§ 1.35 p.m.
§ Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
It is with sincere regret that I raise this problem of the situation in St. Kitts, and Anguilla. It is a situation which is very dangerous and which is deteriorating. It could also affect many other parts of the West Indies. It was in the early part of the year that six West Indian Territories were granted this new associated status. This meant that they had control of their own internal affairs but that the British Government looked after their external relations and external defence.
Any stigma of colonialism was removed from this status by the fact that either party could contract out, through certain procedures. It was a true association of the Islands with Great Britain. None of us has any quarrel with this new status, and the general concept of co-operation between the islands and another country. It is an admirable compromise which could be developed in other countries. But, as with all general concepts, great care must be taken in timing and method of implementation. I want to draw attention to St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla because the situation there following the granting of new status is anything but happy.
St. Kitts received associated status on 27th February of this year. Five months later, Anguilla has declared its independence and the writ of the Central Government no longer runs over this small island of 6,000 inhabitants, 70 miles north of St. Kitts. Virtually all Opposition leaders are in prison, with no charges preferred against them. Only two have had charges preferred against them. There has been a declaration of emergency and a number of people including Mr. Milnes Gaskell, a United Kingdom citizen, have been detained without trial or charge.
There are reports that arms have been imported into St. Kitts and Anguilla, a disturbing report in the present situation of tension and fear undoubtedly existing in the area. Her Majesty's Government take the line that all the correct constitutional procedures have been adhered to. There is doubt whether this is strictly so. By no stretch of the imagination could anyone say that the experience of associated status in these three islands so 1200 far has been a success. Real fear stalks upon the islands of St. Kitts and Anguilla. I want to address myself to two basic questions. First, why has this happened? Why have hopes been so quickly falsified and, secondly, now that this has happened, what can we do about it? I believe that Her Majesty's Government must bear a tremendously heavy load of responsibility for this tragic state of affairs. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the area knows that the Anguillans are a proud and hard-working people with their own traditions, a closely knit community, jealous of their individuality and deeply concerned about the future of their country.
At the Constitutional Conference in May, 1966, these fears were voiced by Anguillans, who were afraid that they would not recieve proper treatment from the Central Government in St. Kitts after independence. The fears then raised by these people were largely dispelled by a promise from Her Majesty's Government, written into the Conference report, that each island would have its own local council. This is what allowed them to go home fairly happy. Paragraph 50 of Annexe B to the Report reads:The Constitution will provide that there shall be a Council for Nevis and a Council for Anguilla; that the council for each Island shall be the principal organ of local government for the Island: and that at least two-thirds of all members of each Council shall be elected on the same franchise as Members of the House of Assembly.I ask the House to note that in that extract there was no reference at this stage to any delay in setting up these councils, nor to the proposal that the council should be nominated, even though only for an interim period before elections were held. All this is subsequent to the granting of Associated Status.
The Anguillan's fears as to there future were stilled, therefore, and they eagerly looked forward to the setting up of local councils, but no action at all was taken to organise local elections or the setting up of these councils. The fact is, and the Government must go in the dock for it, that the Government seemed to lose all interest at this vital stage, and it was not until January, 1967, some seven months later, that anyone was even sent to St. Kitts to help the Government 1201 there in the organisation of the local elections. From about July onwards, therefore, there was in Anguilla a growing fear that they would not get the councils they had been promised.
The fears of the people turned to acute alarm when the Secretary of the People's Action Movement—the Opposition party which obtained almost all the votes in Anguilla at the previous election— received a letter, a strange letter, from Mr. Bradshaw, the Prime Minister in St. Kitts. The letter is addressed to Mr. Caines, the Secretary of the People's Action Movement, and reads:Dear Sir, Reference is made to a letter of instant date addressed to me and signed by yourself as '(Secretary, P.A.M.)', 'P. E. Adams M.L.C. for Anguilla of P.A.M.' and 'William Herbert, President, P.A.M.', referring to 'proposals as to the composition and functions of the proposed local Governments under our new Constitution.'There are no 'proposals' before my Government.(Signed) Robert Bradshaw, Chief Minister.That was a most surprising letter, and it naturally struck alarm in every Anguillan heart.
