§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purposes of the West Indies Bill, has consented to place Her Majesty's prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
This is not a Bill that any Secretary of State could propose to the House with pleasure. It marks the end of an experiment in government in which many of us placed high hopes. But I believe—and I shall try to put my reasons before the House—that the Measure is necessary and practical in the light of the circumstances we are now facing.
The Federation of the West Indies was inaugurated in April, 1958, and I think that we all felt then that there were many difficulties in this Federation, with its great geographical spread for example, but we hoped that the various islands and their political leaders and political parties would come closer together by being united in a federation.
But, in fact, the opposite has happened. There has been a widening division among the various islands, partly on matters of doctrine with the arguments between those who supported greater centralisation and those who supported less centralisation, and partly—we must face it—on differences of personality that have arisen during the last four years.
There have been a series of conferences on a possible Constitution for independence for the Federation, but they have been time and time again be-devilled by the economic and financial problems—questions of the freedom of movement and of financial and economic power—and although Her Majesty's Government have at all times tried to 850 help these conferences reach agreement, we must, I think, all recognise that on these basic problems of labour, finance and economics there have all the time been deep divisions among the various units of the Federation.
Agreement was reached at Lancaster House, in June last year, at a conference at which my right hon. Friend presided, but by that time it was already known, and had been known for some time, that a referendum was to be held in Jamaica. In fact, it was in May, 1960, that the Jamaica Government announced their intention to hold a referendum, and the whole Lancaster House conference of 1961 was held in the light of that decision and in the knowledge that such a referendum would shortly take place.
Some people, I think, had tended to suggest that we might have objected to or refused the Jamaican proposals to hold a referendum, but, of course, we have no power whatever to do so. It is a self-governing country, and when countries become self-governing they clearly have the right to make decisions of this kind. We did not propose a referendum to the Jamaica Government. It was their initiative and their proposal, and we had no power whatever to refuse.
The result of the referendum, which was held in September of last year, and which produced a majority against federation, was, I think, a disappointment to very many people in this House and elsewhere. But it was a fact that we all had to face and a fact which could not be set on one side. It meant in itself a radical change in the future of the West Indies when one recognised that Jamaica represented more than half the total population of the Federation. The referendum represented a complete change in the position of the Federation.
Shortly after the referendum was held, the Federal Prime Minister, Sir Grantley Adams, and a delegation came to London where they were informed that Her Majesty's Government could not refuse to Jamaica the right to secede, and the Federal delegation neither dissented from that proposition nor asked for further consultation.
The next move was when a delegation from the Government of Jamaica came to this country, and it was announced by my predecessor on 6th October, 1961, 851 that legislation would be introduced to give effect to Jamaica's desire to secede and that we would make every effort to ensure that the legislation passed by the end of March, 1962.
The next stage of the development was in January this year when I paid a visit to Port-of-Spain. At the time of my arrival it was announced by the General Council of the People's National Movement of Trinidad, the Premier's party, that it had decided not to take part in a federation of the Eastern Caribbean territories.
It was generally assumed that this recommendation would be accepted by the party as a whole and by the Trinidad Government. That assumption has, of course, proved to be quite correct, because both the party and the Government of Trinidad have accepted it. It was against that background that I held consultations with other people in the West Indies during my visit.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
If it was right in principle—which, personally, I doubt—for Jamaica to hold this referendum and to decide, as a result thereof, to withdraw from the Federation, did my right hon. Friend suggest to the Prime Minister of Trinidad that it would be appropriate, before Trinidad decided to dissociate itself from the Federation, that it, too, should hold a referendum, particularly having regard to the fact that this question had not been an issue at the December elections in the island?
§ Mr. Maudling
No. I think that my right hon. and learned Friend would agree that, when countries like Jamaica or Trindidad become self-governing, they must decide these matters for themselves. We did not propose a referendum in Jamaica. I do not think that we would have done so, because, on the whole, the use of the referendum is not a system of government we tend to favour in this country. But Jamaica was entitled to hold one, just as the Trinidad Government, having been elected shortly before, were entitled to reach a decision without a referendum. In either case, we must accept the decision presented to us.
In the light both of that and of the discussions with the Premier of 852 Barbados and the Chief Ministers of the other islands—who all said to me without exception that they wished to see the present Federation dissolved and to set about finding a new system for Barbados and the Windward and Leeward Islands—I was presented with a situation in which Jamaica had decided by referendum to secede and the leaders of the Governments of every other unit of the Federation had asked to have the present federal system dissolved. I think that, in the light of those factors, there was clearly no course whatever for us to take other than to dissolve the Federation. It was, as I have said, the unanimous wish of the unit Governments that we should do so.
Some question has been raised as to the speed with which we are acting, and also about consultation. We are accused of acting with undue haste—on the whole, the opposite of what we are usually accused of doing. But, first, we had undertaken to pass through Parliament, by the end of March, if we could, legislation permitting the secession of Jamaica. Secondly, all the Governments I spoke to in Port-of-Spain considered that, once the decision had been taken to dissolve the Federation, the sooner it could be done the better, because the remaining in being of the Federation would only complicate the discussion of future arrangements for whatever new system might be evolved.
It was, therefore, urged on me by everyone except the Federal Government that the action I should take should be as swift as possible. I have mentioned the discussions which took place with the Federal Government delegation after the Jamaican referendum. When I went to Port-of-Spain, the Federal Government were the first people I saw and I discussed the whole problem with them. At the end of my visit, I again discussed the whole problem with them completely frankly and told Sir Grantley Adams and his colleagues exactly what I intended to recommend when I returned to this country. I also explained the timing I proposed and the reasons for moving swiftly.
In referring to Sir Grantley Adams, I should like now to pay tribute to a man whom all of us regard as a person of charm and distinction who has many 853 friends in this country and in this House. I know that the House would wish me to pay that tribute. I would not like it to be thought that I or anyone else thinks otherwise about this very distinguished West Indian.
Logic pointed to the conclusion that the right thing to do in the present situation in the West Indies was to dissolve the present Federation swiftly and then set about consideration of the next step and what the new organisation should be. This Bill has been drafted in that light. It has three purposes.
The first is to provide for secession by the individual territories or, preferably, for dissolution of the Federation. The second is to deal with the future of the existing assets and liabilities of the Federation, including the liabilities for public servants of the Federation, and with the common services at present performed by the Federation for the islands as a whole. The third is to make provision for further groupings among the islands if this should be thought desirable.
I should point out that we do not, in the Bill, provide for the independence of any territory, because it has been a tradition—and I believe it to be a good one—that independence should be provided for by Parliament by a specific and separate Bill.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill as a whole. Clause 1 gives Her Majesty power by Order in Council to provide for secession or the dissolution of the Federation. I have said that I believe, having heard the views of the unit Governments, that the right course is to proceed by dissolving the Federation. That we will propose to do if we are given powers embodied in this Bill.
Clause 2 deals with the assets of the Federation and the common services. What we have in mind is that the future of these assets and of these common services must be settled by agreement among the various parties—Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and the other islands. We envisage holding a conference some time in the summer, possibly in July, at which the long-term future of these various common services will be determined.
Of course, some of them are very important indeed. I do not think that the university is probably properly 854 described as a common service. It has a special position, and I think that the House would attribute special importance to its maintenance. It was my impression in the West Indies that everyone shared that point of view. Certain services like shipping, the meteorological service, and the advisory service must be continued in a different guise under the new set-up.
We therefore feel that there should be a conference at some time in the summer to work out the long-term future of these things, but, in the meantime, there is need for someone to act, as it were, as trustee or liquidator, taking over the assets and holding them and the common services pending a decision by the conference. Clause 2 therefore provides that the assets of the Federation shall vest in a Commission or Commissioner appointed by Her Majesty's Government and that he shall also carry on the common services as trustee until it has been decided by general agreement—which will take some time—what their long-term destiny should be.
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (Nottingham, West)
What does my right hon. Friend envisage as the future of the office of the Governor-General of the Federation? The present Governor-General has rendered services of very great distinction to the West Indies. Does my right hon. Friend envisage replacing his office by that of a Commissioner-General or something similar?
§ Mr. Maudling
I would like to pay a sincere tribute to the Governor-General. I was very much impressed, in my short visit to Trinidad, by the position he has established there, and by the widespread friendship and understanding that he has with all people in the West Indies. But once the Federation is dissolved the office of Governor-General will disappear automatically as part of the process.
§ Mr. Tapsell
We must hope, I imagine, that some form of co-operation will continue amongst these islands. Would it not, therefore, be helpful to replace the post of Governor-General by somebody with an overall authority, perhaps with the title of Commissioner-General? Is it not necessary to have someone in the West Indies with responsibility extending beyond Trinidad?
§ Mr. Maudling
I agree that we want the maximum co-operation among the islands. However, we will have a situation in which Jamaica, for example, after August will be an independent country. The co-operation will be between independent Jamaica and Trinidad, moving towards independence, and possibly a federation of the Eight. I do not know, but whatever form of co-operation evolves, it would not be appropriate to have a Governor-General, or representative of Her Majesty, at the head, because there would be a mixture of dependent and independent territories. The situation will be very different from what it now is.
Clause 3 deals with the payment of compensation. I attach great importance to ensuring that the public servants of the Federation are properly treated and properly compensated. The first charge upon the existing assets of the Federation should certainly be a compensation scheme for these public servants.
Clause 4 provides for the establishment of a new Court of Appeal in place of the Federal Supreme Court.
Clause 5 provides powers for the governing of individual Colonies, and I should like to explain what lies behind this Clause and the powers which we are seeking. I should like, first, to repeat the assurance which has already been given—that it is not our intention in any way to derogate or reduce the powers of the territories already enjoying full internal self-government. Clearly, we would not contemplate anything of that kind. But there are several purposes which we have in mind in Clause 5.
The first is the possibility of providing a written constitution for Barbados. The new Premier of Barbados, who is an outstanding figure in the West Indies, has told me that his Government may ask us to provide it with a written constitution, and we need the necessary powers from Parliament to be able to do that.
§ Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
Is that a serious intention of Barbados? Barbados has always enjoyed the prestige of a charter which goes back more than 300 years and which it has always jealously safeguarded against 856 any representations from the Government here for any modification or change. Is it now suggested that the Barbados Government are quite prepared to tear up that charter and have a written constitution in its place?
§ Mr. Maudling
It is not a question of Barbados being prepared. This was not an initiative on our part. The new Government of Barbados are contemplating asking us to provide it with a written constitution—I believe that this was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, but it is certainly public policy of the party. The Premier told me that he would be asking us in such a situation, and all we are taking is power to meet that request, if it is made. The clause also contains some technical arrangement which we have to make for the Jamaica Independence Bill, and there is the third purpose which is financial and which I should like to explain to the House.
With the dissolution of the Federation, the powers which the Federation now has of supervising the use of grant in aid from this country will disappear. I am very anxious that we should have adequate powers to ensure that the substantial moneys which Parliament grants to these territories are properly used. I think that we must have these powers, and, in the face of the dissolution of the Federation we would not have them unless some provision of this kind were made.
I must say quite frankly that I have been very disturbed recently by the inadequate levels of financial administration which have appeared in some of the unit territories, and it is only right that, when Parliament votes money for these territories, the Government should have adequate powers to ensure that these moneys are properly used. That is one of the reasons which underlies the Clause.
Clause 6, the last substantial Clause, provides powers to form new associations within the area. The House will have observed that in such a case it is provided that there should be an affirmative Resolution before any such provision is made effective. What is very much in everyone's mind, of course, is the proposal for a federation of Barbados, the Leeward and Windward Islands. I should like to repeat what 857 I have said on previous occasions—that we regard this proposal as very promising, although one to be examined with considerable care.
There was a recent conference of the eight Governments and they have been good enough to send me a substantial memorandum, setting out their detailed proposals for a new federation, which I am urgently examining. I agree that there is a need for speed in these matters and the possibility of an early conference of the unit Governments is something which we should have in mind if we decide to proceed on these lines.
On the other hand, I am anxious to proceed with a due amount of caution. We should not be wise to rush into a new federation unless we were fairly confident that it would be well founded. The questions which we should have in mind are whether there would be adequate central organisation, particularly for economic and financial matters, and whether we can avoid excessive machinery of government. These eight islands comprise a land area of less than Shropshire or Wiltshire and with a population less than that of Hertfordshire. To have eight separate chief ministers and eight separate legislatures and eight separate cabinets seems to be a rather substantial amount of government, and a rather expensive amount of government, for such an area; and that is something which needs to be carefully considered before we reach a final conclusion.
It is also of great importance to study in some detail the financial viability of such a new association. I am indebted to the eight Governments and to Professor Lewis, that very distinguished West Indian, who has had a lot to do with advising them on these matters, for the advice which they have given me on making these units of the Eight an organisation which can stand on its own feet, free of financial dependence on this or any other country. I am examining that with, obviously, considerable sympathy, but these things must be carefully examined before any decision in principle about a federation of the Eight can be reached. However, I should like to repeat that in these conditions this seems to us to be a very promising idea and Her Majesty's Government certainly have no wish to stand in the way of such a development, if it can be shown to our 858 satisfaction to be in the best interests of the islands as a whole.
I have endeavoured to set out the background which has led to the production of the Bill and to explain in broad terms its purposes and the purposes which we are seeking in it. As I said in the beginning, it is a sad occasion to see the end, as it must be, of this experiment in government. But this is an occasion for us to be practical and realistic and to move swiftly to try to lay a foundation for a future about which no one need feel pessimistic.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say a few words about Clause 4 (6), which deals with the abolition of the West Indian Court of Appeal? How does that affect the former jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council? Formerly, the ultimate court of appeal from the courts was to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. A West Indian Court of Appeal was then set up. By Clause 4 (6) that West Indian Court of Appeal is now to be abolished. What happens to what was the appellate jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in this respect?
§ Mr. Maudling
I must ask my hon. Friend to give a detailed reply to that in winding up the debate. I think that the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) will find that this provision is mainly formal and not substantially important.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I think that all of us will sympathise with the Colonial Secretary in what was clearly a disagreeable and melancholy task. He told us that we have to wipe the slate clean of an experiment which was certainly hopeful, but which proved to be over-ambitious.
All of us regret the need for the Bill. Most of us think that it is still true that the British territories of the West Indies could best achieve prosperity and political stability by forming some form of union or association. Indeed, it is difficult to see a long-term future for some of them unless they can become members of a larger whole. But we must also agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there was no alternative to a 859 Bill roughly of this nature once the result of the referendum in Jamaica was known.
I confess that the right hon. Gentleman's argument that it was not possible for Her Majesty's Government to prevent the Jamaican Government from holding this referendum must be taken very seriously. But now that this decision has been taken we have a duty to give the remaining territories in the West Indies the best possible chance of survival, and I confess that many of us on this side of the House, and possibly some hon. Gentlemen opposite, feel rather unhappy about the way in which Her Majesty's Government have handled the situation since the referendum in Jamaica, and about some of the things in the Bill itself.
I think that the fundamental uneasiness we feel is due to the fact that Her Majesty's Government are choosing now to destroy everything which does exist in the form of co-operation between the individual territories without first seeking to achieve any agreement among the unit Governments concerned about what to put in its place. I would not go so far as to accuse the Government of indecent haste, but it seems to me that to act simply on a rapid examination of the wishes of the independent unit Governments is not adequate in these circumstances. Indeed, this offers an extraordinary contrast with the Government's behaviour in a similar situation which has developed in the Central African Federation.
There, after all, Her Majesty's Government refused until recently to concede even the right of secession, even after the views of the majority of the local inhabitants had been made crystal clear. And even now, when they are prepared to consider the right of secession in principle, they have made it clear that they are not going to concede this right in practice without first having a full discussion among all concerned about the alternatives to the Central African Federation in its present form.
The Government have shown what many of us regard as even excessive concern for the views of the Federal Government as distinct from the views of the Governments in the three separate States of the Central African Federation. This 860 is in astonishing, and if not wholly inexplicable, certainly illogical, contrast with the Government's behaviour over the West Indian Federation, because here there has been no attempt by the Government at an initiative to preserve what all of us regard as an extremely hopeful, desirable, and even perhaps necessary, form of co-operation between a number of territories for which we are still responsible, and there has been very little attempt to preserve even the form of consultation with the Federal Prime Minister of the West Indian Federation
We must accept the statement of the Secretary of State—and I know that it is true—that when he was in the West Indies in January he made it clear to Sir Grantley Adams that it was his intention to introduce a Bill providing for the dissolution of the Federation. Indeed, he told Parliament this when he made a statement on his visit a month ago, but it still remains true that neither Sir Grantley, nor, so far as I have been able to discover, any of the unit Governments in the West Indies, actually had a chance to see the Bill before it was published.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether consultation means any thing in the Commonwealth if it is simply confined to the Government making a general statement of intention and then publishing a Bill without any attempt to find out whether those immediately concerned by its operation consider that the form it has taken is a suitable one. So far as I have been able to discover, nobody in the West Indies had a chance to comment on the draft which is now before the House before it was presented to the House of Lords.
Sir Grantley did not even hear about it until he arrived at London Airport, and I am sure that a great deal of the alarm and suspicion which was created in the West Indies by the publication of the Bill could have been avoided if the right hon. Gentleman had sent drafts of the Bill to the unit Governments and to the Federal Government in advance, and had explained to the Governments concerned some of the things which had been dragged out of the Minister of State for the Colonies in another place, and which the Secretary of State has confirmed this afternoon.
