HC Deb 25 March 1969 vol 780 cc1522-59

4 a.m.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

I shall raise the question of Anguilla, on which we have already had a number of debates, by way of a series of questions. I do not want to debate this question very much. There are, however, questions which need to be cleared up. As the House has been sitting for a long time, as you have just pointed out, Mr. Speaker, I would not necessarily expect the Under-Secretary to be able to give me the answers off the cuff to all my questions. On the other hand, perhaps he will be good enough to give me written replies to those that he cannot answer now, after consideration. He should be able to answer most of them now. It would be fair, in the circumstances, if I were to receive the written answers to my question within about 48 hours, because the answers must be known. It is only because of the late hour that I endeavour to let the Minister off the hook on some of them.

My first question refers to the conference of the Caribbean Commonwealth States. The Secretary of State used these words in the debate on 24th March: at a conference of all the independent Commonwealth States and the Associated Commonwealth States in the Caribbean, a very solemnly worded Resolution was passed requiring us to take action". I interjected there and asked, "What action?" The Foreign Secretary said: That was not specified, but it was action which was to provide an answer to the Anguillan situation". Later in the debate an extract was given from that communiqué issued by the Conference, saying: The Conference called upon the Government of the United Kingdom to take all necessary steps"— it does not say "action"— in collaboration with the Government of the State"— that is presumably the Government of the Associated State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla— to confirm the territorial integrity of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. That is what our Commonwealth colleagues were asking us to do— to confirm the territorial integrity of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. The report reads: It noted that the ' situation arising from the attempt by the island of Anguilla to secede illegally from the State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla remains unresolved '."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1969; Vol. 780, c. 1069–1164.] In other words, the whole purpose of the communiqué of the Commonwealth Ministers was that Anguilla should be restored under the legal rule of St. Kitts.

The Foreign Secretary said that we were going to take action in pursuance of the Resolution of the Commonwealth Conference. Contrast that with what he said on 18th March: It is no part of our purpose that the Anguillans should live under an administration they do not want."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1969; Vol. 780, c. 207.] I would agree. But if the object of this operation and its justification was to bring Anguilla back under the St. Kitts Government in accordance with the Ministerial Resolution of the Commonwealth Ministers there is some confusion.

In his statement at the airfield at Anguilla, the Under-Secretary said: Our wish is to ensure that you should be administered in a way acceptable to you. He said much the same thing as the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary told the House, but that is not at all what the Commonwealth Ministerial Conference said. Its slant on the whole thing, was exactly the opposite—that Anguilla should be restored to St. Kitts.

Therefore, my first point is to ask that that matter be cleared up. Has Mr. Bradshaw agreed that Anguilla shall be split off from the associated status? If he has not, I find it hard that the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary can give the assurance that if the people want to break away we shall see to it that they do, which is virtually the assurance given.

Second, could he give that assurance? Perhaps the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary may claim that it can be done under the Order in Council made on 18th March. That may be so legally, but the Under-Secretary really made the same point on arrival at the airport a week earlier. How did he think, under the then existing associated status, he could possibly give that assurance?

My third point is one that has an element of mild criticism of the Under-Secretary, but I am sure he will not mind my making it. It is a point I tried to make at Question Time on Monday, when he told me that when he arrived at the airport he made his statement in front of the crowd. He read it out as a message to the people. I am sure that the House is now well familiar with it, and I have a copy here. I want to question the wisdom of reading out his proposals at that early stage in his visit. I know that it is easy to look back, and I know that it was an emotional moment for him. The people of Anguilla were there. He was surrounded by the crowds on that rather warm and agreeable airstrip. I can just picture it. But, looking back, does not he agree that it would have been better to give the crowds a rather general greeting and say, "I am now going off to have lunch and possibly have a swim and a sleep, and then I shall have a chat with Mr. Webster. We shall have a working dinner together, and tomorrow we shall get down to work and get this all agreed."? Then, at the end, as he left, he could have triumphantly made his declaration at the airport of what his proposals were. From my own experience of negotiations, as a rule of thumb I would never disclose my cards so early in any visit. But the hon. Gentleman may have had some reason for taking action in that way, and I should like to know it.

My fourth question is rather parochial. I understand that the hon. Gentleman went off to have lunch. It is not quite clear to me—and it is slightly relevant in my piecing together of the history—who else was at the lunch party. I do not want a great list. Was it held at the home of Colonel the Honourable Henry Howard, and was he there as the host?

The Foreign Secretary, on 19th March, explained why the Government took action. He said: We took action because conditions in Anguilla were such that it was impossible for us to discharge our constitutional responsibilities for defence and external affairs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1969; Vol. 780, c. 495.] A lot has been talked about this in the House, but I have never really heard a satisfactory answer. I should like the hon. Gentleman to have another go at it. How was our defence made impossible? What were the external affairs which were made impossible? How were they made impossible? It is all very well to talk about these things in broad terms. We are entitled to know the details which made both defence and external affairs impossible.

As far as I can see, without the information which I hope the hon. Gentleman will give us tonight, it is just an excuse and I am far from satisfied that it has any reality. If he can give facts for both reasons he will do the country and the House a service. As far as I can see, it was an internal dispute between Anguilla and St. Kitts.

The Foreign Secretary also said that we could not discharge our responsibilities for the nationals of other countries and therefore we had to go in and protect the situation, otherwise we would have liability for the property and persons of other nationalities. Let us clear this up.

