§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Frederick Lee)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I have it in Command from The Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place Her 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 the fourth occasion within a period of six months on which I have had the pleasure of introducing a Bill to provide for the advancement to fully responsible status of a dependent territory. Most recently we were concerned with two land-locked African countries, which, in terms of British colonial history, were comparatively young. Now we are to consider the progress to independence of an island on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean whose links with Britain extend unbroken over a period of more than three centuries, and whose Constitution, in which conventions have always played an important part, is one of the oldest in the Commonwealth.
In an area where small islands face very serious handicaps in the way of size, resources and communications in the struggle to keep apace of progress elsewhere, and even to provide from their own resources for the minimum acceptable standard of public services, Barbados has a very proud record of self-dependence. Without external grant in aid of administration it has built up public services, including a civil service staffed almost wholly by its own local officers, which are the envy of many countries and which can assuredly stand comparison with those of many countries already independent.
It has also, through sound financial husbandry over many years, been able to raise on its own security sufficient funds to undertake a most impressive programme of capital development to complement the work undertaken with the aid of colonial development and welfare funds. A most successful deep-water harbour, for example, completed in 1961 at a cost of about £6 million, was wholly 1652 financed from loans raised by the Barbados Government on the London market and from other local funds.
The basis of the island's economy is its sugar industry. This crop, as many hon. Members know, is intensively cultivated on more than two-thirds of the island's arable land and employs more than one-third of the working population. With its by-products, sugar represents over 90 per cent. of the island's domestic exports.
As a result, Barbados shares with many other developing countries the inherent dangers of a single crop economy. In the discussions with other territories we have all been a little anxious when that consideration is present. But these dangers are being progressively lessened with the rapidly expanding exploitation of those other and more easily available commodities, sun, sea and sand—in other words, by the use of the natural beauty of Barbados and of the very fine weather enjoyed out there. The value of the tourist industry has more than doubled over the past five or six years and there is no reason to expect that momentum of expansion to decline. The development of other local industries is also helping to broaden the base of the economic structure.
The early years after Englishmen first settled the island in 1627 provide a fascinating story of political intrigue and counter-intrigue, at first between the rival proprietary interests and later also between supporters of the Royalist and Commonwealth factions in England. As early as 1639 the settlers formed a representative legislative assembly and Barbadians have since that time had a large measure of responsibility for their own internal affairs. Universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1951, a Ministerial form of Government in 1954 and in October 1961 Barbados was granted full internal self-government.
Barbados will be the fourth British dependency in the Caribbean area to become independent. When Jamaica and Trinidad proceeded to separate independence following the dissolution of the West Indies Federation in 1962, Barbados could no doubt also have laid very good claim to follow suit. Instead, greatly to her credit, she preferred to try to form a new federation with the other smaller islands which wanted to make the attempt. I am sure that all 1653 Members of this House will share in the disappointment at the lack of success of that very imaginative venture.
The Constitutional Conference which I convened in June this year was attended by representatives of all three parties in the Barbados Legislature, who all agreed on the aim of separate independence. There were a number of points where the parties disagreed over particular provisions of the draft Independence Constitution, and these were set out in the Conference Report. The points of principle involved in these differences were not such as in my view compromised the democratic form of the proposed Constitution. I therefore felt bound to take the view that, in general, the Government's proposals should stand at least until such time as the Opposition parties might be in a position to obtain their amendment by the normal constitutional processes, and to agree that Barbados should become independent on 30th November, 1966.
All the parties at the Conference were unanimous in wishing Barbados to be accepted as a member of the Commonwealth and in agreeing that the executive authority of Barbados should be vested in Her Majesty and exercisable on her behalf by a Governor-General. I am able now to confirm that Her Majesty has agreed to become Queen of Barbados on 30th November, and at their meeting last month the Commonwealth Prime Ministers agreed that, subject to the completion of the legislative and constitutional processes, Barbados would be welcomed as a member of the Commonwealth.
The people of Barbados have been given the opportunity to elect a new Legislature before independence. On the advice of the Premier, the old Legislature was dissolved on 10th October some two months before its statutory life of five years expired—and elections are to be held on 3rd November. Whatever the result of those elections, I am sure that the new Government will carry into independence the good wishes of all Members of this House.
I should like to explain briefly the content of the Bill. It is a Bill of a type with the passage of which we are now familiar. Clause 1 provides for fully responsible status for Barbados 1654 from 30th November. Clauses 2 and 3 deal with nationality matters. The insertion of a reference to Barbados in Section 1(3) of the British Nationality Act, 1948, will secure that any citizen of Barbados will, by virtue of that citizenship, also possess the status of a British subject or a Commonwealth citizen in our law. Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who acquire citizenship of Barbados on 30th November will lose their existing citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, unless they have one of the kinds of connection with the United Kingdom or its remaining dependencies described in Clause 3.