861 The right hon. Gentleman knows, for example, that when the Bill was first published and first heard of in the West Indies everybody believed that the Government had in mind somehow or other to return many of these territories to some sort of Crown Colony status. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if this matter had been handled properly, if there had been the sort of consultation which I think we have the right to expect as natural and regular in cases like this, this alarm and suspicion would not have been created, and that a great deal of the prejudice which has now developed in the West Indies against some of the elements in the Bill could have been avoided.
I was extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the sincere tribute that he paid to Sir Grantley Adams, a leading Commonwealth statesman, but it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman, by his treatment of Sir Grantley, added a little insult to injury. After all, we had this extraordinary business of the Prime Minister of a Federation which is still recognised by Her Majesty's Government, who was coming here as a result of a resolution of the Federal Parliament, arriving at the airport with no representative of Her Majesty's Government to greet him. This was extraordinary, and, I think, almost unprecedented.
§ Mr. Healey
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that, and perhaps it will do something to wipe out the most unfortunate impression created on Sir Grantley.
We also had the fact that it was several days after his arrival before he was even clear that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to see him. Though I recognise the extremely heavy commitments of the right hon. Gentleman during that week, it was almost a week after Sir Grantley arrived before he saw the Minister whom he had come to see.
I should like to echo the tribute paid by the right hon. Gentleman to Sir Grantley. For many years he has been one of the leading statesmen of the 862 Commonwealth; a man with a long record of loyal service to the Crown; a man who has spent his life in the service of the people of the West Indies, and in the service of British people too. It seems to me a most unhappy contrast between the treatment accorded to Sir Grantley and the treatment which has been consistently accorded to his opposite number from Central Africa when he chooses to appear in this country as an uninvited guest. I cannot help wondering whether the real explanation for the contrast is not the simple and unfortunate fact that Sir Grantley did not threaten to use force to keep the Federation together, and that he did not have a posse of Conservative vigilantes at his beck and call.
The fact is, and the right hon. Gentleman must be aware of this, that Her Majesty's Government had already given to many people in the West Indies an impression of bored indifference to their opinion by their conduct over the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. We know this to be the case because leading West Indian statesmen have said so in so many words. I cannot help feeling that in some respects this impression must have been reinforced by the rather offhand way in which the Government introduced this Bill, and yet hon. Members on both sides of the House know that there is no part of our Commonwealth to which we in Britain owe a greater obligation.
As has been so often said in this House, most of the people there were taken there by us either as slaves from Africa to work on the plantations, or as indentured labour from Asia, and have always in recent years been distinguished by their exceptional loyalty to this country. They all feel themselves British, and describe themselves as British.
Against that background, I cannot understand why, after the unfortunate result of the Jamaican referendum, the right hon. Gentleman did not call a limited federal review conference. Why not at least bring Trinidad and the small islands together to discuss what the future should be? It was well known that the form of the Federation before the Jamaican referendum was to some extent enforced by the conditions which Jamaica set, but might it not have been at least possible, if the right hon. 863 Gentleman had called the Governments of the unit territories together last autumn, that something might have been saved out of the wreckage?
Why, again, have the Government still taken no initiative to save such regional co-operation as is represented by the common services? The first collective consultation, so far as the Government have been able to tell us, will perhaps be some time this summer—practically a year after the referendum in Jamaica. So far as we were able to understand from the Colonial Secretary this afternoon, and from what the Minister of State has said in another place, this collective consultation—the first for almost a year after the referendum in Jamaica made it clear that the Federation could not continue in its present form—would be limited to the common services.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I agree that the Colonial Office has drifted in connection with the West Indies position, but would it have been possible to hold a consultation of the kind recommended in the autumn of last year? Dr. Williams said that he had no intention of discussing the question of federation until his own elections were out of the way in December.
§ Mr. Healey
I do not know whether or not it would have been possible. If that was a reason for some delay the Government should have called a conference the moment the Trinidad elections were over. The future of the Federation was not an issue in the Trinidad elections. If this was a major obstacle to the holding of an earlier conference, it does not seem to have been a very decisive one.
The fact that we are giving a blank cheque to the Government in passing the Bill would worry us much less if the Colonial Secretary or some other Government spokesman had given us some idea of what was in his mind. The blank cheque is worrying because it seems to reflect a blank mind. Since the Jamaican referendum made it clear that the Federation could not survive we have had no indication from Government statements which would give us any clue as to their idea about the future of the territories for which they are still responsible.
864 Clause 6 aroused alarm and suspicion in the West Indies, because it was held to foreshadow a return to Crown Colony status for some of the territories. The Colonial Secretary has cleared that point up, but it is unfortunate that it was not cleared up when the Bill was originally published. This could have been avoided if normal consultations had taken place before the Bill was published.
I want to sound the Government's mind on some of the major issues which lie in front of them, the House and the West Indies now that federation in its old form is to disappear. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), in winding up for the Opposition, will deal with the most important problems of economic aid, on which the Colonial Secretary rightly said that the future survival of these islands will to a large degree depend, and he will also say something about the question of pensions for those federal civil servants who will, unfortunately, find themselves unemployed.
I warn the Joint Under-Secretary that we will want to know whether the Government are to make the normal contribution of 50 per cent. towards the pensions of those federal civil servants who find themselves unemployed as a result of the passage of the Bill.
When the Colonial Secretary made his statement in February it was clear that to hon. Members on both sides of the House the most urgent and important single issue created by the dissolution of the Federation was the future of the common services. The common services—the two Canadian ships, meteorological services and the advisory services, and also the university—will constitute the only tangible sign that there is a degree of community of interest among these territories which once belonged to the Federation. We would all agree that if we can build up and develop these common services we may succeed in creating a new basis of common interest among the territories concerned on which some new and more viable association may be built.
I cannot understand why, among the membership of this provisional holding company—as it might be called—which the Government are setting up to run the common services there are no representatives from unit Governments. When 865 this question was discussed in another place, the Government spokesman argued that this was an extremely temporary provision and that it was hoped to produce a long-term arrangement very quickly. If this is the case, surely it is not necessary for the Government also to include in the Bill a provision for raising money for this holding authority from the unit Governments.
Her Majesty's Government cannot have it both ways. If they believe that the scope and duration of this proposed authority is such as possibly to require financial contributions from the unit Governments, it would seem, on the basic principle of "no taxation without representation"—if on no other political principle—that the Government should be prepared to have some representation of the unit Governments on the common authority.
I cannot help feeling that this is one of several issues on which it would have been wise for the Government to have had negotiations with the unit Governments in the Federation before dissolving it. Surely they have to some extent weakened their bargaining power with the unit Governments by giving to the most important Governments—Jamaica and Trinidad—all they wanted in the way of independence before getting any solid assurances as to their future contributions to the less fortunate members of the old Federation.
Nevertheless, we are all glad to read of the Prime Minister of Jamaica's assurances that Jamaica, as an independent country, will not ignore the interest of her sister islands—I believe that he referred to them as "her poorer sisters". I hope that this will equally be the case with Trinidad. But I think that we should have been wiser to have had a more statutory and juridical obligation accepted by the independent States of the West Indies before proceeding with the dissolution of the Federation.
§ Mr. Maudling
It is a little hard for the hon. Gentleman to say that we should have made provision for the less fortunate territories in connection with Jamaica's wanting to be independent and, in the same breath, to say that he is glad to see that the Government of Jamaica have undertaken to do precisely that.
§ Mr. Healey
The Prime Minister of Jamaica gave assurances in the most general terms. In fact, nobody has as yet discussed in detail how the common services are to be run in the future, and what contribution the various unit Governments will make towards their operation. It would seem to have been wiser if the Colonial Secretary, before going all the way on these other issues, had at least obtained a rather more solid framework for the future of the common services than he was able to offer the House this afternoon.
I want to ask the Colonial Secretary a few questions about the future of the other islands. Most hon. Members will regret the decision of the Trinidad Government as much as we regret the decision of the people of Jamaica, but is it still absolutely out of the question that some form of association may be established between Trinidad and the other islands of the Eastern Carribean? If the fact that there is still some possibility of this is one of the reasons why the Colonial Secretary has been so unusually coy about the federation of the little Bight on this occasion, we would applaud his modesty.
Some of the early reactions of the Governments of the small islands towards Dr. Williams's offer of membership of a unitary State with Trinidad—I think I am right in mentioning the Governments both of St. Kitts and Grenada in this respect—suggest that there is still some flexibility in the situation, and if this flexibility is there it should be used to the fullest extent by Her Majesty's Government in any negotiations which follow.
What the right hon. Gentleman said about the federation of the little Eight seemed highly reasonable. We would all wish these countries to work together as closely as possible, but we have doubts whether it is possible for them to carry the institutional paraphernalia of full federation. There is no doubt that a federation of the little Eight could scarcely be economically viable without a guarantee of long-term economic assistance from some foreign country or other. There is a danger that if such a federation were formed, some of its members might decide, in time, to opt out of the federation and associate with Trinidad, leaving a federation of the little Five or the little Four, which would 867 have even less chance of survival than the Federation already proposed.
This takes us to the far broader question of what we shall do with our remaining colonial responsibilities in the West Atlantic and the Caribbean area. We have not only the countries which have already stated that they want to join the federation of the little Eight; we have the Virgin Islands, whose future is referred to in the Bill, the Turk Islands, the Caicos Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, and even Bermuda, British Guiana and British Honduras on the mainland, all with a very uncertain future and yet, somehow or other, we have to see whether they can be included in a larger economic or political unit. This seems typical of the most formidable problems which future Colonial Secretaries of State will have to deal with.
I went through the list of territories still under the right hon. Gentleman's control, which he thoughtfully provided us with a fortnight ago, and I noticed that of the 45 Colonies under British responsibility, only eight have a population of over 1 million. Of those eight, six will be independent by the end of next year. By the end of next year we shall probably have 37 Colonial Territories all with populations of under 1 million, and 20 with populations of under 100,000.
It seems to me that the time has certainly come when we should have some really hard thinking on both sides of the House—I do not blame the Government particularly about this—about what we are to do with these remaining territories, most of which will find it absolutely impossible to survive as independent States, and some of which may be in areas of great strategic importance and may, therefore, before long become the subject of very dangerous take-over bids from one great Power or another. It would be helpful if the Government could tell us about their ideas on this question, if only in relation to the future of the smaller islands in the Caribbean, some of which are directly concerned with the Bill.
It seems to me that either we shall have to find for these islands some entirely new status as members of the Commonwealth—some new form of 868 Dominion—or encourage them to associate themselves with their regional neighbours even if those neighbours are outside the Commonwealth, as, I understand, we are already doing in the case of Gambia with Senegal. In this respect, it would be helpful if the Government could say what proposals they have to revitalise the Caribbean Commission.
This Commission was set up almost exactly twenty years ago. It did a great deal of useful work during the Second World War, but it has been rather moribund during the last ten years. It seems to me that in the context of the collapse of the Federation there is a very strong case for some British initiative to try to revive it. I hope that there will be no dog-in-the-manger attitude on the part of Her Majesty's Government in this respect. If it proves impossible for us to do what we would wish for these islands, I think that there is everything to be said for encouraging our friends to join us in trying to help them.
I come to my final point. We tend always to discuss the problems of the West Indies—in the main, rightly so—as a problem of British colonial policy, but in a few months' time Jamaica will be a new independent State in the Caribbean. A little later, perhaps, Trinidad will also be a new independent State. It is time that we began thinking about the West Indies as part of the general problem of the Caribbean and of Central America.
This is an area which is of major concern to the United States of America and in which, possibly, Canada rather than Great Britain is likely, in the long run, to be the most influential member of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that we need now, at any rate, when the Federation is collapsing, to try to engage the interests of the United States Government rather more directly than we have done in the past. Some of the individual territories, like Jamaica, have already tried to make economic agreements with the United States.
There is the big American contribution to the Federal Development Loan. Incidentally, I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell us later what will happen to this United States contribution if the Federation itself is to be dissolved. It seems to me that the climate in 869 Washington at the present time is particularly fruitful to negotiation and consultation on this between ourselves and the Americans. It is not only that the Americans are deeply concerned, some of them perhaps are over-concerned, with the menace of Castroism in Cuba, but also, I think, that they recognise, in general, the need for progressive and stable Governments in Central and South America, Governments which can command widespread popular support and Governments exactly like the Government that we have in Jamaica at present, Governments for which there are very few parallels, unfortunately, in the case of the Southern part of the Western Hemisphere.
It seems to me that Governments like the present Government of Jamaica and Trinidad are natural candidates for membership of the Alliance of Progress. One of the things we might do for these islands in the concluding years of our responsibility for them is to introduce them into some fruitful and long-term relationship with their great continental neighbour.
We might do something in respect of Canada. I think that the Colonial Secretary will be as glad as I am at the growing interest Canada has shown in the future of the West Indies. There has been the gift of two ships—one of the major physical assets in the common services that we have been discussing today. I believe that there is talk in Canada, although not in official circles, of making the Bahamas a new maritime province. Here, too, is a case for a British initiative to see whether we cannot produce an international context in the Caribbean more favourable to the survival of these countries than the existing one.
I believe that the Government could initiate discussions quickly on this and also, possibly, discussions with the Commonwealth as a whole to find out whether there is some possibility of a joint Commonwealth contribution to the future of the British West Indian Colonies when they move towards independence.
I have tried to make some constructive suggestions about the future of the West Indies, and I regret if, in the course of 870 doing so, I have been so critical of Her Majesty's Government, but I think that the criticisms that I have expressed reflect a very widespread feeling in the West Indies.
I ask the Colonial Secretary to believe me when I say that my criticisms have nothing to do with party politics. I believe that this is a widespread feeling among all people who have the welfare of the West Indies at heart. I do not feel that in making these criticisms I am attacking the Colonial Secretary personally. I think that the major part of the responsibility for what has gone wrong here, as in Central Africa, lies with the present Leader of the House. In the West Indies, as in Central Africa, he really left the mess—maybe not of his own choice at that particular time—which the present Colonial Secretary has to clear up.
I cannot avoid the impression that one reason for the inertia of Her Majesty's Government lies either in the machinery of the Colonial Office or the machinery of government itself. It seems to us, from the outside, at any rate—and I hope that the Under-Secretary will reassure me on this point if I am wrong—that the Government's machinery is incapable of dealing with more than one or two colonial problems at once.
One of the reasons for the lack of initiative by Her Majesty's Government in the West Indies has been the preoccupation of the Colonial Office with more urgent and perhaps more dangerous problems in Africa and other parts of the world. I cannot feel that this type of overloading of the present machinery will be met by improvisations like giving the responsibility for Central Africa to a Minister who is already responsible for the Home Office and the Common Market.
I do not think that it is enough simply to wait until we can reach Question 9 on the Colonial Office agenda. The problem will not wait. This sort of delay might mean at best the missing of a real opportunity to exert a constructive influence on the problem. At worst, it might lead to a cycle of violence, making it impossible even to impose a solution.
As I said at the beginning, hon. Members on this side of the House feel that the Bill is justified only if it means that 871 the Government are wiping clean the slate of the Federation in order to take an immediate and positive initiative themselves. I hope that in his reply the Under-Secretary will be able to give some hope that this is the case.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) ended what I thought a most reasonable speech by suggesting that some of the blame for what is happening in the West Indies rests on the shoulders of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I wish to say—particularly as I have not always agreed with the policy of my right hon. Friend—that in my opinion one of the troubles has been the terrific overloading of the Colonial Office, where decisions have had to be made on all sorts of problems in the Commonwealth.
Various countries have pressed for decisions. Some of them, I regret to say, have been encouraged by a number of the hon. Friends of the hon. Member for Leeds, East, although those hon. Members are not at present in the Chamber. This has added to the burden which the Colonial Office has had to carry. I do not think that any Government Department could have had a harder task than the Colonial Office has had during the last four or five years. A terrific pace has been generated by the emergence of nationalistic movements in all parts of the world, some of which have proved more destructive than constructive.
This is a sad occasion. As was said by my right hon. Friend, no one can say that he welcomes the Bill. It is a regrettable necessity. After all, the West Indies is the oldest part of the Commonwealth. Jamaica and Barbados have a Commonwealth history extending over 300 years. What is more important is the fact that the West Indies is a non-racial part of the Commonwealth, at least so far as Europeans are concerned.
There are racial problems regarding the Indians in Trinidad and in British Guiana which still produce tensions, but from the point of view of Europeans versus Africans there exists no tension at all. This is due largely to the fact that we have been in charge of these parts of the world for so long compared 872 with the time for which we have been responsible for parts of Africa.
I take it that in the case of Jamaica and the referendum there is no analogy with Western Australia, which has been quoted as an example of a course which might have been followed. Western Australia was never an independent State, and, therefore, presumably, its referendum could be disregarded. Jamaica is in a different category. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary would deal with that in his reply.