I do not expect an answer to this question tonight, but how many nationals of other countries were in Anguilla? This point must be known and I expect an answer within 48 hours. It must be known because it was a reason for the invasion. What were the nationalities? I think the answer is that there were very few other nationals, mainly British and American. If that is so, is action going to be taken in St. Kitts itself, where almost precisely a similar situation exists and where there are nationals of other countries, where there was a British national who had property there which was expropriated and who was imprisoned for quite a long time? No action was taken there. I believe this is the most transparent of all the excuses.

The right hon. Gentleman also claimed that force was necessary because the wishes of the great majority of the people were being frustrated by the few. Is it the doctrine of the Government now that we have to use force where the wishes of the great majority of the people are being frustrated by the few? That is a terribly dangerous argument. We are almost in this situation in this country. Would it not have been better to have said at the outset, to avoid what one hon. Member called"double standards ", that this was an occasion which had to be settled, that we would not use military force? The Government will come under very severe pressure on this point as the weeks and months roll by. They said about Rhodesia that we would not use force. Therefore, why should we not say it here? The conclusion one is tempted to draw—and if the Minister can dispel that conclusion the whole House would be grateful—is that we were prepared to use force here because it is a black and undefended island, whereas in other places there are whites who are heavily defended.

My seventh and main point is that the House has not had nearly enough evidence to support the action of the Government. We have had a lot of talk, but we have not had much concrete evidence. We want it. Talking about the justification for the invasion, the Foreign Secretary said on 24th March: At the same time there was gathering round Mr. Webster a group of people whom I think I rightly and moderately described as disreputable characters … we knew also that a number of them were bringing in supplies of arms to the island… It would be useful to have a list of the names—and I would not expect them tonight, but within 48 hours, because the Government used this as the main reason for their invasion—of these disreputable characters. Why were they disreputable? And, if they are disreputable, let us have it clearly down in HANSARD why they were disreputable. Who were the people whom the Government knew were bringing in supplies of arms to the island? I want their names. If this is the reason for this very serious action the Government must know the names, and there is no reason on earth why they should not be disclosed. I am not in any way trying to defend them or what they were doing. What I want to know is what was the extent of the evidence on which the Government based this connection?

Reference was made to the "gathering round" Mr. Webster of various people. Take the case of Barbuda, a similar, small island which wishes, from time to time, to separate from Antigua. Has not the precedent been set whereby the people the Barbuda can invite in a few of what the Government call disreputable characters, and if they want their independence from Antigua they merely create a situation in which, if the Government are logical and consistent in this—and I doubt whether they will be—they would invade Barbuda? Perhaps, because it is a smaller island, there will be fewer parachutists. On the same point about arms, on 24th March the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who wound up the debate, gave us an important statement with the first facts we have had about it. He said: … we have received a number of reports of the illegal importation of arms into Anguilla since 1967. … It is believed that there were 60 or more weapons, including some machine carbines, on the island before we intervened. It is clear that there must be other deposits, and these are now being sought by the troops and police. If there are 60 weapons on the island, I query whether that justifies even with some of the other matters mentioned, the use of all these troops in such a dramatic way.

I was in Anguilla nine months ago and I remember sitting on a balcony with Mr. Webster. We were looking over the sea towards St. Kitts and we were talking about the possibility of an invasion of Anguilla by Mr. Bradshaw's forces. I said to him, "How many weapons have you for your defence if he invades?". Mr. Webster estimated that he had about 40. I accepted that as the situation. The Minister of State on 24th March said that there were 60 or more. I imagine that that means between 60 and 70, otherwise he would have said 70 or more. Does it make sense to launch an invasion of this nature in front of the world because in nine months, if what Mr. Webster told me was correct, the total armoury of this island of 6,00C people escalated from 40 to 60? If 20 weapons come in in nine months, why did over 200 parachutists have to be dropped? This is the sort of thing we want cleared up.

When I got back from my visit to Anguilla, I went to see Lord Shepherd. We discussed whether the Anguillans would fight if attacked by St. Kitts. I repeated to Lord Shepherd what had been said to me when Mr. Webster threw up his hands and said, "I do not think we shall. We place all our trust in God." That made an impression upon me, and I remember repeating it to Lord Shepherd.

On 24th March, the Minister of State also said:

…we have received a number of reports of the illegal importation of arms…". May we have the sources of those reports if they are not secret intelligence? Were they assessed as being from reliable sources, or semi or unreliable sources? Were they in part, perhaps, propaganda put out from St. Kitts and picked up as intelligence reports, perhaps from Antigua or another island? Were these reports, when they came in, checked, cross-checked and verified? It is extremely important, when judging whether this operation was sensible, to see whether the intelligence was likely to be true or a lot of rumour and gossip. The Minister said about arms: It is clear that there must be other deposits".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1969; Vol. 780, c. 1072 and 1166.] May we know why it is so clear that there should be other deposits?

The Government must produce the evidence on all these matters about which I have asked, and it must be substantiated. It is no good telling the House that they have had a rumour here or a message there. If the evidence was all right and acceptable, was it right to send in forces from the United Kingdom? We know that there is a local frigate, if not two, on board which there are marines and a helicopter. That should have been adequate force if force had to be used, which I do not accept for one minute.

When the policemen went out—and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) may deal with this—did we need so many policemen? I suggest that perhaps 12 or 15 could have gone out on a B.O.A.C. aeroplane to Antigua, disguised, in so far as police can disguise themselves, as civilians. If that had happened, it would not have had as much international effect as it has had. I was sorry to hear the Foreign Secretary say that none of our allies has criticised us. They do not because they are polite, but I was abroad last week in the country of one of our allies, and ministers there were very critical of what happened, so the Foreign Secretary should not go away with the idea that he is not being criticised.

