HC Deb 06 November 1962 vol 666 cc905-19

Order for Second Reading read.

8.30 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Tilney)

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

The purpose of the Bill is clear from the Long Title. It 'is to make provision as to the operation of the law upon Tanganyika becoming a republic within the Commonwealth.

Tanganyika became independent as a monarchy within the Commonwealth on 9th December last year. On 15th February this year the Tanganyikan National Assembly passed a motion that the Constitution should be amended to provide that Tanganyika becomes a republic within the Commonwealth as soon as possible. On 31st May this year, the Tanganyikan Government published a White Paper, No. 1 of 1962, printed in Dar-es-Salaam entitled "Proposals of the Tanganyika Government for a Republic". This is available to hon. Members in the Library. These proposals were unanimously approved by the Tanganyikan Parliament on 28th June. Neither Her Majesty's Government nor this House has, I believe, a right to question the form of government that any independent country wishes to adopt. That is entirely a matter for that independent country to decide for herself.

It would help the House, I think, if I quoted some sentences from this White Paper. I believe that it would explain the Tanganyikan thinking behind this Bill. The White Paper begins by saying: On 9th December, 1961, we became—suddenly—a monarchy. … This direct association of Tanganyika and the British monarchy was something quite new; for, until 9th December, their association was only indirect. … So long as the mandate and trusteeship system continued, Tanganyika was not part of Her Majesty's dominions, and the relationship between the people of Tanganyika and the Crown was an indirect relationship depending on the position of the Monarch as head of State in the country charged with the duty of administering the territory. For Tanganyika, therefore, the British Monarchy has always been a foreign institution. … Our proposal to become a republic does not, however, imply any disrespect towards the person of the Queen nor is it based purely on the fact that the British Monarchy is a foreign institution. It is fair to say, I think, that at a very early stage of the negotiations the Tanganyikan statesmen made it quite clear that they wished Tanganyika in due course to become a republic.

In discussing the merits between an executive president and a more formal head of state who would have purely ceremonial powers, the White Paper says: The honour and respect accorded to a chief or a king or, under a republic, to a President, is for us indistinguishable from the power that he wields. I believe that that will help us to understand Tanganyika's decision.

I remind the House that all the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, representing all the Commonwealth Governments, at their meeting recently welcomed Tanganyika's wish, as a republic, to remain in the Commonwealth and to accept the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth. We know that Tanganyika values her Commonwealth connection as highly as other members. In fact, Mr. Kawawa, the Prime Minister, in a broadcast in Dar-es-Salaam when he returned from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers meeting said this about it: This Conference demonstrated one great virtue which the Commonwealth has. We all talked with complete frankness, saying exactly what we believed, and we were able to do this knowing that it would not endanger our friendship, and that the other members would take note of the opinions we expressed. Later in the broadcast he said: Altogether I feel that our attendance at this Prime Ministers' Conference was extremely valuable for Tanganyika. We have cemented our friendship with many nations and we have done so without implying any hostility to anyone. The House may not have had a chance to study the White Paper and hon. Members may wish to know something of the form of constitution which Tanganyika proposes to adopt. The President will have considerable executive powers and will have a power of appointment over the public service and also deal with judicial and police appointments. However, the independence of the judiciary will be preserved and the judges will have security of tenure and, as at present, can only be removed after a judicial inquiry in the case of misconduct.

The White Paper makes it clear that having an executive President in no way derogates from the authority of Parliament and other basic principles of democracy. I should like to give the House these extracts from the White Paper: The proposal to have an executive President in no way derogates from the authority or status of Parliament. The moral authority of any Government must ultimately depend upon the consent of the people who are governed. This is the basis of democracy and in practice democracy is best maintained by means of a freely elected parliament having exclusive power to make laws, raise taxes and vote money for public purposes. Even though Parliament remains sovereign, freedom in a democracy cannot survive without the rule of law. Next, In drafting the proposals for a republican constitution the government has attempted to give effect to four basic principles:

  1. (i) as far as possible our institutions of government must be such as can be understood by the people;
  2. (ii) the excutive must have the necessary powers to carry out the functions of a modern state;
  3. (iii) Parliament must remain sovereign; and
  4. (iv) the rule of law must be preserved."
The White Paper goes on to say: In considering the proper relationship between an Executive President and the National Assembly the Government's overriding concern has been to devise workable arrangements which maintain, unimpaired, the sovereignty of Parliament. It is therefore, proposed to confer on the President any power to legislate otherwise than by, or under, the authority of an Act of Parliament. The new constitution has not yet been published in Tanganyika, so we know only its broad principles, which are those I have described. The first presidential election has just taken place. The results are not fully known, but it certainly looks as if Mr. Nyerere will have an overwhelming majority and will be installed as President of Tanganyika on 9th December. My noble Friend the Minister of State will represent Her Majesty's Government at the swearing-in ceremony.

