HC Deb 05 July 1968 vol 767 cc1875-903

Order for Second Reading read.

11.15 a.m.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)

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.

The Bill now before the House provides for the independence of the Kingdom of Swaziland within the Commonwealth. The Independence Constitution itself will be provided for separately by Order in Council. The moving of the Bill represents a further milestone in the progress Britain has made in bringing dependent territories to full independence.

Apart from the special case of Rhodesia, where Britain never enjoyed, on the ground, the power to provide peaceful constitutional progress, with the passing of this Bill every country in Africa for whom Britain has had responsibility will have been brought to independence.

There is another feature of the Bill which I believe is unique. The entire period of the British responsibility for Swaziland from the time we undertook it at the beginning of this century to the time that we handed over on 6th September is encompassed in the life of the present king of the Protected State of Swaziland—King Sobhuza II, whom I had the pleasure of meeting there in 1964.

It was in 1903 that the rights of the then South Africa Republic passed to Britain, and provision was made by the Swaziland Order in Council of 1903 for the administration of Swaziland by Her Majesty's Government. King Sobhuza II was only a child then, and his grandmother, Labotsibeni, was Chief Regent until he was installed as Ngwenyama, or Paramount Chief of the Swazi, in 1921. As Paramount Chief, he was responsible for advising the Resident Commissioner on matters affecting Swazi nationals and in this, by tradition, he acted in concert with the Swazi National Council.

By 1960, he and the Council had reached the view that representatives of Swazi and European interests should meet together in a legislative council. A similar view had been reached by the European Advisory Council, which advised the Resident Commissioner on matters directly affecting the interests of European residents. This marked the beginning of the constitutional progress to independence for which the present Bill provides.

This is an occasion on which it will probably be proper to recall briefly the stages by which, in the space of less than eight years, it has been possible to plan and fulfil progress from Government by proclamation, provided for in the 1903 Order, to full independence. The first stage, from the recognition of the need for the establishment of a legislature to the establishment of a constitution, took three years of deliberation, consultation and discussion. Even then the first Constitution of Swaziland was not entirely the product of agreement, and the final decision on what form the constitution should take, especially as regards the powers and composition of the Legislative Council, had to be made by the Secretary of State for the Colonies of the day on his own responsibility.

In the circumstances, it is not a matter for surprise that at the first meeting of the newly-constituted Legislative Council thoughts turned immediately to a review of the Constitution. Within a year a further Constitutional Committee was appointed. It was composed of 12 unofficial members chosen from the membership of the Legislative Council and two officials, under the chairmanship of Her Majesty's Commissioner.

Its task was to review the Constitution and make recommendations for the new one. It published its report in 1966. In the course of its deliberations, the Constitutional Committee was informed of certain decisions about the constitutional future of Swaziland which Her Majesty's Government had taken in the light of the views expressed in Swaziland. They had decided that Swaziland should be granted internal self-government in 1966, and that they were ready to enter an agreement with the Paramount Chief under which Swaziland would become a Protected State and the Ngwenyama would be recognised as King. They decided that they wished independence, always the final goal, to be achieved by Swaziland not later than the end of 1969.

In these circumstances, the Committee knew that it was virtually planning a constitution for independence. Its recommendations, which were unanimous except for two minority reservations, were endorsed unanimously by the Legislative Council. Except on one question, who should have control of the mineral rights held by the Ngwenyama in trust for the Swaziland nation, its recommendations with this unanimous endorsement formed the basis of the present Constitution, which will provide the basis for the independence constitution.

There is, in present circumstances, provision for all the institutions necessary for the functioning of a parliamentary democracy for internal government. Almost all that is needed to fit the constitution for full independence is the transfer of the responsibilities and powers of Her Majesty's Commissioner to the Government of Swaziland. At the General Election held in April, 1967, all 24 elective seats for the House of Assembly were won by the Mbokodvo, a nationalist movement, which polled 80 per cent. of the votes in an 80 per cent. poll. The opposition party, with 20 per cent. of the popular vote, gained no seats.

The request for independence on 6th September, 1968, was made by the Government of Swaziland following the unanimous approval of resolutions in the House of Assembly and the Senate. The same resolution requested Her Majesty's Government to seek, at the appropriate time, the support of other member Governments of the Commonwealth for Swaziland's desire to become a member of the Commonwealth. Before the close of the representative Conference which I convened in London last February to settle the lines of the Independence Constitution, I was happy to be able to inform the delegation from Swaziland that the Commonwealth Secretary-General had confirmed that all members of the Commonwealth had agreed that Swaziland should become a member on attaining independence.

The Swaziland Independence Conference, the Report of which has been published as Cmnd. 3658, took as the basis for its consideration of the independence constitution the proposals of the Government of Swaziland which they had published in a White Paper, and invited comment from the public through announcements in the local Press. Subsequently, they submitted them to debate in both the House of Assembly and the Senate. Both adopted the proposals, subject to two amendments, by unanimous votes. The conference approved the proposals, so amended, subject to certain modifications set out in the Report of the Conference.

I mention all this to emphasise the degree of consultation which there has been and the unanimous backing which has taken place from the Swaziland Parliament. The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, the main opposition party, had no representative at the conference because no member had a seat in Parliament and, as is normal on such occasions, the delegation which I had invited from Swaziland had to be drawn, apart from official advisers, entirely from among the elected members of the Swaziland Parliament.