The final point of my catechism is to ask why action was not taken earlier. The Minister knows well the point I am going to make, but I have never had a satisfactory answer. On 17th December I raised this in a debate on the Question that the House should adjourn for Christmas. I said: I would withdraw my objection to this"— the adjournment— if I could have an assurance from the Leader of the House that a Minister from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will go out there post haste to talk this situation over with the two leaders before 8th January. If someone went there and made proposals to the islanders—perhaps that they should come temporarily within the administration of the British Virgin Islands, or prolong the stay of Mr. Lee the administrator, or some special membership of the Commonwealth—a solution might be found and wiser counsels will prevail upon the leaders of the island."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1968; Vol. 775, c. 1176.] I did not expect an answer immediately from the Leader of the House but I know, from a word I had, that this was discussed and that my proposition was turned down. I have never understood why. The Foreign Secretary said, on the 24th: It was not during the period of the interim settlement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1969, Vol. 786, c. 1071.] but he is wrong and confirms that he is wrong from a previous statement in col. 494 of the Official Report of 19th March.

On 17th February, at Question Time I referred to a shoal of financial sharks which may be moving in for a killing in that area"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1968; Vol. 784, c. 16.] I was probably referring to the same people as the Government have had in mind at the time. The lesson was then that, had the Minister got out there in time, all this could have been avoided. We all know what is wanted in future: aid; work, roads, water, schools, particularly primary schools, electricity and, as the Minister will know, the airport must be improved. The Anguillans wanted at one time—and I am not sure whether they still want it, but I hope so—a direct link with the Crown and they want nothing to do with St. Kitts. I suggested last year some arrangement with the British Virgin Islands nearby, but this means consultation.

Associated status does not seem to be likely to be effective unless the British Government are responsible for internal security. I do not see why small islands like this should not have a Government adviser paid for by the British Government and with direct links back to Britain, so that the adviser can help them and can deal with internal security, and Britain can deal with defence and external affairs. This would not be costly in the long run. This is an important matter and we have not had an answer. This debate is an opportunity for the Government to give all the answers I want. If I can personally be of help in Anguilla I will do what I can to help the charming and God-fearing people who live out there.

4.30 a.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

Whosoever among us in the House has reason for praise or blame on the subject of Anguilla, it will be agreed on both sides that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) has a remarkable record of having seen this problem clearly and having spoken on it clearly in advance. In the light of his record, he is entitled to ask the questions which he put to the Minister, and I hope that he will be given satisfactory replies to his request for a bill of particulars.

Whenever British troops are engaged in the field, all of us should be reluctant to criticise the operations which they are undertaking, and, as the Minister will be the first to agree, there is a great deal to admire in the efficient and humane way in which our men have been conducting what is, obviously, for many of them a distasteful operation. But the Government cannot claim the same immunity from criticism.

It seems to me that the Foreign Secretary by over-reacting has transformed a minor Caribbean incident into an international furore. It is the lack of perspective which I find most distressing. At the time of the Under-Secretary's visit to Anguilla, I was visiting Washington. The Government have been quick to say that they have had support from some of our allies, but they should understand that the private sentiments of important Americans on this matter are of bewilderment and derision. I shall not go into that at length. I simply make one short quotation from the words of a distinguished person in Washington. When discussing this matter, he said that, as far as he could see, the Prime Minister had "lost his marbles".

Against the background of the anti-ballistic missile decision and the Sino-Soviet confrontation on the Ussuri River, it came as something of a surprise to our allies in Washington that there should be emergency meetings of the Cabinet, with the chiefs of staff called in, to deal with an island of 6,000 people in the Caribbean.

My second general comment is that the operation, well conducted as it may have been by our troops, has exposed our country to international charges of racism. I greatly regret this. I believe that ours is the least racist of nations in the whole world. But anyone who has travelled in the Caribbean, as most of us here have, will know that a consciousness of colour and of blackness in particular, is an important phenomenon. It is something which has arisen to great strength in the last 10 years; it has become an important political as well as emotional fact. It should therefore have been clear even to the densest of observers that to land a white military force on a black island is "nowadays to take a great risk with racial harmony. I can think of nothing more calculated to consolidate the people of the island behind Mr. Webster than the action which the British Government have taken.

Through an odd courtesy of the B.B.C., I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Webster on the telephone yesterday. I formed no clear impression of Mr. Webster over the telephone. However, I was very clear about one thing, and that was that, if his position had been insecure in Anguilla two weeks ago, he thinks it is very secure indeed today. Such opposition as undoubtedly he had in the island before the Under-Secretary arrived is now comparatively muted, and there seems to be a considerable surge of feeling in favour of Mr. Webster. Anyone could have predicted this. Immediately one lands white troops and white policemen in a black island these days, it guarantees, alas, that the vast majority of black people will go to the aid and comfort of their black leader. This is so elementary as not to require stating, had it not been the fact that the Government ignored it.

I want to deal with one specific aspect of the operation, on which, like my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury, I shall be obliged if the Minister will reply now or reply in writing if he needs to obtain further particulars. I want to ask him about the Metropolitan Police contingent which is now serving, I think with some distinction, in the island. I should declare an interest: as the House knows well, I have a special connection with the Police Federation.