I would like to draw attention with my apologies to what is an erroneous statement in Annex B of the Conference Report under the heading "Chapter II", to the effect that provision will be made in the Constitution of Barbados for citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies by naturalisation or registration in Barbados to be entitled on application to be registered as citizens of Barbados. The Conference in fact agreed that such persons should automatically become citizens of Barbados on independence. I am sorry that this erroneous statement was made.
§ Clause 4, together with Schedule 2, deals with modifications of various United Kingdom enactments consequent upon the grant of independence. Clause 5 provides that Her Majesty may by Order in Council made before 30th November provide a Constitution for Barbados to come into effect on that day, and Clause 6 contains the short title and interpretative provisions.
§ It remains only for me to commend the Bill and to express what I am sure will be the most sincere hopes of this House for the future happiness and prosperity of the people of this new nation.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward du Cann (Taunton)
I warmly congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies on his introduction of this Bill, and, indeed, on some of the thoroughly agreeable things that he said. I think many of us would have liked to pursue some of the historical references which he made, but obviously this is not the time for that. They can be discussed in other places and in other ways.
1655 I am certain that the whole House will warmly endorse the concluding remarks that the right hon. Gentleman made so well and clearly. I am sure, too, that the House was grateful for the two particular pieces of information that he gave us, first about the potentiality for Barbados remaining a member of the Commonwealth. If I may say so respectfully, it is gratifying to know that Her Majesty the Queen will be Queen of Barbados. This will give the greatest possible pleasure to all Her Majesty's most loyal subjects in this most agreeable and happy of islands.
I shall speak shortly. I have a single point to make. I speak from the back benches deliberately because my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) will be speaking officially for the Opposition. He will do it very much better than I am ever likely to do. I wish to speak from the heart, as one who knows Barbados, who has been privileged to have a connection with that island over some years, on which I will not particularise or bore the House. I am simply one of many English people who have a great affection for that island, for her people, and who wish simply to do all that they possibly can to help those whom they are privileged to call their friends.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, all of us who know this island in the sun, as the song has it, this jewel, have the greatest possible respect for its people. If I may refer to a recent article in the Statist, a magazine which I am sure we all respect, it describes these people as being hard working, competent and individually independent—a verdict which I am sure we would all endorse—indeed, an example maybe even to us in the United Kingdom. If that sounds too dull, let me say that no one who visits the island can feel anything but pleasure at the enormous friendliness, the generosity and warm-heartedness of the people there. I am only one of so many whose families have been treated invariably with kindness, courtesy, consideration and friendship which we shall never forget.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of that island's connection with Britain. It is a warming thing in these cynical and often difficult days to be in Barbados and to feel how strongly that connection with Great Britain—and I say "Great" 1656 deliberately—is valued by its people. They are a fine people. Those of us who do not know them in their own island have only to meet them here in London and in other cities in Britain, working among us as equals, to know well their characteristics and how much we admire them.
Besides all these things, these are our people. They are a Christian people. If we speak of the coloured population of Barbados, it is our responsibility that they are there. It may well be that we can take credit in this House of Commons, from Wilberforce and others, for the abolition of slavery. But the fact that they are there is our responsibility. They are our people and we have a genuine obligation to them.
As if that were not enough, there is an indigenous population of some 500 "red legs" as they are called. These are the survivors of the battles of Wexford, the Bolne, Culloden and Sedge-moor in my constituency. Without going too far into historical matters, many of us recall that Monmouth was crowned King in Taunton. These people are our own people, white and black, shipped out there in conditions of some difficulty, and so on. We have a continuing responsibility for their successors today.
On the economic side, Barbados, an island of about 160 square miles, with 250,000 people—30 per cent. up since 1945—is greatly dependent upon the sugar industry. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said. Although Canada is a great friend to this new country of Barbados now coming into being, I must say that I agree very much with what Sir Robert Kirkwood said recently when he complained that Canada is paying less than the cost of production for the sugar which she is buying from the West Indies at the present time. I hope that the United Kingdom Government will use their influence in this matter. We do well from the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, as everyone knows and is glad to welcome, because it looks eight years ahead, gives continuity, and so on. Here is a particular matter for the attention of the United Kingdom Government.