The Bill follows the precedents set by other Commonwealth countries when they became republics. There were the India (Consequential Provision) Act, 1949, the Pakistan (Consequential Provision) Act, 1956, and the Ghana (Consequential Provision) Act, 1960. The House will I hope feel that the Title of the present Bill is an improvement and slightly more informative.

The fact that Tanganyika is becoming a republic means that she will cease to be part of Her Majesty's Dominions, This would have consequential effects on such of our laws as use that expression—or similar ones—which include Tanganyika, but which would not include Tanganyika after she becomes a republic. This Bill is designed to keep things as they are. It therefore requires that statutes and other instruments are still to be read as if Her Majesty's Dominions did include Tanganyika.

I must apologise to the House if I use for the next minute or so rather lengthy notes, because I am no lawyer and I wish the record to be quite accurate.

There is, however, an escape clause constituted by the words until provision to the contrary is made by Parliament or some other authority having power in that behalf in Clause 1 (1). This simply means that the law is to remain as it is till the appropriate legislative body provides otherwise. The appropriate legislative body is Parliament in the case of Acts of Parliament, Her Majesty in Council in respect of Orders in Council, a Minister in respect of certain Statutory Instruments, and so on. Were it not for this escape clause the Bill would freeze existing law without possibility of alteration save by Parliament.

The Bill departs from precedent in one minor respect. Previous Acts have operated on the law not only of this country but also of the colonial dependencies. The reason for this was that those Acts were originally designed as holding operations giving time to the various legislative bodies involved to review and amend their law for themselves, but with more experience we now know more definitely what is involved, and it has been found that very little colonial legislation is in fact affected. Moreover, the tendency in recent legislation is not to use phrases which incorporated the somewhat technical conception of being part of "Her Majesty's dominions". For example, we can simply refer to "the Commonwealth". We accordingly decided to take this opportunity to invite the House to return to its usual practice and to leave it for colonial legislatures themselves to enact appropriate legislation. This Bill, therefore, in the colonial field, extends only to Acts of Parliament and to Orders in Council applying the Acts, which are, of course, matters beyond the competence of the colonial legislatures to affect.

The Tanganyikan Government do not wish for appeals from the courts of Tanganyika to go to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council after 9th December. It was stated in their White Paper: The Judicial Committee is essentially a Prerogative court and sits in London. Once the connection between Tanganyika and the Queen has been severed, it would not be appropriate that appeals should still be heard by the Judicial Committee, and Government therefore proposes that such appeals should be discontinued. Steps will be taken, however, to preserve the rights of the parties in cases already pending. Therefore, Clause 2 of the Bill authorises the making of arrangements to deal with outstanding appeals. At present it looks as if it is unlikely that there will be any outstanding appeals, and, therefore, there may be no need for an Order in Council under this Clause, but the power is there if it should be needed.

This is a technical Measure. By leave of the House I could reply to any particular points which are raised in the debate. I will conclude only by stressing that these constitutional arrangements are the domestic concern of one of our Commonwealth partners, and I hope that the whole House will be united in expressing the sincere good wishes of all of us, on both sides of the House, to Tanganyika for the future. In the words of the White Paper, Tanganyika is a young nation faced with tremendous problems of nation-building and economic development. All of us hope that on this new constitution Tanganyika will be able to build a sound foundation for the future.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his very clear explanation of the Bill and thank him also for the extracts he read from the Tanganyika Government's White Paper. Some of us have not yet had a chance to study that White Paper and we were glad to hear the extracts he read and to know that they will now be on an official record. I believe that he said that this was the first White Paper by the Tanganyika Government since independence, and it seems to me that the sentiments and principles contained in it were extremely appropriate. No doubt the White Paper will occupy a very honourable place in the history of Tanganyika and of her relations with this country.

I rise not so much to talk about the Bill, about which there is not a great deal to say, as to express my personal good wishes to the people of Tanganyika in this new and further step in their rapid constitutional advance. Like other hon. Members, I have had an opportunity of visiting the country on several occasions and have made many friends there. I have a very strong belief that of all the territories of East Africa this is one whose future—although in many respects it will be hard—is more assured than any other.

