the island were the size of Ireland there would not be another Cyprus in Malta. The Maltese people do not want that, and of course we do not want it, either.
The bulk of the Maltese people like this country and their association with it, and are proud of their George Cross and their allegiance to the Monarchy. I hope that they were flattered by, and I suspect that they were proud of, the fact that they had been offered integration with this country.
Do not let us be too pessimistic. What we have to do is to make this experiment a success. We can make it a success only by ensuring two things—and the first is the prosperity of Malta. I do not want to be accused of putting money and material things at the top of the list, but of course we must ensure that there is a reasonable measure of prosperity in Malta. We must be prepared to be generous, though not spendthrift, and we must bend all our energies to see that the dockyard, under the new management, obtains sufficient new orders to provide adequate employment.
There is, however, something more important than material prosperity. This is where we so often break down in our Colonial Empire. Of course people want full bellies. That is a very important thing. But they also want self-respect, and they are interested in status. We offered Malta integration. May I say, in parenthesis, that I wish it had been even fuller integration. When we made that offer we held them as equals. I am trying not to be patronising, but we meant that as a compliment, and I think it was accepted as a compliment.
We must see to it that the people of Malta have no fear or suspicion that by this temporary reversion to direct rule their status has suffered. That is vital. As a nation we are very prone to think that when we have given good Government and material prosperity we have done all that is required of us. We have not. I beg and urge the Government to take thought as to how best to make that clear to the Maltese people.
I did not intend to speak even for as long as this, and I will now conclude. I I feel very keenly about Malta. I saw in integration a great step forward, fraught will difficulties, including great difficul- 114 ties in the House and in this country. Nevertheless, I saw it as a great step forward in that a Colony, instead of drifting further away, was moving nearer to us and we were offering equal citizenship, in a way of unexampled generosity. In my opinion there is no other ultimate solution than integration.
The time is adequate, but short. If within the next six months, perhaps even less, the Government of this country do not show that they mean to go forward rather than stand still, and do not give proof to the people of Malta that their status and self-respect have in no way suffered by what has happened, I fear that there will be great danger. The hon. Member for Sowerby, as if drawing a rabbit out of a hat, produced the word "deadlock". At the moment it is deadlock; but it can be resolved, and it must be resolved as soon as possible.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
It is my intention, unlike other hon. Members, not to range over the whole field but to speak on one point. But before I do so I must refer, as it were in passing, to all the criticism of Mr. Mintoff and the attacks which have been made upon him. Anyone would imagine that it is because he has made some inflammatory speeches that we have reached this impasse. It could be imagined that nobody else makes speeches in Malta. Even the Colonial Secretary himself, although his language was much more moderate than that of his hon. Friends behind him, referred to Mr. Mintoff's "extravagant language".
Many people have used extravagant language in Malta. Some officials in the Colonial Secretary's Department in Malta have used very strange language. A very high-ranking official there is much given to public speaking, and sometimes his utterances are ludicrous and sometimes they are downright provocative. For example, about a month or five weeks ago, speaking on behalf of the Governor, and referring to the difficulties of finding Maltese Ministers to serve on the Governor's Advisory Council—and knowing full well that those who did so would meet the wholehearted opposition of nearly everybody resident on the island—he said, "We think that we can easily find enough persons of the right sort to do a patriotic job, in spite of the abuse."
115 What is he talking about? A patriot is a person who defends the rights of his own country rather than the interests of some other country. A Maltese who refuses to serve on this Advisory Council might be regarded as anti-British, or might be more correctly described as anti-British Tory, which is not a bad thing to be, but no one who knows the meaning of words could accuse him of being anti-Maltese.
About a week ago the same high official, this spokesman of the Governor, spoke of the strike which is being called for tomorrow as a day of national mourning—as indeed it will be—and, in a broadcast speech, described those who take part in the strike as "hooligans and lawbreakers." How can one describe as a hooligan a man who protests against what he sincerely believes to be the denial of his rights as a citizen and a worker? Apart from being incorrect and provocative, this remark seems to indicate, certainly to the people of Malta, that the Colonial Office prefers arrogant abuse to calm negotiation. That is a very bad feeling to create, and I hope that the Colonial Office will give instructions to their spokesmen on the island to moderate their language and not indulge in this vile abuse.
I come to the principal point which I want to make. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) mentioned the firm of Messrs. Bailey to which is to be transferred, from the Admiralty, the naval dockyard in Malta. I want to draw the attention of the House to the very mysterious manner—one might say the rather dubious manner—in which this transfer has been negotiated. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary a few questions about it. I want to know why the firm of Messrs. C. H. Bailey was chosen. Were any tenders asked for? Were any other firms approached? I should like to know why the transfer has been made at this precise moment, when there is no Maltese Government and when the Parliament of Malta is not sitting. It has been said by quite responsible people in Malta that the British Government are deliberately prolonging this political crisis precisely in order that this deal might go through. This is a very grave allegation, but it has been widely spread, and I should like to know what truth, if any, there is in it.
116 I should also like to know why a British admiral has been released from the Service to take charge of what will now be a civilian, commercial dockyard. To all these questions we could readily supply the answers that are being given in Malta, not only by Mr. Mintoff, but by hundreds of other people. The answers which are being given in Malta are these. They are saying—and the document which the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South has read would seem to put some legal validity on what they are saying—that if there had been a Government in Malta, the Admiralty would have had to hand over the dockyard to the Maltese Government so that it might be administered for the good of the Maltese people.
It seems that the Government want it both ways. They want to relieve themselves of their responsibilities and of the odium of sacking thousands of workers next year, but, at the same time, and to be on the safe side, they want to retain some hold on the dockyard, and they do this by the clever device of sending an admiral to take charge. They are sending him so that he can ensure that, whatever alterations are made in the dockyard, they will not be of such a nature that, should an emergency arise, the dockyard cannot easily be reconverted into an Admiralty establishment. That seems to be the reason why an admiral is sent over there—to take charge, to supervise the transformation and make absolutely certain that it cannot be so radically altered as not to be easily reconvertible into a naval dockyard again.
That might be all right from the British point of view. It probably is quite good from our point of view but, if that is the reason for it, why not say so openly? Why go around pretending that we are doing this for the good of Maltese people, that we are doing this for the brave little, loyal, George Cross island? Certainly, the Maltese will not believe that. While on the subject of the dockyard, I must say that the Colonial Secretary seemed to be reasonably optimistic about the eventual success of the scheme. He did not give us his reasons. I should like to know if his optimism is based on the fact that the Government can rely on the co-operation of other firms, apart from Messrs. Bailey, which had previously been won over by Mr. Mintoff's Government.
It is said that there are other firms which had become so keen on Malta as 117 a suitable place for repairing their own vessels—oil tankers and others—that they had plans of their own, involving the expenditure of a couple of million pounds, for the building of two new docks in the Grand Harbour at Valetta. This might explain what seems mysterious to everybody else—the fact that these firms—foreign firms, as at least one was, and possibly there were others—were willing to go to Malta and spend millions of pounds enlarging the docks there.
This might explain Mr. Mintoff's optimism in his new call for independence. It must certainly explain his quite reasonable anger at this moment that the naval dockyard has been handed over to a firm of which he probably knows nothing. It will explain why he believes that the Maltese Government could exploit this harbour far better than anybody else.
There are three reasons for his thinking that. First, it was Mr. Mintoff who found the customers. Secondly, he or his Government could develop the enterprise more freely and thoroughly than a firm which has an admiral breathing down its neck all the time who can modify or even stop developments which may not suit the requirements of the British Admiralty. Thirdly, the Maltese Government would have been free to accept help from any quarter, foreign as well as British. Perhaps all these allegations of mine are untrue. All I am telling the Under-Secretary is that they are being made, and are being made by responsible people, not by mischievous men. It may be, for example, there has been no secret poaching on Mr. Mintoff's customers, no going behind the backs of the Maltese Government, to approach these firms asking them not to spend money on their own docks, but to come in with us and use this naval dockyard now to be handed over to Messrs. C. H. Bailey. It all may be untrue, but we should like to know.
I should like a plain "Yes" or "No" to this question—whether any ship-owning firms which had been in negotiation with the Maltese Government will take any part whatever in the new scheme after the naval dockyard has been handed over to Messrs. Bailey? We should also like an answer to Malta's contention that the most valuable part of her land, her national property, has been given, without her consent and, it is abundantly clear, against her will, to private British commercial interests.
118 It is a bad thing which the Government are asking us to do tonight. I wish we could defeat the Bill, but since we have not got the numbers, we cannot defeat it. I am glad that we are to vote against it, because I know that the people of Malta will realise, at all events, that there are many men in this House who are not indifferent to their fate. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) winds up the debate, I hope he will be in a position, not merely to oppose the Bill, but to give us an assurance that, when we are returned to office, this dockyard, which has been handed over to a private firm, will be taken away from that firm and given where it belongs—to the Maltese Government—so that it may be administered for the greater good of the Maltese people.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones (Watford)
I do not propose to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), because, fundamentally, I believe, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) would support the same view, that there is not a single Member on either side of the House who is "anti" the people of Malta. I certainly am not. I am not anti-Mintoff, nor am I anti-Mabel Strickland, nor anti-Borg Olivier. I am pro-Malta as an island, and pro its people. I knew the island before the war, even during the time when it suffered its major bombardment, and have known it since.