It is strange that the Prime Minister of Trinidad did not make the question of the secession an issue during the recent general election. It seems extraordinary that when such an issue is imminent, and the country is having a general election, it should be completely ignored until after the election, and that then, without authority, the Prime Minister and the Government should decide to secede. It seems an unusual course to adopt. One would think that it would have been made an issue at the election, when the Government—as did the Prime Minister of Jamaica—could have received and respected the decision of the people. However, that was not the case. I take it from what my right hon. Friend has said that there is no method by which constitutionally we could question that decision. Nevertheless, I consider it highly regrettable.
Like the hon. Member for Leeds, East, I hope that a system will be created eventually for the continuance of the little Eight. It would be disastrous were they to be left on their own. I think that some kind of unitary strength is the obvious solution, and if that can be achieved in combination with Trinidad it would be all the better. I hope that the Government will be bold in this matter and give a lead in the direction which they consider the best. If there is one criticism which might come from the country about the present Government it is that sometimes they are rather nervous in giving a lead. Therefore, I urge my right hon. Friends to consider the point carefully.
In my opinion, a form of unitary State with Trinidad at the head would be the best solution for Trinidad and for the remaining eight, and I hope that the Government will not hesitate 873 to put forward that view and to impress it on the politicians of those territories. It seems to me that it would be a complete waste and a top-heavy system to have, as it were, a federation of eight countries with a central Government and eight legislatures and eight independent governors. That would involve a colossal expense, particularly for some of the smaller members, and I hope that that will be borne in mind by my right hon. Friend.
I agree that a problem is coming up—in fact, it has already come up—regarding the final solution in respect of some of the smaller Commonwealth territories. This problem arrived on 1st January of this year when New Zealand gave independence to Western Samoa, an island with a population of just over 100,000. Incidentally, it is a little ironical that such a country can have what is, presumably, complete independence within the Commonwealth when there are many Greater London boroughs with populations nearly twice as big which are not to have municipal independence. However, I should be ruled out of order were I to pursue that point further.
I wish to support what was said by my right hon. Friend about Sir Grantley Adams. I also hope that some means will be found for the West Indies as a whole to continue with the Mission that has been in London ever since the Federation came into being, with its excellent head, Sir James Gordon.
My lay mind finds Clause 1 (2) of the Bill completely unintelligible. It may be that lay minds which are much more expert than my own can arrive at a solution. But I find it difficult to follow and I hope that my hon. Friend will explain it more fully. I hope also that he will tell the House how many public servants of the Federation are involved and how many will find themselves out of office as a result of the dissolution. I agree that we must see that these people do not suffer in any way. I hope that they will be absorbed into whatever unitary or federal government may be formed.
It was suggested that the United States might be interested in the Caribbean territories. I prefer that we should concentrate on the Canadians rather than the Americans. There is a great deal of trade between Canada and the West 874 Indies and I should like to see Canada rather than the United States in the position of a "mother country" to the West Indies. In one respect the United States have been far from helpful, although when the Federation came into being the Americans asked in what way they could be of help.
I refer to the market for products such as citrus. Time and again the Americans have pressed for the ending of restrictions on the importation of citrus into this country from the dollar area and that could be only to the detriment of the West Indies. I give Her Majesty's Government credit for having fought this proposal as hard as possible, and so far with a considerable amount of success. The free entry of American citrus into this country might be described as paving the way for the complete ruin of the citrus industry in the West Indies.
We must not try to ingratiate ourselves with the United States, but with Canada, by all means, I sincerely hope that this will happen. I think that we shall have to struggle with the United States over this battle for the ending of discrimination if we are to preserve the citrus industry of the West Indies. I hope that this trade aspect will be borne carefully in mind. We must not damage an area where there is considerably high unemployment through any further weakening of Commonwealth preference, or of quotas or whatever restrictions there are on imports of the dollar area. I hope that a solution will be found to this problem to the benefit of the nine other countries concerned and that it will bring unity and prosperity to that area.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
I suppose that of all hon. Members I am the most grieved at the necessity for this Bill. I deplore the break-up of the Federation. At no time have I regarded it as an over-ambitious experiment.
My interest in the West Indies goes back well before the war. I certainly did something to try to secure the famous Royal Commission which studied the social and economic problems of the West Indies. I also helped, through colonial development and welfare schemes, the subsequent developments which took place. I had the great honour and privilege of presiding over 875 the famous Montego Bay Conference, in 1947, when the conception of Federation received an enormous impetus and the various Governments of the West Indies set to work to find how this constructive idea could be brought into operation.
I did not initiate that conference without the legislative councils of the respective Colonies themselves considering most thoroughly the proposal of federation. What transpired was as a result of their quiet deliberations in their respective territories and was the answer to the felt need for some corporate body to carry forward the progress of the West Indies. It should be appreciated that the Federation was born largely because for a long time there had been the necessity for close consultation and association between the territories. It was born because it was felt that there should be established certain common services.
The university college had been founded at the end of the war. There had been certain technical services developing under the Stockdale group of advisers. There was also the need for other services—meteorological, defence, post, etc. All this work was going on, creating in the minds of those statesmen and others working in the West Indies a feeling of necessity for an organisation which could function as a whole and supervise and develop the services obviously necessary.
There was a further thought which at that time was of great significance. The individual territories felt that of themselves they could never become fully independent. The only way to reach a viable status and to exercise genuine responsibility was by coming together in the form of a Federation and thereby securing Dominion status. It may be that conditions in the world have altered since, but the fact was that this was an expressed wish and the Federation was the answer to a felt desire. Like all federations, there were obvious difficulties as to how such a thing could be devised and it was recognised that once it was established there must be considerable strains.
The difficulties of building up a Federation, I repeat, were fully appreciated. There were the variety of territories forming the British Colonies, the distances between the islands, the dif- 876 ferences, sometimes in language, and of peoples, the difficulties of communication, transport and fiscal arrangements. All these factors were fully known. They were not burked. It was understood when the idea was formulated that the Federation must tackle these problems in the hope that more of a corporate spirit could be allowed to develop.
This Federation was a free coming together. It was not something that was imposed on these colonies by the imperial Power. It was recognised as necessary and Britain gave all the aid she possibly could in the formulation of the plans in building up the Federation. I wish to pay tribute to the early work of people like Sir Thomas Lloyd, Sir George Seel, Sir Hubert Rance and Sir Frank Stockdale and those other civil servants who worked very hard for the success of the project.
So today, there is a Parliament, a Cabinet, a Prime Minister, a Governor-General and a capital. Now we must face the collapse of all this which has been built up over the years. In the formulation there have been many great efforts at compromise. One has watched with anxiety the various conferences which have taken place but not until, I believe, May of 1960, was the announcement made by Jamaica which threatened the whole of the work. That Government announced that a plebiscite would be held. The consequences at the time could not be altogether foreseen.
I would not attach blame to Her Majesty's Government for permitting a plebiscite. As the Secretary of State has pointed out, the British Government had no option but to allow the plebiscite to go forward. They were conscious of the calamity which might overtake the Federation if the plebiscite went against the continuance of Jamaica in the Federation. Her Majesty's Government, in one of their official statements after the conference in 1960, issued a warning that there should be caution in the West Indies because there were grave dangers if such a plebiscite were to result in a decision at the expense of the Federation.
I am a little critical about whether, once it was known that the plebiscite would be taken, Her Majesty's Government engaged in the fullest possible consultation with the other Governments which would be affected should it happen 877 that the plebiscite brought the result which it subsequently did. The consultations might have been wider because Her Majesty's Government were aware of the dangers confronting the Federation if the plebiscite gave a vote for Jamaica to pull out.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Hugh Fraser)
I must point out that it was known, in May, 1960, that there was to be a referendum in Jamaica and that for much of 1961 we were sitting either in the West Indies or in Lancaster House fully aware of this threat to our deliberations.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I am arguing that Her Majesty's Government having become aware that such a plebiscite might result in Jamaica pulling out from the Federation, further consultation should have been taken, as for instance, what would happen to the common services and the position of the respective islands in that event. I must leave that point, but I reiterate that I regret that consultation at that time was, in my judgment, altogether inadequate.
The impression was created in the outside world that there was a capitulation to the demands of Jamaica instead of there having been an effort to try to modify her course of action. I deplore the personal antagonisms which, apparently, existed in the West Indies among responsible statesmen. I would have thought that there would have been a greater amount of discussion and consultation between, at least, the Prime Ministers of the respective territories, particularly discussions about the dangers confronting the Federation by the withdrawal of Jamaica. But, as far as I can gather, there was very little discussion between them.
Even now, although the situation after August will be changed, the Prime Ministers have not come together, nor have the representatives of the Governments directly concerned, to see whether some of the services can be saved in the days to come. We are all aware that the Federal Government feel very strongly about the course of events. That Government feel desolate. It was obvious from the delegation which was recently here just how sick at heart they are that all the labour of fourteen years—the hard work put into the construction of 878 a Federation—is being lost by the action which Jamaica has taken.
We have now, therefore, to look to the future and I certainly regard the Bill not only as inevitable, but, in the circumstances, necessary. It may be that it is couched in the most ample terms, and gives astonishing authority to Her Majesty's Government. It allows for the alteration of constitutions, and of making new constitutional groupings without consultation with the territories concerned and even without parliamentary discussion. All this is being done by Order in Council, for thereby the Government can, by this procedure, escape parliamentary discussion. In any case, I regard the Bill, such as it is, as necessary, although there are many defects in it which will have to be considered in Committee.
Not only is Jamaica pulling out, but Trinidad is likely to do the same. The position, as I understand it, is that in Trinidad there has been no declaration of the will of the people regarding their future relations inside a federation of any kind. All that has been decided—by a party conference, later supported by the Trinidad Government—is that Trinidad will withdraw. Trinidad has tended to complicate the situation, I gather, by offering to extend to certain of the Windward or Leeward Islands the right to go into their own unitary State in the form of provinces or county councils whereby they would surrender a certain amount of their sovereignty. This could be a real complication to the idea put forward by the Secretary of State for a small federation of the Eight.
It remains to be seen what Trinidad will do, but I feel that if recognition is to be given to what appears to be the desire of the Trinidad Government it should at least be supported in some way by popular approval in that island. There is also the other proposal; that there should be a lesser federation. I confess that I was surprised by what the Secretary of State said about the Colony of Barbados—that Barbados was prepared to destroy her own Charter, receive a new written constitution and co-operate with the Leeward and Windward Islands for the formation of a lesser federation—always provided that the slate was cleaned regarding the existing Federation.
879 This is a considerable risk. If a federation is formed—of the Leewards and Windwards and Barbados—obviously it must be viable. In view of the grants in aid which are now paid out by the present Federal Government from United Kingdom grants I cannot see how such a small federation could operate with any degree of prosperity and success. Be that as it may, it may be a fruitful line of exploration and perhaps a unit in the Caribbean can be formed in this way.
I now return to the larger problem presented to us—the preservation of the common services. These are of vital significance to the British territories in the Caribbean. It seems that any attempt to preserve the common services must include the co-operation of Jamaica and Trinidad in that effort. Otherwise, I am afraid that many of these common services will just disintegrate.
To depend only on the strength of Barbados and the Leewards and Windwards for maintaining the common services will be only half-hearted. A university cannot be run except on the basis of the co-operation of all the territories. The meteorological services, defence and many of the technical services are all largely dependent on the co-operation of all the territories which have so far been grouped in the Federation. Therefore, it is of very great importance that in the preservation of the common services we should not think merely of their preservation in the interests of Barbados and of the islands which might link up with it in a small federation, but in terms of the larger association which is now being dissolved.
It is perfectly true that in such an association there will be independent islands. Trinidad and Jamaica will very soon receive their independence. But that should not deter us from trying to bring them into an arrangement whereby they can contribute with the other territories to the success of some loose organisation concerned with and responsible for the common services. It has been said that in the meantime and before any permanent arrangement can be made for the common services, an interim holding organisation should be created. It seems to be in the mind 880 of the Secretary of State for the Colonies that such a holding body would be of very short duration.
I would point out that many temporary bodies have a habit of staying in existence for a long time because of the sheer inability of those concerned with forming a permanent organisation to agree on the structure which such permanent organisation should take. Therefore, it may well happen that this interim organisation will last for a long time before differences can be resolved and a permanent structure created.
What is this permanent structure to be? As far as the temporary structure is concerned, that, presumably, will be unaccountable to anyone, as my hon. Friend has pointed out in his speech. It is clear that as regards defence and other services, money will be raised and spent by, the appointed Commissioner. He will be quite unrepresentative and the various islands will not be represented. He will have power to carry forward what plans and schemes he likes as far as the preservation of the services are concerned.
There is also, of course, the problem in respect to the existing Federal staff, who have a vast experience. The Governments and the federal staff have been working on Federal services and problems for a long time. It seems to me that even if there is an interim arrangement there should be some opportunity for them to share in the decisions taken in this temporary arrangement. With regard to the long-term arrangement, that, I think, would take some time to bring into being, though I am glad to know that Jamaica has said that she will co-operate during the interim period. She is also interested in what is called the Caribbean organisation.
This brings me to the further point. I quite agree with what my hon. Friend has said in regard to the curious political influences which are at work in the Caribbean at present. Some of those influences are destructive and some are constructive; some of them are authoritarian and some are more democratic. In any case, the Caribbean is a region of great significance and importance. Therefore, as far as Britain is concerned, we should be in a strong position and not necessarily rely on ourselves alone to 881 tackle some of the economic and defence problems that arise there. There should be the fullest co-operation through a central organisation so that all parties who have an interest in that part of the world can work together.
I agree with Mr. Norman Manley that it is important that Jamaica should come into the Caribbean organisation. It was our purpose right back in 1942–43 to create the Anglo-American Commission—an organisation concerned with the social and economic development of the whole of this region. In that organisation we had the co-operation of the Americans, of France and Holland. A certain amount of work was done which was of benefit to the islands. I would hope that perhaps on the basis of the Caribbean organisation, it would be possible to build up a stronger organisation in which Canada, the United States and, possibly, the other independent Powers, including the independent territories of Trinidad and Jamaica, could all play a part in the improvement of the social and economic life of that part of the world.
After all, a similar experiment has been tried out by the Colonial Office in the South Pacific, where a great deal of satisfactory work for the benefit of the people of the South Sea Islands is done through the co-operation of all the Powers interested in that region. I should, therefore, like to see, now that the Federation has collapsed, the various Powers interested in the area coming together and helping forward West Indian social and economic life.
Although I deplore very deeply the passing of the Federation, I believe that out of this wreck, with wise statesmanship, a new organisation of value might be formed. I do not think that we need necessarily despair because this experiment is coming to an end. As I say, I should like to see the co-operation of the other Powers with Britain and with the new independent States in the Caribbean for the purpose of securing the welfare and prosperity of the people.
Finally, I also should like to add my tribute to the work which has been done by the statesmen of the West Indies in their efforts to secure a solid Federation. I do not exclude from that tribute, Norman Manley, who, over the years, has proved himself to be a very great 882 statesman, a man of very great quality and one who has been able to look ahead and to do magnificent work on behalf of his people. I would also include Sir Grantley Adams, who, with his wisdom and common sense, has done a great deal of first-class work. I include also, of course, those who have sometimes been in opposition to him, men like Mr. Gomes, in Trinidad, and others throughout the West Indies who have been loyal workers for the idea of federation.
I believe that we should acknowledge today, even while we announce our regret and feel somewhat melancholy at the passing of this experiment, our thanks and obligations for all that these men have done in their efforts to make this dream come true.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I am very glad to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), because he was one of the earliest architects of the Federation and he must be more unhappy than almost anyone in the House to see the sad outcome of all his early efforts. As my right hon. Friend and everybody else who has spoken in this debate have said, we cannot pretend that this is either a happy occasion or a happy Bill; for any of us here who know and love the West Indies it is a very sad thing.
We in Britain sought to achieve something very sensible indeed and immensely worth while when we established this Federation. Lord Hailes, the Governor-General, Sir Grantley Adams, the Federal Prime Minister, successive Secretaries of State, of course of both parties, and many men of good will throughout the Caribbean and in this country have all worked and striven for a very long time to launch this Federation and to make it a success, and now it has all come to pieces in our hands.
Federations, of course, are never easy to create, and they are even more difficult to sustain, especially in the early years of their existence, and we knew at the outset that the West Indian Federation would be one of the most difficult of all because there were immense problems of distance and separation by sea; there were conflicts of personality and of island interests; of freedom of movement and of trade, and different, rival methods of taxation.
883 There were always local island patriotisms, but there was never, unfortunately, a wider West Indian patriotism. There was no real sense of being part of an exciting new West Indian nation which would have a tremendously important rôle in the Commonwealth and in the free world. This somehow always seemed to be lacking. Some of the islands wanted a stronger central Government than the rather weak one with which we began. Others wanted it to remain weak.
I believe we here did our best with both money and advice under successive Governments to reach a compromise. Perhaps we made mistakes. I dare say we did. But I was rather surprised, I am bound to admit, that the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) singled out my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for special criticism. I thought that this was a little hard. He said that my right hon. Friend the present Colonial Secretary was left with "an awful mess" on his hands, but the mess arose because of the Jamaican referendum, not through any action of the former Secretary of State. However, no doubt mistakes were made on all sides. I said at the time, and I am sure it is true, that a mistake was made in 1956 when leading West Indian Ministers like Mr. Norman Manley decided to remain in their own islands instead of going to Port-of-Spain. I dare say that everybody has made mistakes.