As a result of the fear, alarm and consternation caused by that letter, Dr. Herbert, leader of the People's Action Movement, and Mr. Adams came to London early in February, when they saw the right hon. Lady the former Minister of State. At that meeting they were told that local elections could not be held until December of this year, and that, in the meantime, councils would be nominated. This proposal was later written into the Constitution. There had been no mention of this delay in the Report of the Constitutional Conference in the previous year. Dr. Herbert and Mr. Adams returned home undoubtedly two very worried and unhappy men.
In the meantime, the West Indies Bill was debated here, and my noble Friend, Lord Jellicoe, in another place, put forward to the Minister the fears of the Anguillans, but the Government were adamant that Associated Status must go forward as planned.
My point is that Associated Status should not have been granted until after local councils had been set up, as had been promised. Her Majesty's Government have delayed granting Associated Status to St. Vincent—for other reasons, it is true—and there was no reason why they should 1202 not have delayed granting Associated Status to St. Kitts and Anguilla. The Anguillans were not satisfied with promises for the future. After all, some of them remembered an earlier speech of Mr. Bradshaw in which he said that he would make Anguilla into a desert. They were not assured when these happenings occurred. Had the Government taken this elementary precaution, it is very probable that the present trouble would not have arisen at all.
Let me move on now to the events that have occurred since the granting of Associated Status. The Government have shown an almost unbelievable complacency. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Overseas Development was booed when he went to Anguilla during the independence ceremonies. All the reports from the area were of extreme dissatisfaction and alarm in Anguilla. The right hon. Lady the former Minister of State has been bombarded with Questions in the House and in correspondence, but to every inquiry the reply was that everything was all right and that there was absolutely no cause for alarm.
The right hon. Lady, who is now the Minister for Social Security, in a letter of 23rd February to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood), said:I am told that there is now a very much calmer atmosphere in Anguilla.The Minister of Overseas Development said on 10th March:I am glad to assure the right hon. Gentleman"—that is, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington:that the reports which I read about the troubles in Anguilla were exaggerated. There certainly was a small demonstration, but by way of a change it was for Her Majesty's Government to continue to control Anguilla. However, it is quite clear that Anguilla is a part of St. Kitts and Nevis and when I met the Deputy-Premier it was clear that the bulk of the people expressed that wish.The hon. Gentleman the Minister of State, who is to reply to this debate, was also guilty of complacency because on 21st March he stated:…I am not aware that any difficulties have arisen since the inauguration of Statehood."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st March, 1967; Vol. 743, c. 1435.]1203 All this, while, in fact, the situation was far from calm, a minor volcano was on the point of eruption and St. Kitts had become almost a police state. Either the Government had no idea of what was going on or, which is perhaps worse, were deliberately burying their heads in the sand and deceiving the House.
Let us now come to more recent events. On 31st May, the police force of some 27 men was expelled from Anguilla, which declared itself independent. On 11th June, after an alleged armed attack on the headquarters of the police and defence forces in St. Kitts, Dr. Herbert, other Opposition leaders, Mr. Boon—the son of Sir Geoffrey Boon, Q.C.—and Mr. Milnes Gaskell, a United Kingdom subject, were arrested. Miss Diana Prior-Palmer, daughter of a former Member, was also arrested, maltreated, detained in appalling circumstances and then deported. This led Mr. Bradshaw to declare a state of emergency.
As regards the legality of the actions of the St. Kitts Government, I should like to ask the Minister a specific question. Paragraph 17(2) of the St. Kitts Constitution Order, 1967, states that:… any declaration of emergency shall lapse (a) in the case of a declaration made when the Legislature is sitting, at the expiration of a period of seven days beginning with the date of publication of the declaration; and (b) in any other case, at the expiration of a period of 21 days beginning with the date of publication of the declaration, unless it has in the meantime been approved by a Resolution of the House of Assembly supported by the votes of two-thirds of all the Members of the House.Has the declaration been approved by Resolution of the House of Assembly with a two-thirds majority? I should like a categoric "Yes" or "No" to that question.