The National Liberatory Congress offered no comments on the Swaziland Government's White Paper when it was published, but the conference had before it representations made earlier by this party and by the Swaziland United Front, both of which had criticised the existing electoral law. I recognise that these criticisms are strongly held of the electoral law, but I remind the House that it is not entrenched in the Constitution, but is a law which can be changed at any time that the Parliament wishes by a simple majority of that Parliament, which, I remind hon. Members, was elected on an 80 per cent. vote of an 80 per cent. poll.

In the circumstances in which the conference has approved the constitutional proposals, there will be no necessity for fresh elections before independence. The Prime Minister of the Protected State of Swaziland will be the first Prime Minister of independent Swaziland. It was for me a great pleasure to meet the Prime Minister, Prince Makhosini, again when he led his delegation to the independence conference. The whole House will agree, I think, that his wide and firm command of the issues at stake greatly impressed all those who have followed the affairs of Swaziland and I am sure that they augur well for the serious conduct of Swaziland's affairs in the days ahead.

Although the conference reached agreement with singularly little difficulty on the constitutional questions and the arrangements connected with the attainment of independence, a difference of view emerged when the Swaziland delegation sought to reopen certain questions relating to the alienation of land in Swaziland and decisions taken in this regard during the earlier period when Britain was responsible for the administration of Swaziland. An account of the views of both sides and the failure to reconcile them is included in the Report of the conference. I think that it is a pity that it was not possible to reach agreement on this matter. The suggestions which Her Majesty's Government then made, although they did not then commend themselves to the Swaziland delegation, could still, I believe, contribute to a solution.

Swaziland goes to independence endowed with good natural resources to support a growing and diversified economy. These resources include a varied mineral wealth, large areas of fertile soil and, not least, a population which has shown itself both talented and adaptable. With these natural resources and substantial investments by Government and by external sources of capital, extensive economic growth has already taken place and will, I believe, continue in the years ahead. Asbestos has been produced in the North-West since before the war but in recent years the coal mine at Mpaka was reopened in 1964 and the iron ore mine at Ngwenya was opened in 1964 and is to supply 12 million tons of high grade ore to Japan over 10 years.

The greatest potential for general economic development, however, still lies with agriculture. The greater part of the population are engaged in agriculture Provision has been made for agricultural credit by the establishment of the Swaziland Credit and Savings Bank, and the expansion of settlement schemes for Swazi farmers is planned. A number of large irrigation projects are in operation, and this type of agriculture is expected to increase in economic importance. Sugar is the principal irrigation crop and Swaziland benefits under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.

One cannot think of the economic development of Swaziland without considering the Commonwealth Development Corporation. With a total investment of over £20 million, ranging from man-made forests stretching over hundreds of thousands of acres to irrigated sugar vultivation where Swazi farmers can find themselves a new way of life, the C.D.C. plays a vital role. I saw some of this in a brief visit to Swaziland last year and was particularly impressed by what it was doing not merely in large scale farming, which one expects the Corporation to do well, but in giving the necessary help and know-how to the small Swazi farmer to help him to establish himself. I wish to pay tribute to the C.D.C. for what it has done.

Despite that account of the economic foundations of Swaziland, on which I believe vigorous development can be built, the Swaziland budget is in deficit and there is also need for substantial contributions to the development programme. Following discussions in London earlier this year, the amount which it is proposed to make available to Swaziland in the current financial year has been settled at £1,925,000 for the recurrent budget as budgetary aid and £694,000 for capital grants and loans. This is the position for the current financial year up to April of next year.

Britain has, as yet, undertaken no commitment to continue ordinary budgetary aid or development aid beyond 31st March, 1969, but it is recognised that, because Swaziland lacks the skills and capital to develop her potential fully, she must, for some time to come, continue to look outside for assistance. A new three-year development plan to cover the period 1969–72 is now in preparation and it has been agreed that negotiations on post-independence aid should be held in London later this year. With the natural resources with which Swaziland is blessed and the determination of the Government to exploit them, as well as the assistance for which Swaziland can look to the developed countries, the prospects of a steady economic development seem good.

Hon. Members will agree and will wish to acknowledge today, I think, that the fact that Swaziland has reached this position is due in no small measure to the contributions of all those who have left their homes in this country and elsewhere to serve the people of Swaziland. Many of them will, I know, be welcome, and willing, to serve on, for their services are still required. For others, like Her Majesty's Commissioner, Sir Francis Loyd, there will be no further rôle in the government of the country after independence. To all of those who have served, I should like to express the gratitude of both sides of the House on their devoted work, and to those who will serve in the future I offer our good wishes.

Let me briefly run over the Clauses of the Bill. They are in what must be a fairly similar form to those hon. Members who have taken part in many debates on independence Bills in recent years. Clause 1 provides for the termination of Her Majesty's jurisdiction in Swaziland. Clause 2 generally continues the law applying to Swaziland as if its status had not changed but modifies certain United Kingdom enactments in consequence of Swaziland becoming an independent member of the Commonwealth.

Clauses 3 and 4 are concerned with citizenship. The effect of Clause 3 will be that citizens of Swaziland will cease to have a status of British-protected persons and, with the exception provided for in Clause 4, a person will cease to be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies if he is a citizen of Swaziland at independence. Clause 4 provides for the retention of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by persons with close connections with the United Kingdom and its remaining dependencies.

Clause 5 deals with the disposal of appeals from the Swaziland Court of Appeal pending before the Privy Council at independence. After independence, there will be no further right of appeal to the Privy Council. Clauses 6 and 7 contain supplemental and interpretative provisions and Clause 8 contains the Short Title.

I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in conveying our very warm good wishes and congratulations to King Sobhuza, the Prime Minister, Government and people of Swaziland as their country goes forward to independence. This they eagerly expect to achieve on 6th September this year, when Swaziland will become a full and equal member of the Commonwealth and will take her place as an independent nation in the international community.