There was, to be perfectly honest, a sad failure of human relationships. The island leaders indulged in public recriminations against the federal leaders and vice versa. Everyone criticised everybody else. No one seemed to consider it to be his duty and his opportunity to launch and propagate the theme of unity through the Caribbean. No one really sold the idea of this Federation to the people. I have been amazed—I know other hon. Members have had the same experience—on going out there in years gone by to be asked by West Indian journalists, "What do you think of federation?" and of being put in the position of going from here to try to sell the idea to them, because Ministers out there were not doing that job, and this was perhaps one of the reasons it failed.
884 There has been a parallel in Central Africa—a failure by us and, I think, by Sir Roy Welensky and his Ministers to sell the concept of federation there and its advantages. So that I believe—it is a purely personal view—that that Federation, too, is likely soon to dissolve.
The truth is that nowadays, whatever may have happened in America or Australia in the past, we cannot impose federations and we cannot force them to survive, unless they are based upon the consent of the people. There were the best reasons in the world for a federation of the West Indies, political reasons and economic reasons which we all of us know.
There were innumerable conferences, I believe seven or eight conferences, between 1947 and 1961, and at the last of them, last summer everyone bent over backwards to make it possible for Norman Manley to win his referendum in Jamaica upon which, in the end, everything depended.
It is no use jobbing backwards but of course that referendum should never have been held. We all know that a referendum is the most unsuitable way of appealing for the verdict of the people. We should certainly, I am sure, have advised against it if we had had the opportunity to advise at all. If Mr. Manley wished to put this issue to his people I am quite sure that the proper thing to do was to go to the country in a general election, when his own party, in party loyalty, would, naturally, have supported him. Instead, he selected the most unpopular plank in his whole political platform and went to the people on that alone, in isolation, for a "Yes" or "No" answer; and he announced his intention to do this without consulting the Governor-General, without consulting the Federal Prime Minister, without, so far as I know, any consultation with Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and without consulting anyone at all in the whole of the West Indies.
I have the very greatest respect and admiration for Mr. Norman Manley who, I think, is one of the most brilliant and gifted national leaders I have had the pleasure of meeting, but this really was a calamitous and, as it turned out, 885 an irretrievable error of judgment on his part. Jamaica has full internal self-government. Once the referendum was announced, we could not stop it or influence its course.
All we could do was to hope that it would succeed, and help it to succeed, which I think we did, in June, 1961, in London. Everyone helped at that conference; and yet, despite all that was done there—on 19th September by a small majority on a small poll it failed, and brought the whole federal experiment crashing down in ruins. Mr. Manley accepted that verdict. He had to. We all had to accept it. We could not have overturned it except by force, which would have been unthinkable. I thought that it was unrealistic and rather a waste of a journey for Sir Grantley Adams and his colleagues to come here, as they did this month, and ask us to put the clock back. That is not, of course, a criticism of Sir Grantley Adams, who is an old friend and, I hope he will not mind my saying, a close friend of mine and of this country. He had to come here no doubt because of the unanimous resolution of his own Parliament in Port-of-Spain. But I do not think there was anything we could possibly have done to help him.
Now, as we see, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago have chosen the same course of independence alone. I do not know whether this is the wish of the people of Trinidad or not. Nobody knows. The issue was not put to them at their recent election. I think that it is quite extraordinary that it was not put to them, but I am certainly not advocating a referendum there as well.
I can express only a personal view, which, I am sure, is shared by many hon. Members of this House, that the decision of the Jamaican people and the decision of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago are profound mistakes which even they themselves will come one day to regret. I think that it is perfectly pathetic that the very able men who lead these territories—and they are of a very high calibre, as we all know—have in a way let themselves down, because of their failure to co-operate with one another, and have fallen below the level of events in the world and certainly below the level we expected of them.
886 In so doing they have certainly shown no interest whatever in the future of their own compatriots in the remaining small islands, whose fate has been almost cynically disregarded—though mitigated perhaps by the words of the Prime Minister of Jamaica which were quoted by the hon. Member for Leeds, East when he spoke. Now we understand that the eight smaller islands wish to remain federated together. If that is so, I think we should give them all the help and encouragement we possibly can.
But we must recognise that it cannot yet lead to real independence for them, because real independence means standing on their own feet financially, and I do not think they could do that, at any rate for some time to come. It cannot be anything but expensive for the British taxpayer. But we have certain historical obligations to the people of the British Caribbean which we must honourably try to discharge; and in my view, even a non-viable federation, which is what I am afraid this would be, is preferable to complete fragmentation.
We must see to it, however, that the federation is as viable as possible, and I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend indicate in his speech that there may be efforts somewhat to reduce the scale of government in these little islands. I thought that Lord Ogmore, in another place, put the point rather well when he said that there was too much harness for the horse. I am sure that that is true. There is no doubt that one Governor would be sufficient for these eight islands, and there could be fewer paid Ministers and Members of Parliament in the unit and in the federal spheres. Some of the islands are very small indeed, and there is no need for such an expensive panoply of government.
I am glad to see, in Clause 3 of the Bill, that a compensation scheme is envisaged for the federal civil servants who may lose their employment or may have their careers prejudiced through absolutely no fault of their own. The best hope for the future lies, as other hon. Members have pointed out, in the shared services for which the Bill makes interim provision until a conference in July, when a more lasting solution will 887 be worked out. These are very important—the shipping services, the University College, the West India Regiment, the Supreme Court and a very large number of valuable advisory services. They are important, not only for themselves, but for the possibility of building upon them for the future.
I am sure that a lasting federation of the West Indies will emerge eventually from our present disappointments, perhaps based on these shared services. I am sure that this will come about. I suppose that the West Indian people were not yet ready for the concept of federation, when we first proposed it. Perhaps we have made the same mistake in Central Africa. Perhaps federation must be a plant of much slower growth, not imposed from the top but coming from the roots of the people, but I am sure it will come in the West Indies, because it makes sense. Ultimately, the people will understand and will wish and will achieve tomorrow what they have wantonly discarded today. This is my faith and my hope for these beautiful islands. This is what we and they must work for in the years ahead.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) has just said with such deep sincerity. The hon. Gentleman spent a good deal of time talking about the Jamaica referendum, with which I want to deal myself, but he did not do what I should like to try to do, and that is to draw some lessons from the mistakes we made in the Caribbean so that we do not repeat them in the future. This is the point that worries me.
To start with, however, I accept the necessity for the Bill. I was in Port-of-Spain at the same time as the Colonial Secretary, having a look myself at whether the Federation was bound to collapse and I came to the same conclusion as did the right hon. Gentleman. There was absolutely no prospect of preserving it, and I found that we were bound to have some such Bill as that which the right hon. Gentleman has now found himself compelled to introduce. I am sure he is quite right.
I would say, first, to the people and politicians in the West Indies that it is 888 no good asking the British Government to try to force this Federation to continue. Some politicians are here to do that, and they are perfectly entitled to their point of view. They are still saying it in Port-of-Spain, but it is wrong. We in this country, having given internal self-government to Jamaica, cannot disregard the results of the referendum.
Secondly, we cannot disregard the equally legitimate—I stress those words—decision of the Trinidad Government not to continue in the Federation. Whether it is a referendum or a decision of the duly elected Government, our tradition in the Commonwealth is that we must accept the decision; and it is no good going from one to the other and saying that because they had a referendum in Jamaica we should force one on Trinidad as well, and thus let the whole interminable argument go on. They are equally legitimate forms of determination, whether by referendum or by Government decision, and we are bound in our traditions to carry on in that light.
The Jamaica referendum was the first immediate cause of the break-up of the Federation, and, to some extent, I share the views of the hon. Member for Surbiton, when he half-criticised Mr. Manley for holding a referendum at all.
§ Mr. Chapman
I am not so critical. I do not believe that at the time Mr. Manley should have wrapped up the issue of the Federation with the whole issue of the future of his own Government, and I do not blame him for trying to settle one by referendum and the other by a general election.
What the hon. Member for Surbiton did not do, and what we must do, is to criticise the way in which the Jamaica Opposition behaved and the way in which the referendum was handled. This is the tragedy. This is what caused the break-up of the West Indian Federation—the utterly irresponsible attitude of Sir Alexander Bustamente. What happened was that instead of fighting the issue on its own merits he wrapped it up in a fight on the frustration of the Jamaica people because economic advance was not fast enough; he wrapped the whole thing up 889 with a vote of no confidence in the Government, as opposed to the issues about the actual Federation itself.
Sir Alexander Bustamente confused the issue by pretending that the argument was between independence for Jamaica and no independence at all. He had the "freedom ball" as his election symbol, saying "We are for independence", disguising the fact that the Federation would be independent anyway and would contain an independent Jamaica in it. It was utterly irresponsible. It was using the magic in the word "independence" in Jamaica, and diverting it for irresponsible purposes for the benefit of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Fisher
That is all quite true, but this was predictable. My criticism of Mr. Manley was that he made an error of judgment, because hon. Members like the hon. Member for Northfield and myself, who know the islands, knew perfectly well that Sir Alexander Bustamente would play the referendum in the way he did. He is an astute and clever politician, who took advantage of a political opportunity which should never have been given to him.
§ Mr. Chapman
I will not continue the argument. It is but water under the bridge. I am only saying that if the hon. Gentleman wants to criticise Mr. Manley, I am sorry to have to remind him that the greater criticism falls on the Opposition in Jamaica for the way in which they handled the referendum. It was, in Mr. Manley's view, a supreme test in democracy. The Opposition did not accept it as such, but put it into the fight with other issues, and I am sorry about the way in which it was handled.
The second thing which was another immediate cause on which we must reflect for a moment is the decision of Trinidad to seek independence on its own. There has been some talk of trying to force Trinidad to stay in, but anyone Who has read the formidable document prepared by the People's National Movement in Trinidad, setting out in a full page their arguments against Trinidad being in the rump of the Federation, must agree that, on the facts, which speak for themselves, they have every right to say that they prefer independence alone. There is no point in pursuing that further.
890 The other important point is that opinion in Trinidad is now fast moving towards a strong sense of independent nationhood. That is certainly what I felt there, and there is the fact that the striking economic advance in Trinidad in recent years gives the people there every reason to be super-confident about their independent future. They have every chance of making a great success of it. I do not want to bore the House with a long quotation, but the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in making a loan recently to Trinidad, has paid a glowing tribute to the economic advance and stability there.
The Bank has spoken of how the per capita income is so high, the external debt service so low, the pace of economic and educational advance so fast, and of the Government's record being so good. In view of this, we cannot expect the Trinidad Government to be other than confident in their own independent future, and with this striking advance in the national income per head we cannot at this stage try to bully Trinidad into a federation which it does not want. The time is far past for anything like that, and the confidence of the people of Trinidad is far too great.
I should like now to tell the House what I believe to be the main lessons of failure in this loose form of federation which is now collapsing. The obvious one which is easy enough to see is the problem of geography. Then there are the divergent political trends and the poor economic links between the islands. Everything was telling against the chances of federation in that area. There is a divergent economic problem. It is obviously crucial in Jamaica that the Government there should keep their hands firmly on industrial development in that island.
It is the one source of investment in Jamaica which is bringing such quick results in raising the standard of living that it must be fostered at all costs to preserve social peace in that island through an advance in the standard of living. Investment in agriculture is not producing anything like the returns that investment in industry is producing. We could not have expected Jamaica to have gone in for a tight form of federation in which its industrial development was 891 controlled from Port-of-Spain, a thousand miles away.
The fourth point is the problem of divergent personalities in the whole area. This is a terrible tragedy. Those of us who know the eminent politicians in that area know them well enough to speak a little frankly and to say that part of the problem is their own fault. As has been said, if we could have had a little more frankness and more restraint in mutual exchanges of the future of the area, and a willingness to be in consultation, we could have saved a good deal of the terrible unhappiness which has been created in the last few months.
I should like to come to the main lesson for us and to where we went wrong in trying to handle this Federation. I want to concentrate on that. Here we were five years ago with a Federation in which we knew we had all these problems. The tendencies to diverge were greater than the tendencies to unite. The economic problems were crucial. We knew that the problems of personalities existed and needed careful handling. The great mistake we made in handling the Federation was in the form of top-level administration and representation which Britain sent out. In saying this I do not intend at all to criticise Lord Hailes, the Governor-General. We thought only of having the usual kind of Governor-General who is mainly a figure of ceremonial and splendour and who has to represent Her Majesty.
We never thought that such a Governor-General should be the tough go-getting, hail-fellow-well-met, working politician as opposed to an ex-Tory Chief Whip. I do not intend any criticism of Lord Hailes. He has fulfilled his job with great distinction; but we wanted in that job a different man with a different concept of the job.
We can learn this only in retrospect. The Governor-General should not have been called a Governor-General. He should have been called by some other name, and instead of carrying out the traditional functions of a Governor-General in that area he should have had a top-level economic staff of his own trying to see its way clear through the economic problems of the area and giving continual guidance to an emerging nation.
892 We should have had a top-level administrator whose job it would have been to be continually travelling and on speaking terms with the top-level politicians so that when divergences and silly criticisms among them arose they would have been turning to him for his efforts to heal the breaches and to pour oil on troubled waters. We should have had an administrative staff at the side of the Federal Cabinet looking to the problems which might arise instead of waiting until they arose and a crisis supervened. We in this country should have realised what a tough job this was and what a different type of man was needed.
Let me take two examples. If the position in the West Indies had been properly handled there would have been no simple announcement by Mr. Manley that he intended to hold a referendum. After all these years we had reached a stage when a statesman like Mr. Manley made an announcement "out of the blue" that he intended to have a referendum, without even consulting the Governor-General. It is ludicrous that after four years of federation that kind of thing could have happened. The Governor-General was presented in Port-of-Spain with a fait accompli. He was not told earlier that a referendum was to be held. This should never have happened.
Let us take another example of where we went wrong in handling things. What happened when the referendum was over? It was left to Professor Arthur Lewis to go off by plane to Port-of-Spain from Jamaica, saying that he was to have consultations—he hoped in the service of Sir Grantley Adams—to find out how the rump of the Federation could be rescued now that Jamaica had seceded. Why should it have been left to Professor Lewis as a form of private enterprise? This was a job for top-level administration to be guiding and looking ahead and to be saying, "One hope of federation has collapsed. Let us set our investigators going fast so as to find out what can be rescued." But there was nothing like that.
Professor Arthur Lewis conducted a very fine mission. I have read his report on the maintenance of the Federation. It is a first-class document. If anything could have saved what was left of the Federation, that would have done it. 893 Indeed, we have now reached the stage when I am fairly confident that, when we come to try to rescue a federation of the Eight, we shall be as dependent on that document as on any other. What a ridiculous situation.
Here we are, after five years, still learning the lessons and not yet having the sort of investigation, guidance and general direction in the affairs of the area which would give us our own proper basis of information and ability to guide and counsel through very difficult matters of State. It is so very wrong that we should be so left behind by events and have to try to make the best of every situation afterwards.
Look, again, how we have fallen behind in the matter of financial guarantees. One of the crucial factors in determining whether Trinidad continued with the remaining islands in some form of federation was the extent of financial guarantees in respect of the Leeward and Windward Islands. I put a Question to the Colonial Secretary asking whether he would give guarantees in respect of the Leewards and Windwards which would encourage Trinidad to lead a smaller federation. The Answer was, "We are saying nothing for the time being".
In the document of the People's National Movement giving its decision to end the Federation and opt out, one of the main clauses reads:And whereas no indication has yet been given by either the United Kingdom or the United States of the extent of financial assistance which will be provided over a number of years at least for the smaller Territories to make up for the deficiencies that are being left behind by centuries of maladministration and underdevelopment by the United Kingdom.In other words, one of the main planks in rejecting the continuance of federation is that no one had any idea of what guarantees we should give in the future in respect of the Leeward and Windward Islands.
I had not expected precise figures in pounds, shillings and pence; but, clearly, this was a crucial factor in determining Trinidad's decision. Again, we were left running behind the bus after it had driven away. We had to say that we would have given financial guarantees, as, of course, we have done. We are providing a lot of money now, but because we were not having the top-level guidance, direction and tactically-minded administration needed in the 894 area, a point was reached where our intentions were misunderstood.
§ Mr. Fisher
The hon. Gentleman is always very fair and knowledgeable in these matters. Will he be fair and recall that Dr. Eric Williams announced his decision on the very day—or was it the day after?—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State arrived in Port-of-Spain? If Dr. Williams really thought that it was worth discussing the financial details of what contribution we should make to make the remainder of the Federation led by Trinidad viable and effective, would it not have been more responsible on Dr. Williams' part at least to wait a few days and discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend, who was then in Port-of-Spain, instead of making the announcement unilaterally?
§ Mr. Chapman
I agree that that is a fair criticism. On the other hand, it does not absolve us. If we had been planning ahead, we should have seen that the absence of financial guarantees would become a crucial factor when the People's National Movement in Trinidad made up its mind and we should have made our position very clear earlier in order to remove any possible chance of misunderstanding.
When we think about the federation of the Eight, we must learn from these mistakes. When we create a federation of the Eight, as I think is inevitable and desirable, we must put out of our minds the idea of a Governor-General with top-level splendour and goodness knows what. We must have at the head of the federation, which will have even more formidable economic problems than the Federation we are dissolving, a go-getter, a politician, someone who has a foot in both administration and politics, someone like Sir Hugh Foot, who is now speaking for us at the United Nations, someone with a sense of mission who will go round the area, study its problems, have the economic analyses done, and then scour the world for economic aid in order to make the area viable within a reasonable time.