I now turn to the future. The great tragedy of this affair is that the West Indies as a whole, quite wrongly, are beginning to get a bad name, and I am sure that most of the other West Indian Governments are well aware of this. What the West Indians require probably more than anything else is a new injection of capital and the greatest possible encouragement of tourism. But if things continue as they are in St. Kitts and Anguilla, trouble will spread to other islands. People are rather hazy about geography, and will probably say, "We 1204 will not go to the West Indies this year. It does not seem very healthy there." To my mind, the best answer is for other West Indian territories to try to bring pressure to bear on St. Kitts so that these disputes between the two islands can be speedily sorted out. I am delighted, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is, that the West Indies Mission has been sent to St. Kitts. I agree with the Government that in the present situation this is the best course to take. I am sure that the Government will give support to this initiative. I shall be glad if the Minister has further information of what progress can be made in this direction he will give it to us today.
I hope that the Government will bring pressure to bear so that Mr. Milnes Gaskell—a United Kingdom subject—can either be brought to trial or released. The tribunal which is sitting at the moment is, I understand, merely investigating whether the grounds for his continued detention are valid. He has not been charged. In the past, little sense of urgency has been shown by the Government on this. It took 10 days before he was even seen by a British representative. I hope that the Government will protect him from continued detention without trial. I am glad that Lord Shepherd's first mission in his new capacity, on which I wish him well, is to go to St. Kitts. So at least one Minister will now know what is going on. That will be a change. It should have happened long ago.
There is the question of aid. I do not suggest for one moment that aid should be cut off from St. Kitts, but the £272,000 estimated aid for St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla for 1967–68 must surely include money which should have gone for the benefit of Anguilla. If Anguilla is no longer under the control of St. Kitts, there must surely be a case for a reappraisal of the level of this aid, at least on a temporary basis. We are, of course, still responsible for the external defence of St. Kitts. If any external threats were to develop, I should like the assurance of this Government that this responsibility would be exercised.
While it must be obvious from my remarks that I think this Government have been guilty of complacency. 1205 ignorance and even duplicity, I believe that the answer to this West Indian problem must come from the West Indies themselves. I would support any action which the Government might take to help the West Indian Mission which is now in existence. All of us and all other West Indian islands should be grateful for the efforts that are being made by the Ministers from Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Barbados to bring some sanity and reconciliation into this inflammable area. Many who know that Mr. Bradshaw had high hopes of him when he became the premier of these islands. He is charming, hard-working, a good speaker and a flambuoyant personality. It is natural for Governments to dislike opposition and for individuals to resent criticism, but that is the very essence of democracy. I hope that Mr. Bradshaw will do all in his power to act fairly and responsibly and with due regard to the rights of others and that he will live up to the high expectations we had of him when he took the office of Chief Minister.
As for the Government here, as we go into Recess we shall be watching them carefully. Time and again Britons and British property abroad has been subjected to intolerable insults. We shall watch how the Government protect our citizens abroad and what they do to help to bring about a sensible and lasting settlement in the dispute between St. Kitts and Anguilla.
§ 1.54 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Mr. Milnes-Gaskell, who has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers), is a constituent of mine. To allow a British subject to be detained without a charge, without trial for six weeks and with the British Government doing nothing at all to help him, is a disgrace.
The facts are that Mr. Milnes-Gaskell had a hotel in Nevis and when the Opposition leaders came here last February to meet the Minister of State he acted as a public relations officer when they were in this country. For that act of a British subject in representing to his Government the views of the Opposition party in St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, he is now suffering de- 1206 tention without trial. He was arrested on 11th June, the day after the first 19 were arrested. He and Mr. Geoffrey Boon were arrested on the Sunday. He received no statement of the grounds on which he was arrested until 17th June, within the seven days. The statement of the grounds of detention which he received said:You, James Milnes-Gaskell, during the year 1967 both within…Note this—and outside the State encouraged civil disobedience throughout the State thereby endangering the peace and public safety and public order of the State.It is quite clear, vague as those charges are, that they relate to his visit to the Minister of State when he came here to put the views of the Anguillans.