A new chapter will open in the relations between our two countries, but Swaziland can be confident of our continuing good will in Britain and our continuing concern for her welfare. Independence certainly does not mark the end of our long friendship. Rather, it marks the establishment of that friendship on a new and sounder basis of equality, the achievement of which gives us just as much cause for rejoicing as it gives the people of Swaziland.

I commend the Bill to the House.

11.34 a.m.

Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

I rise to welcome the Bill on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I welcome it, too, in a personal capacity. I have very happy memories of a visit which I paid to Swaziland, as an Undersecretary, in 1961, when I had the privilege of meeting the head of the Swazi nation, King Sobhuza who, I know the right hon. Gentleman will agree, is one of the most remarkable leaders in Africa. He is a great traditionalist, but he is also one of the most shrewd and far-sighted Africans I have met. I was enormously impressed by the charm of the Swazis and the considerable potential of their country.

I welcome the Bill in another sense. Swaziland is the last of the three British-protected States in Southern Africa to achieve independence and, now that Botswana and Lesotho have become independent, it would be wholly wrong if Swaziland were to lag behind.

Independence is the fulfilment of a long period of trust and co-operation between the British and the Swazis which started about a century and a quarter ago when the then Paramount Chief, threatened by his traditional enemies, the Zulus, voluntarily asked for the protection of the British Crown. I have little doubt that the Swazis will use their independence wisely. It is true that theirs is a conservative society, that the authority of the elders is considerable, and that radical movements of a pattern seen elsewhere in Africa have had no great success in winning the popular vote in free elections.

Those who won the election held in June, 1964, won over 84 per cent. of the total votes cast and, in the second election held in April last year, nearly 80 per cent. of the votes cast. With votes of that size, it is clear that the governing party represents the authentic voice of the Swazi nation.

Independence was an issue in the second election. The constitutional committee set up after the 1964 election recommended that Swaziland should receive internal self-government and that the Ngwenyama should be recognised as King. Her Majesty's Government then made it clear that they wished Swaziland to become independent by not later than the end of 1969. These proposals were endorsed by the Legislative Council in February, 1966. A second election followed in April, 1967, and in February, 1968, an independence conference held in London considered proposals for a constitution produced by the Swaziland Government themselves. We can, therefore, say that the movement towards independence has proceeded smoothly, peacefully, and in a way highly creditable to the British and Swaziland Governments. It is right then that we should accede to the wishes of the Swazis and formally grant them their sovereignty and independence.

From my knowledge and experience of Africa, I believe that Swaziland can go into independence with greater confidence than many other former Colonial Territories. She has no racial problems. I was greatly struck by the good relations, based on mutual respect, between the Swazis and the Europeans, of whom there are about 8,000 living and working in the Territory. The vast majority of the people belong to a single tribe, and it has long been a blessing that the authority of the traditional ruler extends over the whole territory and not just over part of it, as has been the case almost everywhere else, with fragmented Bantu societies living in territories where boundaries had been arbitrarily determined by alien powers.

Moreover, as the Secretary of State reminded us, Swaziland is rich in natural resources. It has asbestos and high-grade iron ore in quantity. It has a good soil and abundant water. It enjoys a delightful climate. It produces timber, sugar, citrus, cotton and tobacco. It is potentially a very rich country, indeed. For those reasons alone the future should be bright.

There is, however, as the Secretary of State pointed out, a gap between what will be realised one day and what exists now. In the last five years British bilateral economic aid, if one excludes the very profitable C.D.C. investment, has totalled over £11 million, and we have been giving grants in aid of well over £1 million a year, and development aid for communications, education, health, electricity, water supply and agriculture has totalled well over £1½ million a year.

We understand from what the right hon. Gentleman told the House that budgetary aid for an independent Swaziland has been agreed. Of course, the whole object of independence is to give a people the opportunity to master their own environment and to solve their own problems—with as much help, of course, as they can get from their friends, and so to move towards economic, as well as political, independence. My first question, therefore, to the Under-Secretary of State, who will wind up the debate, is, "Has a date been fixed by which time it is expected that Swaziland will be able to dispense with budgetary aid altogether?" The House is entitled to an answer to that question. It is all the more important a question since it would be idle to pretend that Swaziland is not heavily dependent upon its powerful neighbour, the Republic of South Africa. It has no seaboard of its own and, bearing in mind the climate of African opinion north of the Zambesi, the situation of the new State, wedged, as it is, between the Republic on the one side and Mozambique on the other, will test the quality of Swazi statesmanship to the full.

Yet I am optimistic on that score. There is no reason to think that the wise and cautious Swazis will not be able to resolve any of the difficulties which lie ahead. It is indeed our hope that they will be able to overcome these difficulties which have assailed so many other African States. I am delighted to learn that they have applied for full Commonwealth membership.

In general, the Bill follows the traditional pattern of independence Measures, which means that the agreed independence Constitution will be embodied in an Order in Council and will not be debated in the House. We can only judge for ourselves what form that Constitution will take by studying the Report of the Constitutional Conference which was held last February. I ask the Minister to confirm that the Constitution will not depart in any way from the guide lines laid down in that Report.

I am bound to ask for this confirmation because in our view the Report lacks the usual clarity which we expect from such documents. Instead of setting out clearly what the Constitution will contain, we have in Annex B the proposals of the Swaziland Government, but we must then read those proposals against the modifications set out in paragraphs 2 to 27 of the Report. This is untidy, unsatisfactory and not good enough for busy legislators who must decide on such a matter of great importance. I hope that this will not be repeated.