I start by asking the Minister if he will obtain for me an exact legal definition of the status of the police in Anguilla. Are they or are they not still members of the Metropolitan Police? If they are still members of the Metropolitan Police will the Minister give a categorical assurance that their pensions are safeguarded and that their group insurance policies, for example, will continue to remain in force? This is an important matter, because the Minister will understand that many of these group insurance policies arise precisely from the fact that they are members of the Metropolitan Police and, indeed, members of the Police Federation. If they cease to have membership of the Metropolitan Police and the Federation it is a good question whether those insurance policies would remain in force.

I am familiar with the terms and conditions of service, of which the police themselves have been informed, and, as far as I can make out—I express here a personal judgment—the financial terms are very satisfactory; indeed, some of them are generous.

But the Minister must answer the question. If the police are not, at least for the time being, members of the Metropolitan force, to whom precisely are they responsible? To whom does their commander, the Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Ray, report? Does he report to Mr. Anthony Lee? If so, will the Government please spell this out, if need be in an Order to be laid before the House? Or are the police in Anguilla still responsible in some curious way to the Commissioner for the Metropolis and through him to the Home Secretary? We need to know precisely to whom they are responsible.

From the advice I have been given and from the researches I have made it looks to me as though the police are responsible for the time being to the Foreign Secretary. He, after all, is paying the additional foreign allowance which they will receive. But in what capacity is the Foreign Secretary now their employer, and what legal responsibility does he now have for the welfare of those police officers in the island? Does he intend, for instance, to enter into negotiations with the Police Federation in respect of those matters of welfare which it is its statutory duty to oversee? The Federation has a clear statutory duty to its members, and I should like to know if the Foreign Secretary proposes to take over from the Home Secretary any negotiations with the Federation.

Above all, in respect of the police, what is the future? How long do the Government intend to keep these policemen in Anguilla? For the time being, of course, many of them are enjoying themselves, and I know that no hon. Member of this House would begrudge them a swim in those pellucid waters. We are all delighted to see them getting a winter holiday. But sooner or later, as the Minister must know, they will get a little bored. Their wives and families left behind and watching their husbands on the television screen will get even more so.

What is to happen as time goes on if these policemen find themselves in a progressively more difficult—not to say dangerous—situation? There may be violence. Indeed if the Government are right and there are all these disreputable men, and gangsters, and hidden arms strewn around the island, then the chances of violence are very real.

What is to happen to the police if the combat troops are withdrawn? Are these policemen to be left to face violent men, unarmed? If so, are the Government going to face up to the possibility of transforming this essentially civilian group into a para-military force? Are they going to expect these Metropolitan policemen to carry arms and, if need be, to use them?

These are real questions, and I wonder if the Government have thought them out. It would be possible to visualise all kinds of difficult situations in which these policemen may find themselves through no fault of their own. It would be unwise for the House to indulge in speculation which might only make the position of these policemen more difficult, and increase the anxieties of their families, but it is the Government's responsibility to face up to the contingencies which could arise.

With the greatest respect, I would advise the Minister to pay attention to four specific points on the police, and I hope that I shall have his comments on these.

First, the exact legal position of the policemen on Anguilla needs to be spelled out to Parliament and to the police themselves. This is not a situation like Cyprus or Gibraltar, because in those cases there was no question at all of our sovereign responsibility for sovereign British territory. Anguilla is not any longer sovereign British territory, and therefore we must have a clear legal definition of the status of the police in Anguilla. We also need to know exactly what the chain of command is, to whom these men are responsible, who is to pay them, to insure them, and who is to look after their relatives if—as God forbid—anything were to happen. I appreciate that the hon. Member who is to reply to the debate will not be able to answer these precise questions at this late hour of the night, but I ask him to find that legal definition and the consequentials as rapidly as possible.

Secondly, there must be no question of turning this police unit under any circumstances into a para-military force. They are not trained for that purpose, and none of the individuals who have been sent to Anguilla volunteered in the belief that they would be turned into a para-military group. They did not join the Metropolitan Police with that kind of service in mind.

Thirdly, some kind of time limit—the shorter, the better—must be placed on this police operation. The Foreign Secretary has warned us that it may be a matter of years, though he seemed to recede from that position the other day. In the hon. Gentleman's message to the people of Anguilla, which I understand that he gave to 500 people at the airport, he said: We realise this may be some years. So we have from two or more Ministers the suggestion that it will be a considerable time before peace and harmony are restored. But, to quote a famous phrase, I hope that the police unit will be engaged in Anguilla for a matter of weeks and not months.

Fourthly, the Government must as a matter of urgency take steps to regularise the position of the police in Anguilla by setting up, if they can, a proper Anguil-lan police force. In reply to an intervention of mine during his speech in the Foreign Affairs debate, the Foreign Secretary said: I hope that we shall be able to establish an Anguillan force and that there will be help from other Caribbean countries of a kind agreeable to the Anguillans as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1969; Vol. 780. c. 1077.] That was a very fair and welcome statement, but I hope it will not be long before this regularising process takes place. In my view, the Government should have produced some form of police force of this kind from the very outset.

In my judgment, it would have been wiser and certainly was possible to have approached our other Caribbean partners in the Commonwealth with a view to arranging that any force sent to the island also consisted possibly of Jamaicans, Trinidadians and Guyanans. The hon. Gentleman may say that they are not willing to do that, and he may be right. But that is precisely the greatest criticism of the Government's policy.

It has been said again and again that this is a Caribbean matter. My own instinct is to get Caribbeans as far as possible to resolve Caribbean problems. How much wiser it would have been if, as a result of the delicate negotiations which no doubt Ministers were undertaking, we had been able to place on Anguilla a force primarily consisting of black Caribbeans, with the necessary stiffening of white troops and civilians from Britain.