The High Court of St. Kitts ruled that that statement of grounds was inadequate and did not conform with the Constitution. So far as I know—I hope the Minister of State will correct me if I am wrong—Mr. Gaskell has received since that time no other statement of the grounds on which he is detained. He has not been charged. He and others have applied for writs of habeas corpus. This is one of the most serious aspects of the case. I think it true to say that all the 22 applied for writs of habeas corpus and in four cases writs were granted by the judge after five adjournments. Immediately they were granted, in the case of Mr. Geoffrey Boon, when he was leaving the prison under a writ of habeas corpus, Mr. Bradshaw had him rearrested under the same emergency powers. All four were rearrested either immediately or at the most after a lapse of four hours.
This is causing those interested in this case to have some doubts whether justice is being properly done under what appears to be an unusual form of emergency powers, under a dictatorship. Under the Constitution those who are detained must have their cases reviewed within a month. I do not know—I should like the Minister of State to tell us—what that actually means. Now six weeks have passed and the cases have not yet been reviewed. It is true that a review body was set up on 8th July, within the prescribed time, but it immediately adjourned and there has been no review while these men linger in gaol.
1207 I have with me a singular document which I wish to let the House know about. I have a photostat copy of a letter signed by or on behalf of all the detainees making an appeal to Britain. It is dated 12th July, and it states:We the 22 political detainees of Dictator Bradshaw of St. Kitts have now been in prison for one month without reasonable cause being shown.It goes on to say:Among the varied 'reasons' for individuals' detention are 'Civil Disobedience' and 'writing two letters criticising the Government'".How many on both sides of this House, if conditions were the same, would be detained here without trial for that offence? The letter goes on:In spite of the farcical nature of these reasons, the island judge has seen fit to adjourn habeas corpus applications no less than five times. When finally four applications were granted the detainees were immediately redetained under fresh detention orders signed by Bradshaw's rubber stamp Governor. Bradshaw also forced a magistrate who had granted bail in one case to revoke that grant by threat of imprisonment under a detention order.We feel that the fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution are being abrogated to such a degree, as to justify, standing alone, the suspension of this Constitution by Britain.I will read just one more passage from the letter. If the Minister of State wishes to have this letter at the end of the debate, I should be happy for him to see it, with the signatures attached. The letter also says:We believe that responsibility for the present situation, which is one of utter desperation, lies firmly with Britain. She gave full internal self-government to the Territory of St. Kitts/Nevis/Anguilla at a time when the whole Territory was a virtual dictatorship and Anguilla was in a state of near anarchy. But we also believe that if Britain suspends this Constitution and installs an independent governor to rule by decree for such time as it may take to establish the conditions necessary for a democracy to work, then she will do herself a tremendous amount of good throughout the Caribbean. We feel that the whole future of the many islands in the Caribbean depends upon British suspension or otherwise of our Constitution within a week or two. Unrest and violence is already anticipated in Antigua, where extra police arc being brought in. The United States Virgin Island and Barbados, too, will have reason to view the present position in St. Kitts with grave anxiety …1208If Britain decides to act too late in the relief of St. Kitts and Anguilla, it will become the tragedy of West Indian history.I believe that to be a restrained and important document for the Minister of State and the Government to consider. These men are not pleading so much for their own release as for good order and good government in their country. I believe that the British Government have a terrible load of responsibility in this matter. Where was the Governor at the time when Mr. Bradshaw exercised his emergency powers, when the orders had to be signed by the Governor? He was not in the island. He was away in New York.
Where was the British Representative? Was there a British Representative to look after the interests of British subjects in the island? I give full credit to the work Mr. Stewart Roberts has done since that date, but it came far too late. Surely when a new constitution is being started the British Government owe a measure of responsibility to ensure that they have representatives in the Territory to look after the interests of their subjects. I believe that the Government have been extremely dilatory in this matter. I ask them immediately to secure the release of my constituent, who is a British subject, and to secure peace and good order, instead of anarchy, in St. Kitts.