It would have been better if Annex B had contained the essential elements of the Constitution which had been agreed by both sides. I hope, therefore, that in future such matters will be presented in a clearer form. This is important because the situation is complicated somewhat by a point which the Commonwealth Secretary admitted; namely, that the Opposition in Swaziland was not represented at the Constitutional Conference. I make no complaint about that, except to say that we are a Parliament ourselves and are handing over independence to a country with a Parliamentary form of Government. It is important, therefore, that we should be meticulous about these matters.

The Government have given way to Swazi representations both in the matter of constitutional representation and the question of mineral rights. Since the Swazi governing party received nearly 80 per cent. of the votes in the last election, I do not doubt that the Government were right to have given way. But precisely because of this, the Report should have set out what was agreed in the clearest possible terms.

The position in regard to the ownership and control of land—my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), who has intimate and direct knowledge of this matter— will speak on this subject when he winds up the debate—is by no means clear. The Report explains the dispute between the British and Swaziland Governments as to whether the ownership and control of land should be vested solely in the Ngwenyama in accordance with Swazi law and custom or in a democratically elected control government, but it does not say what decision will be arrived at. This matter is of fundamental importance to the future of the territory. What will be the final decision? Will it be covered in the Constitution or will it be left open for an independent Swaziland to resolve for itself? We are entitled to know what is intended.

Now I turn to the question of naturalisation and citizenship. Clause 3(2) says: … any person who immediately before the appointed day is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies shall on that day cease to be such a citizen if on that day he is a citizen of Swaziland. This follows the common form in Bills of this kind, but in the absence of a citizenship law—such a law has not yet been promulgated—we cannot know who is to become a citizen of Swaziland. How can Parliament approve the Bill if we lack this information?

I am making this protest on a point of principle. We had exactly the same difficulty over the Mauritius Independence Bill. That Measure had completed all its stages through the House with all our queries on the subject of nationality remaining unanswered. We pressed for information but we did not get it, even by the time the Bill reached another place, and we had to take on trust the Government's assurances that all would be well on the appointed day. This was not satisfactory or Parliamentary and it carried great risks. I serve notice that we will not be so tolerant in future.

An independence Statute is, after all, a Measure of great importance. This is why I object to the way in which the Government have tacked on the Swaziland Independence Bill after other Measures to be discussed "if time permits". This is a Bill of very great importance to the people of Swaziland who, as a result of it, will become equal partners with all other Commonwealth nations in this great worldwide association of free and independent States. It is also important to us, who must be convinced that we are giving up our trusteeship in a responsible way.

I press the Minister to deal with this matter in categorical terms before the Bill passes from us. If he does not, it is possible that many persons living in Swaziland will retain their citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies in circumstances which may later cause considerable complications.

It is not clear from Clause 5 exactly whether appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council are to be continued, although we were told this morning that they will not. No explanation has been given for this decision and, in view of the importance of this step, we are entitleld to know why, in this case, it has been decided that the normal practice of appeals to the Privy Council will not be continued after independence.

Despite the criticisms I have voiced, I would like once again to make it plain that my hon. Friends and I warmly welcome the Bill. For both the Swazis and ourselves the advent of independence marks the end of a special relationship which has lasted for a very long time. On the whole, it has been a happy and honourable relationship, based on a genuine liking and mutual respect. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we must not imagine that independence is the end of the story. Rather, it is the beginning of a new chapter. If, as the Swazis desire, Swaziland becomes a full Member of the Commonwealth, the obligation to help one another will remain. That is, after all, the essence of the Commonwealth relationship.

All that now remains to be said is that we wish every success to a Sovereign independent Swaziland in the tasks of developing its undoubted economic potential, in avoiding the political disruption which has unhappily assailed so many other new States and in building a worthwhile society for all its people. If we have judged the signs correctly, Swaziland will succeed.

11.49 a.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Sutton Coldfield)

Hon. Members and the people of Swaziland will appreciate the Secretary of State having come to the House personally to send the Bill on its way at a time when he is facing particularly heavy burdens in critical situations in many parts of the world.

As one who knows Swaziland well, hon. Members might care to know, as I bid the country good will on this occasion, how my knowledge of Swaziland arises. In 1948 some friends and myself bought a farm in the Big Bend area of the Great Usutu River in Swaziland. After many vicissitudes, this area has developed into the pioneer sugar-growing and production region of Swaziland and is today responsible for the production and export of half of Swaziland's sugar. As I gaze over this area of Swaziland, I recall that 20 years ago not one person lived in the area of the Big Bend of the Great Usutu River. Now, 10,000 people live there, dependent on the production of the sugar industry. For many years I have visited Swaziland at least twice a year. I had the honour to be received in audience by the Ngwenyama on many occasions. I know well Prince Makhosini, the Prime Minister, and many of the Swazi leaders.

I agree with the Secretary of State and with my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) in believing that we can look forward to the prosperity, progress and stability of Swaziland under independent conditions with a great deal more confidence than we could in the case of some other countries in Africa. I believe this to be so mainly for two reasons. First, Swaziland is a small country, but a remarkable one. Is it not remarkable that such a tiny country, by African standards, should have a king who Mr. Harold Macmillan, as Prime Minister, designated as one of the great African leaders of this century? While the Ngwenyama may be said to be the fine flower of the national temperament, he presides over a people with a strong and mature national character. There is a basic loyalty and cohesion about the Swazi nation which is admirable and which reminds me of what, in our better moments, we feel we have here. These Swazi leaders are men of high calibre, and I agree very much with what has been said about the wisdom and vision of Prince Makhosini, the Prime Minister.