The people of Barbados are 98 per cent. literate. What a matter for pride that is. Infant mortality per thousand live births was down in 1964 to 52 from 1657 over 130 ten years ago. Much other progress is being made. The gross domestic product has risen from 42.7 million East Caribbean dollars in 1946 to 132 million in 1962—a growth rate of 4 per cent. This, too, my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay will agree is something which we can well envy. The per capita income is higher in Barbados than in 10 out of 20 South American countries, though still lower than in Jamaica and Trindad.
Barbados now has its fourth development plan, in which we wish it every success. The people have found oil, sufficient, one imagines, for their local needs. Tourism is going up by 15 per cent. a year, and the output of manufacturing industry is increasing, as the right hon. Gentleman said.
All this is a fine record of progress, but, when one analyses it in comparison with our own position here, it is clear that independence will bring very great difficulties indeed because of the size of the population, the lack of raw materials, and the rest. It is true that Barbados enjoys great natural advantages, but she will have a difficult time. Of that there is no doubt. The greatest moral problem facing us during the next decade is the widening gap between the developed and the developing nations. This is something to which we must devote particular attention. The present situation, improving though it is, is not one towards which we in Britain can in any way or at any time be casual or indifferent. I hope that this, above all, will be the message which will be recorded and go out from this debate, from "big England", so to speak, to "little England" in Barbados.
I support the Bill. I welcome independence. As the right hon. Gentleman implied, this is in our tradition, and a proud tradition it is. It began long ago, and we are continuing it here as a nonpartisan matter. But I wish to record certain reservations and doubts. I repeat that the policy is correct, and we all agree with it, but certain happenings have cast a measure of doubt over the complete wisdom of its application. I make no point against the right hon. Gentleman here—I am very sympathetic towards him in his present position—but there has been a good deal of heart 1658 searching in the House of Commons and outside about Gibraltar, for example. He referred to the Constitutional Conference. While I do not doubt that he conducted it with his usual skill and competence, it seemed to many people—I shall not go into detail—that there was a degree of haste and, as the report of the conference itself records, there was a degree of difficulty.
The simple point I make is that, if Her Majesty's Government's policy is to abandon the Colonies at the earliest possible opportunity and simply leave them to their own devices—those two things together—I shall most certainly be in strong opposition to it. I am in favour of independence, but if those two things were to come about together—that we should get out at the earliest possible moment, and leave them to their own devices—I could not speak more strongly about what my feelings, and, I know, those of my hon. Friends, would be in those circumstances.
The point, therefore, under this head is simply whether Her Majesty's Government are clear about the future, what the level of aid will be and what we will do to help the people of Barbados in the situation in which they now honourably find themselves. One has only to look at the settlements made in other territories to realise that, in a sense Barbados will not, perhaps, face the same happy situation that other territories, for accidental or other reasons, have enjoyed. That is a serious matter. Barbados needs help—I am not speaking of charity—to stand on its own feet. When the Secretary of State speaks of the pride that Barbadians so rightly have in what they have achieved, I agree with him. They have every right to be proud, and we have every right to congratulate them. The fact that they have been successful should not, however, in any way be allowed to penalise them.
On the question of aid, Britain has indeed done much, as the Minister has said. In the twenty years between 1945–46 and 1965–66, aid has totalled 14.6 million East Caribbean dollars. We now have an exciting project for the College of Barbados to be part of the West Indian University. All that is fine, and I am proud, as every Member of the House and every citizen of our country should 1659 be, that we are, and always have been, the largest contributor in aid to Barbados. Other nations have done much—Canada, for example, to which I have referred—but we have been, and are, the largest contributor.
There are, however, certain aspects of aid which, when one looks into them in detail, become a little worrying. I acknowledge all that is being done, but although, for example, 42 United Kingdom experts are at present in Barbados—and that is excellent—I understand that there are only 29 students from Barbados in this country. That seems to me to be much too small a figure and I hope that it can be increased.
In 1964, grants totalled £46,000 and technical assistance £58,000, totalling 104,000. In 1965, grants were £6,000 and technical assistance £71,000, making a total of £77,000. When looking into the figures, one is entitled to ask why the level of aid is declining and why it is in any event so very small. I repeat that we are not saying to these proud independent people that just because they are doing well themselves, we will do very little else for them. In the context of aid to the Caribbean area in general, these figures are very slender and, in my judgment, much more slender than they ought to be.
There are question marks about aid and I hope that the Minister will answer them, not necessarily in this debate, because I have not given him notice of them. I hope that the Government will bear in mind that in matters of this sort it is action that is required rather than words. I am sure that that will follow.
We have lately had the report of the Tripartite Economic Survey Commission, the work in which was done by the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. It is an excellent document. We know that it is to be considered by the Government and I hope very much that we shall have clear answers in regard to certain parts of it very soon.