§ 2.4 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. George Thomas)
I am not seeking to prevent others from taking part in the debate, but I think that it will be for the advantage of the House if I state the Government's case at an early stage. I have come to this responsibility since my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) was promoted to be Minister of Social Security.
I come to a very difficult problem. When the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) used the adjective "anguishing", I thought how right he was. No one can feel happy about the events in St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla as they have unfolded in recent days. As this is the first opportunity we have had to discuss the situation there, I hope that it will be of some assistance if I state the salient facts.
First, I want to make it clear beyond a peradventure that the Anguillans, 1209 although they have now taken certain steps which they regard as having effected the secession of Anguilla, did not have secession as part of their programme when associated status was being discussed. The Leader of the People's Action Movement and the Member of the Legislature elected in Anguilla—Mr. Adams I believe—both came to London to make representations about local government. They made it clear—the hon. Member for Sevenoaks was fair about this—that what they were asking for was for Association Day to be deferred until elected councils actually came into being, but that they were not asking for secession. They based their fears about local government on what they believed to be proposals under consideration by the Executive Council in the previous December, but they knew that a United Kingdom expert from O.D.M. had been preparing a report which their Government had then to consider.
There were in fact practical reasons why local government elections could not be arranged before 27th February. Acceptance of these practical reasons for delay does not seem a very good basis for doubting Mr. Bradshaw's intention to arrange for elections. On the contrary, the proposal that for an interim period, which was not to extend beyond the end of the year, the councils should be nominated was itself evidence of his determination to have councils in being by Association Day, even if they could not be elected councils, and the voice of Anguilla in the nomination for this Council, was to be heard and fully taken into account.
Similar arrangements worked perfectly in Nevis. They would have given the Anguillans, through their elected representative Mr. Adams a very large say in who the members should be. It was not foreseen that, because the Anguillans could not have elections 10 months earlier than was promised, they would press their opposition to the point of attempting to secede.
In this connection there is one other point which I want to clear up. I refer to assurances that those local government elections would be held in June or July of this year. These assurances were based on discussions which a senior official of the Commonwealth Office had with the Chief Minister and the Attorney- 1210 General in St. Kitts during a visit in February. He made known our view that these elections should be held as early as possible and should not be left open until the end of the year. They discussed the practical difficulties of completing the legislation and the detailed arrangements for elections in Nevis and Anguilla.
Although the Chief Minister hoped to carry through his plans for nominated councils for the interim period, he agreed that if nominated councils could not be established the elections could be held in June or July. The Chief Minister consulted the Members elected for Nevis and for Anguilla with a view to obtaining from them names for these appointments. By the time he returned from a tour of Europe, the Nevis Council had been inaugurated, but Mr. Adams had been unable to provide names for Anguilla.
The thought that I want to leave with the House on this side of the matters raised is that even if the Anguillans had not raised a finger, they could still have been sure of having by the end of this year the properly elected council for Anguilla which was offered, and accepted, at the London Conference.
I was asked certain questions by the hon. Member for Sevenoaks and I hope to reply to the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) as well. I was asked whether the declaration of emergency had been approved with the requisite two-thirds majority in the Legislature, and the answer is "Yes, Sir. It has been". I know that will satisfy the hon. Gentleman's anxieties on that score.
Now the state of emergency and the detention of persons without trial under emergency regulations. We naturally have anxiety, and when British subjects are detained without trial the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman are quite right to bring the matter to the House. But I hope it will be accepted for a fact that under the Association arrangements we are not responsible for internal security and we have no power to interfere with the security measures taken by the Government of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla except in so far as a matter of defence or external affairs is involved. It is the Government of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, and not Her 1211 Majesty's Government, who have to be satisfied that a state of emergency exists. There is no doubt that the Government of St. Kitts were so satisfied before the state of emergency was declared on 30th May. Thereupon they promulgated, as the constitution permits the emergency measures which they regarded were made necessary by the situation.
I may say to the right hon. Gentleman that when the Governor is not there, there is a duly appointed deputy governor who has full authority to act, and he has, I believe, no choice but to act on the advice of the Government if they indicate that a state of emergency exists and call upon him to sign a proclamation accordingly.