As has been pointed out, the country has the great advantage that the Swazi leaders lead a united and conservative people—conservative, of course, in the sense that Walter Bagehot used the word. They have no racial or tribal dissensions, and their traditional political system has evolved and has never been threatened by any violent breaks as is the case with very many other African countries.

Secondly, Swaziland has valuable natural resources. I agree with the Secretary of State that on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill it is only fair and right that tribute should be paid to the Commonwealth Development Corporation for its great work in the country. The C.D.C. is now producing 62 per cent. of Swaziland's exports and affording a livelihood to 10 per cent. of the population. As the Secretary of State has mentioned, this derives from a variety of enterprises but, in particular, one must give praise to the courage which the C.D.C. showed some years ago when it brought this canal over 40 miles long from the Komati River and began the great irrigated production of sugar in the north of Swaziland, as well as that of citrus and other crops very successfully. It is in connection with this scheme that we have the irrigation farms where 120 Swazis are themselves being taught as irrigation farmers.

I should also mention that the C.D.C. made a loan of £100,000 to private enterprise development in the south of Swaziland which was crucial in enabling the area on the great Usutu River also to have a canal and develop as a big irrigated farming area. It is now working in co-operation with Courtaulds in (he exploitation of the great pine forests, producing sulphide pulp for the international market—pine forests, which are themselves largely due to the initiative which Lord Howick took as High Com- missioner in Swaziland many years ago. It must be very satisfying to him to be able to help on another large stage these tremendous forests, which everyone who has visited Swaziland believes to be one of the most impressive features of the country.

The C.D.C. has done great work in Swaziland, which I hope it will continue, but I want to bring out one other point. The investment by the C.D.C. in Swaziland is the largest investment that the Corporation has in any country. In other words, with a wide-ranging international choice and responsibilities, it has chosen to put such a heavy investment into one of the smallest countries in Africa. I believe that this is a vote of confidence in Swaziland on both the economic and the political side.

11.56 a.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

As the Secretary of State said, Swaziland is the last territory in Africa for which Great Britain maintains responsibility, apart from the very special case of Rhodesia. This is the last of, as it were, the orthodox independence Bills which we shall have for the continent of Africa. I note that it is just 8 years and 7 months since a British Prime Minister visited Swaziland, and it was after that trip that Mr. Macmillan made his famous South African speech when, after an extended tour of the continent, he said: The most striking of all the impressions I have formed since I left London a month ago is the strength of African national consciousness. In different places it may take different forms, but it is happening everywhere. The wind of change is blowing through the continent. I do not suppose that any of those who listened to Mr. Macmillan's words or any of those who were sitting in the House of Commons at the time realised that we would be handing over our responsibilities in the African continent so quickly.

The result of our rapid withdrawal has, let me admit it, been a severe psychological blow to those of us who believed that Britain's physical presence in the continent was necessary to the maintenance of peace and order and progress. If we had stayed, I have no doubt that British blood would have been shed in many parts of the continent, and the drain on our material resources would have been heavier than it has been over the last few years. On the short-term balance, then, it is possible to argue that this country has probably not lost from the withdrawal from Africa which, in a sense, will be final and complete this morning.

It is more doubtful whether a similar happy balance can be struck in the continent of Africa itself. It is ironic that Mr. Macmillan seems to have reached his decision to withdraw so swiftly from Africa while staying in Nigeria, which today stands on the edge of a major human catastrophe.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is too wide for a debate on Second Reading of this Bill.

Mr. Goodhart

I fully appreciate that Mr. Speaker. I thought that in looking at the independence of Swaziland, which completes the process of withdrawal from the Government of Africa, I might make some remarks on what has happened in those other parts of Africa, but, as you say, this is a narrow debate.

I shall not seek to look in any detail at what is happening in other parts of Africa, although I think that one must acknowledge that only too many territories at this moment stand on the edge of severe tribal conflict and some degree of administrative collapse. It is possible that many Africans will themselves think in years ahead that our withdrawal from the continent has been too rapid.

As for Swaziland itself, it is perhaps inevitable that the question of the success of independence will rest on its relations with South Africa. The other protectorates which have achieved independence, I note, have been able to secure for themselves a reasonably satisfactory relationship with their large and powerful neighbour. I hope that Swaziland will also be able to reach a state of relationship with South Africa which will be of mutual benefit to both countries. I must admit that this is a matter of conjecture for the future.

What cannot be a matter of conjecture is the contribution which has been made to the strength of Swaziland by the British overseas civil servants who have served there. I was glad that the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Brain) paid tribute to them. This Bill also marks the end in a sense of the British Colonial Service in Africa as a whole. Even if it is out of order for us to pay tribute to Mr. Alec Rose this morning, it surely cannot be out of order to pay tribute to those civil servants from this country who have made such a vast contribution to Swaziland and other territories which we once controlled.

It was that great African leader the Sardauna of Sokoto who said that in all ex-British territories in Africa a vast debt was owed to the wisdom, vision and devotion of British colonial servants. The Sardauna of Sokoto is dead, but the generous tribute which he paid to the British Colonial Service was certainly well deserved and we should remember it today. It is right as we pass this final independence Bill that we should pay our tribute to him.

12.5 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

All the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on this Bill has emphasised that it is important not only because it brings independence to the Swazi nation but because this is the last British dependency on the continent of Africa. I wish to add a personal note. I believe the Bill is also important because the history of this constitution demonstrates the strength of traditional leadership in Africa. It could have formed a bridge between the old authoritarian tribal system and modern democracy. The strength of this bridge has been underestimated over the years by British Governments, which may be the cause of some of the troubles in independent States in Africa today. I think I have my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) with me in that thought.