We would all wish not only to associate ourselves with many of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, but to pay a tribute to the leaders in the island and all their work, the political leaders in particular. I think, for example, of the Prime Minister and his 1660 colleagues and—I count them also as my friends—members of the Opposition as well. Indeed, when an election is coming up, it is perhaps pertinent to give equal praise to both sides. Above all else, these men, white or coloured, are patriots and they are determined to do their best for their people.
I hope that I shall be in order if I pay a tribute also to the present Governor, Sir John Stow, and his charming lady. Those who know the island know very well how splendid their work has been over a very long period indeed. It is right in this House of Commons, may be unusual though it is, to pay a tribute to John Stow and to Lady Stow for all they have done and all they are doing.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the constitutional arrangements and possibilities that there have been. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devon-port (Dame Joan Vickers) knows so much about this question of federation, and so on. It is true that many of us in this House have been saddened and disappointed that some of the possibilities have not eventuated. There are others; and I think the point, very simply, is that, given Her Majesty's Government's backing and leadership and help in the future, every endeavour should be made to see that they do not fail.
This is a model island: a model of political stability; a model because it has the third oldest Legislature in the whole of the Commonwealth—a remarkable thing when one stops to examine it; it is a model island because it is an island in which there is respect for society; it is a model island because I believe that there colour is less a problem than in any other territory—at any rate, in any other territory with which I am familiar.
Lately, in political terms, there have seemed to be some new dangers. There is a small dissident element, small but dangerous, which has begun to emerge. It is of course, without doubt, in the interests of democracy that it should be contained, and it must be contained. So our continuing responsibility is not a matter of emotion only, or of moral obligation, as I have suggested and feel so strongly. It must be right that the United Kingdom seeks to help its friends contain the forces of evil wherever they may exist, because 1661 these feed on irresolution and they feed, as we all know, in bad, or non-advancing economic conditions, and, as they would sing in Barbados, "We want no shame and scandal in the family". It surely must be a determination of Parliament not simply to give help, or to give help as a priority, to those of our friends who are noisiest or the most fractious or who attack us in public, as some of them, bless their hearts, think fit to do.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I speak as one who has had some responsibility in Government for the administration of aid, and I know all too well the difficulties and problems and calls upon our limited resources. I merely say to him and to the Government that I believe it will be the wish of the whole House to see that our friends always come first and that those who do most for themselves should be helped to the maximum possible degree.
There has been no flag in Barbados but the Union flag for nearly three and a centuries. On 30th November that flag comes down, and comes down for ever, to be replaced by another, the design of which we have all seen, and which, happily, preserves a sentimental link with Great Britain. This is not a moment for regret. I am not speaking in any way in that sense. It is a moment of adventure. It is a moment of excitement, a moment of opportunity for those who are, as I have said, our people. It is said that when war began on 3rd September, 1939, the first telegram to arrive in Whitehall came from Barbados and was signed simply, "Barbados is with you." I think we should say to them, and say clearly, speaking as a British Parliament: "We shall never forget you. We know you will not fail us. We shall not fail you. We may no longer have responsibility for your government, but we who are your friends will stand by you and help you, as equals." And to that future we all look forward.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I shall join with the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) in one or two reservations about the Bill a little later on. Like all hon. Members and particularly like all those who take a close interest in and know the Caribbean, I want first to join in the rejoicings about the Bill and the con- 1662 gratulations that another part of our far-flung Empire is taking on the difficult rôle of independence. For an island of a quarter of a million population, that is no easy rôle, as the right hon. Gentleman said. It is a very small island, and I shall have something to say which leads me to have some reservations on that point in a moment.
Even if it is small, one can say of Barbados—as has been said of a number of islands, but it applies pre-eminently to Barbados—that this is a little bit of England which somehow floated off and became anchored in the Caribbean. There is nowhere in the world more English than Barbados. It is more English than my own constituency, in the strangest sort of way. It is English with such a tradition that, when toasting the Queen, one is never sure whether Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth is being referred to. By that I do not mean to say that they are behind the times, but they are so rooted in the traditions and love of the British way of life that their sense of history shines through at every point.
It is a moment for congratulation, for offering good wishes and saying how much we hope that it will be a success. I am sure that on pure economic grounds Barbados has as much claim and right to independence on its own feet as any other part of the Caribbean. Although Trinidad has the highest per capita income of 800 or 900 dollars a year, Barbados is not far behind at about 600 dollars, is on about level pegging with Jamaica with that sort of per capita income and well ahead of the Leeward and Windward Islands and, therefore, that much more able to stand on its own feet.
It has made great strides. It has been independent of help from Britain for some years and has all that claim on independence. It has a development plan which is showing that this small island can make enormous further strides.