As the hon. Gentleman said, the voting is now completed for the office of President. I am sure that we shall not be thought guilty of interfering in domestic politics if we express to the new President—whom we can confidently expect to be Mr. Nyerere—our very best wishes on his succession to this new high office of State. The sentiments in the White Paper, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, show that although the President will have—I think that it is almost inevitable in emerging States—very considerable executive powers, nevertheless the essential characteristics of a free democratic society, such as independence of the judiciary and the supremacy of Parliament in making laws, have been preserved and safeguarded in the new Constitution.

I am sure that, having regard to the many problems which this young country will face, we wish the President and his people every success for the future. Mr. Nyerere has been very successful in leading his people to this stage so rapidly. It may be that now he faces the most difficult test of his career I am sure the good wishes of both sides of the House will be with him.

Clause 2 refers to pending appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. We fully understand why that provision has been made. After 9th December there will be no further right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council in this country. My only comment on this is that I hope we shall not lose sight of the idea put forward by Lord Denning in another place and frequently mentioned by our colleague, Hilary Marquand, when he was in the House, that we should consider the possibility of a Commonwealth court of appeal.

It seems to me, as the Judicial Committee itself has broadened out by having judges from other territories, that a Commonwealth Supreme Court in which judges from all the territories might sit here or elsewhere would provide a unique tribunal of experience which could not be equalled anywhere in the world.

Whether or not we have the kind of tribunal which I have suggested, we know that because Tanganyika is to remain in the Commonwealth, even though she becomes a republic, she will be associated with us and with her sister or brother colleagues within the Commonwealth. I am sure that it is the wish of every hon. Member that this association should be long, whatever may happen to Britain in relation to other negotiations in which she is taking part at the present moment.

I end by hoping that the nine million people of Tanganyika who are now taking their final constitutional step will enjoy a prosperity and steadiness in their State which will be something in which we can all take the greatest pleasure and pride.

8.51 p.m.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

This Bill is being discussed in an atmosphere of harmony and has the support of all parties. If our debate is brief, it does not indicate any lack of interest in the future welfare of this country about which we are talking. We are becoming so accustomed to Bills of this kind that it is a little difficult to avoid repetition, but I do not think that one need be altogether ashamed of repetition in making some general observations.

This desire to become a republic is something which I understand. It is certainly no disrespect to the Queen. It is becoming a natural part of the policy of transforming what was once an empire into a Commonwealth of free and independent nations, and I am not ashamed of repeating myself in saying that, nor am I ashamed of repeating myself in expressing good wishes for the future of this newly independent country. I am glad that the transformation is taking place with a great deal of mutual good will.

Reference has been made to the fact that there will no longer be appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. We recognise the reasons for this, but, like the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), I hope that we shall some day evolve a Commonwealth court of appeal. I think that there is a place in the Commonwealth for some body to which certain appeals can be made and which would be judicially respected by the whole of the Commonwealth. It may well be that the judges of such a Commonwealth court would visit various parts of the Commonwealth rather than necessarily hear cases in London.

The granting of independence and the becoming of a republic is not the end of the story, it is only the beginning, and Mr. Nyerere perhaps more than any other leader in the newly independent countries has recognised that this is so. I think that we are learning something in this process of evolving new constitutions in the Commonwealth. I think that more thought is now given to the basic human rights and to the creation of constitutions which provide safeguards for minorities. I hope that this will prove to be the case with Tanganyika.

Lastly, I think that with the passage of time we shall realise that the link between the different members of the Commonwealth will not depend only on trade. It may be that we have overrated the importance of trade and underrated the importance of personnel. Most hon. Members here tonight who have visited various parts of the Commonwealth will have appreciated the problem which arises from the fact that valuable colonial servants have departed, and that there is a crying need for administrators of all kinds, as well as for technicians. I hope that the time will come when we have a Commonwealth service recruited from all over the Commonwealth and available for different parts of it, but providing a job which is a life's work for its members. Only in that way can we hope to provide the personnel needed in these newly independent countries while also maintaining a link between the various parts of the Commonwealth, a factor which, in the long run, will be more important than trade.

I hope that I shall be forgiven for making those general observations. I return to my original point, on which we all agree; we extend to this country our very best wishes and our hope for its very successful future.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

This is one of those occasions when, happily, there is no division in the House. I want to refer to only one technical point before voicing a few other observations. I want to emphasise the introduction of the White Paper which has been issued by the Tanganyikan Government, which shows that the change which the Bill reflects is a less drastic constitutional change than has occurred in the case of Colonies or Protectorates which, after having attained independence, have become republics. Tanganyika was a Trusteeship territory and, as such, did not have quite the same relationship to our Royal Family as do Colonial Territories and Protectorates. We should bear that fact in mind if any criticism is made of the fact that Tanganyika is becoming a republic—and we have not heard any such criticism.