The protection of the fundamental rights and freedom of the individual is left to the Constitution. Chapter I of the Constitution contains the relevant provision. It is not to us, but to the High Court, that any one must apply who alleges that in respect of himself there has been a contravention of the Chapter It has been suggested today that Mr. Bradshaw's Government have made a mockery of this provision because no sooner had the detainees obtained writs of habeas corpus and been released but they were re-arrested. They are still in detention. Let me give the House the facts. In two of the four cases where writs have been granted, I am informed that the applications for writs of habeas corpus succeeded solely on the ground that the statements given to them of the grounds of their detention were too vague and did not give enough detail. The court did not decide whether the Government had adequate grounds or not. It merely said that the information given was too vague. The Government of Mr. Bradshaw in the cases referred to made their charge more specfic and felt that they were, I understand, then fulfilling the demands of the court that the charge should be more specific.
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Gentleman is talking about a charge. No charge has yet been made except in two cases. He is implying, I suppose, that the court having held the order of detention to be invalid, a new order with a new statement of grounds has been delivered.
§ Mr. Thomas
I am much obliged. It was a new statement, more specific. The 1212 review tribunal will have something to say on that. The telegram which I received this morning from my noble Friend the Minister of State in another place tells me that the tribunal, which has unfortunately in my judgment been delayed, has not yet resumed. The Chairman is still in Antigua where he is engaged in a case before the Court of Appeal. He is an independent barrister. He has told St. Kitts Government that he will return to Basseterre on 1st August and hopes to resume the tribunal hearing on Wednesday, 2nd August. The review tribunal will have to say whether there are adequate grounds or not for the current detention of these people.
The issue of a second detention order in respect of a person just released is not necessarily flouting the Constitution. It rather suggests that the Government believed their grounds of detention to be sound and were prepared to state them in greater detail rather than in the vague statement originally made.
As for the question whether there are several grounds for detention in any particular case, the Constitution provides specifically for review by an independent and impartial tribunal. It has to be presided over by a person appointed by the Chief Justice—that is, the Chief Justice of the West Indies Associated States Supreme Court—who is appointed by the Queen, not on the advice of the Premier of this or of any other of the Associated States, on the advice, I believe, of my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, and the person appointed is a completely independent legal person with no obligations to the Government other than to do his duty fairly. The tribunal made its start with the review on 8th July, and the sooner its results are known the better.
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks referred to the possibilities of invasion in Anguilla, or, rather, of armed troops or soldiers or police going in, in which case a great deal of blood could well be shed. There have been references to reports in the Press of arms for the Government being flown in secret into St. Kitts and of boasts by the Anguillans about the extent to which they are armed. I cannot comment on these reports today, and I do not think that it would in any way help the efforts which have been 1213 made during the week by the Commonwealth ministerial mission in Barbados to find a different kind of solution. I join with the hon. Gentleman in paying high tribute to the Governments who have co-operated in seeking a solution, for, clearly, a Caribbean conscience has been created. A sense of responsibility for what happens to any single member of that community is evident and is welcome, and I believe that it will stand the Caribbean in good stead.
I turn now to what the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton had to say about his constituent, Mr. Gaskell. Although a hard opponent, the right hon. Gentleman is usually fair, but I thought that he did less than justice to this side of the House and to our representative out there when he said that we were doing nothing to help Mr. Gaskell. This is not true. Mr. Gaskell was arrested on 11th June. The British Government's representative made inquiries on 12th June to discover whether any United Kingdom person was involved in the detentions. He was informed of Mr. Gaskell's arrest and detention.
By 13th June, he had reported to London that Mr. Gaskell's lawyer had seen him. By 15th June, he reported having spoken to Mr. Gaskell's lawyer, who was fully satisfied with Mr. Gaskell's physical treatment. The hearing of Mr. Gaskell's habeas corpus application has been concluded. In his telegram today, my noble Friend tells me that Mr. Justice Glasgow has not yet delivered his decision, but we hope that it will not be long delayed.