This is a type of personality we have had to use in other parts of the Commonwealth. We shall need such a man desperately here. Our experience of the break-up of the Federation shows that this is precisely the kind of person 895 who at all costs must be found when the new federation is created. He would not interfere with any federal Government. He will, if he is like Sir Hugh Foot, be able to work alongside them in a position of trust and mutual confidence beneficial to both sides.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) made two points about the future with which I cordially agree. He said that one can hope that in this area, with a longer period of growth, perhaps, a wider regional association will emerge. This is very important, and, of course, it is not out of the minds of West Indian politicians. Dr. Williams himself is known to be interested in some form of federation involving both British and non-British possessions in the area. For instance, Trinidad's economic links today are greater with Curaçao, Guadaloupe and Venezuela than with any of the British possessions in the area.
So it may well be that, with the urgency of the situation, with the leadership of men like Dr. Williams, and with a little respite from the personal bickerings of the last few years, the future will bring the possibility of a wider association in the area. I earnestly hope so. Indeed, I believe that this is the one hope we have for the future.
I agree with my hon. Friend also in his references to the possibility of interesting the United States and Canada in the economic development of the area, but I think that he may not, perhaps, be aware of how far such interest has already gone. In Jamaica at present huge amounts of American Government capital are being provided for pilot housing schemes and pilot water supply schemes and similar efforts on an impressive scale. I imagine that an American ambassador will be the first to be appointed to independent Jamaica; the Americans are moving very quickly because they know of their economic interest there. American capital is flowing in quite rapidly. Kennedy Peace Corps personnel are due in Jamaica to help in various measures of social development there.
Canadian capital, too, is flowing in. A large part of Jamaica's banking system is dependent on Canadian banks, and the same applies to her bauxite 896 industry. Canadian capital is flowing, and businessmen are now going to Jamaica and making glowing speeches about the stability of the country and the possibility of even more Canadian capital for development.
Therefore, what we have to do is not so much to tell America and Canada to do something but to encourage the very rapid flow which has already started. I do not object to American capital as some of my hon. Friends do. I think that the chances of obtaining United States capital are far greater than the chances of obtaining Canadian capital on the scale which is needed, and we must be very happy that the United States is taking such a strong interest in the whole area.
The Bill is an unhappy necessity. As I have tried to explain, I fully understand Trinidad's decision, under its very able Premier, to have nothing to do with the rump of the Federation. I fully concede that Jamaica is perfectly entitled to have made her decision. I simply say again to West Indian politicians that it is now no good asking us to try to force either of those islands into a federation.
Let time go by for a little while. Let us attempt federation for the eight islands and preserve common services as far as we can. Above all, let us have more and more economic plans on the lines of the magnificent plans in Trinidad and the new ten-year plan in Jamaica so that we can see the future mapped out. Let us have a more conscious sense of the British rôle in preserving what we have and in developing it again into a proper federation. Our mistake has been that we have not set about the task consciously enough in the past and that we have not sent out the right men to carry it out.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), in the closing sentences of his speech, counselled caution in proceeding with a federation of the Eight. Earlier, he dealt mainly with what I would call the big-part characters in the drama rather than the small-part characters, the eight island units. It is to the future of the eight island units that 897 I wish to address my remarks, particularly to the question of federation there, and to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to exercise the utmost caution in going ahead with any new organisation for what is left of the previous Federation.
In his first statement about this matter to the House on 6th February, my right hon. Friend said that this subject needed more thought and study, and that he intended to give it. He said that, in the meantime, as he repeated today and as we see in the Bill, there was to be an interim authority for the common services. Between that first statement in February and the present time, there has been the meeting of the Chief Ministers of the Eight in Barbados, which lasted from 26th February to 3rd March. My right hon. Friend touched on this today and said that he had received a report from that conference, but he did not give the House much detail about the report he had received or the decisions which had been made at the conference.
I can only quote from The Times report, dated 5th March, of what was decided there. I understand that the conference decided that there should be a new Federal Government whichwould be set up by an interim Federal Council which would create a Civil Service and take over from the individual territories those services which have been allocated to the Federal Government. A Governor-General would be appointed and the interim Federal Council would appoint an interim Federal Prime Minister. General elections would be held within a year of the creation of the new Federation, after which the Prime Minister and the Cabinet would be chosen in the usual way provided in the constitution.I warn my right hon. Friend not to accept recommendations as firm as that at this stage. I fear that it might mean another abortive federation if we hurry into a new organisation so quickly. I say that for this reason. I do not believe that the conference of Chief Ministers in Barbados was truly representative. It is true that it was made up of the delegate members of the Governments of the little Eight, but, on the other hand, this Jamaica referendum was against the expectation of the Jamaican Government. I am not satisfied that the Ministers who were present at the conference really represented the feelings of the people in the eight States.
898 To justify the warning that I give to my right hon. Friend, I wish to give some facts concerning one of the Eight, Antigua. The position there is not unrelated to the position in other islands, particularly in Barbados. The Under-Secretary of State will remember that on occasions I have asked Questions in the House about Antigua. In Antigua and Barbuda there are 58,000 people. It has been said before in this debate that it seems a little incongruous to us here that a population little larger than that of a small urban district has all the panoply of government—a Governor, a Legislation Council, a Chief Minister, and so on. But that type of constitution is common to the Eight, and it is upon Governments and communities of that size and structure that the future of the Eight depends.
Before any new organisation is set up we should ensure that the system of government and the actual government of these units are satisfactory. My complaints in the House about the Government of Antigua, for example, have been that there has had to be retrospective and indemnifying legislation for things unlawfully done in the Colony and that there has been the withholding of compensation money for years after the compulsory acquisition of property.
I have here three Ordinances produced in January, 1962, whitewashing retrospectively illegal spending by the Government of Antigua over the years 1958, 1959 and 1960, involving no less than over 1 million dollars. The men who committed these blunders of government went to the conference in Barbados representing the people of Antigua and purported to commit those people to this Federal Council idea about which the report in The Times that I have quoted tells us.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was, I think, informed by the substantial Opposition Party in Antigua as long ago as September, 1961, and in more detail in November, 1961, of the opposition against immediately rushing headlong into a further federation before the matter had been fully considered. I wish to quote my right hon. Friend's reply to that quite constructive proposition put to him by the Opposition Party in that small island. He said:In reply to your letter of"—899 so-and-so—on the question of federation, I am directed to inform you that Antigua's relationship with other territories in the West Indies now or in the future is a matter which will be considered by the Government consisting of the duly elected representatives of the people.If it is a Parliamentary word to use, I would say that that is humbug, for two reasons. First, the break-up of the Federation was due to Jamaica's referendum and not to the voice of the Government elected by the people. Secondly, I do not believe that the existing Governments in a certain number of the little Eight are representative of the people. Certainly, it is not in Antigua. In that island it is a Government which is entirely in the pocket of one trade union, the Antigua Trades and Labour Union.
I believe that this is not an unusual set-up in these small States. I am told that the Chief Minister of the Government there is the president of that trade union, that three of his Ministers are vice-presidents of that trade union, that the Industrial Development Board is presided over by a union member, that three other Ministers and all elected members of the Legislative Council are executive members of that union, and that the Speaker himself is not only an executive member of the union, but is also a member of the union's central political committee.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
Is that surprising in view of the fact that there is only a very small population and that most of the males in the population belong to that trade union? Is it not, therefore, inevitable?
§ Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)
Does not the hon. Member agree that even the British Government have their alliances?
§ Mr. Page
And the Opposition, too.
But I think that there is a feeling that Ministers should be independent of other organisations and other loyalties. I ask my right hon. Friend to inquire into this. I ask him to inquire also how 900 long ago the electoral roll was revised in these eight States, to inquire into the antecedents of some of the presiding officers at the poll at the last elections and to inquire into nepotism generally in the Government there.
§ Mr. Page
Indeed, I am criticising the Government for allowing, through the Administrator, this sort of thing to happen. If this is general in all eight States I feel that my right hon. Friend is unwise to accept the recent Barbados conference, in February and March, un-questioningly as being a democratic expression of opinion in these eight States. In Antigua, there have been meetings over the past six months attended by 4,000 to 5,000 people—the kind of figure which makes us look with covetous eyes when we represent constituencies fax bigger than the 58,000 population of Antigua.
These meetings have not just been anti-federation, but have supported practical proposals put forward as an alternative, namely, that before going into federation again what is needed is a greater degree of economic prosperity and stability in each unit. These islands are grant-aided, at present through the Federation, although it comes back on the British taxpayer in the end. It would be unfortunate if some of that revenue and the revenue of the small units themselves were drained away unnecessarily into a federal council at present.
Before further federation there should be greater advance in democratic and constitutional government and there should be a greater recognition of the independence of Ministers, in the small units, before plunging further into experiments in federation after the collapse of the present Federation. The hon. Member for Northfield stressed the need for some economic planning committee. He was thinking of one over the whole of the West Indies.
§ Mr. Page
I think, too, that an economic planning unit is necessary for the little Eight to find out where they have been going wrong economically up to the present, and there is a need for a 901 constitutional and administrative inspectorate to guide them in the constitutional conduct of government.
Once the House passes the Bill, are we to have another opportunity before my right hon. Friend presents the House with a fait accompli on the new organisation? I fear that his mention of a conference in July, coupled with the procedure which can be carried out by Order in Council under this Bill, means that unless we give a warning now the House will be presented with a fait accompli along these lines, "Here is a constitution for a new organisation, here is the Order in Council, you must pass it or else—" I hope that we shall not be presented with that. I fear that if we are presented with a organisation in that way there will be a repetition of the present abortive federation.
We must admit that it has been something of a smudge on this country's reputation of being able to lead colonial countries to independent nationhood that we have had to dissolve this Federation. That is important, but perhaps not as important as that we must prevent the remaining eight from losing faith in us and, if I may put it in the vernacular, thinking that we have not got a clue, and, therefore, turning elsewhere for guidance in their affairs.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) took some exception to the activities of certain trade unions and made some rather grave charges of nepotism against the Government of Antigua. I am not cognisant of the details of Antigua politics, but if people have only one or two industries I should not have thought it wrong for the members of the trade unions representing those industries to be in their Government. It seems to me a fairly reasonable thing, and I should be very much surprised if they were not in the Government. There have been charges of nepotism even in this country from time to time, and I do not think it altogether fair to point to Antigua as being the sole example.
I do not know whether I dare intervene in the debate, because I am about the first hon. Member who cannot begin by saying, "When I was last in Port-of-Spain", or "When I was last in 902 Kingston". I have not had the privilege of going to the West Indies, although I have many West Indian friends from Sir Grantley Adams downwards and I care deeply for them and for what they are doing.
In this funeral oration, as it appears to be, I should like to sound one note of optimism. In Rhodesia we saw someone trying to force a federation upon people who did not want it and refusing to take a vote of the whole population to ascertain their wishes. But here we have people going to the extreme of democracy and asking for a plebiscite. What could be more democratic? Is it not a good thing that the people of the West Indies, who have been trained by us in democracy, should be over-careful in asking for a plebiscite even though the decision goes against what they themselves want to happen? It is perhaps a good thing to compare Sir Roy Welensky and his activities in Rhodesia with the fine action which has been taken by such men as Sir Grantley Adams and Mr. Norman Manley, who have a record as democrats and as socialists and who are showing what social democrats can do in one of the territories for which, up to now, we have been responsible.
I welcome what I understood the Colonial Secretary said—that we intend to safeguard the pensions of all those people who have been serving in the Federation. I hope that I was right. It is most important that they should be safeguarded. It is bad enough for people in the Government, such as Sir Grantley Adams and others, suddenly to find themselves without a Federal Government, it would be terrible if the officials who had been working there were suddenly deprived of a living and had no adequate pension. But I understand that provision is to be made for them, and I hope that this will be confirmed by the Under-Secretary. We have had a great deal of trouble recently about people in the Colonial Service who have found themselves suddenly without work and without pensions. I hope that that will not be repeated in the case of the Federation—owing, I agree, to circumstances quite outside our control.
I hope, too, that it will be possible for the West Indies to do what East Africa is doing, and that is to have common services as far as possible without 903 Federation. If they do not want to have Federation, that is their own affair; we think it is unfortunate, but if they do not want it, let them at least have common services. When I was in Ghana recently, I was interested to find that a leading civil servant had gone from there to be the chief civil servant of the East Africa High Commission. Such people are doing a very fine job there. I hope that something like that may be arranged in order to salvage what is left of the Federation, which all of us very much regret is disappearing.
I hope that one of the things salvaged will be the university. It would be most unfortunate if it were to suffer as the result of the break-up of the Federation. There are also many other things, including the West Indies Regiment, which we do not want to see suffer. But the university, above all things, must be kept in being by some method in spite of the break-up of the Federation.
I want to say a few words about the economic position. The individual countries which will be left after the Federation has broken up will need a great deal of help from us in the way of equipment, machinery, technicians, capital and, above all, markets. All those are things which we can give them, and I hope that we will. Hon. Members have talked about what can be done by the United States. I hope that the United States and Canada will do much, but let us not forget that the task is primarily ours. It is we who are responsible for the fact that the West Indies population is there now. I hope that we shall do everything possible to supply those countries with the capital and the markets which they need.
If I may make one brief and perhaps slightly controversial point, the markets were originally supplied by the sugar agreement made by the Labour Government, which gave a guaranteed price for sugar. That was of tremendous value to the West Indies in those days. The agreement was negotiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones). I hope that we shall be able to give those countries guaranteed markets wherever possible for the things they want to sell, for only if they have them will they succeed in building up a good economic structure. I hope 904 now that we shall give them the equipment, the machinery and the technicians that they need.
One hon. Member said that the Americans had sent their Peace Corps there. That is all very well. I do not want to say anything against the Peace Corps, but we had our own "Peace Corps" which we sent out to various colonies long before President Kennedy ever thought of his Peace Corps. I hope that it will do some useful work, but we do not want to depend entirely on Mr. Kennedy's Peace Corps. We must depend on our own efforts in helping these people even after they have—as we think, wrongly—broken up their Federation.
I hope that by doing this we shall in some small measure wipe out the harm that has been done in Jamaica and the West Indies generally by the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. Naturally, it would be out of order for me to discuss that, and I will merely say that it has given some people there the feeling that we do not care quite as much as they hoped we did for the West Indies. We can wipe that feeling out if we show that we intend to help these countries in every possible way to build up their economic future now when they are going on their own. All of them need our help; I hope that all of them will get it.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
I hope that the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) will forgive me if I do not refer to his speech immediately, although I hope to come back to the question of trade later in my remarks.
I want to take the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) as the starting point for mine. I could not agree with him more when he says that the tragedy of the situation today is that we are debating, apparently, the demise of a Federation Which ought not to be on its death-bed if the policies pursued, first, by Her Majesty's Government in this country and, secondly, by representatives of the West Indies had been attuned to the needs of the moment.
Having launched a federation, as in Central Africa, we have to a certain extent, it seems to me, lost interest and 905 failed to keep up the momentum which existed at the birth in each case. It is this which causes me to have profound doubts about the direction, the purpose and the sense of purpose of Her Majesty's Government colonial policy.
To launch a federation and then in substance do little about it afterwards is to ask for disaster; and I believe that disaster is with us in some small way today. Whether one is talking about Central Africa or the West Indies, the enthusiasm of the Government is noticeable by its absence. In the case of the West Indies, as the right hon. Gentleman has just said, we have also had the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, with all the animosities and tensions that that is going to create and the breakdown of loyalty which has been the automatic and just due between the two parts of the world—the United Kingdom and the West Indies.
Now we have this hurried, this unwanted and, what I believe could have been, this unnecessary Bill. Hurried? What was the rush? Why was there no time for second thoughts after the Jamaica referendum? Surely it might have been possible, either earlier, in the autumn of last year, or later, in the early months of this year, to find some way of calling together a federal review conference to discuss the possibility in the event of break-up of at least maintaining the Federation in a new form rather than automatically assuming that break-up should come.
Unwanted? I doubt whether the Federal Government would say that this is a wanted Bill. Surely Her Majesty's Government, in constitutional form, should have some cause to take note of Federal Government opinion rather than just the opinion of one of the member territories. An unnecessary Bill? What effort was made before the Jamaica referendum and afterwards substantially to keep the Federation in being?
Here I return to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Northfield. There was a momentum of some proportion at the time that the Federation was created but it was a momentum which was dissipated, in part, I agree, by the jealousies, personalities and antagonisms of the prominent politicians 906 involved in that part of the world. But if there had been some drive towards unity created by this country, those problems could have been overcome.
Those who have made any study at all of federations know perfectly well that it is in the formative years that one has difficulty in holding them together. Automatically, those who have been large and important politicians in perhaps small or minor islands or States suddenly find that the depth of the water in which they are swimming has changed and that the currents have become stronger. There is all the more need, therefore, that the parent authority—the United Kingdom Government—should provide the outward and visible signs of support for a federation and see it through its difficult formative years.