We on this side of the House are very pleased that the Secretary of State came to the House himself to introduce the Bill. That shows the tribute which all, on both sides of the House, should pay to the Swazi nation and to its leader, the Ngwenyama Sobhuza the Second, to whom everyone who has spoken in this debate has paid tribute. I remind the House that King Sobhuza succeeded as a minor in 1921. Except for the Emperor of Ethiopia, he is the monarch who has been longer on a throne than any other crowned head in the world. I also remind the House that the first action taken by King Sobhuza when he succeeded was to introduce a European elected advisory council to advise him on the desires of the Europeans in his country.

The second act he took in 1921 was to petition the British Government against the Partition Proclamation of 1907, which attempted to deal with the confusion caused by King Mbanzeni granting concessions to European farmers between 1878 and 1890. Both those acts have considerable significance in the debate we are having this afternoon. I would pay personal tribute to King Sobhuza for his wisdom, single-minded-ness and devotion to his people. All three characteristics will be borne out by today's debate.

I follow most hon. Members who have spoken, and certainly my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham, in paying tribute to the British civil servants. As this is the last British dependency in Africa, we are justified in paying tribute and expressing our gratitude to those men who have given their working lives to Africa. In this connection I mention Sir Frank Lloyd, the Queen's Commissioner in Swaziland, the last of a long line of Governors, Lieutenant Governors or Resident Commissioners in Africa and a man whose devotion to the Swazi nation is recognised by all, black and white, in that country. I have found Sir Frank, who served both in Kenya and Swaziland, to be a man who never believed in weakness or appeasment. He has proved a very wise counsellor and friend of those Africans whom he had the privilege of serving.

In these days when the trend seems to be to denigrate our Commonwealth and Empire, it may be appropriate for me to quote the words of an American historian, Henry J. Taylor: Considering its scope, the British Commonwealth of Nations is the most remarkable political achievement in history. It has overcome more tyranny, supplied more safety, removed more fear, taught more justice, and given more freedom to more people than any other institution on earth. For that we have to a large extent to thank those hundreds of thousands of civil servants who have served the British Commonwealth and Empire throughout the world.

I turn now to the Constitution itself. I want to follow the example of the Secretary of State and go back a few years, because I think that the parts of this Constitution which are still in dispute are rooted in history. Therefore, I want to develop for a few moments how these historical disagreements occurred. I need not go back very far, to remind the House that the first political party in Swaziland—Dr. Zwana's Swazi Progressive Party—was formed only eight years ago, in 1960. In that year, the King proposed a Federal Legislature under which the Europeans would elect representatives and the Swazis would choose their representatives by the traditional methods.

A Constitutional Commission was set up to consider these proposals. The House will recall that in 1962 the Report of this Constitutional Commission supported the King's views, which were opposed by the political parties. The Constitutional Commission's Report was however rejected by the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), on the advice of the then Resident Commissioner.

In the following year, a Constitutional Conference was called in London. It failed to agree. The then Secretary of State published his own Constitution in Cmnd. 2052, which I suggest, and suggested at the time, was biased in favour of the political parties. Whether this is right or not, it was rejected by the King, who then submitted a petition to this House, which I have in my hand. The basic grounds of the objection to the proposed Constitution were the system of election, the position of the King, and regulations conferring land and mineral rights. I submit that these three all have relevance in this debate as we are considering the final Constitution of Swaziland.

This petition was rejected by the Government. King Sobhuza then had to decide what to do, whether to boycott the Constitution or to fight it. He decided to fight. In 1963 he formed the Imbokodro Party, which won a 99.5 per cent. victory in the referendum, 122,000 out of 125,000 adult Swazis voting for and 154 against, 1,400 Europeans voting for and only 8 against. The British Government did not recognise this Referendum and tried to pour ridicule on it. In this context researchers into this question in the future may gain a certain amount of amusement from Questions tabled by myself at the time and answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) from his seat in the Colonial Office.

However, the Government of the day brought the Constitution into effect by Order in Council in January, 1964. In the succeeding general elections, as we have been told today, the Imbokodro Party won all the seats, with 85 per cent. of the votes, which I think is clear proof, if proof were needed, of the desire of the Swazi nation to remain united under their King.

In 1964 the Government of the day recognised the inevitable and set up a Constitutional Review Commission. This Commission reported in 1966. The Report was endorsed by the Legislative Assembly. At that time the Swaziland Democratic Party joined the Government. A Constitutional Conference discussed internal self-government, and the results were published in Cmnd. 3119, though there was still disagreement over mineral rights and land.

The following year—1967—in another general election, the Imbokodvo Party won 80 per cent. of the votes and Prince Makhosini Dlamini, to whom I would also like to pay a personal tribute, became the Prime Minister—a man of mature judgment and great moderation.

Finally, we have the basic document which we are considering today, the Independence Conference Report, Cmnd. 3568. In this we find that the Government have conceded some of the Swazi's objections which have been running through the short historical survey which I felt it my duty to give to the House. They have conceded the three member constituency. They have conceded a solution, or a compromise solution, over mineral rights. However, as paragraph 27 shows quite clearly, no agreement was reached over land.