Any honest hon. Member must admit that the followers of all three political parties in Malta have become caged by their own propaganda. The hon. Member for Sowerby, in a speech which I enjoyed, referred to deadlock. We have a kind of deadlock now, despite the Round Table Conference and all that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has done. I believe that both sides of the House will admit that in all these long and trying negotiations no Secretary of State could have done more.
Now we have arrived at a stage when hon. Members opposite say that the Government are wrong to produce the Bill. But neither the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) nor the hon. Member for Sowerby, nor, I believe, the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who has had a great deal to 119 do with this story, nor any other hon. Member, can suggest any alternative to what is happening in Malta tonight or what will happen there tomorrow.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) must not anticipate. I have not spoken in the debate yet.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones
I shall look forward very much to hearing the right hon. Gentleman.
We have a position now in which the leaders of the three parties in Malta, first, will not work with one another, and, secondly, will not even discuss the future problems of the island in the same room together. Thirdly—and this is not just my opinion; it is a fact—in any discussion or on any problem that is presented to them separately they will even go so far as to say, "If any of the other parties accepts a solution, we shall immediately take our word back."
§ Mr. Brockway
Is it not true that the two parties which have had representatives elected to the Maltese Parliament were quite willing to sit together and negotiate with the Secretary of State for the Colonies and that their only objection arose when a woman was introduced whose party was so weak that it had not a single representative in the Parliament?
§ Mr. Farey-Jones
I will not deny that the hon. Member might have been right if he had said that a few months ago, but I was speaking of today and of a few weeks ago, and I say that these three leaders refuse today to sit together and talk together.
I do not suppose that if this matter were put to a free vote, either in Malta or in Great Britain, any serious Maltese or any serious Briton would tolerate the thought for one moment that there should be a split between us. We are slaves or prisoners of our propaganda, and we on this side of the House, and it may be on the other side as well, over the years since the war have not understood the spiritual nature of the island of Malta. I am quite certain of that, and I think that it will take at least six months for the people of the island to get wise to what the commercial, hard-baked economic situation of the island is in 1959 and what it is likely to 120 be three years and five years from now and how, even if they achieved complete independence, the people of Malta would not survive for long.
I have spent a great number of hours talking to representatives of the shipping lines that use the Mediterranean and are likely to make use of the port of Valetta. As hon. Members know, there is a Mediterranean Shipping Conference. We also all know that the dockyard in Malta had to follow the fate of Chatham and of other dockyards in this country. Would any Government deliberately underwrite five, ten or fifteen years' prosperity for the dockyard in Malta and, at the same time, close the dockyard at Chatham? It would be quite unrealistic to expect that.
The shipping companies in the Mediterranean have studied the question whether they themselves could make great use of Malta. Unfortunately, their answer has been extremely pessimistic. I am sorry to say this. The trade in the Mediterranean is undergoing a remarkably subtle change, and whatever we do or do not do on the island the people of Malta must seriously consider, and so must we, an emigration scheme which will involve at least 20 per cent. of the population moving somewhere else. If this is not done, this country or this Government and any succeeding Government may find themselves having to guarantee or underwrite not only the prosperity but the survival of Malta.
How far are any hon. Members prepared to go with such a guarantee? If hon. Members examine the industrial prospects of the island, as I and some of my business associates have done, they will find that the first difficulty is the extreme shortage of water, the second is the lack of power, and the third that it would be necessary to embark upon a vast training scheme which might take two years before there was available the type of labour necessary in industries other than shipbuilding and ship repairing. These are the facts which we must study and understand.
It is no use the hon. Member for Sowerby or anybody who attended the Round Table Conference merely paying lip-service to Malta. We must face, in 1959–60, the hard-baked reality that the standard of living in Malta will go down and down unless we underwrite it and even try to improve it. And to do that 121 with the present population we should he spending more money per capita in Malta than in Lancashire, or in any backward place in the world.
How can we have a better picture than that which has been presented to us today? I know all three of the present political leaders in Malta, and I do not believe that, for a long time, they will work together. I refer specifically to those three. In their public utterances over the months they have gone so far as to make it almost impossible for their own supporters, who would like to find an alternative to this dilemma, to work together.
Whatever happens after the Bill has been passed, we cannot escape from one thing. This may be a time for thought, hut it is also a serious time for action by the British Government. Even if we revert tomorrow, or the day after, to a temporary period of control by the Governor, the one thing that we must do in this House is to make sure that life in Malta does not take a steep dive as, at the moment, as far as I can see, it is fated to do within the next twelve months.
How far is the House prepared to underwrite even the present stability of Malta? I hope that we shall not wait. I should like to see a major conference called in London, not of the leaders of the parties but of a considerable number of the leading citizens of Malta, so that we could swap ideas with them and seriously consider what will happen in the fulness of time—in my opinion in twelve months—when the people of Malta will be ready to have their Parliament restored and we can pursue some new ways.
We have this problem of independence or integration. I speak as a sympathetic friend of the three Maltese leaders all of whom have genuinely forward-looking ideas for the benefit of the people of Malta. Suppose that Mr. Mintoff really did achieve independence for Malta. The Maltese people would survive probably for a few years; or they might have to go to the United States, or to some other country; or else there might be a vacuum and they would be taken over by some other country. The Maltese people know that only too well. There is not an intelligent Maltese citizen who is not as anxious as my right hon. Friend the 122 Colonial Secretary to find an answer to this dilemma.
That was the case last week. Many of us have friends and correspondents in Malta, and we all know what the truth is. This political deadlock which has been created by the three leaders is preventing any solution. In the whole of this debate—and I was absent from it only for a short while—I have heard many platitudes and laudatory remarks about Malta, the George Cross island. But Malta can become nothing without a vast expenditure of capital outlay. I have not heard a single suggestion so far from the Front Opposition Bench, though I understand that the right hon. Member for Lianelly has got some suggestions. I hope they are good ones. I look forward to hearing them.
I believe that independence is a pipe-dream that can never be realised. I do not believe that Malta, of all places, in the sort of place that the Mediterranean will be in the next ten years, will even want independence. I am one of those who believe that integration is the only possible answer—integration, perhaps, in a different form from the form in which it was discussed in the House last year and the year before.
When we pass this Bill tonight it will place on my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary a rather heavy burden. I believe that in the next few months the people of Malta will have good reason to doubt the wisdom of the politics that they have been following in the last two years. I very much regret having to say that, but the whole trading position of the Mediterranean has been getting steadily worse. After all, trade is work, and work means jobs, and that is what the Maltese want; they want a good standard of living. By all reports, trade in the Mediterranean is decreasing. My right hon. Friend has this burden to bear, having tried and offered practically every alternative that reasonable political leaders could accept.
Malta must now go through a period of heavy thinking, and during that period it will be the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government to support the survival of the people of Malta. I do not believe that that can be done without a major conference of the parties interested, and I hope that when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary replies to the debate he will say 123 what action the Governor will be instructed to take along those lines.
One or two hon. Members have said that this is not merely a matter of economics, that this is not just a matter of full bellies and jobs. Every one of us knows that, forgetting party politics, Malta is so precious to this country that it is unthinkable for any Government to leave Malta in a position of doubt for any longer than is absolutely necessary. I shall vote for the Bill not because I am proud of it as a Bill, but because it is vitally necessary for the people of Malta to call a halt to the dangerous course on which they are embarked, mistakenly and misguidedly. But in voting for the Bill I shall also accept the responsibility which is automatically incumbent on Her Majesty's Government to see Malta through, as Malta once saw us through.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
This House is a great democratic institution. We have been elected by the democratic votes of the people. We believe in government of the people, for the people, by the people—except when it comes to Malta. In the case of Malta, we believe that we in this House should dictate how Malta should be governed. A previous speaker has told us what we ought to do for Malta. It is surely not for us, if we believe in democracy, to say whether we should give them integration or anything else. It is up to the people of Malta to decide. We are forgetting the people of Malta in this debate.
We are agreed in principle upon a democratic institution in every part of the world. The Declaration of Human Rights, to which we have subscribed, says:The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.Everybody—not merely the people of Great Britain but all the people, whether they be in Malta, Malaya, India, China or anywhere else—has agreed to the principle of democratic government.
This Bill, so far as I can understand, will undermine the old democratic institution in Malta. The people of Malta have declared where they stand. They 124 have had elections. They have elected a majority, and possibly it is because they elected a Labour majority that the Government are so much opposed to them—I do not know. The fact remains that they have expressed their opinion freely in the vote and we should have some regard to what they have decided.
Of what are we afraid? What fear have we of giving them either integration or freedom? Fear is a bad adviser and advocate. I say, throw away fear and give honesty of purpose to these people. Tell them that we are prepared to give them freedom and integration, and that in the interim period we are prepared to do all we possibly can to help them.
What has happened in Malta? We heard from the Colonial Secretary this evening about what has happened in Malta during the past two years. He put up what he thought, and probably what his side of the House thought, was a very strong case. He was like the judge who always said, "I never have any difficulty in arriving at a decision until I hear the other side".
