HC Deb 18 July 1962 vol 663 cc565-8

Considered in Committee.



9.52 p.m.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, after "sixty-two," to insert providing that prior to that date agreement has been reached between Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of Uganda that a referendum shall be held on the future status of the counties of Bugangazzi and Buyaga not earlier than two years and not later than five years after the appointed day, and if not, on a day to be appointed by the Secretary of State after the reaching of such an agreement. This Bill was recently given a Second Reading, and during the Second Reading debate I asked for full and cogent reasons for the Government's refusal to implement the Reports of the Molson and the Munster Committees. I was not told, and that is why I have tabled this Amendment which I hope will be accepted, because it is essential that the Government should make up their mind about these two lost territories before Uganda is given independence.

We have the very difficult situation in which the Uganda Yekka Kabaka Party is committed to keeping the six territories, and the Opposition Party is committed to returning them, and it is only the British Government who have made an arrangement that the two lost territories should be returned following a referendum.

During the Second Reading debate it was said that after independence it would not be possible for the British Government to lay down any particular point of view, but we have the statement of the Secretary of State for the Colonies dated 28th June, 1962, which says with regard to the referendum: On a date to be decided by the Uganda Government, after consultation with the Governments of His Highness the Kabaka and the Omukama of Bunyoro, a referendum will be held by the Central Government in each of the two counties. This referendum"— and this is the point that I want to emphasise— will not, however, take place earlier than two years after the day on which the new administration is established. If we can lay down that it will not be earlier than two years after the new Administration is established, I cannot see why we cannot put in a date as suggested in the Amendment, that it shall be not later than five years after the appointed day.

Because of the views already expressed by various political parties in Uganda, it is clear that this referendum may never take place and this would be extremely dangerous. On 5th July a letter was sent to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury in respect of this situation. Part of it said: This Commission"— that is, the Molson Commission— was headed by Lord Molson who made a compromise by recommending that two of the six counties should be transferred back to the Bunyoro Kingdom. That is most important. The letter continues: Although compromise is quite unknow to the Africans yet we willingly accepted that compromise. This compromise was turned down on the grounds that Buganda decided to be intransigent. Buganda has always had her way since 1900 and, therefore, was confident that she will have her own way even at this late hour. It seems to me that we are giving way to Buganda again. No person on earth ever wants to part with his privilege, and it is futile to think that Buganda will give up her privilege. I shall not reiterate all the other reasons that I gave during the Second Reading debate why I feel it essential to adhere to the recommendation mentioned in the Munster Report and recommended by the Molson Commission, that these two counties should be returned before independence. I hope even at this late hour that my hon. Friend, whom I am sorry I forgot to congratulate on his new appointment —I do so now—will not be tied by any previous decision, and will be able to give the matter sympathetic consideration and will take note of what I said in the Second Reading debate and have repeated tonight.

Paragraph 69 of the Molson Commission Report says: In such a situation, embittered as it is by malicious damage to the personal property of chiefs, it is a natural reaction on their part to retaliate by using their wide discretionary powers to make life unpleasant for their antagonists. That is just what we fear—that during this period of two years life may become rather unpleasant when both sides are jockeying for position. Therefore, I plead that Her Majesty's Government will agree either to hold the referendum before we leave the country or decide here and now to have another agreement and to return the two counties before independence.

I remind the Committee of what happened in India. We do not want to see a similar situation develop in Uganda. That is why I hope that the matter will be reconsidered, and that we will either hold a referendum now or agree to have another meeting with the Kabaka and the leaders of Bunyoro in order to try to reach an agreement upon the two lost counties.

Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)

In rising to support the Amendment, I want to join in the warm congratulations to my hon. Friend who came into his new office a few days ago. I hope that the Committee will pay considerable attention to what may appear to be a rather small matter. In an era when the cry is very much for self-determination all over the world, we must remember that self-determination is just as important for the people of small countries as it is for those of larger ones. So I hope that considerable attention will be paid to the implementation of this principle, even though, at this late hour, in this instance it may appear to the Committee to be a comparatively unimportant matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) and I, together with several hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, have been concerning ourselves with this question ever since her Majesty's Government's decision became known about the implementation or otherwise of the recommendations of the Molson Report. In the Molson Report, it was suggested that the two counties which are the subject of debate tonight should not even be the subject of a plebiscite, but should be transferred direct to Bunyoro control. Her Majesty's Government, in their declaration, decided that, although this Commission was appointed by them, nevertheless, they would not implement this recommendation.

It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.