I want now to deal briefly with the land question and the financial question which is tied up very much to it. The land question dates, as I have already explained, from the 1880s. The Swazis still maintain that the alienation by the British after 1903, when they took over the administration of Swaziland, of cer- tain land in that territory was not justified. They maintain, first, that it was in breach of treaty; secondly, that the grant of freehold titles of two-thirds of Swazi land to those who were then enjoying a leasehold title with terminable dates was contrary to the traditional system; thirdly, that the sale of Crown land was a breach of the undertaking given by previous British Governments.

This is a complicated question, and I shall not waste the time of the House by trying to argue it or trying to judge it one way or the other. I must, however, emphasise, and draw to the attention of the House, the importance of the suggestion contained in paragraph 27 of the Independence Conference Report that this last remaining dispute could be solved in the context of British financial assistance to a development plan of Swaziland after independence.

Therefore, the land question has become linked with financial talks. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), who opened the debate from this side of the House, said that the position is unclear and that land is a fundamental issue in Swaziland. I suggest that, unless this matter is settled before independence, it could prejudice the very excellent race relations which exist in Swaziland and endanger European land tenure. I therefore think that it is a matter of considerable importance.

I turn, finally, to financial aid. I echo the tribute paid by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) and others to the C.D.C. I also pay my right hon. Friend a tribute to all that he and many other Englishmen have done for the development of Swaziland. I think that the record of C.D.C. and of private enterprise in Swaziland is second to none.

As to Government aid, in February, 1966, I tabled a Question on the aid given to Swaziland between 1963 and 1966. During that period, budgetary aid rose from £855,000 to approximately £1½ million. Development or grant aid rose from £1½ million to approximately £2½ million. Recently, I tabled a Question covering the succeeding years. Unfortunately, this has not yet been answered. The Secretary of State told us today that in the next financial year —1968–69—approximately £2 million will be granted in budgetary and approximately £700,000 in grant aid, which is rather reduced but much on the lines of previous grants.

I make this specific plea to the Minister. I hope to get a very clear answer from him when he winds up, because this is repeating the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East. All other African countries have had their financial aid for the three years after independence settled before independence. The Swazis have repeatedly asked that the same courtesy should be applied to them. Why are the Government digging in their heels on this question? I have tabled a number of Questions on this matter but have not yet received a satisfactory Answer.

We have been told that there are to be preliminary financial talks in July. Independence is to come early in September. We have been told today that the three-year development plan, starting in 1969, will be negotiated later this year. When? Before or after independence? "Later this year" could mean either. This matter of land and development assistance must be settled, otherwise it will leave a legacy of distrust.

I conclude by emphasising this. I have tried to show that over the years that Britain has been responsible for Swaziland our relations have been good, but that there have always been certain issues in dispute. These disputes have led to common respect as between friends. Broadly speaking, it could also be said that successive British Governments have tended to neglect the three High Commission Territories, for reasons which are well known to the House. Surely the Government can now make a gesture and settled this dispute over land which has been going on in Swaziland for 80 years. I hope and believe that Swaziland can be made viable within the next five years.

Surely, therefore, it is not too much to ask that the Government should negotiate a three-year aid programme to Swaziland, that this programme should be generous, and—I emphasis this— should be settled before independence on 6th September. Only if this is done will the friendship and mutual respect that have endured for so long between the Swazi nation and the British people continue. I hope today to receive a very positive answer to this most important question.

12.20 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. William Whitlock)

Many questions have been put to me, and I shall endeavour to answer them as quickly and, I hope, as satisfactorily as possible, in view of the other business to come before the House.

The hon. Gentlemen the Members for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) and for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) both asked questions about aid and the future economic progress of Swaziland. As has been said, we have not yet undertaken a commitment to continue ordinary budgetary or development aid beyond 31st March, 1969. However, it is recognised that, because Swaziland lacks the skills and capital to develop her potential fully, she must for some time continue to look for assistance.

A new three-year development plan to cover the period 1969–72 is now under preparation. It has not yet been completed. There is some delay in the consideration of aid. But in this connection two officers of the Ministry of Overseas Development will be visiting Swaziland this month preparatory to post-independence aid negotiations which are expected to be held in London later this year with Swaziland delegates.

Mr. Wall

Does "later this year" mean before independence? Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the Swazis are demanding that the talks should be completed before independence?

Mr. Whitlock

I should think that this will be settled after independence, largely because of difficulties over the three-year development plan.

To answer the hon. Member for Essex, South-East, and to echo his confidence in Swaziland, it is not doubted that that country will move towards complete economic independence, but no date can yet be fixed for when it can do without budgetary aid. We are as optimistic as the hon. Gentleman is that, as he put it, the wise and cautious Swazis will overcome all economic difficulties in the minimum of time, and they will have every encouragement from us so to do.

Questions have been asked about the Constitution. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the Bill is not directed to the independence Constitution, which will be provided separately by an Order in Council. But the present Constitution will be the scheme for the independence Constitution, with modifications, as in Appendix B to the White Paper. Hon. Members can find what is in the present Constitution from the Order in Council Statutory Instrument No. 241 of 1967 and the White Paper of 1966 presented to Parliament as Cmnd. 3119. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to find the answer to all his questions by looking at those documents.

Mr. Braine

I have no doubt that I shall be able to find the answer—indeed, I think I have—but it is wrong that the House should have to seek answers in several different documents. I invite the Under-Secretary of State to ensure that this practice is not continued in future and that the document laid before the House immediately preceding the tabling of a Bill of this nature sets out clearly for all to see exactly what is proposed.

Mr. Whitlock

Perhaps there is some validity in the hon. Gentleman's criticism. I shall look to future occasions and see that any doubts about a matter such as this are cleared up for hon. Members and that everything is shown clearly to the House on the occasion of a Second Reading debate.