The House has heard the other side from my hon. Friends who have explained what the trouble has been. The grant, which is rather an important factor, has been reduced by a considerable amount. Malta said that if we reduced the grant she would be unable to balance her budget, unless she reduced the standard of her people, and that was something she was not prepared to do.
Then a state of emergency was declared. The Governor, who has no function in the administration of the Government of Malta, stepped in and interferred with the police. The Colonial Secretary has explained it to some extent.
§ Mr. Awbery
But he jumped over the head of the Prime Minister of Malta and gave instructions to the police. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell us that.
§ Mr. Awbery
What would happen in this country if someone jumped over the head of the Prime Minister and gave advice and instructions to the police? There would be trouble in a very short time. Then the right hon. Gentleman told Mr. Mintoff that he had to accept 125 the position or resign. Mr. Mintoff resigned, and the Government closed the democratic Parliament.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
In the interests of accuracy, Mr. Mintoff had resigned before all that. I had not interrupted the lion. Gentleman before, but in the last three minutes he has made five misstatements of fact.
§ Mr. Awbery
I am following the statements made by the Colonial Secretary to some extent. I am trying to make my observations on what happened. The right hon. Gentleman has put his.
There was a strike. That strike was a success. The right hon. Gentleman will tell me that that is wrong, but it was a success and the morale of the people was not broken. He will say that it was broken, but it was not. They still stood by their leaders in the strike and by Mr. Mintoff. What would the people of Malta have said to Mr. Mintoff if he had decided to accept the conditions which were laid down by the Government? No Government worth their salt would accept the conditions which were laid down.
The Bill which we have before us is a very short Bill, but it is very damaging in its effect. It is viewed with a great deal of distrust, hatred and hostility in Malta. As far as I and my colleagues can see, it applies the brake to the wheels of progress when the need is for speed and impetus in order to satisfy the urge and the forward drive of the people of Malta.
What is the alternative? It is not for us to tell the Maltese people what they should do. It is for them to decide for themselves, under a democratic Government. It is clear to me that no settlement can be imposed upon the Maltese people. We and the Colonial Secretary roust sooner or later meet them round the table and, by mutual agreement with them, come to some understanding. To impose an arrangement, to impose the Bill, will further alienate the feeling of the people of the island. If they become hostile it will make it difficult for our troops and for other people living in the island, and for the Administration.
We have heard this evening about the heroism of the island. I do not want to exaggerate it, but we ought not to forget it. There was a great deal said about it at the time. These people in Malta 126 worked to a man for us. They fought to a man with us. A great number of them died for us. There was a non-stop attack upon the island for three years, and the whole island was battered and almost wholly destroyed. It was so bad, in fact, that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) at that time wrote these words to Malta:The eyes of all Britain and, indeed, the whole British Empire are watching Malta in her struggle day by day, and we are sure that success as well as glory will reward her efforts.What glory are we giving to Malta tonight? What glory are we giving to Malta in a Bill such as this to suspend the Constitution, even if it had broken down? It is not for us to reward Malta by withdrawing and suspending the Constitution. The glory which we promised in 1941 has turned to dust and ashes in the mouths of the people who were then our heroes.
In 1942, King George VI awarded the George Cross to the island of Malta. It was the first community in the world to be honoured collectively by the bestowal of a British decoration. What are we bestowing tonight? Not a British decoration, but something which is humiliating. We are suspending the Constitution. The people of this little island in the Mediterranean did not fail us in our time of trouble. Neither should we fail them now when the time has come, the position being reversed, for us to give them some assistance.
Several books have been written about the heroic island—"Malta at Bay", "Battered Battlements", "The Epic of Malta", "The Unconquerable Island". There has also been a great film, which I have seen. We have easily forgotten the courage of Malta, but we always forget those things that are done well. When Mr. Mintoff makes a speech attacking our Colonial Secretary we remember it for years. If the Colonial Secretary attacks Mr. Mintoff the same thing applies.
§ Mr. Awbery
I do not think that I can agree with that. These attacks are not going to help us in any way. We have early forgotten the courage of Malta, and we are reciprocating with the miserable, repulsive Bill that we have before us. That is the reward which we offer the 127 people of Malta. They have served us since 1802. If there is anything wrong with Malta, we who have been there for 160 years have had an opportunity of putting it right. If it has not been put right we must bear a large measure of the responsibility for not having done so. When a man has read a good book and has finished with it, he puts it aside. We have used Malta for 160 years, and now that we have finished with her we are turning her aside.
Unless we exercise great statesmanship the position in Malta may develop into another Cyprus. We have not forgotten Cyprus. When one starts a hoop going downhill it accelerates, becomes difficult to stop and sometimes gets out of control. Cyprus is almost, if not completely, out of control. The same may apply to Malta unless something is done. Cyprus has cost us millions of pounds, and a hatred has been created which it will take decades to eradicate. We could have maintained our friendship with the people of Cyprus, but it appears to me that we have left it almost too late to restore that relationship which once existed between us. It is not too late for Malta, although it may be too late twelve months from now, and I ask the Colonial Secretary to do all he possibly can to restore the position of last year.
Only negotiation will bring about a final settlement. No imposition by this House or by the Colonial Secretary will bring about a final and satisfactory settlement. It must be done by negotiation. We know that there is an urge for self-government everywhere. Who are we, who have said so often that we believe in self-government, to deny it to the people of Malta? The imperialism which we have had in Malta for 150 years is dead and cannot be resuscitated whatever we may do. We should learn our lesson from India, Ceylon, Malaya and Ghana, and do the same with Malta as we did with them.
I believe that we can keep the good will of the Maltese people. We must recognise, however, that they know what is good for Malta far better than we in this House. It has been said in the House tonight that we are willing to do anything, such as lend them money, for the Maltese people except what they want us 128 to do. Malta has declared her wishes through her elected Government.
I should have liked to have dealt with the position in the dockyard, with which our own men will be involved, but time does not permit. One of my hon. Friends said that we must not look back but ahead. We cannot look ahead, however, unless we look back and learn the lessons of the past. Today, the strong pro-British feeling in Malta is vanishing as fast as it is possible to vanish. We must not let it go altogether. Malta wants to live as a free community and to control its own destiny, and there is nothing morally wrong in that. We should agree to it. If we fail in Malta I believe that we shall have a repetition of Cyprus, but it may be more destructive and rancorous. I understand that there are strong tides of emotion and surges of passion sweeping Malta like a wind. These may become uncontrollable in the near future. Mr. Mintoff was entrusted a few years ago with a duty. He has discharged that duty worthily, as worthily as the Colonial Secretary believes he is discharging his duties to this country.
We owe more than gratitude and a George Cross to Malta. Her people are brave and we should give her that for which she is asking. I say to the Colonial Secretary: Do not "do a Makarios" on Mr. Mintoff. If the right hon. Gentleman does that we shall have more serious trouble than we have had anywhere. If the people of Malta want freedom, I say with all my heart that we must give it to them. They value and enjoy it just as much as we value our freedom and liberty, and we ought no longer to deprive them of it. If the Colonial Secretary does not act in the way the Maltese people desire, then his face will be turned to the wall in a very short time.
§ 8.35 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
The hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) said in the earlier part of his speech that the Governor of Malta had jumped over the head of the Prime Minister in taking control of the police. Even if the Prime Minister had still been Prime Minister at that time—and my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary pointed out that that was not the case—it would still not necessarily have been a wrongful action. The basic duty of any Government is to 129 maintain law and order, and as long as we have any responsibility for these territories we must face the fact that if the political Government, elected or whatever it may be, fails to maintain law and order, the Queen's representative must take over that task for them. I do not believe that any thinking person would dispute that.
Furthermore, we must be very careful before we start accusing people of breaking the Constitution. I noticed that when the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) was speaking and was challenged about what he would do, he said, "We should allow the Maltese Parliament to be assembled and then the Governor should appeal direct to them, put the facts of the situation to them and ask them to come to some sort of decision on what they want to do." Surely, there is nothing in the Constitution that would permit the Governor to make a direct appeal to the elected members of the Assembly. I feel certain that a number of hon. Members opposite would be eloquent in their condemnation of any such course were it to me attempted.
I was hesitant to take part in this debate. It is clear, however, that this hesitancy is shared by a number of hon. Members, as is shown by the thin attendance in the House during this important debate. That thinness is due, I think, partly to the fact that in their hearts most hon. Members know that there is no alternative to this Bill at the present time and it is partly due to the fact that it is extremely difficult to say anything new on this subject. There is, however, one matter which has not been sufficiently stressed and with which I should like to open.
I do not think that sufficient tribute has been paid to the tremendous efforts which my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has been making over these past months to avoid the present situation coming about. Even the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) conceded that Mr. Mintoff was a rather awkward customer. That was a masterpiece of understatement. I have been lost in admiration at the patience and forbearance shown by my right hon. Friend during these difficult negotiations.
The second point that we should bear in mind as a fact and, possibly, as one from which we can take some comfort, 130 is that the present state of affairs is not quite without precedent. We should be wrong to assume that the end of friendly relations with the Maltese will necessarily come about because we are suspending the Constitution. After all, unless I am much mistaken, this has happened before. I seem to remember it having happened more than once before during my short lifetime.