I can inform the House that the preliminary hearing of the shooting charge against Dr. Herbert and five others arising out of the events of 10th June ended on 19th July, when the magistrate, Mr. Laroque-Jones, committed Herbert, Michael Harrigan, Todville Harrigan, Churchill Smith, Francisco Browne and Vincent Williams to stand trial at the next criminal assizes. The date of the assizes has not yet been fixed, but the St. Kitts Government hope that it will he expedited.
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks spoke of the Anguillans as a proud, hardworking people. He paid them high tribute, and I join with him. But, now that my noble Friend is meeting the Commonwealth Mission which is there, 1214 and while conversations are under way in an effort to find a peaceful solution to this unhappy problem, I feel that we would be unwise in this House to pursue the matter and, perhaps, exacerbate feeling, making it more difficult for those who are at this very moment, while we are here debating the matter, engaged in trying to find a solution. We must hope and pray that they will be successful.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)
We all share the Minister's hopes that the noble Lord Lord Shepherd and the Commonwealth Mission will be successful in finding a solution for all these difficulties, but I confess to having found the hon. Gentleman's speech most disappointing. He gave a detailed account of how the emergency resolution had in his view, apparently, been legally promulgated, but there seemed to be no word of censure on anyone for the events which have led to this disastrous situation in which the whole of the Opposition, virtually, and a British subject are illegally detained in gaol. I had hoped to hear a word of condemnation.
I am not as acquainted as others of my right hon. and hon. Friends are with the full details of these events. I have risen to speak because Mr. Bradshaw is an old friend of mine and has been for 14 years. I visited St. Kitts in 1953 on a Parliamentary delegation, with the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Grey). I first knew Mr. Bradshaw and Mr. South-well then. I remember that we were greeted at the airport by Mr. Bradshaw. He was driving a large American car and wearing a fez. Perhaps there is nothing in this. He is a flamboyant figure. Even the Leader of the Liberal Party wears a brown bowler hat on occasions.
There were other aspects of our meetings. I remember one incident on that visit when we were being driven into Basseterre for the dinner given for us by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. We were fetched by Mr. Bradshaw in his large American car from the house of the Administrator. I should explain that the Administrator and Mr. Bradshaw were not, and had not been for months, on speaking terms, which made the situation a little difficult and tense from our point of view.
As we were driving into Basseterre, we had a puncture. We got out of the car, 1215 and Mr. Bradshaw turned to some youths standing by and said, "Change the wheel". I did not feel that I would have got away with that in my own constituency. The next thing that happened was that another car came along, and it was commandeered to take us to the dinner.
I thought that these were, perhaps, the ways of flamboyant politicians of the Caribbean. I got to know Mr. Bradshaw very well in subsequent years. I knew him when he was the Finance Minister of the Federation, I have met him at Commonwealth Parliamentary Conferences, and I have met him over here. He showed, as so many of the Caribbean leaders have done, very great maturity and wisdom. I think that he was the best of the Federal Ministers in the short-lived Federal Government. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), who knows Mr. Bradshaw as well as I do, would pay tribute to Mr. Bradshaw as having been a most co-operative Minister, co-operative with the Colonial Office in his day.
I do not understand the sea-change which has come over Mr. Bradshaw since he went back to politics in his own island and since the arrival of this hybrid invention of Associated Status. I do not know what part Mr. Southwell, whom I know well also and have met on many occasions, has played in all these events. It is my impression—I put it as understated as I can—that there is prima facie evidence of very considerable disruption of democratic and legal processes in the island.
§ Mr. George Thomas
Perhaps I did not make clear in my speech that we have made the strongest protests about our people who are being held without charge. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me to say that now, as it is in harmony with the point he is on.
§ Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that.
But I think it goes further than that, and I shall have something more to say about the rôle of Her Majesty's Government here in this matter. It is distressing and disheartening to all those of us who have affection for the West Indies and have pinned our faith on the hope that they will become a country which will follow 1216 in our political traditions to find that it is these British islands that are going to repeat the pattern of Haiti. All one's faiths have been so dashed by these events. I do not want to sound patronising, but I think many of us have been pleasantly surprised by the way in which the other West Indian territories have shown political maturity. St. Kitts seems to be the one sole exception.