The one big fear which I have is that, with its dependence on sugar, times can be bad, as my right hon. Friend said. A 90 per cent. dependence on sugar is an enormous one, and when one thinks of the erratic nature of the world market in the last few years, one can thank God for the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement but wonder whether even those sorts of 1663 things might one day break down. I am pretty sure that they will not. Both the parties which we have in our House treasure the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement as a means of helping not only Barbados but many other areas. Nevertheless, the doubt and the fear remain.
Perhaps at this point I might interpose a question and echo what the right hon. Gentleman said. Could my right hon. Friend tell the House how soon something will be said about the outcome of the tripartite survey into the development of the Eastern Caribbean? He knows of my great interest in it and of my continual pressure that Canada and the United States, having been associated in the study, should be associated in the deliberate formal provision of the money to carry out the findings of the survey. Has he yet anything to tell the House about that? If we once knew that at last the two other Governments were coming towards commitment in carrying out the development programme, a lot of us would be much happier in looking to the future of the Caribbean.
I mention economics. Constitutionally and politically the island is ripe for development, and nothing that I could say would add to what my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman have said already about the stability and democratic tradition of the island.
Having said so much about their readiness for independence on economic and political grounds, I come now to my reservation. It is rather different from the hon. Gentleman's. I was not just sad when the project of the Eastern Caribbean Federation broke down. I was deeply disappointed. Even now, when we are granting independence to Barbados with so much goodwill, I am terribly sad that we are doing it, because it means that we are not really granting what I had hoped would be independence to an Eastern Carribean Federation.
I do not want to blame anybody. These are not occasions for blame. Everybody was to blame on that one, and Barbados must take its share of the blame. I have a feeling that Barbados was interested in the Federation but then lost interest as the thing went on and as the problem of negotiations with the 1664 Leeward and Windward Islands became more and more difficult and personalities began to cross each other.
Mr. Barrow, the Prime Minister, must take some blame for not throwing all his weight behind the idea of seeing an Eastern Caribbean Federation through to the end. I hope that even at the point of taking independence Mr. Barrow and the whole of Barbados will take this as a starting point for re-interesting themselves in a future Federation. Wider groupings have to come in the Caribbean, and we all know of the continual pressure and discussion initiated by Dr. Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad. I do not know what the precise path to the new pattern of Federation is to be, but unless we all keep talking about it, and unless the newly independent Barbados keeps talking about it, we shall not get it in my lifetime, and that will indeed be a tragedy.
In that respect I hope that the economic commission which the Ministry of Overseas Development has in Barbados will help, as other things will be helping, to keep alive the spirit of cooperation in one form or another between the islands, rather than floating off into a separate independent existence. As one who took part in getting that Commission there, I regard it as important not only for its job in economics, but for its proper job in keeping the links and fostering the bonds between the islands and various parts of the British Caribbean as we used to know it.
With that reservation, I welcome the Bill. We have close links with the new Barbados. We have the sugar through the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. We have a number of Barbadians in this country. The smiling Barbadian faces on the London transport system are one of the best advertisements that Barbados could ever have sent to any country. They are very popular, and we should like them to know in Barbados how welcome they are here.
We have had, and we shall have, not only those two links. We shall always have cricket, and that is not a bad link, even though we tend to be beaten by the West Indies nowadays. We are glad to be beaten by such fine sportsmen, and to know that there is such a fine link between our two countries.
1665 One link which I want to see greatly extended is that of holidays for British people in the Caribbean. This is a rising traffic. The air fare used to be £200, but this year it came down to £150. Although that is still a lot of money for many people, holidays in Europe were a lot of money 10 years ago. In 10 or 20 years' time more British people will be going to the Caribbean. I want to see that. I want to see the air fare being further reduced. I want to see more British people having the good fortune that I have had of having holidays, rest and recuperation in the Caribbean sun. However we look at it, we shall have these links. However we look at it, we have come forward on a long path together, one island here and another smaller bit of our own island in the Caribbean.
Despite all my reservations and my hope that this is only the beginning of a move towards yet another federation—postponed though it may be for some years—I say that for today we should celebrate the possibilities arising from independence for Barbados and wish it all the best of good fortune, on behalf of the many people of this country who regard the Caribbean with very deep affection.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)
Before commenting on some of the general points that have been made, and some of the things said by the Secretary of State, I want to refer to the last two speeches from hon. Members on the back benches. With all humility I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) for speaking with such obvious and warm sincerity. I was also particularly impressed by what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) said about the need not to lose sight of a wider grouping within the Caribbean. I was one of those who mourned very sincerely—as I have no doubt the hon. Member for Northfield did—the passing, before it came to fruition, of the greater West Indian Federation. We all know now—and many of those who live in that area have the same feeling, I suspect—that this was if not a tragedy at least a very regrettable happening.