I do not claim to be an expert on Malta—far from it—but in the course of my Service career I have had probably as many personal contracts with Malta and the Maltese as has the average hon. Member. I went there first in 1919. I remember that that was a time of great disturbance. Happily, it ended and in due course it was forgotten.
My knowledge of Malta is derived not only from visits there, but I had a personal connection inasmuch as a branch of my family lived there for over 100 years. My chief connection with the Maltese, however, has come through having served in ships with Maltese ratings. Nobody who has had that experience can fail to regard the Maltese with both respect and affection.
However, in these complicated matters sentiment can be a dangerous guide. There are certain issues in which one must not allow one's heart to rule one's head. I would put it to the House that there is one basic fact from which we cannot get away. That is that there can be no true independence for any body of people—or, indeed, for any individual person—unless they are economically self-supporting. Whatever form of words may be used or written into the Constitution or into any Act of Parliament, a person who cannot pay his own way is not in the long run truly independent. That has been shown tonight and that is the unfortunate position of the Maltese people as a whole.
In no foreseeable future can we see them becoming viable, to use a rather objectionable modern word. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) has pointed out that down the centuries they have earned an honourable living really by acting as a military base for the defence of Western civilisation and Christendom from early times. One of the difficulties which confronts them today is that, because of the terrible developments in modern weapons, no one would be cruel enough to regard Malta as a military base during a period of major war. 131 I remember saying once before when speaking to the House on the subject of the Service Estimates that in a global war to rely upon a small, concentrated island like Malta would have the effect of turning it into a lightning conductor. It would bring down inevitable destruction. Therefore, the strategic importance of Malta today is not so much a question of how one can use it in time of war, but one of its very great convenience as a peacetime base, on the one hand, and the danger of some other country using it, on the other. That is a fact which I do not think all the talk in the world can get round.
We have to face that fact, and I do not think that it would be any kindness to the Maltese people to try to conceal it by some clever form of words. Therefore, as I see it, the choice before the Maltese people today is just this—are they to retain their connection with the British Commonwealth or are they to look elsewhere? I am perfectly certain that the overwhelming majority of the Maltese people do not wish to make a change. Of that I have no doubt whatsoever. They would prefer to stay with us.
The next question that arises is to what extent is real self-government possible for a small island community of this nature as part of the British Commonwealth. To what extent can real powers be devolved upon them? When one thinks of the matter, I suggest that their position is in some ways not dissimilar from that of a fair-sized county borough. That is the sort of parallel that comes to my mind, although one is bound to add that it would be a county borough dependent upon an uncommonly large block grant.
I think that the relations between the Maltese people and ourselves in the past—I am not talking of the last two or three years but of the last 30 or 35 years—has been to some extent bedevilled by our careless use of terms. For instance,—and I mean no disparagement of Maltese politicians—the term "Prime Minister" conjures up in the mind of the average man in the street the political head of a self-governing, sovereign Power. By no stretch of the imagination can a corresponding position be occupied by the leader of the majority political party in an island like Malta. Indeed, it is no disparagement of the Maltese to say that 132 the Prime Minister of Malta would be lucky if he were able to exercise as much real power as does, say, the Chairman of the London County Council.
Again, I am bound to say that I myself regret that the term "integration" was ever used. I think it was an unfortunate word to have been chosen by the Round Table Conference. To the ordinary man the word "integration" conjures up a picture of some sort of union, in the same way as we have a union with Scotland. It conjures up a picture of two countries, broadly speaking paying the same taxes, broadly speaking living under the same laws. As I understand it, that was never intended to be the arrangement with Malta; never intended at all.
I know that there are minor differences between our laws here and the laws of Scotland, but I hope the Scottish Member present will forgive me when I say that they are sufficiently minor not really to matter very much—until we discuss Scottish business. In Malta, however, the intention was very different, as I understand it.
The mere fact, for instance, and to take one point alone, that we undertook that the Roman Catholic Church should remain the established Church in Malta raises immense legal differences of a fundamental nature between the two countries. Even more does the difference between the marriage laws in the two countries. I do not want to enlarge upon these matters, but if hon. Members will think for a moment of the difference between the marriage laws of the two countries—
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I will concede to the right hon. Gentleman that there are certain differences, which sometimes are taken advantage of, but I think that he will agree with me that they are not comparable with the differences between the marriage laws of England and Scotland on the one hand and those of Malta on the other.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
It is, as the right hon. Gentleman says, a question of degree, but I myself think it would have been better if the term 133 "federation" had been used rather than "integration". I think it describes more accurately what was in everybody's mind. When the time comes to take up this question again, I hope that the Government of the day will give serious consideration to substituting the word "federation".
It is only my own personal opinion, which I do not think is shared by the majority of hon. Members on my side of the House, but I must say that I was never happy about the idea of the elected members from Malta sitting in this House. I believe, anyhow, that in the early stages it would have been very much better had they sat perhaps as life peers in another place. I think the time to have brought them into this House would have been when the two peoples were on equality from the point of view of taxation. That, I think, would have been the correct moment to have chosen.
Be that as it may, however, we come back to the Bill before the House tonight. I have not the slightest doubt in my own mind that the Government's action in bringing it forward is correct. It has been described as a Measure to clear the decks. I think that is a very good description, because that is what has got to be done in the first instance. When the new constitution is devised I suggest that we should try to take the greatest care that the powers which are offered and given to the Maltese people and to their Parliament are powers which are real powers; that is to say, that they are powers not merely over matters which we are prepared to leave to them, but powers over matters which they have the means of controlling, including the financial ones. For that reason alone I think that that part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale which decried the importance of a financial settlement was entirely mistaken.
In the last resort, financial solvency is the foundation of political power. Unless we are prepared to make quite sure that in the new constitution the powers we give are the substance, and not the shadow of political powers, I do not think that we shall ever be able to establish firm and responsible government in Malta.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
In the limited time at my disposal, I must deal, necessarily, more with 134 fundamental principles than with details. This issue is more than a matter of constitutions, or their suspension. It is more than a matter of integration with this country, or the independence of the Island of Malta. It is more than a matter of the economic conditions of the people. The real issue is the right of the people of Malta, as it is the right of people of any race or in any territory, to a relationship of human equality with other races.
If the people of Malta are to assert their rights to that equality, they have two alternatives. They were put very well by Mr. Mintoff himself, at the second series of conferences that have recently been held, on 25th November. I have here the minutes of the conferences, together with the correspondence that has been exchanged between the Secretary of State and Mr. Mintoff and his delegation.
Mr. Mintoff stated the issue in quite clear words. He said that… in considering a new constitution for Malta there were two alternative principles which the Malta Labour Party had been willing to accept: full partnership and full freedom. The first principle had inspired the policy of integration which had been under consideration for the last three years but which was now dead. The second principle—full freedom, which the Maltese people now wanted above all else—was the mainspring of their current demand for immediate independence. He invited the Secretary of State to put forward the United Kingdom's proposals for a new constitution, so that the Maltese Labour Party could see how they measured up to the principle of full freedom.Both roads have been closed. Integration has been rejected. The Colonial Secretary refused even to discuss any matters with the Maltese delegation unless its members withdrew their demand for either immediate independence or independence in 1962. The consequence is that tonight the Colonial Secretary has to repeat what he has done in certain other Colonial Territories—suspend the Constitution.
There will be an inevitable deterioration in the situation. Tomorrow, there is to be in Malta a day of mourning. I think it undoubted that not a stroke of work will be done by a single labourer in Malta tomorrow. I think it almost certain that every shop and every public institution will be closed. It will be a day of mourning not only for the people of Malta, but for everyone in this country who believes in liberty and democracy.
135 It has been argued by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, not only in his speech today but in the long statement which he made to the Maltese delegation, that Malta cannot have independence because she would there lose the economic aid which is now received from this country. There are two grounds on which that principle ought not to be accepted. First, Mr. Mintoff, the leader of the Maltese Labour Party, has made it perfectly clear that in his conception of independence Malta should remain within the Commonwealth. And hon. Members from both sides of the House have pleaded that assistance to Commonwealth countries should be maintained.
Secondly, there is Malta's part in the last war. I will not say that it is doubtful whether that war would have been won, but, certainly, the victory would have been delayed for many months if it had not been for the part which the people of Malta played. This country owes to those people a debt which is second to none.
I was in the island this summer. I went into some of those tombs which are centuries old, which are cold and damp, and where the people of Malta had to hide for nights and days under continuous bombardment. The George Cross which we presented to the island at the end of the war will be worthless if we do not accept the right of the Maltese to self-government and independence and do not tell them that, in any case, aid from this country will be continued.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said, however, in future Malta cannot depend on Britain alone. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State also said that there was a limit to what we could do on our own. I therefore conclude with a wider appeal. Malta helped not only this country, not only the causes of liberty and democracy as reflected in our own sense of human values, but assisted the whole cause against Nazi domination in the last war. Every country which had the memorable assistance of Malta then, owes it a duty at this time, when we are withdrawing our military support and all that the naval dockyard gave in employment. All the countries of the West have a moral duty to assist Malta to make the transformation from the fortress island of war to a Mediterranean centre which may be one of constructive peace.