I conclude with three observations. First, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury said, we must have the evidence that the Government rely on to justify their action. Where are the Mafia-like characters? We need their names and particulars, and, once they have been identified, justice demands that they be brought before a court of law. We believe in the rule of law. If the Government have the evidence, let them cite it and let a magistrate judge it. If we do not do that, the smear of "disreputable characters" attaches to all those who live in Anguilla. All of them will be characterised as disreputable people, gangsters, and the like, until a court of law has decided whether the charges against particular persons are justified.

Secondly, I hope that the Minister will tell us to what extent the other Caribbean Governments were consulted about this invasion. We are entitled to know why, following the general approval that Ministers claim they obtained from Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana, these Governments have now gone back on those approbations and apparently want nothing to do with this invasion.

Thirdly, I hope that the Minister will say, because it would bring relief to the House, that the Government are prepared to hold a referendum or election of some kind in Anguilla very soon. I recognise the need for order, but I cannot believe, with such a large force on so small an island, that there could any longer be any question of people being too terrorised to go to the polls. I hope that the Minister will further say that, if that expression of opinion indicates that our Commissioner should leave the island, he will be brought home at once.

Lastly, I put a general legal point, whether the Minister feels that the Government have powers under the West Indies Act, either under Section 7(1) or (2), to establish on the island a permanent police force. It seems to me extremey doubtful, reading the language of the Act, that those powers are available. I realise that the Government are entitled to change the internal laws, but I do not feel confident that they have the power to set up an ordinary police force to deal with ordinary matters on the island unless they can show that this is necessary for external defence.

Other hon. Members wish to speak. I hope that the Minister will do his best to reply to my point on the police in particular tonight. If not, I assure him that we shall be waiting anxiously for his reply in writing.

4.52 a.m.

Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) have put these searching questions to the Minister about Anguilla. Despite the fact that the subject was discussed in Monday's debate on foreign affairs, the full truth, even now, has not been told and the appalling complacency of the Government leading to the events of the past week has not yet been fully revealed. Moreover, by their action, the Government have cast a cloud not only over tiny Anguilla, but over the whole Caribbean, for no one can tell now what lies ahead in this volatile area with its numerous Commonwealth sovereign and associated states, republics, dictatorships and, at is heart, of course, Communist Cuba. Indeed, it is very odd that the consideration mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury in the early part of his speech never seemed to enter the Government's mind before they embarked upon their military adventure. I wish, therefore, to divide my remarks into two parts: first, the origin of this unhappy affair and the events leading up to the Government's decision to intervene with force and, secondly, the future.

When it was decided to grant associated status to St. Kitts—Nevis—Anguilla, the Government knew that they were taking a risk. A constitutional conference, under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee), attended by the then Chief Minister, Mr. Southwell, Mr. Bradshaw, Dr. Adams, the People's Action Movement representative from Anguilla, and Mr. Walwyn, took place in London in May, 1966. A report was signed by all those who attended. It was published in June, 1966, and its main provisions were that St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla should have associated status, the Government of St. Kitts would have complete responsibility for all internal affairs, but Britain would remain responsible for external affairs and defence. It is interesting to note that the association could be terminated by either side at any time after various procedures had been gone through.

Paragraph 50 of that report read as follows: 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 that 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. Even so no action was taken to prepare for elections for the local councils until January, 1967.

The West Indies Bill was debated on Second Reading in this House on 31st January. This was an enabling Bill to allow the British Government to grant constitutions to various West Indies territories, including St. Kitts, on appointed days in accordance with the various constitutional conferences which had been held. The appointed day for St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla was 27th February. The matter was rushed through with great speed, and the report stage was taken on 2nd February.

After all the stages of the Bill had been completed in the Commons, but before the Committee stage in another place, Dr. Herbert, the leader of the People's Action Movement, and Dr. Adams, a member of the same party from Anguilla, came to London and raised a number of objections. Their main worry was about the local councils. They said they did not believe that Mr. Bradshaw was going to set up these councils in accordance with the report of the Constitutional Conference, and they brought with them a letter from Mr. Bradshaw which supported that view.

There was also the question of a possible suspension by Mr. Bradshaw's Government of local councils in Nevis and Anguilla. It was also feared that the Government of St. Kitts was not going to comply with paragraph 14 of Appendix B to the report of the constitutional conference which laid down that if the Constitution was to be amended as regards local government in Nevis and Anguilla there should be a referendum in these two islands.

My noble Friend, Lord Jellicoe, raised those matters in another place on 14th February during the Committee stage of the West Indies Bill. He asked the Government spokesman, if he has any information about the reported disturbances in Anguilla; if he can assure me that the local government provisions provided for or foreseen in paragraph 50 of the Report of the Constitutional Conference will in fact be brought into effect; and if it is his information, too. that they will be in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 14. In his reply the noble, Lord Beswick, said: The position at the present time, as I understand it, is that the Government of St. Kitts have every intention of implementing the provisions of the Constitution mentioned in Clause 50 in the Conference Report; indeed, my understanding is that the necessary implementing legislation has already been drafted; that its terms will be published within the next few days, and that in due course it will go before their Parliament in St. Kitts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. House of Lords; 14th February, 1967, Vol. 280, cc. 159–60.] That was the first of a long series of soothing statements about the situation which from now on began to deteriorate.

Dr. Herbert and Dr. Adams also saw the right hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) who at that time was the Minister of State. A communiqué was issued after that meeting, and it included the words: the legislation to introduce local government in Nevis and in Anguilla will be enacted before Statehood Day. The communiqué also made it clear that the local government would consist of nominated members until elections were held in December, 1967.