One cannot allow this occasion to pass without a word about Julius Nyerere, who is to become the new President of Tanganyika. All those who have met him and have also met other African leaders regard him as quite outstanding, not only in the charm of his personality or in his ability, but in the spirit in which he approaches all racial issues. My mind goes back to what occurred amazingly, only a few years ago, when a constitution introduced for Tanganyika had separate electorates for Europeans, Asians and Africans. Because Julius Nyerere does not believe in the segregation of races he opposed that Bill, but when the Act was imposed upon Tanganyika he achieved the extraordinary result that in nearly every constituency in the territory he found a European and an Asian who supported his organisation and the policy for which it stood, with the result that, despite the segregated electorate, Julius Nyerere and his party swept the election. We have the right to think back to that occasion when today Tanganyika becomes a republic, because the President, the Parliament and the people of Tanganyika very largely retain that spirit.

It is worth while saying a word about certain criticisms which have been made in the British Press about events in Tanganyika and which some people might think would be intensified now that it has become a republic. There have been some criticisms because a few Europeans—only a handful—have been exiled from that country. The charge against those few Europeans was that they had acted with racial superiority and with insults towards the African people. I do not believe for one moment that that is the general attitude of the European population. I think that the Europeans in Tanganyika have accepted the new situation.

But whenever criticism of that kind is made, we ought to remember that there is nothing so humiliating to any individual as to be treated as an inferior because of his race or his colour. That type of action causes frustration and anger when it happens in this country, Which is not an African country. When it takes place in a country which is African and which has become independent, then one very easily understands that that feeling of frustration and indignation is greater in those circumstances. I am quite sure that we can be confident that this new republic in Africa will act in the inter-racial way which has been reflected in the history of Julius Nyerere.

Secondly, we ought tonight not only to congratulate Julius Nyerere, Mr. Kawawa—the Prime Minister—and the Parliament; we ought to add a special word of congratulation to the people of Tanganyika. Something is happening in Tanganyika today which is one of the most remarkable renaissances in the whole world. The change to independence and now the change to a republic is not just constitutional; it reflects the rebirth of a nation. If one goes to any village in Tanganyika today one sees that the most wonderful thing is that men, women and children by voluntary effort are rebuilding their society. By voluntary effort they are building schools. By voluntary, effort they are building clinics. By voluntary effort they are building roads. Now that they have the self-respect of being independent and of becoming a republic, this is a great movement of the people to build their own nation. We should be voicing our tribute to that extraordinary movement among the Tanganyika people and should congratulate them upon it.

There is a third point which I want to make arising from the Bill and the creation of a Tanganyika Republic. I very much appreciate the speeches which have been made on this side of the House, as well as that by the Minister, and I concur completely in the tribute which was paid to him for the clarity of his presentation. I do that in no kind of superior way but to let him know that I fully appreciate it. But this change which is taking place in Tanganyika may be much more important than a change in that country alone.

Julius Nyerere and his movement in Tanganyika have a bigger ideal than the ideal of just establishing nationhood in Tanganyika. They have been the pioneers; they are the great pioneering and constructive forces which have the idea of establishing a federation throughout East Africa when Kenya and Zanzibar become independent, as Uganda has become.

I do not want to go beyond the province of this Bill and therefore I shall say in only a sentence that, as we are looking at the problems of the Central African Federation, we must begin to think of it in the terms of this new African federation which Tanganyika is initiating in East Africa and which in future may solve the problems of Central Africa by embracing that area within it as well. From that point of view the republic which we are welcoming tonight is tremendously significant to the whole of Africa.

I wish to add only that we are not just giving our good wishes to Tanganyika. We are welcoming the establishment of the republic with the greatest possible hope.

9.6 p.m.

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

There is little I can add to what has been said by my hon. Friends on this side of the House. It will be quite clear that the Opposition support the purposes of this Bill—however little we may comprehend the legal complexities, despite the lucid explanations by the Minister.

As the Minister said, this is the fourth Bill of its kind. It is almost becoming a formality in this House that we should deal with them, but, as has been indicated, it is a very pleasant formality because it gives us an opportunity, after Tanganyika has already been independent for very nearly twelve months, to show that our regard and concern for Tanganyika is just as strong today as it was when this House had direct responsibility for its welfare.

The Bill also gives us an opportunity, now that the presidential voting has been concluded, to offer our congratulations to Mr. Julius Nyerere as the likely new President of Tanganyika. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) said, Mr. Nyerere is one of the outstanding statesmen in Africa. He is a man whose wisdom in dealing with the immensely difficult problems of an emerging African nation is matched only by his humility. I know that hon. Members in all parts of the House would want to wish him well in the tremendous tasks that lie ahead of him.