136 My appeal tonight is not only for the Government to withdraw the Bill and to give economic aid to Malta, but for the peoples of the West, and of the rest of the Commonwealth, and even of the United States, to join in establishing a great international fund which will enable the transformation to take place in Malta and so enable it to look forward to democracy and freedom with economic security.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
On the day upon which the House resumed after the Christmas Recess the Secretary of State answered a Question about Malta in which he referred to the statement that he had made on behalf of the Government at the end of the last fateful and unfortunate conference held a few weeks ago, and indicated that he would be taking the steps which are now embodied in the Bill and all that follows it. I intervened with a supplementary question and asked him either to withdraw his proposal or to postpone it, and to seek a solution, if only an interim one, rather than take this fateful step. He did not say "Yes" or "No", but he advised me—and I accepted his advice—to await his speech when he presented the Bill to the House. We have had the speech and I have listened to it. At the end of it, after considering very carefully what he has had to say, I again ask him and the Government to withdraw the Bill and to seek other ways of solving this problem.
If the Government will not do that it is important that the House should realise what it will be doing in passing this small and seemingly innocent looking Bill, consisting of only one page. It is important for us to realise the consequences of passing the Bill both to Malta and her people and to our relationship with them.
Let me set out what I understand will be the position if the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. First, we shall be taking away from Malta and its people the Constitution under which they have enjoyed a measure of self-government since 1947—that is, for twelve years. The Bill will destroy that Constitution; there will be nothing left of it. As my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, the reason why we are having the Bill now is that unless the Constitution is suspended something else must take place before 21st April. That something 137 else, laid down in one Article of the 1947 Constitution, is that the Legislative Assembly provided for in the Constitution must meet at least once every year. Since the Constitution has now been suspended for several months the Assembly must meet before 21st April. I do not suppose that the Secretary of State will deny that the immediate purpose of the Bill is to prevent the Parliament of Malta from meeting again. That is the effect and that is the purpose.
Having destroyed the Constitution of 1947, we next propose, so the Secretary of State says, to revert in Malta to colonial rule in its most primitive form. Let us be clear about that. In an island like Malta, with its history and its traditions, and with its pride, that is what we propose to do. All those who served on the Round Table Conference, including the Under-Secretary of State, to whom we shall listen with interest in a moment, will recall that in every discussion we had with everyone in Malta they were at pains to point out all the time, "We are not a Colony. We were not conquered. We sought protection." We reprinted in the Round Table Conference Report the Declaration of 1802, which is of immense importance. I hope that hon. Members will read it.
We shall therefore be reimposing—it has been imposed once or twice before—on the people of Malta colonial rule in its most primitive form. We shall be doing that against the wishes of the vast majority of the people of Malta, as far as they can be ascertained. The Secretary of State will not deny that at the last election only two parties were able to secure representation in the Maltese Parliament and that they have both declared that they will not co-operate in the new direct rule by the Governor. Let that be made quite clear.
There is a lot of talk about Mr. Mintoff, and we have all had our arguments with him. As my hon. Friend said, he may be awkward or he may be interesting. But he is not the only person who has said that he will not co-operate with the Governor. Mr. Borg Olivier has said the same thing. There are two small splinter parties whose names I forget—they have very long names—but at the last election they were unable to get a single member returned.
138 We must realise what we are doing. We intend to set up rule by the Governor, who will be assisted by a Council. The responsible leaders of the only two parties who have members in the Maltese Parliament have declared, "Neither we as leaders nor any of our members will serve on the Governor's Council."
From that follows something the importance of which we must realise. They will regard anyone who accepts a place on the Governor's Council as a stooge. Let us be frank about this. That is what will happen. Instead of easing whatever difficulties there may be in Malta, we shall be creating further trouble by dividing the people into those who, against the wishes of the political parties, are co-operating with the Governor and those who are not.
That is not the way to solve either the immediate or the long-term problem in Malta. I am afraid that in this way we shall damage, possibly very seriously, although I hope not permanently, the relations between us and the people of Malta. We ought not to take a step of this kind if any other step is open to us. I shall come back in a moment to suggestions which I have to make and to suggestions which have been made, and I shall make an appeal to the Government to take back the Bill and not divide the House. If they do not take it back, I have no doubt what I shall do. I shall advise my hon. and right hon. Friends that unless the Government withdraw the Bill we should vote against it.
I do not want to go over the tortuous negotiations of the last few years. In any event, it would take far more time than I have available. Nevertheless, I want to make one or two comments about the negotiations. First, we often hear from the Government benches a plea made quite sincerely that we in the House ought to seek as far as possible to have what is sometimes referred to as a bipartisan policy on colonial matters. We hear appeals to take the Colonies and the territories for which we are responsible out of the party warfare. Whatever may be the merit or demerit of any proposal of that kind, I want to say plainly that no Government in modern times have had greater forbearance and co-operation than have this Government on Malta from the very beginning. It is with deep regret that, for the first time since we 139 began to consider Malta three or four years ago, we have to divide the House this evening.
I want to refer to some stages of the negotiations again, and to emphasise something which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said in the course of his speech this afternoon. I believe that, whoever was responsible, the Secretary of State or Mr. Mintoff, and may be neither is more to blame than the other, this was a cardinal mistake. The cardinal mistake was that the Bill to implement the recommendations of the Round Table Conference was not brought before the House. Who was responsible for that? I wish to refer to what the Secretary of State said this afternoon, and I have here the statement of policy of the Maltese Labour Party, "Malta Demands Independence," which contains a complete record. In this document, it seems to me quite clear, and the Secretary of State confirmed it in his speech this afternoon, that practically every provision required for a Bill to implement the integration had already been agreed upon between Her Majesty's Government and the Maltese Government.
Is that true? Why was it not brought before the House? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman bring the Bill to the House, because in my period in this House I have never known the House so united on a matter as on this. There was the general feeling that here was an imaginative proposal by which the people of Malta—considering it against the background of the emotional ties of the last few years—could be associated with us, and here was a House ready to give its full support to it, and we are told that eighteen months or nearly two years ago the whole of these proposals, as they are embodied here, were ready and that there were only a few blanks.
Who is responsible for that delay? If it was the Government, then they are to blame. If it was the Maltese parties, any or all of them, they are to blame. I think it was a cardinal mistake that we lost that momentum which could have carried it through with the good will of the House. That was the first cardinal mistake that took place.
I want to make some references to other parts of the negotiations, because I think they are rather important. What would 140 have happened then? I do not say everything went well in these difficult negotiations, because they had their ups and downs, and there were quarrels and disagreements, but it appeared from the speech of the Secretary of State today—at least that is the impression his speech made on me—that 1957 was the crucial turning point. What happened in 1957? Right up to 1957, although there were difficulties on all kinds of questions, on the whole the thing was going well. The Constitution had been drawn up, with, as far as I know, no issues left undecided. Indeed, it was almost in the form in which it is printed here.
In 1957, two things happened, and I tried my best to find out about them. The first thing was the visit of the Minister of Defence to Malta in April. This is very important, but we have not heard a great deal about it. It somehow turned the thing upside down. It had to do with defence. When we met at the Round Table Conference in 1955, and considered the proposal for integration and all that went with it, such as the economic future of Malta, which was bound up with it, we were very anxious to find out what the future position of Malta was to be in its relationship to the defence system of this country and to defence expenditure. We had before us a representative of the Admiralty, officers and the Minister, the Civil Lord, then the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby). We reported in para. 48 on page 13 of the Report of the Round Table Conference:The United Kingdom Service Departments considered that there is no near prospect of a decline in Malta's strategic importance or in the relative level of defence expenditure in Malta.That was in 1955.
I am not, for the moment, blaming any Government for the fact that since then the pattern of defence has changed, but, if it was to change, the question of how that problem was handled was of immense importance. It is a fact that from that moment the thing began to turn sour. The Minister of Defence went to Malta and began to indicate to the Maltese Government and people that the defence pattern had changed, that naval strategy was changing, that Malta would be of less strategic importance and that this would have all kinds of consequences.
All I have heard confirms the view that the problem of how to indicate to the 141 people of Malta that there was a fundamental change in the strategic position, and all that would follow from that, was handled in a most inept way to arouse all their fears. I believe that that was the first turning point. Here is an island which, since 1802, has been associated with us, and for generations we have used it as a strategic base, as a dockyard and naval and military base, and the whole of its life has been conditioned by us.
I know that the economic development and the resources of Malta have been neglected, but one of the reasons why they have been neglected is that Malta was a base which we used. If we had not needed it as a base, efforts would have been made to develop its resources. But we had the dockyard and all the other establishments, and, therefore, we provided the island with its livelihood. We at the Round Table Conference based our conclusions on the statement made to us by the Government that "You can go on thinking of the future of Malta. There will be no real change in that." In our view, it was criminal to allow Malta to depend upon that alone and we thought that there was need for diversification and development; and in the past two years one of the things which has changed the atmosphere and created bitterness between Her Majesty's Government and the people of Malta is the way in which these things were handled in 1957.