1666 We built up our hopes later on the more limited East Caribbean Federation under the leadership of Barbados, but again those hopes were not fulfilled. That is a matter of regret, but whereas the possibility of the West Indian Federation has retreated further into the mist there is a real chance that an Eastern Caribbean Federation may yet come into being, because constitutional developments do not preclude such an event coming about in the future.
I want to mention the specific question of air fares, because that is something that I have fought for, both with national and independent airlines, for some time. I should be grateful if I.A.T.A. would look at the situation which sometimes arises when a former colonial territory becomes independent. It seems that the air fares are almost automatically jerked up as a result, and this has a harmful effect on those whom we are helping to independence. Countries which are still further away and which are nominally dependent have more advantageous air fares. In the case of Malta it was shown that this situation does not necessarily have to arise and that there are ways round it which I do not want to spell out in detail now.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton spoke with more than his usual and quite exceptional modesty when he came down from his lofty sphere to speak behind me on the back benches and to pay me the tribute of being able officially to speak for the Opposition much better than he could. I suspect that he had his tongue in his cheek when he said it. I am sure that we were all touched by his speech, because he was speaking from the heart. He knows Barbados very well. I know it reasonably well, and I share the affection expressed in every word that he had to say about the island and its peoples.
He was right to sound a note of caution on this occasion, in connection with certain aspects of the situation. The Secretary of State has had a rather rough week, and it is not my intention to add to his difficulties this afternoon. I am not laying all the blame on his shoulders—let us distribute it all round—for the fact that the constitutional conference ended up with more outstanding points of difference between the political parties there than he or anyone else would have liked. I am 1667 sure that he did his best to get these difficulties resolved.
I know that difficulties do arise at these conferences. I have attended a number of them myself, sometimes as an advocate and sometimes in other capacities, but I can remember only one—the Kenya Constitutional Conference—where, in the final outcome, more points of disagreement existed between the two parties than existed on this occasion. But we need not be all that pessimistic because, despite that, the Kenya parties managed to iron out their differences between themselves, although not always by methods of which we would approve, with our traditions.
One of these differences, which the Secretary of State did not mention—probably by an oversight—concerns single—and double-Member constituencies. This was one of the outstanding differences left over, but, in the last day or two, I learned that a local Order in Council there is to take effect. Although it will take effect only after the next election, nevertheless—whoever wins the election—single-member constituencies, which the Opposition want, will come into being at the beginning of next year. This was a most serious difference and it is worth mentioning.
The other point which was not mentioned in the Conference report is the argument about whether there should be elections before independence. One should pay tribute here to Mr. Barrow and his colleagues, because we should never have been able to force him to do what he has now agreed to do and take on the risk of fighting the election before independence. I suppose that all parties always express complete confidence in their victory at an election. I do not know whether this would apply to the Liberal Party in this country, but certainly the parties in Barbados seem to have complete confidence about the outcome.
However, if the Government win, we ought to place on record the fact that the Opposition may later—I hope that they do not—criticise the basis on which independence was granted, because of unresolved points. This will not be the immediate concern of the House and I hope that the Opposition will be able to negotiate agreement on these difficulties, but it is a risk which it would be wrong not to 1668 mention. I think that this is what my hight hon. Friend the Member for Taunton had in mind.
If the Opposition win, something of a paradox arises, as they will inherit a constitution which, in some respects, they did not want—[An HON. MEMBER: "They will be able to change it."] Yes, but we hope that they in their turn will change it with a sense of responsibility. I wish that more of the Caribbean islands—I will not be more invidious than that—had as many leaders of moderation and political calibre as has Barbados.
I have sounded those one or two notes of caution. We have learned that, once the theory of independence has been seized upon by the people as something which they want, any attempt by this House to hold it up does not result in the end for which one hopes, but only creates bitterness in the country concerned. Any attempts, whether in Committee or anywhere else, to make changes in constitutions have ended not only in failure but in spoiling the atmosphere in which the country concerned goes into independence. I hope that nothing which I or any other hon. Member will say will lead to another foray of this sort before the Bill becomes a Statute.
I will not go into the economic situation, because I share the natural hesitation of other hon. Members to express complete confidence when so much of the country's economy depends on a single crop. However, we must remember that, with more and more air travel, the desire of North Americans to get away from their overcrowded areas and the ability of Europeans to go much greater distances than ever before, tourism is becoming one of the most attractive alternative industries in the Caribbean and there is no reason why Barbados should not share fully in this.