Points have been made about mineral rights. What was agreed at the Independence Conference made no change whatever in the ownership of mineral rights. What is vested in the Ngwenyama in trust for the Swazi nation under the present Constitution will be unchanged. What the conference did was to deal with the disposal of what is held in trust for the Swazi nation, that is to say, the tribal Swazis and not the population as a whole, which includes Europeans and others.

These rights are held in trust by the Ngwenyama, the Paramount Chief, and there can be no doubt that it is the desire of the large majority of Swazis that this shall be so. Whether wise or not, it is the feeling of the Swazis that the control and disposal of those rights should rest with the person who holds them and not with the Government of Swaziland.

The Swazis have their own way of making their views known on how the Ngwenyama should conduct their affairs. The Independence Conference agreed that there should be a minerals committee to advise the Ngwenyama on the matter, and this committee is to be appointed by the Ngwenyama in Libandla, which is the council of the whole nation, every adult male in Swaziland having the right to attend the Libandla. There is little need, therefore, to feel that as between the Ngwenyama and the Swazi nation there will be any dissatisfaction over this arrangement.

Questions have been raised about land. The hon. Member for Haltemprice referred to paragraphs 26 and 27 of the Report of the Independence Conference. As was pointed out in that Report: When the British Government had assumed responsibility for the administration of Swaziland, they had inherited a land problem of indescribable confusion resulting from concessions which had been granted by King Mbanzeni between 1878 and 1890. It was the view of the British authorities of the day that the problem concerning land was such that it could be solved only by compromise and accommodation.

As the hon. Member for Haltemprice said, the United Kingdom delegation at the Independence Conference suggested that a practical way of tackling the problem might be for the Swaziland Government to include suitable land settlement projects in the development plan which they were formulating, and the question of assistance towards financing this plan could then be discussed with the United Kingdom in the context of future negotiations. We are still in touch with the Government of Swaziland on this point. I am afraid that I cannot at this stage make any more helpful comments to the hon. Gentleman than that, merely saying that we hope it will be possible that we reach a solution satisfactory from the point of view of the Swaziland Government.

Now, the question of citizenship. All persons who have citizenship of the Protected State of Swaziland will become citizens of the independent Swaziland. Who citizens of the protected State are can be found in the citizenship chapter of the present Constitution, S.I. 241 of 1967. They include all persons born in Swaziland up to independence. I understand from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr-Braine) that there is doubt about the possibility of difficulty arising here such as has arisen in Kenya.

I should like to make it clear that there is no problem here comparable in scale with that of the Asians in East Africa. There are understood to be about 200 white South Africans who took up Government posts in the Protectorate of Swaziland and for that purpose became registered as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Under South African law, they will thereby have lost their ctizenship of South Africa.

Since last year, when Swaziland became a Protectorate with its own citizenship, these people have had the right to acquire Swaziland citizenship on application to be made not later than 15th August, 1968, and any who have done so will, on independence day, lose their United Kingdom citizenship under Clause 3 of the Bill.

The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that a guide to the acquisition of Swaziland citizenship has already been published in Swaziland and has been given publicity through local Press and radio. I will certainly consider asking Her Majesty's Commissioner there if anything further is necessary to ensure that the persons concerned are fully aware of their rights to Swaziland citizenship if they apply before 15th August, 1968.

Mr. Braine

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. I am sure that access to Swazi citizenship will be fully understood. I am much more concerned about the effect on such persons of the new citizenship law, as to whether or not, for example, they might retain British citizenship if they are already citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. There are difficulties, are there not, over dual citizenship as between South Africa and this country? Would such persons who have been serving the Crown in Swaziland have an automatic right to British citizenship if they so required?

Mr. Whitlock

I was about to explain that. If any of these people have still not become Swazi citizens by independ- ence day they will remain citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Attempts were made at the time to persuade the Swazi Government to grant citizenship automatically to these people, but it was impossible to press them beyond a certain point, because in Bechuanaland and other African independent countries there has been no automatic grant of citizenship to people registered as United Kingdom citizens before independence.

While, as I have stated, such people who have not become Swazi citizens by independence day will continue to be United Kingdom citizens, they will not thereby acquire any right of entry into the United Kingdom. They are at present subject to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1968, and under the provisions of that Act they will continue to be so subject. There is, however, no reason to suppose that any considerable number of them are desirous at present of coming to live in this country. If any of them are so desirous, they will be able to apply under the special quota made available for people subject to the 1968 Act.

At present, the pressure on the quota is not great and, even if it were, as has already been announced, it is a flexible quota and if necessary it can be enlarged. In the last resort, if there were a possibility that any of these people were forcibly expelled from Swaziland, and if they satisfied the immigration officer that they were in danger of life and liberty if they returned to Swaziland, they would be admitted to this country.

The hon. Gentleman has asked about appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I gather that the Swazis did not desire this. They felt that this would not be compatible with their new status of independence, and, therefore, no provision has been made for this, although there are a number of precedents for such an arrangement in other Commonwealth Independence Acts.

I hope that I have answered satisfactorily all the points which the hon. Gentleman has put to me. The whole House has welcomed the Bill and echoed the very warm good wishes and congratulations offered to the King of Swaziland, to his Parliament and to its people. Everything which has been said gives evidence to the people of Swaziland of the continuing good will and concern for their welfare of this House. Those who have spoken have shown great affection, esteem and regard for the people of Swaziland. We wish them success in their entry into their new status, and godspeed.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

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

Bill immediately considered in Committee: reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 55 (Third Reading) and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.