The second thing happened, later in 1957, when discussions were taking place about the level of annual grant to Malta and a cut of £1 million was made in that grant. The Secretary of State for the Colonies knows, and so does the Prime Minister who is not now present, how co-operative the Opposition were in this matter. We heard that these negotiations were getting rather rockety and that tempers were becoming frayed and the settlement to which we had pinned our hopes was in danger of being overwhelmed because of a dispute about the level of the grant which the Government, of which the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) was Chancellor of the Exchequer, had decided to cut by £1 milion. The Secretary of State for the Colonies will remember that we approached him and saw him and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister together.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Why not? I am very glad that the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) was there as well and that we had cooperation from the Liberal Party and its representatives.
We said to the Prime Minister and the then Chancellor, "Do not destroy this opportunity of establishing a new relationship with Malta for the sake of £1 million." We made a further suggestion. We said, "Why not call in someone else?" There have been occasions when Governments, including the Government of which I was a member, and at a time when I was Secretary of State for the Colonies, have called in outside aid in matters concerning Malta. Why not, rather than get Ministers involved? There are people, and I think of one in particular, who have been of great assistance on previous occasions in providing expert advice and guidance on how to handle these problems and on what level aid should be given.
We suggested to the Prime Minister that he should call in aid of that kind, and the Government rejected the suggestion. I am convinced that if in 1957 they had handled this problem differently, if they had not haggled, niggled and spoiled the whole thing for £1 million, the situation would have been very different. Who knows what price we shall have to pay for that £l million before the story is finished?
Then I come to the last conference of all. This has led to the breakdown. I have read the account of the conference in this book which I have in my hand. I have tried to follow it from the Press. I must say frankly that this last conference was a "crazy gang" performance. First of all, the Constitution has been suspended for some time and the Maltese Parliament has not met. The Secretary of State calls representatives of the Maltese people to London to discuss with them the future Constitution of Malta. They arrive here and he invites the leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Mintoff, and other representatives of the Labour Party. He invites Dr. Borg Olivier and representatives of his party. He also invites Miss Mabel Strickland and representatives of her party. We have heard from an hon. Member that there is a fourth party, but I had not heard 143 that that party was invited to the conference.
When the conference met, the position was that the Maltese Labour Party and the Maltese National Party said that they would not sit jointly in conference with Miss Strickland and her party. I want to get this clear. I know that much can be said about Mr. Mintoff, but I do not want him to be blamed for things which were not entirely his fault. If there is blame, there are others to share it. There was not only Mr. Mintoff. There was Dr. Borg Olivier too. Is that not true?
When the conference was held, the Maltese Labour Party, which had a majority in Parliament, and the Maltese Nationalist Party, which was in opposition, said, "We will join together and sit with the Secretary of State, but we will not sit in conference to decide the future of Malta with representatives of a party that is so small and unrepresentative and has not got a single Member in the Assembly." Was that unreasonable? The leaders of both the parties said the same thing. Why did the right hon. Gentleman insist on meeting the three leaders? The consequence was that Mr. Mintoff and Dr. Borg Olivier said, "Very well, if you as Secretary of State insist on bringing Miss Mabel Strickland to this conference we cannot meet together. We shall meet separately."
The result was that the conference went on for some weeks. One day the right hon. Gentleman met the representatives of the Nationalist Party, the next day he met the Labour Party, and on another day he met Miss Strickland in a separate conference. I presume there was correspondence with Dr. Borg Olivier. I presume there was correspondence with Miss Strickland. There was certainly correspondence with Mr. Mintoff because it has been published. There was Mr. Mintoff and the Labour Party in the Eccleston Hotel, Eccleston Square, and the Secretary of State in an office in Great Smith Street. They wrote letters to each other—39 letters—and they were only 100 yards away.
Looking back on it now, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it was a crucial mistake in missing the opportunity of getting these two representative parties together? I believe that Miss Strickland might have shown wisdom and offered 144 to withdraw so that the conference could have gone on.
The second thing we must remember is that Dom Mintoff put forward his claim for independence and Dr. Borg Olivier put forward his claim, with which we are familiar, for a kind of Dominion status. The Secretary of State, as I understand it—he will correct me if I am wrong—said that he would not discuss the matter and, indeed, he would not put forward his proposals for an interim Constitution, until the demand for independence was withdrawn. But both these parties, not only Dom Mintoff but Borg Olivier, too, declared, "We will not discuss an interim Constitution unless we can sit down also and discuss, consider and agree upon what is to be the ultimate objective".
I should have thought that the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary would have realised that this is one of the lessons we ought to have learnt. I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman of what was said in the Report of the Round Table Conference. In a moment or two, I shall have a suggestion to make, but I want to remind him now of something upon which we all agreed. In paragraph 69 of the Report, we said:In the course of their evidence, several witnesses expressed the opinion that it would be desirable for us to limit our constitutional recommendations to those matters on which the three political parties in Malta are in broad agreement. This, it was argued, would meet the needs of the present situation, and would avoid the danger of splitting the Maltese people on the one really controversial issue—the ultimate constitutional status of Malta. However, we are satisfied"—this is the Round Table Conference, including the Lord Chancellor—from the evidence we have heard that both the main parties in Malta are deeply concerned about this question. The desire for prestige and feelings of self-interest are naturally involved; but, given recognition of the wish for an advance in the present constitutional status of Malta, they have a right to know the direction in which it will be possible for them to move and the ultimate goal which they may expect to reach.Here are people who say to us, "We want to end colonial status. We want to know the end we are to reach". I will pay this tribute to Dom Mintoff in this respect, that it was he who first put forward the imaginative scheme for a way in which the Maltese people's desire for a higher status could be integrated with our needs, with the needs of their country, and with our common future.
145 Have we missed the chance? I do not know. The great job we must tackle now is this. We must try to recreate the spirit of three years ago which we have seen wantonly destroyed in one way or another. Our job is now to recover it. We shall not recover it by passing this Bill. If the Bill is not passed, what will happen? The Maltese Parliament must be called before 21st April. Why not? Is it not better to call the Parliament? Is it not better to give the people a Parliamentary assembly, and is it not better to give them a constitutional opportunity of expressing their views, rather than drive them out to the streets and squares and have dissension and strikes?
From the benches opposite we hear a great deal about unconstitutional action. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are the unconstitutionalists now. Why not call the Maltese Parliament? The suggestion has been made that the Round Table Conference might be reconvened or that there might be a new Round Table Conference. Anyhow, between now and 21st April, there is still some time.
There was a suggestion, which was quite rightly rejected by one hon. Member, that the Governor should speak to them. We know the position of the Governor. On the other hand, is there no reason why, in this House, we should not again reconstitute a committee—let us call it what we like—and send it to Malta between now and 21st April? Why not? The Round Table Conference concluded its job in a couple of weeks. We have nearly three months until the end of April.
The Government should withdraw the Bill. Let the people of Malta discuss it in their Parliament. We in the House should join together in an effort to recover the position we had three years ago, in which we were united and the Maltese people were more united than ever before on a plan which would give them the status they desired and would enable us to work together on the immense problems of seeking to build up their economic life and give them the standard of living to which they were entitled. This could be done now, if the Government would withdraw the Bill. Even now it is not too late. There is still half an hour to go. The Secretary of State is present, and I hope that the Prime Minister is not far away. Will they do it now? If not theirs will be the responsibility. If they do not do it we 146 shall have no alternative but to vote against the Bill.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Julian Amery)
Whatever view right hon. and hon. Members take about the Bill, the events leading up to it are, I know, a matter of regret to all. Little more than a year ago it seemed as though we were just about in a position to introduce an imaginative and revolutionary concept—the concept of the integration of Malta with Britain. Now, only just over a year later, the author of that concept has proclaimed integration dead, and Her Majesty's Government are asking this House to reintroduce direct rule into Malta.
One thing that encourages me is that in this debate there has been no inclination on anyone's part to view the situation with despair. We have been through this sort of thing before in Malta. But there is very real cause for concern, and I think it quite right that our debate, to a large extent, should have taken the form of an inquest on what is undoubtedly the failure of a great proposal.
Several hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), have given support to the suggestion that we ought to let the Maltese Assembly meet in April and see what the result would be. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) pointed out the real practical difficulties in implementing that suggestion. Neither Mr. Mintoff nor Mr. Borg Olivier has shown himself prepared to accept the responsibilities of Government under the 1947 Constitution, and there is the further difficulty of the pledges which we have felt bound to give about the police.
The truth is that the 1947 Constitution has broken down. This brings us back to what was the starting point of the Round Table Conference. The reason the Round Table Conference came into being was that the 1947 Constitution was then already, in 1955, breaking down, and the Conference had the task of trying to reconcile three things: the natural aspiration of the Maltese people to a status that was not a Colonial status; the defence interests of the United Kingdom; and the economic and social realities of Malta.
147 The Conference came to a unanimous conclusion on one point, and that was that the objective conditions for independence did not exist at that time. I think that the House will agree that if the objective conditions for independence did not exist, they plainly did not exist for Dominion status, which implies independence. It is not something less than independence; it is something more.