The Bahamas and Bermuda, for instance, with considerably fewer natural resources than Barbados, yet have a standard of living, because of tourism, which is second to none in the area. There is no reason why Barbados, with its climate, the exceptional charm of its people and its total lack of colour prejudice, should not take a very proud place among the nations of the Caribbean, as a place where visitors from all over the world will want to go and to spend their money.
1669 Several hon. Members have used a phrase, which I would have used had I spoken first, and referred to Barbados as "another England" on the other side of the world. Not only is it another England, but I am sure that the inhabitants would be proud that we should refer to it in those terms. One of its most attractive aspects is not its multi-racial character—this is a word which I do not like using as it seems to define differences. "Non-racial" is the word which we ought to use much more often in defining what we should like to see in those countries where we are handing over independence. I can remember going to a number of these islands, one after another, and on to the mainland. I went to Barbados where at a church service I found that it was certainly not a question merely of people of different colours sitting together; it was just one complete community, with people taking their seals according to how they entered the church. After the conditions in some other parts of the world, this was a very welcome scene to my wife and myself. It augurs well for the future.
They have, of course, had the advantage of not having a third race, an East Indian race, in the community. When I say this I do so without making any reflection on the East Indians. After all, this is part of our responsibility because we took them to the area. But it is easier for two races to mix together than for three to do so, and the Barbadians started with some advantages in that respect.
I was interested in what my right hon. Friend said about the "red legs". I am glad that he mentioned them. This is a small community with history of its own. In Kenya we had to make special arrangements so that anyone of European descent, going back a long way, would be able to regain his British nationality if anything went wrong out there. I do not think it necessary to make these arrangements in this case, and the fact that I say so is in itself a tribute to the good sense of the Barbadians. But I am sure that those who choose to stay there will want to feel that not only can they live out their own lives there but that their children can do so, too. As far as I am concerned, when I compare their climate with ours, I am not sure that they have not made the right choice.
1670 It would be wrong not to pay tribute to an elder statesman in Barbados for whom I have always had great personal affection—Sir Grantley Adams. He was the father of the greater Federation and the fact that it failed was no fault of his. I am sure that neither Mr. Barrow nor anyone else would think it invidious if I mentioned Sir Grantley's name alone and expressed a very fond feeling for someone whom many of us have come to regard as a close personal friend. He knows well that when he comes to this country he has only to lift the telephone to get in touch with friends from all over this House and this country at a moment's notice.
We have a tendency in the House, sometimes a little smug, when easing a country into independence to talk about one of our sons growing up. I have never been sure that that is particularly accurate as a description of an ex-Colonial territory. We have not the right, nor would it be appropriate, to think of Barbados as a son or daughter growing up. As far as I am concerned it is a question of a brother or sister coming of full age, and in that capacity we welcome Barbados to the British family of nations.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee
May I have the permission of the House to reply? I am extremely grateful for the tone in which the House has received the Bill. All the nice things which have been said will sound as sweet in Barbados and will sound all the sweeter in that they were well deserved. A number of important matters were raised and in the few minutes which are left to the debate I will try to deal with them.
I thought that the tributes of the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) were very well done. I am sure that the whole House was with him in what he said about Barbados. He has fears about the widening of the gap between the developed and underdeveloped parts of the world. In my view this is the greatest problem which the world faces.
Since 1960, when the United Nations Resolution concerning the 1 per cent. gross national product was passed, one must admit that it is disappointing that the developed parts of the world have 1671 not lived up to the spirit of that Resolution. If they do not live up to this spirit it may be that we will all have cause for regret. I will certainly look at the point the hon. Gentleman made about the price paid for sugar by Canada. I will inquire and write to him about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) raised what to me is another important matter—the tripartite survey. I can give my hon. Friend some information which will please him. The Regional Council of Ministers has invited the Governments of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom to discuss this matter. This invitation has been accepted and the meeting will take place in Antigua from 2nd to 5th November. The Governments participating will be the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Barbados, Antigua, Dominica, Monserrat, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Vincent. That arrangement has now been made.
As the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) said, a number of outstanding points emerged during the discussion at the Constitutional Conference which could not be resolved. To some degree, this came about because when the existing Parliament in Barbados was elected the country was still in the period when they were hoping to get federation. Although the attitude of the Opposition parties hovered between the hope of federation and the fact that that was not possible, independence was the only issue.
This, I believe, conditioned the approach of the Opposition parties to a number of issues at the Conference. Indeed, we were not sure when the Conference began—I say this frankly—whether the Opposition parties would accept the basis for independence. This made a great difference to the way in which the Conference could be conducted. Fortunately, however, they did accept that independence should be the aim.