I have said that this is the fourth Bill of its kind. I think perhaps that fact, coming after Commonwealth countries have become independent, raises a question which has not been mentioned by any of my hon. Friends. It is whether in future conferences about the independence of Commonwealth countries it might not be better to try to deal with the question of setting up a republic at the time of their coming to independence. Whether or not a Commonwealth wishes to be a republic and whatever form of Government it wishes to have for itself, is, of course, entirely a matter for its own decision.

I have recently returned from Pakistan, where in a very interesting visit I had the privilege of meeting the President of Pakistan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan. In Pakistan one is very much aware of the fact that the country has been a republic within the Commonwealth for some years, but that has made no difference at all to the warmth of relationships between this country and Pakistan. I think the same is true of other countries in the Commonwealth which have become republics. The question of whether or not they have a republican form of Government is entirely a matter for the countries concerned. As the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) said, it is very understandable that a new country should wish to have its own Head of State.

The fact that under the present circumstances there is a point of independence and then, perhaps twelve months later, a point at which a country decides to become a republic, often raises quite unnecessary and artificial political speculation. The Minister indicated that Tanganyika had informed the Government that it was likely that she would wish to become a republic in due course. I am sure that it might have been better if the whole thing had been done at one time. A number of eminent authorities on constitutional matters within the Commonwealth have put forward this point of view. There are a number of independence conferences ahead of the Government and it may be worth while looking at this point in the light of our experience with the four Commonwealth countries which have opted to become republics within the Commonwealth.

This Bill underlines the unique nature of the Commonwealth; its very great flexibility as an association of nations, and the fact that its bonds lie deeper than mere forms of Government existing within the Commonwealth and that they are all the greater because of it. The moving quotation given by the Minister from the Prime Minister of Tanganyika underlined that. The fact that this Bill has a quiet and brief passage through the House must not be taken in Tanganyika as an indication of a lack of interest in the future of Tanganyika. One can recall previous debates when controversy has arisen. The fact that this has been a quiet debate is an indication that hon. Members on both sides of the House feel extremely happy and confident about the way in which Tanganyika is tackling her problems.

I support the Bill and desire to take this opportunity to wish Tanganyika well in her struggle to raise her living standards and to create her own form of democratic Government to fit African history and environments.

9.12 p.m.

Mr. Tilney

By leave of the House I wish to answer one or two of the points which have been raised in this debate and to thank the 'hon. Members for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) for what they have said.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington referred to a Commonwealth court of appeal. During the debate on the Ghana consequential provision legislation some years ago I made that very point. Although one welcomes the new judges from Nigeria, New Zealand and Australia on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, one must remember that Canada does not send her cases to the Judicial Committee; and there are other aspects of the matter, such as the fact that we as the United Kingdom are merely one country in the Commonwealth. The House of Lords is at present our final court of appeal, and such problems as these will need careful consideration before any solution could be reached on the lines suggested by the hon. Member.

As well as referring to a possible Commonwealth court of appeal, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West spoke of a Commonwealth service. One of the difficulties in that connection is to be certain of giving a full working life to anyone recruited to such a service. It might be much better to second people from local government and from the hospital service if we can be quite certain that when they come back they will not have lost their place on the ladder of promotion. Anything that any hon. Member can do to urge people in local government, in industry or the medical service to do their stint in Commonwealth countries will make it better for this country and for the Commonwealth.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough knows Africa very well. I know that the House will have listened with great interest to what he said, especially about the building of an inter-racial community in Tanganyika within the Commonwealth and the voluntary effort that Tanganyika has made to build a nation—on the schools, on the roads—with people virtually unpaid doing a voluntary job. I have seen that in other parts of Africa. I have not seen it in Tanganyika but I hope to if they will be good enough to invite me.

The hon. Member for Dundee East referred to the tremendous tasks that Mr. Nyerere and all his people have performed. We must remember in this affluent society how very low is the national income per annum of the people of Tanganyika. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the possibility of having had a republican Constitution earlier, I take note of what he says for any future discussion, but there were problems, particularly over Tanganyikan independence, which came fairly quickly, which would have made the framing of a presidential Constitution by no means easy.

It has taken some time to have the presidential election. I wish I could announce to the House the result of it now, but the House well knows the immense square mileage of Tanganyika how difficult communications are and how at the last election several ballot boxes were swept away in the floods. There are many problems of counting the votes, but we all hope that when they are counted Mr. Nyerere will find himself with an immense majority. He knows, anyhow, that from both sides of the House he has the good wishes of this nation.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Rees.]

Committee Tomorrow.