The majority of the Round Table Conference and the majority party in Malta at that time favoured the concept of integration. I was one of them, and I have not changed my view. A minority of the Round Table Conference and one of the minority parties in Malta favoured simply more self-government. That was not my opinion at the time, but right hon. and hon. Members who held that view may well claim to have shown a certain prescience. Two years of negotiation brought us close to agreement on three things: full internal self-government for Malta, extensive British aid and representation of Malta in the British Parliament.
It would be presumptuous of me to comment on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and it might be politically damaging for him if I praised it. I enjoyed his autobiographical passages in the Montgomery vein—Montgomery-like humility, I thought he showed at one point—and enjoyed his revelations on passion. He raised one very important point which was reinforced by the right hon. Member for Llanelly. Both of them, as they tell us, advised Mr. Mintoff at the time to give priority to the constitutional issue and to let the financial issues wait.
That is an attractive idea and it may have been wise, but there was one great difficulty about it. Mr. Mintoff did not want to go forward with the integration plan until he had got precise answers to the economic questions with which he was concerned. We were in an extremely difficult position about this. The verdict of the Round Table Conference was that we should proceed to integration after clear unmistakable evidence of the will of the Maltese people had been forthcoming. That meant that somebody in Malta had to commend the proposals to the Maltese electorate and the only person who was 148 going to commend them to the Maltese electorate was Mr. Mintoff. It was not, therefore, possible, even if it had been desirable, even if it had been right—and that raises very big questions—to have forced Mr. Mintoff into accepting the constitutional side before the financial side had been tied up. For one thing, he would not have done it and, if he was not prepared to do it, there would have been no chance of getting the idea across to the Maltese electorate.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said that it was wrong to have financial negotiations with a constituency of this House. Perhaps he is over-simplifying the verdict of the Round Table Conference. We were not making Malta simply into a constituency. I remember the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) saying that he would much prefer to have made Malta into a straight county of England. That, however, was not what the Round Table Conference recommended and not what Mr. Mintoff asked for. Malta asked for extensive powers of self-government, which we conceded. It was not simply a constituency that we were negotiating. This was a quite new type of constitutional entity.
§ Mr. Amery
No, they were conditional upon it.
Did we take too long over these negotiations? [HON. MEMBERS: "Far too long."] They were bound to take a long time. There was a great argument on the question of equivalence and in the end a formula was found which met the different contentions of the different sides. There was great difficulty over the unemployment guarantee. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary produced a pledge of remedial action, which was supported by the party opposite in the debate in April last year. Mr. Mintoff showed himself to be a hard bargainer. We did not drag our feet. He had great interests to defend and I do not criticise him for doing it. Then there were the crosscurrents, the changes in defence policy 149 and the disinflation policy here at home, to which a number of hon. Members have referred. All these things helped to delay the result. They were not, in themselves, a cause for breakdown.
The breaking point was not, as the right hon. Member for Llanelly suggested at one point in his speech, simply a question of finance. It was not just a question of £l million. It is true that we asked the Maltese to make a greater effort on their own side— we were asking other Colonies to do the same. It is true that they made no attempt to mobilise their substantial resources either by increasing taxation or raising loans secured against their reserves. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale tells us that the breakdown has been the result of Conservative financial policy being applied to Malta. It is clear that he regards Treasury officials also as desiccated calculating machines.
For once, the charge of Treasury meanness does not stick. We went a good way beyond the recommendations of the Round Table Conference. We accepted the point, made again this evening by the hon. Member for Coventry, East, that the position of Malta was unique. We were prepared, even in this period of disinflation, to give to Malta a level of aid which was the envy of other colonies. It was quite natural that Mr. Mintoff should have been irritated by the consequences of our policy on disinflation. But one goes into a union of this sort for better or for worse, and I do not believe that this was the cause of the break. Had his heart still been set on integration, I do not think he would have been deterred on that score.
While meeting a point made by the hon. Member for Coventry, East, I should like to take up another one which he made in his speech. He referred to the presence of the Royal Fusilier Battalion in Malta. I was quite recently at the War Office and I can tell the hon. Member that the Royal Fusilier Battalion has been in a non-family station, Aden and the Persian Gulf, for well over a year. The Royal Fusiliers are going to Malta because it is a family station and they deserve a little bit of rest. There is no question of their going there for internal security duties because they are specially trained in internal security. The Marine Commandos have been there for a long time and they know that side of the job well enough.
150 Why did we fail in these negotiations? There was no reluctance on the part of Her Majesty's Government to go through with the integration plan. The whole House knows how strongly the Secretary of State felt in favour of it. I shared his views. There were critics of the scheme, it is quite true, on both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Coventry East said that my right hon. Friend bitched the negotiations. I cannot help thinking that the partisan prejudice which so often dogs the hon. Member's speeches has somewhat prejudiced his views on this occasion. The Government and the Opposition were both committed to the integration plan, and if Mr. Mintoff had accepted the advice given by us and right hon. Gentlemen opposite immeasurable benefits might have accrued to Malta. I am reluctant to speculate on the reasons which led him to disengage from the integration plan. I think that it would be a mistake to speak on matters of which we cannot be certain, and in this difficult situation I would be the last to want to break any bridge or make any breach with a man whom I have regarded as my friend and for whom I have had great regard.
I would only add that I was not in the Colonial Office at the time and, therefore, I have no personal axe to grind in proving that I have been consistent or that the policy has been continuous. I was a strong supporter of integration and I still see no better solution of the problem. I have probed ruthlessly in the Department to try to find out the causes of the failure. I am satisfied that Her Majesty's Government did their best and so did the Opposition to bring this about.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly referred to paragraph 60 of the Report of the Round Table Conference and said that the representatives of Malta had a right to know what was the ultimate goal towards which they were moving. Of course, when the integration proposals broke down we found ourselves rather in the position of a Greek tragedy—a situation which offered no apparent solution. The Round Table Conference had already rejected the ideas of independence and Dominion status and the more modest proposals of the Progressive Constitutional Party. Mr. Mintoff himself had now gone back on integration. All the different avenues, all the different solutions which had been considered, now 151 seemed inapplicable and there was no easy prospect of a permanent settlement.
It was in these circumstances that my right hon. Friend came to the conclusion that the first thing to do was to try to get the political life, suspended by the emergency, moving again, and to try to get an interim constitution going. It was important politically to have an interim constitution, because it was in the climate of an accepted constitution that one could hope to find the solution of a permanent one. It was important practically, because there was a great deal to be done concerning the livelihood of the Maltese people. That is why we came to these last talks.
Our interim offer, which has been laid in the Library, was not quite dyarchy in the strict sense. The Governor would no longer have control over foreign affairs and defence. The right hon. Gentleman can read this in the Library. We did, however, feel that it was necessary, after the experiences of last April, that he should control the police, and that appointments to the Civil Service should not be in the hands of the political parties.
The Malta Labour Party had made personal threats to the Commissioner of Police and to others, and it was really not possible, in view of the pledges we had given and the uncertainty of the future, to give back control over the police to an interim Government. We did not take the view, however, that the withdrawal of the police into the Governor's control should necessarily be permanent. We hope it will be under a public service commission or something of the sort, or that the climate of Malta may make it possible to find some other arrangement, but as things stand at present I think it would have been wrong, as I think both sides of the House agree, to have given back control of the police to an interim Government.
Why did these talks break down? It was not on the question of composition, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly referred. The fact that the Progressive Constitutional Party came to the talks was decided because of the precedent of the Round Table Conference, and because it commands a number of votes at any rate comparable to that held by the Liberal Party in this country.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The hon. Gentleman knows that the Round Table Conference was composed entirely of Members of this House, and we invited all organisations in Malta to come to give evidence to us, not only political parties but the Chamber of Trade and trade unionists and everyone. This other, however, was a conference of Maltese representative political parties in London to sit with the Secretary of State—an entirely different thing.
§ Mr. Amery
If the right hon. Gentleman will look back to the Conference he will find that the Progressive Constitutional Party was received with the other two political parties and not treated with other, miscellaneous delegations we saw at different times.
This was not the cause of the breakdown. The crux of the breakdown was simply this: it was Mr. Mintoff's demand first for immediate independence, and then—it was his maximum concession—for independence in 1962, with an interim period between now and 1962 in which negotiations would already have begun with foreign Governments.
We made it clear that we ruled out no ultimate solution of the Maltese problem, but we could not accept independence now or independence in 1962 as a basis for discussion.
Should we have done so? The hon. Member for Coventry, East said that we must not sneer at the demand for independence, however unrealistic it may seem. No one has sneered at it. What we had to ask ourselves very seriously was this: have the assumptions of the Round Table Conference grown out of date? That Conference took place three years ago. Have those assumptions grown out of date?
Let us see on what those assumptions were based. Is economic viability a greater possibility for Malta today than it was in 1955? If anything, we have to face the fact that it is less. The reduction in the naval effort makes the position more difficult, and it also places a corresponding obligation on us that we accept. But, from the purely economic point of view, it makes the position more difficult.