As one hon. Member pointed out, we are not only sad that federation did not come about. As hon. Members will see, in the new constitutions we have drawn up, all the associated States in the Windwards and Leewards are deliberately left in such a way that it would be comparatively easy constitutionally for federation to begin. We are hopeful that 1672 it will not be long before this great conception of federation—which is now the only one which makes economic sense in the long run—will not be regarded as a dead letter. As I have said, we have done what we could in drawing up these constitutions, and they will enable federation to become the vital point again.
Single-member constituencies were mentioned. This matter was discussed at the Constitutional Conference. There had been a promise made by Mr. Barrow that the arrangements for this would proceed forthwith. He made the reservation during the Conference that, for physical reasons only, he was not certain when they could bring about the new organisation to get the single-member constituencies in time for the next General Election. Single-member constituencies will come into being in the New Year; that is, after the General Election that is now taking place. Disappointment will be felt, especially amongst the Opposition parties, but Mr. Barrow assured me at the conference and in conversation that it was just a question of getting the people who were qualified to do the work, and of getting the work done against the date of the General Election.
I join wholeheartedly in what the hon. Member said about Sir Grantley Adams. Sir Grantley has had a very great career. His progressive approach to so many of the problems of Barbados is reflected in the sound situation on which we have all commented. It can be a proud moment for him when independence comes to Barbados.
A point has been made of the enormous propensity of Barbados to produce cricketers. Someone has said that we should be happy to be beaten by the West Indians but it seems to me that we are happy to be beaten by Barbados—the other parts of the West Indies cannot get in, except as bag carriers and the like. The spirit in which they play their cricket is greatly admired throughout the world. Reference was made to Gibraltar, and as one who may be said to have faced some googlies in his time I think I can say that I picked out some googlies before the cricket season started.
It has been a great privilege to be able to introduce this legislation. I am extremely grateful to all those who have taken part in this debate—I am sure 1673 that they have echoed the feelings of all British people. We wish Barbados as great a future as she has had a past. She has been a great upholder of the democratic spirit in the Caribbean for very many years. When an island such as this gains independence, I do not feel that we lose something from the Empire but rather that we gain a very close friend within the Commonwealth. It is in that spirit that we all wish Barbados the very best that fortune can offer in the future as an independent nation.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I should like to quote from the diary of George Washington when, in 1751, he went to Barbados with his dying brother:Hospitality and genteel behaviour is shown to every gentleman stranger by the gentleman inhabitants.Even today that describes the courtesy and the kindness one always receives in Barbados.
I was very pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) mentioned Sir Grantley Adams, because I was in Trinidad on the very day on which the Federation ended. I went to the final luncheon, which was an extremely sad affair in many ways. I hope that it will still be possible to have a smaller Federation in the future.
Clauses 3(3) states:A woman who is the wife of a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies shall not cease to be such a citizen under the said section 2(2) unless her husband does so.Does the women have to take the nationality of her husband in such a case? If so, it will be very awkward, because in many cases, particularly with common law marriages, women do not necessarily know where their husbands are and so do not know when the men have changed their nationality. They will find themselves in great difficulty. In any case, I thought that women today were allowed to choose their nationality. They can in the United Kingdom—is that not the case in Barbados. I hope that the Minister will look into this point, because it could lead to many legal difficulties. A woman who is deserted 1674 or has had a legal separation is still a wife. A great difference could be made to her and her children.
There are many points I wished to raise which have been mentioned. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see that Barbados is made a centre for a great many organisations, in other words a headquarters. I believe it has been the headquarters of the Commonwealth Development Association. It is very easy to get to by air and is in the centre of the islands. It would be a good centre for organisations in future. It is a good taking-off point for different commissions. It has been said that perhaps the country should not rely entirely on sugar production. One never knows, some synthetic product may come along. Nor should there be too much reliance on tourism. Tourists are very fickle and only a percentage of people can afford to go to places like Barbados. That number may fall off. I do not think we can be very hopeful of increasing prosperity a great deal unless through organisations and headquarters and by other ways we can help them to earn their own living.
An hon. Member referred to the number of people who come from Barbados to this country. I believe there are over 400 working on London Transport buses, in hospitals and in the British Army. My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) mentioned the support we received, and I wish to refer to the Barbados Regiment and the volunteers. This is the only island of all the Caribbean islands which has never been invaded since the settlement. I thank the people of Barbados for the great hospitality I have received from them. I keep in touch with them through the Soroptimists and the excellent social services which they have evolved in this small island. I wish everyone in that country peace and prosperity for the future.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Fitch.]
§ Committee upon Monday next.