It is the absence of a momentum for federation in the months which have gone and in the way the Bill has been presented both to the Federal Prime Minister and to his Government and to this House that some of us wish to criticise. What advice was given to the Jamaica Government when they decided on a referendum? Were they informed that there was no way of escaping from the Federation within the terms of the Constitution?
§ Mr. Williams
My hon. Friend says that they were never asked, and I agree with him. However, after they had announced that they were going to hold a referendum, were they informed that within the terms of the Constitution there was no escape clause? If they had been, then the ground would have been prepared for the holding of a federal review conference. Although Jamaica might have said that it did not wish to remain in the existing Federation, the ground would have been prepared for saying, "Let us reconstitute the Federation", and for keeping the momentum of federation together. The Government could have said that, but instead they came to the conclusion that Parliament would meekly make legal an act which, when it was carried out, was illegal.
§ Mr. Chapman
Is not the true explanation that contact between Mr. Manley and members of the Federal Government was not sufficiently developed, and that 907 Mr. Manley would never have made such an announcement without proper consultation had there been close enough contact?
§ Mr. Williams
I agree. This situation should never have arisen, but as it has arisen it is reasonable to have expected a Government which, in name at any rate, believed in federation, to have done more to try to keep it together. If the Federation had then still gone wrong, the ground would have been prepared for further consultation to keep a reconstituted federation together.
Her Majesty's Government must realise that it is their lack of faith and of constancy that is distressing some of their supporters. I do not believe that many Government supporters would have been influenced at Orpington by the halting and unnecessary nature of this Bill, but support cannot easily be given to a Government who so easily give up a commitment of federation. Why was there no constitutional conference? Why has not a way been found of giving a chance for second thoughts in Jamaica? Why was so little done to maintain the momentum of the Federation and then to keep it together? This poor, miserable little Bill personifies the purpose of this Government in great affairs.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I do not want to cover ground which has already been covered in this quite comprehensive debate, but I would like to say that, like other hon. Members, I deplore the Bill and I deplore the constitutional antagonisms out of which it has arisen. It is a great pity that the inhabitants of those charming islands were unable to agree to federate.
It seems to me that they have as many reasons for federation, for close association—constitutional and otherwise—as could be desired. They have similarities of race and language, and a common strategic interest, which is a very important consideration. They have similarities in their ways of life and in their social customs. It seems a thousand pities that, having been presented with federation, they have rejected it and now encounter difficulties as a result of which this Bill is presented to the House.
908 Arising out of that, there are certain questions I wish to ask, and I hope that I shall be given a reply. Were the West Indies consulted about the drafting of this Bill? Were they consulted about the difficulties this Bill is designed to resolve? Were they shown a draft of the Bill? If they were, what suggestions did they make upon it? What opportunities were they given of trying to resolve the difficulties which this Bill is designed to deal with? Were any conferences held by the leaders of political thought in these islands to resolve the difficulties? If so, what was the result? If no conferences were held, is it too late to hold one in order to obviate the difficulties with which this Bill is designed to deal? Is it too late to encourage the kind of association between the various islands which federation would have brought about?
I deplore this Bill. I think that it is unnecessary and that it is at any rate premature. I submit that before final decisions are reached upon it the citizens of the West Indies and the great men of those islands should be given a further opportunity of resolving the difficulties which the Bill is designed to deal with. I do not want to deal now with Committee points, but I would like an explanation of Clause 4 (6) which deals with the West Indian Court of Appeal. Formerly, the ultimate court of appeal for justiciable matters arising was the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Its jurisdiction was withdrawn and a supreme court was set up for the islands.
§ Mr. Graham Page
The hon. and learned Gentleman gave the House to understand that the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council had been withdrawn when the Court of Appeal was set up. That was not so. There is still an appeal to the Judicial Committee from the Court of Appeal.
§ Mr. Hughes
Clause 4 gives Her Majesty power… to establish common courts for West Indian Colonies.Subsection (6) reads:The Court of Appeal established by the West Indian Court of Appeal Act, 1919, is hereby dissolved".If that jurisdiction is to be withdrawn, what is to be the ultimate jurisdiction in the West Indies? I ask the Secretary of State to deal with that point. He 909 did not do so when I intervened in his speech to ask him.
The House is aware that there are great men in these islands. I submit that before a final decision is reached upon this Bill they should be called together in conference and given an opportunity of resolving the questions which this Bill is designed to deal with. I do not propose to cover any of the points already raised in this debate, but there is a strong contrast between this Government's way of dealing with constitutional difficulties in the West Indies and the manner of previous Governments in dealing with constitutional difficulties in other parts of the Colonial Empire and Commonwealth. I refer to the American colonies, Canada, India, Ireland and other parts of the Colonial Empire, the constitutional difficulties in which were happily resolved by other Governments.
This method of dealing with the difficulties in the West Indies symbolises the most abject and ignominious failure in the history of the British Empire and British Commonwealth. The House should think twice before passing the Bill, at any rate in its present form. No doubt attempts will be made to improve it in Committee. I hope that we shall be able to improve it in a way consistent with the great history of the British Empire and the British Commonwealth so that it emerges as an instrument of happiness for the people of the West Indies.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) has glossed over many of the difficulties which face the inhabitants of the West Indian islands. There has been no doubt in the mind of any hon. Member who has spoken in the debate that the political leaders of the islands, whatever may have been their utterances in their own islands for electoral reasons, fully understand the importance and significance of the Federation. But we are up against a far greater understanding of the problems of federation among the electors of the islands. I think that we were all amazed that the Jamaican referendum was such a close-run thing, especially when it is realised that very few members of the electorate of the island of Jamaica manage to see politi- 910 cally beyond their own island problems, let alone the problems of federation, with a capital a thousand miles from Jamaica. I do not think that the hon. and learned Member was very fair when he tried to gloss over the difficulties. To say, as he said, that there are similarities of race in the islands is to forget that there is a terrific problem among the negroes and the West Indians and all the other races there. It is nothing like as simple as the hon. and learned Member would have us believe.
I should be fascinated to know what my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) meant when he spoke of a limited disaster. It is hardly a disaster if it can be limited.
In all matters connected with the West Indies we have to face the fact that for the last 500 years everybody has had great hopes for these islands, but they have always been rather disappointed in the first instance. The Spaniards did not find the gold and silver which they expected to find there. The early settlers did not find that it was as easy to make a profit from the land as they had hoped. In fact, people have survived after the first enthusiastic rush only by settling down to some serious hard work and reorganisation of the agriculture and economies of the islands on a far less profitable basis than they first expected.
I do not see why we should expect in the twentieth century that the new political ideas should get off to any better start or be any more successful than the original economic hopes of the people who first went to these islands. I believe that there will be more attempts at federation after further groundwork and after a period of probably another twenty years' development in the islands. I believe that in time we will see yet another federation in the islands in exactly the same way as many of the other developments have taken time to come about.
But it is wrong fox the House to hold out much hope—as has been suggested by The Times and some other newspapers—of some sort of Common Market federation within the West Indies. The affinity of interest of the British Colonies with the French and Dutch and American colonies in that part of the world—and Puerto Rico is shortly to become another State of the United States rather than 911 part of any West Indian Federation—is nothing like so close as their affinity of interest with other British possessions in that part of the world.
The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) spoke about the chance of a larger federation in this part of the world. After the next general election in the Bahamas, on a full franchise, there is no doubt but that the Government there will be much more in sympathy with other Governments in the West Indian islands. The Bahamas with 100,000 people and British Guiana with 500,000 people and British Honduras with another 100,000 could join to make up an Atlantic Federation of some 4 million. That is nearly a viable unit by modern standards of something like the size of Denmark. That would be a country with some hope of standing up independently.
That is a much better starter for the future than any idea of a Common Market federation. The Dutch and French islands may wish to join a strong British federation like that, but unless we can achieve some unity with other British Colonies in that part of the world, with the other orphans of British sea power, I do not believe that we will achieve that strength of political and economic unity which will attract the French and Dutch colonies, which are extremely prosperous, into our own federation.
Quite rightly we are today dealing in particular with what some hon. Members have called the "little Eight". That is rather simplifying the problem, for the little Eight really represent some 22 small islands which are left in the eight unit governments of the surviving Colonies.
The hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) and others have suggested that Trinidad might be persuaded to look towards the nearby Windward Islands. The same attitude has been shown towards Tobago. But I am not at all certain that it would be to the advantage of the Windward Islands to rush into a federation with Trinidad. One contribution which Tobago makes to Trinidad is that it produces a large amount of much needed labour. A terrific economic expansion is going on in Trinidad, but in Tobago there is no sign of the prosperity to be seen in Trinidad. About 37,000 young people go from Tobago to 912 work in Trinidad and there is not a great deal of economic expansion going on in Tobago.
§ Mr. Chapman
The hon. Member is being rather unfair. Revenue in Tobago is only 2 million dollars a year, but the amount spent by Trinidad in the island is 9 million dollars. It is unfair to hint that in some way Trinidad is not spending a fair amount of money on Tobago.
§ Mr. Kimball
It is a matter of the way the money is spent in Tobago. The developments being encouraged there are not especially connected with its agriculture but rather on government, administration and forms of other work. I do not believe that the development which is going on in Tobago can be undertaken as well by the Trinidad Government as by the British Administration.
I was especially glad when my right hon. Friend said that the colonial governments which are left will receive grants in aid in some form or another. I understood him to say that if we were to spend this money, we ought to have a say in exactly how it is spent. I am certain that we in this country can do an enormous amount to stimulate the economic development of the remaining eight Colonies with a population of just over half a million. The British taxpayer will have to make grants in aid to these eight Colonies for some time to ensure that a decent economic development takes place in the hope that we may be able to make them into such a viable economic unit that Jamaica and Trinidad and the two islands which have left the Federation already will once again, perhaps in about twenty years, wish to return to the Federation with them.
It is perfectly possible to achieve a very large economic expansion in these eight islands. It can be done by a tremendous expansion in their agriculture, with the exception of Barbados, where there is such an enormous population that not much more can be done with the development of agriculture.
I also believe that much more could be done to develop the tourist trade of these islands. We have only to look at the tourist trade of the Bahamas to see what it means to them. It is their principal industry. But the West Indian islands are far more attractive than any Bahaman island; they have mountains 913 and far more attractive scenery than the flat coral reefs of the Bahamas Bank.
I have three constructive suggestions to make to my right hon. Friend in relation to the expansion of agricultural services. First, the time has come to separate the advisory services from the grant-paying services. It is no good having the same person telling a planter that his cocoa trees are fifteen years old and must go, and then coming back in the autumn and paying out the grant. We must separate the financial and grant-paying services from the advisory services.
It is a fair criticism to say that in these islands there is a tendency for the Government demonstration farms to be show pieces. I am not decrying the tremendous enthusiasm and hard work of the farm managers, but there is some element of the feeling that "Our demonstration farms have a larger range of services than yours, or employ more people, or have a bigger acreage," and not enough attention is paid to teaching and to spreading the knowledge gained on these demonstration farms.
In the islands for which we are still responsible I should like to see a system by which specific smallholders were asked to run their farms according to a pattern set down by the British administrator or agricultural adviser. I am certain that when other smallholders saw these people, on their own account, carrying out the instructions given by demonstration farms and making a profit, they would quickly catch on and follow the new methods to a much greater extent than they do now, with the Government demonstration farms being run as show pieces.
In most of the small islands the directors of agriculture are also responsible for agricultural education in the schools. They all say that there is a tremendous reluctance on the part of the education authorities to take any interest in day release schemes or any form of agricultural education for the children, many of whom will go back to their families as smallholders. There is tremendous possibility in expanding the horticultural industry especially to meet the demands of the tourist trade. We can get nothing but tinned vegetables in these islands. The land and climate is suitable. All that is lacking is the incentive.
914 The tourist industry in the remaining eight islands can be immensely developed, but if we are to have a further development of that industry in the islands for which we are responsible we must give some definite guarantee to future developers. It is not a question of building hotels and developing the tourist trade as in Jamaica; in Jamaica there is electricity and there are roads and main water supplies. Anybody building a hotel or developing a beach or a resort in one of the smaller islands must provide his own private capital and do a tremendous amount of work to build the roads and lay on the water supplies, and provide all the normal facilities available in the larger islands. If we expect people to spend extra money in order to expand the tourist trade in the twenty-two remaining islands of the little Eight, I hope that we shall be able to provide security and encouragement for future capital development.
By expanding the agriculture industry in the little Eight we increase their buying power and their whole prosperity. I know that what I have said about the development of the tourist trade and of agriculture does not apply to Barbados, but that is one island in the little Eight which has a large surplus population. It is the largest island, and it has almost 250,000 people. If we increase the buying power and economic viability of the remaining seven islands Barbados may well become the centre to which manufacturing industries will come because of the labour available there, even though its geographical situation is not all that it might be.
Unlike many hon. Members who have spoken, I do not regard this as a funeral oration or a sad occasion. I regard it as one of the political knocks of economic and political development which the West Indies have had in the last 500 years. I still believe that we shall eventually see the formation of a federation. I hope that it will be a viable federation, of 4 million people, incorporating the whole of the North and South Atlantic possessions of the British Commonwealth.
§ 6 45 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
I am almost at the end of the queue of melancholy mourners over the impending 915 interment of the Federation. Strangely enough, however, to some extent I share the mood of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball). I do not believe that this is the final catastrophe. In the days to come we must expect the resurrection of the corpse that is to be buried in the near future.
Unlike some of my hon. Friends, I do not altogether share in the criticism of the Government. One of my hon. Friends suggested that had there been not necessarily a different Governor-General but a different functionary with wider terms of reference he might have prevented this misfortune from occurring. I do not agree. The responsibility for the end of federation lies mainly, if not exclusively, upon the shoulders of the Caribbean peoples. Why should we always assume that the responsibility for misfortune is due to statesmen or politicians in this country? We have certainly had our share of responsibility in the past, and we should be blamed where it is fair to blame us. But if we are to vest in other peoples the responsibility of running their own affairs, it works both ways; we must vest them also with responsibility when there is a collapse, an accident or a misfortune.
I admit that the demise of the Federation was not altogether unexpected for me. The Federation was a very valiant attempt to try to associate together a number of very scattered islands, with no contiguity between them. This was not an insuperable difficulty, but it was nevertheless a very real one.
I have a slight knowledge of the West Indies, although I do not have as much as many of my hon. Friends, and I would say that apart from the geographical impediment there axe two basic reasons for the collapse of the Federation. First, in recent years there has been no development of a Carribbean consciousness as distinct from a local island consciousness. In my brief visit to the islands I was struck by the fact that the people of one island—numbering only a few thousand—were more conscious of belinging to that island than of belonging to a wider community, stretching perhaps to more than 1,000 miles away. Until this Caribbean consciousness develops, federation is liable to be largely a fiction.
916 Secondly—and reference has already been made to this—a great deal of internal political tension exists. It is a question of human frailties. In some measure, these have been responsible for the failure of Federation. Let us suppose that Mr. Norman Manley had not succeeded in defeating what is somewhat misleadingly called the Jamaican Labour Party, led by Sir Alexander Bustamante. Let us suppose that Mr. Norman Manley had lost the election and that Sir Alexander had been Premier instead. It is likely that the whole circumstances would have altered. Instead of Sir Alexander campaigning so vigorously and vehemently as he did against Mr. Norman Manley, we might have found him espousing the cause of Federation. An intense rivalry exists between these two personalities and between their respective parties.
One hon. Member opposite expressed rather stringent criticism of the fact that on one island there was a close association between the trade unions and the administrators. That criticism could also be applied to Jamaica. Is it not true that the Jamaican Labour Party is closely associated not so much with the trade unions as with the employers' associations? There is this constant association between economic interests on the one hand and political convictions on the other—a situation not unknown in this House, on both sides. One cannot be surprised by that. Therefore, one cannot be surprised that in small islands with populations of 58,000, of whom 30,000 or less are really adults, and which obviously have only a small section with the aptitude, the opportunity or the training to take part in public work, there should be coincidence between economic interests on the one hand and political activity on the other. In respect of the island to which the hon. Member referred, the only thing he seemed to regret was that the interests were trade union interests. If they had been of a different character I am sure he would not have been so alarmed.
I have referred to the relationship between the two parties in Jamaica, and the fact that the referendum was lost because of the hostility of Sir Alexander Bustamante and because he exploited a political situation, as indeed politicians often do. It is because of that that 917 undoubtedly, by a small majority, the citizens of Jamaica registered a negative rather than a positive vote.
I now go to the other end of the Caribbean to Trinidad. Long before the referendum in Jamaica, Dr. Eric Williams and other members of his party were becoming increasingly critical of the very idea of Federation. It is my belief that here again we had what I would call human frailty on the part of Mr. Eric Williams. In many respects I greatly admire him. I have met and talked with him several times. We have in his case again, for deep conscious or unconscious reasons, hostility to the Federation which, in my view, would inevitably have led to its disintegration, even if the referendum in Jamaica had gone the other way. Mr. Williams, Sir Grantley Adams and Mr. Norman Manley did not see eye to eye at all. They had different judgments as to what Federation should be.