The outside world does not owe Malta a living. We alone, as my right hon. 153 and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) pointed out, recognise an obligation to help the Maltese meet their problems. How is it supposed that independence would help the dockyard enterprise, the encouragement of investment in Malta, or migration to Commonwealth countries? The fact is that today the objective conditions of independence simply do not exist, and Mr. Mintoff himself has had to say that his plan of an independent Maltese "Switzerland", as he calls it, would postulate a grant of £100 million from the United Kingdom—as much as the whole Colonial Development and Welfare budget for five years.
What about the defence assumption—has that declined? A great many commentators outside the House and many right hon. and hon. Members here, have spoken as though our defence interest in Malta had greatly diminished. I do not think that that is true. There are two aspects to this point. One is the negative one. Malta has little but defence facilities to offer, and we could not agree to her falling into the wrong hands. The late Ernest Bevin, when told of the possibility of a Russian base at Tripoli said, "You are putting your arm across my throat". The same would apply to a hostile base at Malta.
On the other hand, the positive aspect remains very great. The fact that we shall employ less men for naval purposes there does not mean that the island's strategic importance is less. The strategic importance of a place is not necessarily determined by the number of men employed in it. That is a function of the type and strength of one's weapons. In some ways, indeed, one could say that Malta, with the deteriorating situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, has more importance today, defensively, than it had.
We have to come to the conclusion, therefore, that the assumptions of the Round Table Conference remain as valid today as they were in 1955. That means that, in present conditions, the objective conditions for independence do not exist, and I beg Mr. Mintoff, if he reads this debate, to heed the unanimous advice of his friends on both sides of the House that independence today is not really practical politics.
154 It has been suggested that we should take Mr. Mintoff at his word and try a referendum on the people of Malta, but, to be valid, it would have to be a choice—independence or something else. Today, there is no alternative idea canvassed by any Maltese leader. In any case, even if there were, I think that it would be irresponsible and unfair to put this risk before the Maltese people. Could we really leave them to starve if they took the wrong decision?
The talks have failed, but I do not think that any of the charges made against us this afternoon have been substantiated, least of all, if I may say so—
§ Mr. Bevan
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the other point—it is very important. He has rejected independence, and has now rejected an interim constitution. Does he now say that Her Majesty's Government's view is that integration still remains the only solution for the Maltese situation, and that the Government regret that Mr. Mintoff has rejected it?
§ Mr. Amery
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will wait.
What must be quite clear is that no solution to the Maltese problem can be accepted unless it commands the support of a majority of the people of Malta. Of course we take the view that integration remains a valid basis for discussion. The Bill provides for it. We shall not govern by direct rule for longer than we can help.
§ Mr. Bevan rose—
§ Mr. Amery
I am not dodging at all. The right hon. Gentleman cannot take a plain answer.
What must be perfectly clear in all this is that we hope that the time will come, and come soon, when there will be free political life in Malta again. We hope that when that comes—and we hope that it will come before very long—there may be a return to the old ideas which are 155 acceptable, or that new ideas will come forward. There was no serious alternative to bringing in the Bill today. There is no emergency in Malta in the ordinary sense of the word. That is why we have to regularise the position. We believe that there will be a fresh start.
What of the future? The first task ahead of us is to govern. There is serious practical work to be done. The livelihood of the people of Malta depends on the successful transfer of the dockyard and on the consequential building up of alternative industries and of tourism. I want to nail one misconception which has been expressed today, that there will be thousands of unemployed in the future whatever happens. We do not believe that that will be the case.
§ Mr. Amery
No, not in the dockyard. We think that at most there will be 100 or 200, but the present estimate is that such reductions as will be necessary in the next four years will be offset by the normal wastage of people retiring.
The livelihood of the people of Malta is at stake. There is one thing I want to say to the House. Already Mr. Mintoff's speech of yesterday has shaken
§ some confidence in the future of Malta. Today, we have had advice from a firm, in whom we had hopes, that it is not going to put its money into Malta after all. I beg hon. Members opposite not to give encouragement to elements in Malta to take up an attitude which will make it more difficult for the transfer of the dockyard to be made effective. In deciding to divide the House tonight, the right hon. Gentleman is giving encouragement of which Mr. Mintoff will make the maximum use when the time comes.
§ I have no doubt as to the spirit in which we should meet the future. Our task is to help the Maltese to make the most of their capacity for industrial effort, to return to political responsibility, and to be able to play a useful part in the life of the Commonwealth. The destinies of our two people have been linked together for a century and a half. The policy of integration was intended as a constitutional expression of that relationship. That policy has had to be shelved, but the relationship remains. The only realistic basis for present planning is that the close association between Malta and Britain shall continue.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 311, Noes 248.159
|Division No. 27.]||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Aitken, W. T.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Deedes, W. F.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Braine, B. R.||de Ferranti, Basil|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Brooman-White, R. C.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Drayson, G. B.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bryan, P.||du Cann, E. D. L.|
|Ashton, H.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E,||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Burden, F. F. A.||Duncan, Sir James|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Duthie, W. S.|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A. (Saffron Walden)||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David|
|Balniel, Lord||Campbell, Sir David||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Barber, Anthony||Carr, Robert||Elliott, R.W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Cary, Sir Robert||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Barter, John||Channon, P.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Batsford, Brian||Chichester-Clark, R.||Erroll, F. J.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Farey-Jones, F. W|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Cole, Norman||Fell, A.|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Cooke, Robert||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Cooper, A. E.||Forrest, G.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Freeth, Denzil|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Corfield, F. V.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gammans, Lady|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||George, J. C. (Pollok)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Gibson-Watt, D.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Cunningham, Knox||Glover, D.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Currie, G. B. H.||Glyn, Col. Richard H.|
|Body, R. F.||Dance, J. C. G.||Godber, J. B.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Davidson, Viscountess||Goodhart, Philip|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. C. (Sutton Coldfield)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Gower, H. R.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Green, A.||Longden, Gilbert||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Loveys, Walter H.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Gurden, Harold||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||McAdden, S. J.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Russell, R. S.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Sharples, R. C.|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Shepherd, William|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Hay, John||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Madden, Martin||Speir, R. M.|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Maitland, Cdr. J.F.W. (Horncastle)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Hesketh, R. F.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Marshall, Douglas||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mathew, R.||Storey, S.|
|Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Mawby, R. L.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hope, Lord John||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S, L. C.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hornby, R. P.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Moore, Sir Thomas||Teeling, W.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Temple, John M.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Howard, John (Test)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Neave, Airey||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Nicholls, Harmar||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh,W.)||Noble, Michael (Argyll)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Nugent, G. R. H,||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Oakshott, H. D.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Iremonger, T. L.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian (Hendon, N.)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Osborne, C.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Page, R. G.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Wall, Patrick|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Partridge, E.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Peel, W. J.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Peyton, J, W. W.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Kaberry, D.||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Webster, David|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Kirk, P. M.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Lagden, G. W.||Pott, H. P.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Powell, J. Enoch||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Langford-Holt, J.A.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Leavey, J. A.||Profumo, J. D.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Leburn, W. G.||Ramsden, J. E.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Redmayne, M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Mr. Legh and|
|Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Mr. Edward Wakefield|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Abse, Leo||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Bonham Carter, Mark|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Bowles, F. G.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Benson, Sir George||Boyd, T. C.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Beswick, Frank||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Brookway, A, F|
|Awbery, S. S.||Blackburn, F.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D,|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Blenkinsop, A.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)|
|Baird, J.||Blyton, W, R.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Balfour, A,||Boardman, H.||Burton, Miss F. E.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Janner, B.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Probert, A. R.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Champion, A. J.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn& St.Pncs, S.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Randall, H. E.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Rankin, John|
|Cliffe, Michael||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Clunle, J.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Reeves, J.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Reid, William|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rhodes, H.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Kenyon, C.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||King, Dr. H. M.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lawson, G. M.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery)||Ledger, R. J.||Ross, William|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Royle, C.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Deer, G.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Short, E. W.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lewis, Arthur||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Diamond, John||Lindgren, G. S.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Skeffington, A. M.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Logan, D. G.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Donnelly, D. L,||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McCann, J.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Snow, J. W.|
|Edelman, M.||MacDermot, Niall||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McGhee, H. G.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McInnes, J.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McLeavy, Frank||Steele, T.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mahon, Simon||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Stonehouse, John|
|Finch, H. J.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Fitch, Alan||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Forman, J. C.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mason, Roy||Swingler, s. T.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mayhew, C. P.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Messer, Sir F.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mikardo, Ian||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Grey, C. F.||Mitchison, G. R.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Monslow, W.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moody, A. S.||Thornton, E.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Timmons, J.|
|Grimond, J.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)||Tomney, F.|
|Hale, Leslie||Mort, D. L.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Moss, R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Hamilton, w. W.||Moyle, A.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Hannan, W.||Mulley, F. W.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hastings, S.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Weitzman, D.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Healey, Denis||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby. S.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Oram, A. E.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Orbach, M.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oswald, T.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)|
|Holman, P.||Owen, W. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Holmes, Horace||Padley, W. E.||Willey, Frederick|
|Holt, A. F.||Paget, R. T.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hoy, J. H.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pargiter, G. A.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Parker, J.||Woof, R. E.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Parkin, B. T.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Peart, T. F.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pentland, N.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Prentice, R. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Bill accordingly read a Second time.|
|Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Bryan.]|