HC Deb 02 July 1963 vol 680 cc199-204

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

54. Mr. WALL: To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will now make a statement on the independence of Kenya and on the future East Africa Federation.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will now answer Question No. 54.

After the elections last May Kenya was given full internal self-government as a prelude to early independence. I have recently had consultations with Kenya Ministers about the further steps to be taken for the transfer of the remaining powers and I am publishing today as a White Paper a joint statement setting out our agreed conclusions.

In the last few weeks there has been an important new development, which has affected the constitutional arrangements to be made, and which has to be taken into account in the timing of Kenya's independence. I refer to the decision of the Governments of Tanganyika, Uganda and Kenya to form an East African Federation, which, as I said in the House last week, is warmly welcomed by Her Majesty's; Government.

The three East African Governments have already made substantial progress in working out the constitution for the proposed Federation, and it is their aim to bring it into being before the end of the year, in time to enable the new Federal State to be admitted to the United Nations in the forthcoming session. In order that Kenya's final decision to join this new association may be taken with the full authority and responsibility of a sovereign nation, it will be necessary for her to obtain independence shortly before the inauguration of the Federation.

In the light of these considerations, I propose to convene a conference in London towards the end of September to settle the final form of Kenya's constitution. Representatives of the Government and Opposition parties in the Legislature and of the European community will be invited to attend.

To enable the necessary forward planning to be undertaken, not only by the Kenya Government, but also by the Governments of the other East African countries concerned, Her Majesty's Government have informed the Government of Kenya that, subject to the necessary steps being completed in time, Kenya will be granted independence on 12th December.

Mr. Wall

While welcoming the proposed creation of the new Federation, may I ask my right hon. Friend for an assurance that the safeguards given to the minority races and tribes under the present regional structure of the Kenya Constitution will be continued under the Federal Constitution? Does Kenya intend to go straight into a republican form of Government on independence? If so, what happens to Uganda?

Mr. Sandys

These are, of course, matters which will be the subject of discussion at the conference. My hon. Friend refers to the safeguards for minority tribes. The purpose of the conference will be to make those changes which are necessary in order to transfer the remaining powers, and to make whatever adaptations are required to enable Kenya to enter the new Federation. I have already made a statement to the effect that we are not contemplating basic changes in the Kenya Constitution which would upset the arrangements arrived at with so much difficulty between the parties.

Mr. Bottomley

We would all wish to be associated with this very satisfactory statement, and I am sure that we all express the hope that the East African Federation will also succeed. In view of the difficulties in the Northern Province of Kenya, is there any possibility of extending the Federation?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why it was necessary to have a Cabinet meeting before a decision could be reached whether to make a statement last week or today?

Mr. Sandys

I would have thought that a decision to grant independence to Kenya was a matter meriting the attention of the Cabinet.

Mr. G. Brown

One cannot grant independence. One achieves it.

Mr. Sandys

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to speak when I am on my feet.

The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), referring to the Northern Province, spoke of the possibility of an extension of the Federation. As I explained last week in the House, the three Governments concerned—Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya—decided, I believe rightly, to base the new Federation in the first place on those countries which are already working together through the East African Common Services Organisation, with the possible addition of Zanzibar, which they do not think would make for serious complications. But that does not mean to say that, at a later date, when the Federation is firmly established, they will not consider a further widening of the area of the Federation.

On the Somali question, I remind the House that talks have already been held between the Government of Kenya and the Government of the Somali Republic, and I think that further talks are envisaged.

Mr. Brockway

Whilst welcoming the right hon. Gentleman's statement, may I ask him to tell us whether the intention is to make the independence of Kenya simultaneous with the formation of a republic so as to avoid the frustration of the delay of one year which has been usual? Can he tell us at what date the East African Federation is likely to be inaugurated? Will it be in December, within a short time of the declaration of independence?

Mr. Sandys

I thought that I had made it clear in my statement that the intention of the three Governments is to bring the Federation into being in time to enable its application for membership of the United Nations to be accepted during the next session. I think that that must be in by the third week in December, so there will only be a very short interval, possibly of about a week, between Kenya's independence date and the formation of the new Federation.

The question of republican status is a matter to be discussed at the September conference. However, I would have thought that there is every intention that the new Federation will be republican.

Mr. Lubbock

If some time is likely to elapse between the formation of the Federation and the decision to include other countries, what position will the small minorities in Kenya have? Will they have self-determination? Will that be discussed at the conference?

Mr. Sandys

That is a matter which is being discussed at the moment—I think that it is a very healthy sign—between the Kenya Government and the Somali Government.