Do not let us be too mealy-mouthed about this. Do not let us be too humble in the Uriah Heep style and take to ourselves all the blame for this misfortune. The misfortune must be placed, I repeat, on the backs of the people of the West Indies themselves. If they had had ampler judgment and more perspective, I think that they would have come to a very different conclusion. If they had been more rational they would have realised theoretically the great advantage that Federation would bring them in the course of time. I say "in the course of time" because my experience was that many did not see any particular economic advantage from the Federation. They did not see beyond the immediate moment. Contrary to our frequent assumption that people are rational in their judgment, often they are nothing of the kind. They are impelled by emotions, fears, apprehensions and traditions. Reason, although it plays a little part, is a flickering flame that can easily be blown out.
On the other hand, this does not mean that Federation is not possible in some other form. Mr. Williams has made clear that he is in favour of federation, but that he wanted a wider federation—a federation to include not only those areas and places still in the 918 British orbit but others as well. I think this would involve psychological difficulties. But, be that as it may, he himself was in favour of the principle of federation as everyone must be if he looks at the matter objectively. Surely, it is absurd that there should be ten main or thirty larger or smaller islands in the British sphere of influence, and others in other national spheres of influence and that all of these should be in separate categories. Theoretically, obviously, there ought to be federation for their own economic and political good. But the time when that will be achieved will evidently not be yet. Therefore, I join with my hon. Friend opposite—if I may call them my hon. Friends on this occasion—in saying that we must look hopefully to the future. We must look forward to the time when out of the present disaster the people of Jamaica will develop a little more reasonable balance and judgment.
Meanwhile, something has to be done for these islands which are left in a very difficult economic position. If it is asked whether they will survive the answer is that they will survive, because they have survived already. They have survived for hundreds of years. But another question is: how will they survive? They will survive, but they may only just do so. Even with a high infant mortality rate and a high adult mortality rate and even if there were no hospitals or schools they would still survive. But it would be just human survival and that is about all. The whole problem is not only that of physical survival. They must develop their lives so that they have some kind of mental and physical fulfilment.
I cannot see this happening for many years to come unless this country in particular goes to the aid of these small economically unviable islands and encourages them economically for a period of years. That means that we shall have to accept our responsibilities for the human beings in these eight islands as much as we accept responsibility for human beings in this island we call England.
Not only must there be considerable economic and financial aid from this country but from other countries too—but starting in this country—to these eight islands. I hope fervently that the population will not threaten to increase 919 as rapidly as it has increased in Jamaica during the last few years. Everyone knows that Jamaica is bursting at the seams.
One reason why we have the overflow of its population coming here is because, although the infant and adult mortality rates have been reduced, there has been no corresponding reduction in the birth rate. The result is that even if one poured into Jamaica more capital than is being poured in at present, and even if there were more encouragement and a more rapid economic development for Jamaica alone, it could not absorb the whole of the present population. Some of that population must go elsewhere. This applies to a less degree but still seriously so to other islands. If in those islands there is an extension of medical and sanitary provisions and similar means of saving human life, undoubtedly the economic position could become much more acute. Therefore, I express the earnest hope that the population will not increase as rapidly as it has been increasing, and as it will increase unless some measures are taken.
Professor Lewis himself indicated clearly that if certain stringent economies were applied to these islands they could just survive. That would include the sweeping away and pruning of all that is not absolutely necessary. Were that done, the islands could "tick over", as they are doing today. There is, I repeat, no question of the islands surviving, for they have survived up to now. The question is whether we, under those unfortunate circumstances, can assist them economically and physically to survive above the mere subsistence level. I say again that Mr. Norman Manley, Sir Alexander Bustamente, Dr. Eric Williams, Sir Grantley Adams and others who are now courageously accepting responsibility for leading their people forward are henceforth responsible rather than ourselves. Had there been a different Governor-General I do not believe that it would have made any difference. On the contrary, I believe that had the Governor-General or someone like him been given greater powers or other directives, it might have produced a reaction against this country. It might have led to a suspicion that the Governor-General had an axe to 920 grind. It is far better to let people work out their own salvation, even though they make mistakes; and here I think that a great mistake will be made on our part if we are bitter or over-critical of them. They have to work out their own salvation, although I profoundly regret that the brave venture of the Federation had to come to an end. Nevertheless, there is still hope that out of it will arise wisdom. Meanwhile, let us make quite sure that we accept our moral responsibility for the human beings who will be still in our charge.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Studholme (Tavistock)
I am sorry that I was not present at the beginning of the debate and, that being so, I feel apologetic about intervening now. I decided to speak only because of something which was said by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman). May I first express my agreement with the extremely wise and sensible speech of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen)? I agree with everything that the hon. Member said.
Today we must all feel sad that we are discussing the winding up of this Federation. With my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) and the hon. Member for Leyton, I hope that we shall see another federation emerge. It was a great ideal which was killed by two things. One was the great distance between the islands, particularly the main islands, and the other was the "parish pump" outlook—in other words, local feelings, jealousies and personalities. I was lucky to be able to go to that lovely part of the world as a member of a delegation with the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), to present a mace to the Federal Parliament. I remember the speeches that were made then and the bright hopes which were held at that time, and it makes one very sad to think that the project has crumbled away.
The hon. Member for Northfield said that he was not criticising the Governor-General. But if it was praise which he was expressing it was very faint praise. The hon. Gentleman said that it would have been better to send a politician and a man who would do the job of knitting the people together. I do not think that anyone could accuse Lord Hailes of not being a political animal. Lord Hailes 921 has had a wide and long political experience and he is a very shrewd political animal. No one who has seen Lord Hailes at work, or knows what he has done, would deny that nobody could have done a better job of trying to knit these people together. He entertained them charmingly and I think that he did a first-class job. Lord and Lady Hailes have played their parts admirably, and when the time comes for them to depart from the West Indies they will leave behind a tremendous fund of gratitude, good will and affection. That is all I wish to say. I felt it unfair that there should be even a suggestion that the failure of the Federation is in any way due to Lord Hailes. If it is due to anyone it is certainly not due to him.
§ Mr. Sorensen
May I inform the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), with whom I disagree, said that another type of functionary would have been advisable. He did not criticise the occupant of the present office at all.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I went with the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme) and a former member of this House, Sir Thomas Dugdale—who now disguises his pleasant personality behind the title of Lord Crathorne—to present a mace to the Federal House of Representatives as a gift from this House. I am wondering who will get that mace now. I hope that I may have the opportunity of going with the hon. Member for Tavistock to recover it, because I am quite sure that the three of us who represented this House were gratified on the occasion of our visit to the West Indies by the reception which we were accorded and by the evident desire of the Federal Government—and, so far as I could discern by all the members of the Federal Parliament—to make a success of Federation.
It is a very great disappointment to find ourselves in this position today. For once I am in agreement with the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) that we must try to find causes for the deterioration of the 922 Federation. When I was in the West Indies I was told that members of an island Parliament, that is to say, the Trinidad or the Jamaican Parliament, or any other island Parliament, were not available to become members of the Federation Parliament. I think that some of the trouble may be traced to that fact. The names of Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamente have been referred to in this debate. Both those very astute politicians believe in making the "base" secure before they wander off on some procession towards higher things elsewhere. Had they been able to sit in the Federal Parliament with Sir Grantley Adams some of the troubles which arose might not have occurred. If there is any further effort to get a federation I hope that that requirement concerning members of an island Parliament will not apply.
Although the population of the West Indies is large, ability at the level of the three men I have mentioned is rare, I hope, therefore, that in any future federation members of island Parliaments will be allowed to become members of the Federal Parliament. Our House of Commons is considerably reinforced by having as hon. Members people who are also members of local authorities. Even when they are in the Government hon. Members remain representatives of their local authorities and, therefore, are able to see how Measures enacted here work out in the localities. It is astonishing sometimes to see how Measures assume a quite different appearance when considered in a public hall or a county hall from what is the appearance when they are discussed in this House and enacted for someone else to administer.
While I was in the West Indies I had the privilege of addressing a meeting representative of all the teacher associations in the islands. It is something to have an audience which includes people who have flown over a thousand miles in order to be present. At that meeting and in the conversations which followed I was struck by the very earnest desire to secure for the islands a system of education at primary and secondary levels from which a sound higher education and an improved industry could be based. It is a great disappointment to find that that association of all the islands together with that purpose will 923 be to some extent hindered by what is now happening. I sincerely hope that in the near future there may be a further effort made without some of the limitations which I think handicapped the first Federation in rebuilding the kind of spirit which then existed.
I very sincerely regret that the Colonial Secretary should have had today to stand at the Dispatch Box to apologise for some of the indignities which have been inflicted on Sir Grantley Adams in the last few months. Sir Grantley Adams, were he a member of this House, would be a distinguished and leading member of it, respected I am quite sure on both sides of the House as a man of infinite resource and a very wide mind. He particularly endeared himself to me by saying that he had been a wicket keeper when he played cricket and that he had founded his work on Strudwick. He could have taken no better example. I regret that anything should have arisen in the course of the last few months which should have caused him any personal pain in his public life and his relationships with this country, with this House and with this Government, so ably described by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South.
This may have been a failure. I think the hon. Member for Tavistock will agree that when we met them in their Cabinet rooms both the Government of Trinidad and the Government of the Federation displayed towards one another, as well as towards us, ideal relationships of what a multi-racial government should be. I have confessed to this House before that when one went into the room one noticed the varying colours of the faces of those with whom one was conversing, but it was not very long before one had forgotten the colour and was listening to the argument. For this experiment to be written off now as a failure is probably to be too despondent. I certainly came away feeling that men and women there had displayed the kind of relationship to one another, both when they agreed and when they differed, which should have laid the foundation of a state in which all people could find a share.
The hon. Member for Tavistock, Lord Crathorne and I were entertained by a man of Indian descent who was Minister 924 of Agriculture in Trinidad. He tested my digestive organs pretty severely when he provided us with armadillo as the principal dish at the luncheon. However, it was an interesting experience to go about with him. Some of the criticisms—made in the utmost good spirit—by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) did not appear to be quite justified by what we saw on that occasion. I think an earnest effort was being made on the farms to apply the lessons that were given in the various institutions established in the island of Trinidad and the advice given by those who came from the Government to help farmers in the development of ideas which they had been given.
I hope there will not be too long a rest in the grave for the Federation, but that at an early date there may be some quickening again of the spirit which we had hoped would fulfil one of our country's great ambitions, to see a multiracial federation with islands separated by hundreds—and in some cases more than 1,000—miles of sea, united to provide a full and reasonable life for their people and to give them a place in the world which they deserve.
We were gratified at the time to find that Canada was making valiant efforts to help the West Indies in sea transit. I hope that from Canada rather than from the United States that kind of co-operation will continue and will be enlarged, for these people intensely feel that they are Britons although they are of a different colour. They take their ideals of political, social and economic life from the experiences of this country. I should like to see them remain well within the Commonwealth and getting assistance not merely from us and Canada but from such other Commonwealth countries as can contribute to giving them a fuller life.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), in closing his speech, said that although he had had occasion to criticise the Government strongly he did not do so in a party spirit. I think that he has been proved right by the course which the debate has taken because it has provided the unusual picture of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) joining with my 925 hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and myself in our strictures on the Government. It has seen the equally charming spectacle of my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) and the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme) joining together to defend the Government against some of the criticisms which have been made about them.
That is as it should be in this kind of debate, but I think there has been a general agreement among all who have spoken—perhaps to varying degrees—that this has been a rather sad debate in which everyone who has an affection for the West Indies and for their peoples has expressed a sense of disappointment however much they may have laced it with hopes for the future. It was, after all, in connection with the West Indies that what I suppose might be called the Whitehall end of the colonial revolution through which we are living actually had its birth.
In the late thirties, as some of the older Members will remember, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) there were riots and troubles in the Caribbean. The Moyne Royal Commission was appointed. Its Report at the outbreak of the war shocked and shamed official opinion. It was felt that its exposure of poverty and neglect in the Caribbean was so likely to do so much damage to our war-time morale that its contents were actually suppressed until my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield became Colonial Secretary at the end of the war and ordered its publication.
It was as a result of those events and that Report that the first Colonial Development and Welfare Act was passed by this House. It was partly due to those developments in the West Indies that the changed colonial policies of successive Governments in the postwar era had their beginning. We saw a new sense of responsibility both for the economic welfare of the Colonies which were dependent upon us and for advancing them as quickly as possible to full independence. Nowhere did these take place more quietly or with greater promise than in the West Indies. The West Indies set an enviable example 926 to other parts of the world in their lack of colour prejudice. They have shown themselves particularly loyal members of the Commonwealth, with a sense of patriotism at least as great as any that is found in this country, and they have been little islands of democratic reasonableness in an area where political fanaticism and dictatorship of various kinds is all too common.
It is against this background that we must consider what has gone wrong with the efforts that have been made to create a unified Federation. It is easy, of course, to have hindsight in this matter but, in retrospect, it seems that the British Government foolishly tried to ride two horses at once, without realising that they were going in divergent directions. At the same time as we were encouraging federal independence we were promoting individual self-government for every single island. Some of them, like Jamaica and Trinidad, were powerful and self-confident in their own resources and felt, as we have seen, that they themselves could go it alone. Others of the islands, with populations varying between rural district councils and small boroughs, found themselves with the full flattering panoply of Cabinet Government.
I do not underestimate the difficulties that successive Colonial Secretaries have found in creating a sense of nationhood in the scattered Caribbean area. Nor do I underestimate the difficulties that Sir Grantley Adams and the political leaders of the Federal Parliament found in undertaking some of their tasks. My hon. Friend the Member for Leyton said that he believed that the prime responsibility for failing to make a go of the Federation lay with the political leaders of the West Indies, rather than with Her Majesty's Government here. I would not dissent from that general proposition, but we in this House have only the power to press the British Government, and it is their fault and defects and sins of omission to which we are bound to draw attention. I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland, South in his strictures on the Government for the way in which they have behaved since Mr. Manley lost his referendum gamble in Jamaica. It would have been better if Her Majesty's Government, at that point, had conceded Jamaica's right to secession 927 in principle than to have told Mr. Manley that they felt it would be better to hold a federal review conference to work out the consequences of Jamaica's secession in greater detail. This would have helped to reduce misunderstanding.
I understand the Government's reluctance about getting bogged down in yet another West Indies conference. Along with cricket, political conferences seem to be a national pastime in the West Indies, but the Government must face a conference on this this summer. My hon. Friend said that there would have been a better negotiating position had this conference been entered before the details of Jamaica's independence had been agreed to. The Minister replied by saying that my hon. Friend was unfair and the right hon. Gentleman urged him to look at the assurances that Mr. Manley gave during the course of the Jamaican independence conference. However, if the Minister will himself look at those assurances he will see that they were in very general terms indeed and that these matters need to be gone into in greater detail.
As it is, the Government have tied themselves to a timetable and this has led to considerable misundertanding. It would, at least, have been better had the Government labelled their Bill differently and called it, perhaps, the "West Indies Transitional Measures Bill". That at least would have made it clear, like the South African Measure last year, that a standstill arrangement would prevail; that it was a temporary affair while a conference with the West Indian Governments was entered into and while new arrangements were made for the common services.
Such an arrangement would have made clearer the sweeping powers contained in the Bill and shown that they were really necessary. However, while welcoming the Government's present intentions, we hope that, in Committee, they will feel able to make their point of view clear beyond doubt in the text of the Bill by accepting some of the Amendments we will move in an effort to clear up this point and that there will be adequacy of consultation with the various authorities in the West Indies.
I must make it clear that while we feel that a strong obligation rests with the 928 British Government to engage in consultation all along the line with the West Indian authorities, there is, equally, a strong obligation on the West Indian leaders to consult among themselves. After all, one of the reasons this position has been reached is that there has been a failure in this respect.
I should not like to speculate as to how long ago it was that Mr. Norman Manley, Mr. Eric Williams and Sir Grantley Adams talked these things over. I have memories of a dinner at which, I think, all three were present and I recall how we were able to keep the conversation going only by talking about cricket. So they have their responsibilities as well as Her Majesty's Government. It is important that these consultations should go on all the time, for a group of important questions regarding the future of the members of the Federal Civil Service remain outstanding. I understand that there are about 350 of these and there appears to be no question of what compensation they should receive or of alternative arrangements or posts for them. After all, they committed themselves to federation and their careers, as Federal civil servants—probably in the majority of cases—have been completely wrecked. They appear to have been left disgracefully in the dark as to the future by Her Majesty's Government as well as by the authorities in the West Indies. The Secretary of State appears to be shaking his head, but might I inform him that I received a letter the other day from the Federal Public Service Association which states:To date, with dissolution day drawing closer, the staff have not been told of a scheme under which compulsory termination of appointments or absorption into other services will operate. … Perhaps, if there had been proper negotiations between the Association and those responsible for paying compensation (no one really knows who is responsible) something would have been known by now.The Federal Public Service Association may be wrong in the picture it has of the position and I should be grateful if the Minister would clear this up. They make that comment in perfectly good faith, and it is unfortunate that Federal civil servants should be left with these sort of feelings.
Reading the exchanges in another place, one cannot help feeling that the Government are being very evasive 929 about this urgent problem. There seems to be a real danger that the Federal Government, the unit Governments and Her Majesty's Government are all trying to shift the responsibility on to each other's shoulders. The West Indian Governments have their responsibilities, but, in the end, the responsibility rests with Her Majesty's Government. It is only a few days since the Secretary of State brought in an Order in Council that allowed him to suspend the payment of compensation to Ministers and hon. Members of the Federal Parliament for their prospective losses. He was perfectly right to do so. It is obvious that he has the power to do that sort of thing and, in the end, it is his responsibility to make sure that these Federal civil servants are treated fairly and justly.