On 23rd February my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) wrote to the right hon. Lady, who replied on the same day saying that subsidiary legislation providing for election procedures and other matters will be enacted within the next two months and preparations for the election will be made so that they can be held not later than July, instead of, as originally proposed, by 1st January, 1968. On 22nd February, no doubt believing what they were telling hon. Members, the Government went ahead. An Order in Council giving St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla a Constitution, was made, and it came into force five days later. Paragraph 109 provided that there should be a council for Nevis and a council for Anguilla, which would be the principal organs of local government in those islands.

Unhappily, no one on Anguilla believed that Mr. Bradshaw would implement the promises made at the constitutional conference. When the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), representing the British Government, having attended the independence celebrations in St. Kitts on 27th February, flew to Anguilla on the following day, there were scenes. It was reported in the Daily Telegraph on 1st March that he was taunted—thus the Under-Secretary is not the first to have had this sort of experience—by 6,000 demonstrators. There were other reports of demonstrations.

But when he came home and was asked about this in the House on 16th March, the right hon. Gentleman told my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood): I am glad to assure the right hon. Gentleman 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1967; Vol. 743, c. 715.] But it was not at all clear. It never has been clear. On 21st March, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington asked a Question in the House. The reply from the Minister of State was extraordinary: …I am not aware that any difficulties have arisen since the inauguration of Statehood. My right hon. Friend then asked: Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that considerable opposition to these proposals still exists? What can the British Government still do to allay the very real fears which are entertained? The hon. Gentleman replied: My understanding"— ominous words— is that a great deal of the feeling has died down. Yet the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East had decided earlier that it was clear from the start the bulk of the people were happy with the situation. He added: I believe that we must now give a fair chance to the Statehood which is being inaugurated"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st March, 1967; Vol. 743, c. 1435.] On 20th April, my right hon. Friend again wrote to the right hon. Lady about local government. She answered on 28th April that one of her senior officials, a Mr. Hall, had been to St. Kitts at the end of February, and that it had then been agreed that elections should be held by not later than July. Soon after Mr. Bradshaw came to Britain and it was quite clear that he had no intention of holding any elections in July, and felt himself committed to holding them only before the end of the year.

On 2nd May, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) asked a further Question about local elections, to which the right hon. Lady replied: Preparations for the elections, which are somewhat technical and complicated, are now under way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 301.] By this time, the Government would believe anything.

The right hon. Lady then wrote to my right hon. Friend on 16th May. It was clear that no action had been taken about legislation to enable elections to be held, which of course conflicted wildly with the assurances given by her in her letter of 23rd February that consultations would be begun in two months from that date and in accordance with the assurances given before statehood had been granted. On 31st May, after growing tension in Anguilla, the police force of about 27 men was expelled and the island then declared its independence. Mr. Bradshaw asked Britain for help which was refused, and then asked for help from other West Indian territories, and this also was not forthcoming.

On 11th June, after an alleged armed attack on the headquarters of the police and defence forces in St. Kitts, Mr. Bradshaw arrested the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Herbert, other Opposition leaders, and two United Kingdom subjects, Mr. Milnes Gaskell and Miss Diana Prior-Palmer. The latter was treated abominably and then deported.

Accordingly, on 2nd June my right hon. Friend asked a Private Notice Question about the situation, and the right hon. Lady ended her Answer by saying: There is complete uncertainty about the whole thing".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June, 1967; Vol. 747, c. 434.] On 22nd June my hon. Friend Lord Jellicoe put a Question in the House of Lords asking about Mr. Milnes Gaskell. Lord Beswick replied that Mr. Gaskell had been given the grounds for his detention on 17th June, which were that during 1967, both within and outside the State, he had encouraged civil disturbances, thereby endangering peace, public safety and public order. Lord Beswick went on to say that he had asked that Mr. Milnes Gaskell should be brought before a tribunal as soon as possible so that the charges might be either substantiated or withdrawn.

On 26th June, answering further Questions about Mr. Milnes Gaskell, the right hon. Lady said he had been visited on 21st June by a representative of Her Majesty's Government. There was, therefore, a gap of 10 days before he was visited by a representative of his Government.

I have deliberately catalogued these events in detail. Within a few months of the "soft" answers given in the debates on the West Indies Bill, we had a situation in which a new Constitution was being used for suppression by the premier of St. Kitts and his Government. Opposition leaders—not only from Anguilla, remember—had been thrown into jail, resolutions of no confidence in the courts were being passed in the legislature, jurors were being threatened, and British subjects were being seized and deported.

This was not being done by the rebel Anguillans. So far, there were no Mafialike elements intervening in that unhappy island. It was being done by the Government of St. Kitts, who were rapidly becoming an embarrassment not only to Her Majesty's Government but to every Commonwealth Government in the Caribbean. Despite the warnings that had been given by the Opposition in this House and in another place, Her Majesty's Government allowed the situation to deteriorate. They took no action to see that arrangements were made for elections to the local council to take place between May, 1966—the date of the constitutional conference—and January, 1967, when they sent a representative to the territory. It was then too late to organise these elections before the end of February when assertive status was granted. They misjudged the likely course of events and they played down the difficulties. They also misjudged the character of Mr. Bradshaw. They did not take steps to make certain that they had up-to-date information about what was going on—time and again Ministers replied that they were not sure of the situation in the territory. They took no firm action in the case of Mr. Milnes Gaskell, who was detained without being charged, and they did nothing about Miss Prior-Palmer, who was treated disgracefully.