I still believe that this country has got a moral responsibility for what is going on in St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, and we cannot just wash our hands of the situation. We are still responsible for their defence and their foreign affairs. Above all they are grant aided. I cannot feel that it is right for us to use the taxpayers' money to support tyrannous and unconstitutional régime. My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir. J. Rodgers) gave the figure of £279,000 or thereabouts. But that was grant in aid for the expenses of administration alone, and there is a difference between colonial and welfare development and grants in aid. I would not for one moment suggest cutting off any project which comes under colonial development and welfare, but a grant in aid is different. If the legal system is being distorted, if the police are acting ultra vires, we are contributing to this. I feel, therefore, that a point must come, if we cannot get these matters rightly settled, when we must call a halt to that grant in aid, though I hope, none the less, that it will not come to that. I wonder whether perhaps the Minister of State would consider sending a signal to Lord Shepherd asking him to say to Mr. Bradshaw that some of his friends still hope that he will justify the confidence which they had in him in the past.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
This is not the first time a number of us have had sympathy with the hon. Gentleman the Minister of State. On this occasion he has taken over, as I said earlier, a baby which has been nurtured for the last five months by the hon. Lady who is now the Minister of Social Security. I think he is probably finding it a very awkward baby, but I think, as I shall show in a moment—for I do not want to keep the House 1217 more than a few moments—that he shares some responsibility for the past.
I think the great mistake that was made was that local councils were not set up before associated status was granted to these islands. We on this side of the House, naturally, did not want to delay associated status. We were given firm undertakings that the development of local government would take place, and for that reason we did not press for a stay of this date, but it became evident very shortly after that the complacency of various members of Her Majesty's Government here was literally horrifying. They seemed to be lighthearted—I might almost say, lightheaded—about it. We had statements from the hon. Lady—in several letters to me; on occasions we have had Questions in the House and statements then; we have the statement by the Minister of Overseas Development when he returned from his slightly awkward visit to the islands; and we have had the statement more recently of the hon. Gentleman himself.
Now, although we are concerned over what has happened in the past, which, I believe, is wholly unfortunate, and for which, I believe, Her Majesty's Government here bear a heavy load of responsibility; we are also concerned about the future.
I apologise for asking the hon. Gentleman another question, but I want to be quite clear about this declaration of emergency which he told us had been approved by the necessary two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly. I understand that this is indefinite, as long as the two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly is prepared to renew it.
The second point I would put to him is in the particularly of Mr. Milne-Gaskell raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. R. H. Turton), that the Government will show that they are not lacking in giving all the help they possibly can to him and to see that he is brought to trial or released without delay.
1218 Thirdly, will the hon. Gentleman take steps in the near future, even though the House will be in Recess—for, no doubt, opportunities will be open to him —to make public the results of his noble Friend's visit to the West Indies, and give us an assurance that this very unfortunate situation in the Islands will soon be resolved? Lastly, I should like again to make the point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks quite rightly drew our attention. It is not only very tragic in itself, but it is very tragic to all who have great affection, as I think most of us do, for the West Indies as a whole, because I think that if this is allowed to continue it will do great damage to the West Indies. Therefore I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take steps, even during the Recess, to let us know the results of Lord Shepherd's mission, and I hope that it will be successful.
§ Mr. George Thomas
With the permission of the House I will answer very briefly. I know about the time and I shall be quick. The state of emergency will remain till the proclamation is withdrawn. I share the sense of outrage that people are held without trial. Of course we will show the utmost sense of urgency. I will consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about the possibility of publicity about the visit which my noble Friend is now paying.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not forget that we also have a responsibility for all the ordinary West Indian people who do not happen to be citizens of the United Kingdom, where, as a result of the Constitution which this House has granted, they are subject to misrule and increasing measures of dictatorship. I hope that that side of it will not be forgotten.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This debate has gone on nearly 20 minutes beyond the time I allocated for it. We must move on.