I hope that they will be given a free choice as to whether they accept fair compensation or accept reabsorption in the public service somewhere in the Caribbean. Presumably some of them can be transferred straight to the common services organisation if these negations go well. There are, I believe, 52 Federal civil servants in the meteorological service. Some of them can be reabsorbed in the unit civil services from which they came. Mr. Norman Manley indicated during the independent negotiations that Jamaica could accept some responsibility for them. But, in fact, only 35 of the 350 civil servants come from Jamaica, according to my figures. The biggest number—182, or more than half of the total—come from Trinidad. This is a very large number, but it seems unlikely that they can be absorbed into the public service in Trinidad. Therefore, the question of fair compensation is a very real one, and it is very important that it should be cleared up before too much good will is lost. The good will of these civil servants will be an important element in making a success of future plans in the West Indies.
A number of different suggestions have been put forward by various hon. Members during this debate as to what the future pattern ought to be in the Caribbean area. I can understand the Government being chary about committing themselves to any particular plan before knowing how acceptable it is to all the peoples in the area. A number of possibilities have been pretty fully 930 canvassed during this debate. In terms of economic welfare and political influence the best, of course, especially if it were still possible, would be to get a closely knit association between Trinidad and the other eastern Caribbean islands. The report of Professor Arthur Lewis, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), was initially written in the hope that that might be possible.
Dr. Williams' suggestion of an association in a unitary state with Trinidad does not seem to have had more than a very limited attraction, and it therefore looks as if the real alternatives are a political federation of the little Eight and the grouping of some of the islands around Trinidad and the rest around Barbados. If so, it looks to me as though an association of the little Eight is much the more preferable one in the interests of the economic welfare of the peoples of the area, but if it is going to work it does mean a great deal of economic help from this country in order to get it off the ground.
It would also, I think, need some economic help from the better-off islands like Trinidad and Jamaica, but I must confess that I am not unduly optimistic that that kind of help is going to come; but I think we ought to say plainly they ought to do it. The Governments of these islands are democratic, Socialist Governments of the same political complexion as the party sitting on this side of the House, and in many ways they are very good, admirable Governments, but their concept of mutual aid is not a very imaginative one, and I think it may take a long while to succeed in talking them into believing that they have an obligation to their neighbours in the Caribbean area—as well as the very real and historic obligation, of course, which we have in this country. One of the most unfortunate aspects of the present setback is in fact that economic developments are being held up in the really under-developed territories of the area. Trinidad and Jamaica are relatively highly developed compared with islands like Dominica, for instance, or islands like St. Lucia or Montserrat. One of the very useful things which came out of the July conference was the proposal that the Government would send as a matter of 931 urgency an economic mission to those smaller islands. They were able to announce that the Government of the United States had associated themselves with the sending of that mission. I should like to know from the Under-Secretary of State what has happened to this. I should like to know whether in fact it is still possible, in spite the change in the circumstances, to go ahead with any of the arrangements which were agreed at that stage. Certainly this scheme is a reason for proceeding with the setting up of whatever new form of government there is to be there as quickly as possible. We do not suggest, having complained about undue haste, that this should be done without properly taking account of all the factors, but it is important to see as quickly as possible what can be done, and to do it as quickly as possible.
A number of hon. Members have objected to the fact that the Governments of these small island territories are greatly overloaded in terms of Ministers and Governors and so on. I think it is important to be clear about the nature of this problem. Professor Lewis, in his survey, has made it clear that the actual cost of this overheavy Ministerial set-up is very small and we are not going to save a great deal of money by that. The real objection to this panoply of government, as I have called it, is that it makes united action in government more difficult. That is the political objection. The economic objection is in terms of an over-staffed civil service, so that perhaps civil servants are being paid salaries which are at a higher rate than the economic resources of the islands would normally permit. It is there, perhaps, that some administrative economies could be made.
I very much agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield said when he suggested that perhaps even more important than the actual form of government for the remaining territories of the West Indies Federation is the future of the common services themselves, and the degree of economic co-operation and association which can be arranged. It is very important to get this off to a good start. I hope the Government will respond to the appeal which my hon. Friend the Member for 932 Leeds, East made in his opening speech, that there should be effective consultation even during the interim period, and I wonder whether it might not be possible for some sort of advisory council during the interim period while the conference is taking place, and the various Governments concerned are making up their minds what the final form of the common services is to be.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields I should like to emphasise the importance of the university in the West Indies. I was very much impressed when I was there by the extent—and this is most important—to which it had a central part to play in creating the much-needed sense of West Indian nationhood. I hope that West Indian leaders can be persuaded to preserve it as an inter-Caribbean university, and perhaps adapting it to some of these arrangements, and perhaps to put it on a more economic basis, because it is expensive. I hope that the university may be a common responsibility. The British Government, I think, have already withdrawn financial support and Trinidad is, I think, much more interested in having a university of its own in Trinidad rather than supporting this as part of the common services. I think it would be most unfortunate if the present joint responsibility were to fall apart, and I hope very much that the university can be preserved on a Caribbean basis and that its very beautiful campus can continue to be used in training the leaders of the whole Caribbean area.
If the common services organisation can be made an effective one, with hope of growth and development in the future, then it is possible that the West Indies, while abandoning the present Federation, may only have taken one step back in order to make several steps forward. An effective common services organisation can become an important instrument of Caribbean unity. Because it is looser and more flexible it may possibly embrace the co-operation of metropolitan countries like Canada and the United States.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) sounded a note of warning about this at the start and said we must be careful about the interests of the citrus industry in relation 933 to the American, but it is equally true that the sugar industry in the Caribbean area is threatened by disaster at the moment because of a lack of an effective agreement with the United States Government, and what we really want to do is to try to put the whole pattern of relationships between Canada, the United States and this country and the Caribbean territories within a different framework. I think it can, perhaps, be done within the Caribbean organisation which my hon. Friend spoke about. I think that is the hope we must preserve and work for all the time.
In realising that hope the Government do start off with the handicap of mistrust which is partly of their own making. It is perfectly true, as I said at the beginning, that the West Indian politicians have a very heavy share of responsibility here, but the task of statesmanship by the British Government is to try to dissolve the mutual mistrust which exists in the West Indies as fast as they possibly can. I cannot help feeling that if the moderate, democratic politicians of the West Indies had enjoyed half the consideration and attention which the Government have recently shown to more extreme political figures of both colours in other parts of the world the Government would not have committed themselves to this half-thought-out timetable in this Bill. Nor would the Bill have to be the kind of blank cheque which inevitably lends itself to misunderstanding of what were the Government's real intentions. We hope that the Government will now try to make amends by showing how anxious they are to consult the West Indian Governments at all stages in the new arrangements, how concerned they are to preserve the degree of democratic advance which has been attained in the various territories, and how willing they are to be generous, both with compensation for civil servants and with economic help for the smaller islands.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Hugh Fraser)
Without question we have had a debate which has been full of sound sense, though occasionally we have found strange alliances, such as that between such a distinguished Member of the Opposition as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and my hon. Friend the Member for 934 Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams). Still, throughout, this debate has shown the sincere wish of all those concerned to see that there should emerge from the West Indies over the years some new organisation or association of countries which will put what we have recently seen happen to federation into the remote and comparatively unimportant past. This should be the intention of all of us.
I do not myself propose to add anything to the apportionment of blame which has been distributed fairly generously on both sides of the House, and which, of course, is being distributed with an ever growing generosity in the West Indies itself. I do not want to go any further except humbly to accept any blame which might be mine, and to wish well to all my friends, of whatever political persuasion, section or faction, in the West Indies.
I should like to take up a remark by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), to which the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) gave a very quick response, on the question of the function of a Governor-General, or, indeed, of any person from outside who is not a member of or actual voter in the West Indian territories themselves. This is a strange tendency, with which I cannot find myself in accord. It is no longer a case in this day and age of trying to exercise dominion over palm and pine with a Governor-General directing what should or should not be done. I find it strange, coming from such a well-known liberally minded Member as the hon. Member for North-field, who suggested that this should be done. It is impossible in any way to separate the issue of federation from the desire and the will of the people themselves, and I would only add my tribute to those which have come from all sides of the House to Lord and Lady Hailes on the way in which they have discharged their duties.
I am sure that this failure has been a disappointment to all of us here. It is a sorrow for many in the West Indies, and certainly it has come as a shock to many well-wishers in the United States of America and Canada who have put so much hope and faith into the Federation. I am afraid that of this there is no question. The problem which faces us now is what to do, and I think my right hon. Friend in his speech earlier today 935 delineated clearly what our tasks now are. I should, therefore, like to reply to some of the points which have been made by hon. and right hon. Members who have spoken.
I believe that the essence of the problem, if it can be expressed in this way, is the need to build in the West Indies a federation of sufficient power and a Federal Government with sufficient strength to be effective. In purely economic terms, this is where the failure lies. Yesterday, the Federal Government had an income not drawn from anything except the mandatory levy, with no powers of taxation and living on the charity of the constituent parts, so that when circumstances changed and certain people said that they were no longer interested, automatically the Federal Government went by the board, and this must be understood in order to put matters in their proper perspective.
It has been suggested that we could have done otherwise than we did. That may have been. Maybe, if we looked back into the past we could find errors that we committed, but I am quite certain that the Federation either had to expand into a real true force, the sort of thing we thought of in the May Conference last year, which would have given the Federation an income of 30 million dollars rising to 60 million dollars, or that it would inevitably fail. In this instance, what has failed is not so much the Government itself as the idea of federation, and I believe that this can be expressed, in economic terms, in a minimum income of 30 million British West Indian dollars, and that without this the idea of the Federation was bound to wither and diminish.
Faced with this situation, we had to accept the referendum of the people of Jamaica. It has been suggested by various hon. Members that there were certain actions that we could have taken. It has been suggested that we should have called a conference at that very moment. It was perfectly impossible to call a conference of any value at that moment, when it was quite clear that Dr. Eric Williams was about to enter an election on 4th December, and, equally clear, that Sir Grantley Adams's reputation was about to be at stake in 936 an election which was to take place in Barbados on the same day. Once we got to this stage it would have been foolish for us to have intervened by proposing that another conference should be held. There has been an almost permanent series of conferences from 1958 to 1961, and always there were full attendances by British Colonial Office teams, not to rule but to advise, not to try to direct but to guide. Throughout these years there have been endless attempts on our side to give guidance and to offer consultation. I believe that it was inevitable, therefore, that when the "big two", providing more than 80 per cent. of the Federal Government's income, decided to come out, it was time for us to do something.
I believe that this Bill, apart from the unpleasant things which it has to do, the special things and the consolidating things, preserves the vital functions of the common services organisation. This has been touched on by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and it is very important that we should understand precisely what is at stake. Firstly, we have an interim plan, which we are discussing now with the Governments concerned. It is an interim plan, and includes a budget which will be put to the Governments concerned, but a budget which will be much less than the present Federal budget. It will be agreed with the other Governments, and it will have to be agreed fairly shortly, but at this stage there is no need to have an interim council.
In reply to the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) who has done so much for the West Indies, who suggested that these interim organisations tend to drift on and that it was important to have proper representation, I would say that we can if such representation seems desirable provide for it by the wide powers in the present Bill. I believe that then we shall have to set up, as my right hon. Friend suggested, a permanent organisation, which will carry on, as one hopes, over the years, and will extend and will be a railway line to wider ideas, even if those wider ideas cannot be approached for several years to come. We hope to have this permanent organisation in operation around or before 6th August when Jamaica herself becomes independent.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Can the hon. Gentleman give us some idea whether any kind of guarantee is being sought that the university will not be exclusively a Jamaican institution?
§ Mr. Fraser
I apologise. I wanted to say something about that. The University College of the West Indies was set up by Royal Charter. It lies outside the scope of the Bill, and indeed largely outside the scope of the Federal Government. I understand that what the Federal Government does is to collect the various contributions made by individual members of the Federation. As far as we are concerned, and as far as we have influence, the University College should go on, because it is one of the most harmonising of all factors in the West Indies; and this is the will of this House and of many people in the West Indies. Nevertheless, there must be some local option. Trinidad for instance may wish to develop a college of her own. I am sure that the spirit of the college, led so ably by Dr. Lewis, will receive our support so far as is consistent with any powers we have.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) was in some difficulty about Clause I. So was I when I read it, but I have been in touch with my legal advisers. I am told that it deals with a comparatively simple point of the continuation of certain Acts passed by the Federal Government which, appropriately amended, are suitable for use in any new organisation. The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) asked about Clause 4. I understand that the hon. and learned Member is unable to be here. The two points are that there will be a new Supreme Court of Appeal for the West Indies and the two Courts of Appeal for the Windwards and the Leewards will remain. The point which the hon. and learned Member raised referred to a Court of Appeal which although it exists on paper has been defunct for several years.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I think that the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North was to ask whether there would still be an appeal from whatever court is set up in the 938 West Indies to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
§ Mr. Fraser
Yes, there will be. I thank my hon. Friend for deputising so ably for the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North.
§ Mr. Fraser
As to the compensation scheme for officers of the Federal public service, the actual numbers involved vary slightly from those given in debate today. Only one figure stays in my mind at the moment. The people employed in the meteorological service number 78 and not 52 as has been stated today. Again speaking from memory, I believe that a number of the people in Trinidad are employed locally and are not people of enormous skills. There is nevertheless the problem of absorbing these people into a continuing organisation and of absorbing others into existing, or expanding, local services, and the problem of compensation for the others.
Her Majesty's Government lay it down in Clause 3 that the Federation should make this a first charge. This is how the British Government always work in these matters. They always depend on the local Government to meet the sum required for compensation, for pensions, and so forth. Clause 3 provides for the appropriation of the quite considerable assets of the Government of the Federation and for the making of contributions by all or any of the Governments of the territories included in the Federation at the passing of the Bill. This must be a matter of negotiation for those concerned. There is the question of what is involved in assets and liabilities. If the assets and liabilities should prove to be disparate we are not precluded from making a contribution should the need be definitely and clearly shown.
Various other points arise on the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) asked about our powers to make any changes. As was partially explained by my right hon. Friend, any question of independence for a territory will mean having a Bill before Parliament. Any change in Clause 6 will mean that we proceed by affirmative Resolution which can be prayed against. If the Federation is 939 divided into two or two islands are joined together, I give an assurance that this will be done by affirmative resolution and that we shall not act in these matters without the full knowledge of the House.
§ Mr. Chapman
Is it not the case that under Clause 7 many decisions will not be subject to annulment? This point has puzzled me. Only new decisions which alter the existing Act of Parliament will be subject to annulment, but all sorts of other things can be done by Order in Council and there will be no means of praying against them. I do not understand why.
§ Mr. Fraser
I will have a look at that between now and the Committee stage. Changes in relationships between the Islands may be prayed against.
As for the economic situation, it is important to consider the aid we give in relation to our other commitments throughout the world. Aid in the form of grants-in-aid and C.D. and W. funds has been running at the rate of £5¾ million a year. It is therefore quite a considerable contribution from the taxpayers of this country. As hon. Members know, this grant-in-aid as it applies to the smaller islands, except Barbados, will have to be reviewed at the end of the year. The grant-in-aid for the Windward and Leeward Islands runs at £4 per head per year, which is high considering our large commitments in other areas.
Various useful points have been made on the economic situation. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) made points of great value in our deliberations. Useful points were also made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball). The economic position will be of vital importance. I agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) about the growing interest of Americans and Canadians in this area, but it will be idle to conceal that the failure of the Federation has naturally led to some diminution of interest in those countries.
As for the future, we have before us three possibilities. There is the possibility of unions of some of the small 940 islands with Trinidad in a unitary state. There is the possibility of the federation of the Eight. There is the possibility of the smaller islands remaining under Colonial Office control. Of these three, we must aim to achieve that solution which is best in the interests of the Islanders themselves and of ourselves. This is why we are earnestly studying the report which reached us on 16th March. On that report we hope soon to reach a conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Caribbean Organisation. This, unfortunately, is a rather dormant body which seems to have had little growth in power or impetus of late. Nevertheless, there are abroad in the Caribbean ideas, whether from Dr. Williams, from Mr. Manley or from some of the new men like Mr. Barrow—a very remarkable man, in my opinion, who has appeared as Premier of Barbados—for wider things which could be done.
I believe that what is being done now is realistic, and is, in fact, the only thing which we could do for the West Indies. Something has been going on over the years, and looking back over the long history of attempted federations in the area, which can be traced back to the 1880s, we have gained something, and some lessons have been learned. These people are now on the threshold of independence. Colder winds are blowing now that some measure of our support has been removed, and people will have to face political realities which, perhaps, they have never had to face before. In South America there were difficulties. Even in the Caribbean itself there are problems, and it is these problems which, on independence, the various countries will have to face. There will be no longer the sheltering hand, the inept arm of the Colonial Office, to help at the last moment. These problems will, I think, help people to concentrate their minds. Against them, there is the background of the new flow of ideas, the new desire for a wider and more effective West Indian nationhood.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. McLaren.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.