The Government then tried to buy time by sending Mr. Lee to spend a year in Anguilla, but as The Times pointed out on 17th March last: … the time was not used to rethink the the whole problem. The British Government seems to have hoped that Mr. Lee would somehow persuade the Anguillans to return quietly to the unsatisfactory relationship with St. Kitts. Hardly surprisingly, this did not happen. When the year was up in January, Mr. Bradshaw demanded the departure of Mr. Lee. as he had a legal right to do. Britain then withdrew not only Mr. Lee but also development aid. The Anguillans voted by 1,739 votes to four for independence under a new constitution. But they made it clear they were still anxious for special links with Britain". The Times was absolutely right, for as recently as 5th February the Under-Secretary was revealing that the Government had learned nothing and offered nothing. In a Written Answer he referred to a letter Mr. Webster, the Anguillan leader, had sent on 30th December, 1968, to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. Mr. Webster said: With the ending of the agreed interim period, Anguilla re-acquires the full independence and freedom of action which it had prior to our letter of 18th December, 1967 Mr. Webster refers to an earlier request to the Government made in July, 1967. We wish to explore status of Associated State or other arrangement of freedom and local self-government within the Commonwealth. Commenting on this letter, the Under-Secretary said: Since the status of Anguilla as part of the Associated State is laid down by Parliament in the West Indies Act, 1967, and cannot be changed in this way, Her Majesty's Government do not regard Mr. Webster's purported declaration of independence as having any effect. Under this Act, Her Majesty's Government can only legislate to change the status of Anguilla at the request and with the consent of the State concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 5th February, 1969; Vol. 777, c. 128.] It is easy now to talk of the need to quell a rebellion, of Mafia-like influences—hastily downgraded by the Foreign Secretary to "disreputable characters"—and to talk of the existence of a vast armoury of 60 or more weapons—I guarantee that there are about that number of weapons in almost any village in this country—and for these reasons to mount a great invasion. It is easy now to talk about these matters. But the root cause of the trouble was the failure of the Government, from the begining, to grasp the fact that if promises made to the Anguillans at a constitutional conference were not kept, and the ruling Government behaved like tyrants, the constitution itself would be imperilled. All this was predictable. Speech after speech has been made about it. We had Adjournment debates. Questions were asked across the Floor of the House, and Ministers simply brushed these aside.

Let me remind the House what the Anguillans said in their proclamation after they had declared themselves "absolutely and conclusively independent from St. Kitts." They declared that the decision was one that "will never be undone"and went on to say, with touching and simple faith: The history of the British Empire and the Commonwealth gives us high hopes that we, as others, can enjoy both freedom and allegiance to the Crown. We humbly beg our Queen and the people of Britain to talk with us about sharing the future. I met Mr. Webster last year with other Anguilians when they were over here pleading with the British Government to help them in the same spirit as that declaration which I have just read to the House. Mr. Webster struck me as being an honest, rather single-minded man, who wanted a straight answer to a question. He was sent home empty-handed. I met Mr. Lee at the same time, and I want to say at once that I thought then, and I think now, that he was a dedicated official who cared deeply for the Anguilians, but had been put into an almost impossible position by the Government.

All that Mr. Webster wanted last year was a firm declaration that Anguilla would not be returned to St. Kitts rule. Was that so unreasonable, against the background that I have described?

Then we had the decision to send troops and police. What was the purpose of this exercise? It was surely to persuade the Anguilians that they could have everything that they were asking for two years ago. That is the only logical conclusion one can reach from the protestations made by the Foreign Secretary in the last week. According to him: It is no part of our purpose that the Anguilians should live under an administration they do not want."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1969; Vol. 780, c. 207.] Indeed, the very message which the Under-Secretary took to Anguilla made concessions in this direction. It said: Our wish is to ensure that you should be administered in a way acceptable to you. The proposal which I am authorised to make to you is that Her Majesty's Government should establish in Anguilla a Commissioner appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of the Rt. Hon. Michael Stewart, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Hitherto the Commissioner had been there by the grace of Mr. Bradshaw. The situation had now obviously changed. The message continues: In order to enable the Commissioner to carry out his important task the British Government would take steps to endow him with the necessary legal authority under the West Indies Act, 1967. If when the Under-Secretary arrived on the shores of Anguilla and was met by a welcoming crowd waiting to hear the message he had brought them, a message which said that power existed to enable a commissioner to be appointed directly by the British Government, why had not this been used before? If it had been used before, there would have been no need for crack troops and the flower of the Metropolitan Police to have been sent to Anguilla.

Perhaps by this time there were unruly elements in the island. I have no information to say that the Government are wrong about this. But it should have been crystal clear by now that the islands would prefer to be ruled by anybody—the Mafia, "disreputable elements", even by Her Majesty's Government—to being ruled by Mr. Bradshaw. Why had this simple fact not penetrated the minds of the various Ministers and their advisers who have been handling this affair since 1966? So much for the past. I turn briefly to the future.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Can my hon. Friend elucidate one point pertaining to the past? Is it not true that this is the second British armed landing and not the first? The matter was put to Lord Beswick in another place and he denied that there had been a previous landing of British marines. Can my hon. Friend say if this is so? Was this the second landing?

Mr. Braine

There was at one time a suggestion, I believe, made to the Caribbean Governments that some force might be provided. The great difficulty that the House is in and that I am in is that we have had little information from Her Majesty's Ministers on this subject. I think that this is yet another question that the Under-Secretary should endeavour to answer.

Having committed one set of errors, Her Majesty's Government now seem set fair to commit another. We have the Secretary of State talking of British direct rule in Anguilla for some years to come. How in heaven's name can this be justified? We are dealing here with a tiny community of 6,000 people. With British troops and police now on the island, surely the unscrupulous intimidators, if they exist, can be dealt with. If indeed there are large numbers of them, they now must be presumably under lock and key. If they have committed offences, wild accusations will not do. They must be brought to book and the justification for the Government's action must be made plain, not merely to Parliament, but to the whole world. Why cannot arrangements for a referendum be made speedily? On the assumption that the unruly elements have departed and that everything is now under control and that the Anguillans have come to realise the noble intentions of Her Majesty's Government, surely there is no need for British direct rule for years to come.

The House wants to know whether there will be a speedy referendum, giving the Anguillans a clear choice. There are six possible choices. They could remain part of the Associated State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. It will be interesting to see how many Anguillans opt for that. They could have complete independence, though it is very difficult to see how a small island—and this is not the only small island left in the world—can maintain a viable independence. They could have separate associated status by themselves. They could be joined with the British Virgin Islands, or the American Virgin Islands if they chose. Or they could return to straight colonial status.

But what is imperative is that they should be given the choice, and given it very soon. Such a referendum should be held just as soon as—

Mr. Eldon Griffiths


Mr. Braine

I see no reason why not, and with Commonwealth observers present, as in Gibraltar. Delay will only inflame passions. It will cast doubt on Britain's motives, and throw away the opportunity to get a just decision which the military intervention has provided.

The Government need not think that we shall leave them alone on this. Exactly a year ago on last year's Consolidated Fund Bill Second Reading we were obliged to raise another matter. Some of us had received a letter from the members of the Executive Council of the Falkland Islands, in which we were told that: … negotiations are now proceeding between the British and Argentine Governments which may result at any moment in the handing over of the Falkland Islands to the Argentine. That was from the senior elected representatives of the Falkland islanders. The letter said that the inhabitants of the islands had never yet been consulted about their future, although they did not want to become Argentine. It said that they are as British as we are and are mostly of English and Scottish ancestry, even to the sixth generation. This was the first news any of us had had that the Government were negotiating in secret with a foreign Power over the possible transfer of sovereignty of a British territory.

It took us long months to get the Government finally to abandon the idea of pressurising the Falkland islanders into accepting the inevitability of a transfer of sovereignty, which no Falkland islander had ever asked for. Indeed, they had sent their own views on this to the United Nations some years previously. But the Government had been negotiating secretly on this subject, and it was not until that debate on this day a year ago that we were able to get any kind of assurances from the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on the subject.

The Government can expect us, therefore, to press them continuously on the Anguilla issue until an honourable settlement has been secured. I serve notice now that we expect them to arrange an early referendum and to keep our partners in the Caribbean fully informed. I also serve notice that we are closely watching what action they take elsewhere in the Caribbean, particularly in British Honduras, where fears have constantly been expressed over the past year, and are still being expressed to us, that the Government may grant independence before the people there have had an opportunity to have a general election. I do not say that this will happen, but the clumsy handling of every aspect of Commonwealth affairs by the Government gives us no great hope that it will not.

Therefore, I trust that a very full answer will be given, if not tonight then in the form of a letter by the Under-Secretary, as my hon. Friend requested. These questions must be answered. The Government must come clean. They have to explain to Parliament and the nation the justification for the action they have taken; they have to put the record straight; and finally they have to see that, at the end of the day, justice is done to this small community in the Caribbean who at no time have ever expressed anything but the greatest devotion to the British Crown and people.

5.25 a.m.

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

I have been asked many questions, some of which I cannot answer without notice and some of which cannot be answered yet. Some, indeed, may never be answered because the information on which the answers could be based will no longer be available on the island. It is not there any longer.

The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) referred to the conference in Port of Spain of Commonwealth heads of Government recently, when we were asked to take all necessary steps to preserve the territorial integrity of the State of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla. Here we had a situation under the West Indies Act, 1967, in which Anguilla had illegally seceded from that State. How could we, then, attempt to carry out what the whole of the Caribbean States wanted us to carry out and yet at the same time somehow enable the Anguillans to work out their salvation in the way I suggested they could do in the message I delivered?

My presence in the Caribbean recently was, first of all, occasioned by the fact that the Associated States had been in operation for two years and it was felt that I should go and see their Governments and find out how they felt about the manner in which the situation was working out. I had talks with all five Associated States.

While in the area, I took the opportunity to talk not only with these States but with anyone else who would talk to me about the Anguillan problem because I knew the strength of feeling of Anguillans about returning to St. Kitts. The Arguillan antagonism towards St. Kitts has a very long history. It goes back into colonial days. Long before Mr. Bradshaw appeared on the scene, there was hatred of St. Kitts, and that hatred now is personified in Mr. Bradshaw.

All these things I had to bear in mind when talking with people from the Caribbean, including many Anguillans in the islands outside Anguilla. Some of these Anguillans supported Mr. Webster; others did not. But most of them believed that the future of Anguilla lay outside the State of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla.

It seemed to me, therefore, that if we, within the West Indies Act, legalised the temporary severance of Anguilla from the State of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, this would be a solution, provided that it was acceptable, of course, to the State of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla.

Accordingly I had long conversations with the State Government during which there was a statesmanlike recognition of the strength of feeling in Anguilla about a return to the State Government. It seemed to me that this strength of feeling, if it were ever to be dispelled, could only be dispelled over a long period, and, therefore, I discussed with the State Government the proposals which, later on, I took to Anguilla.

Because of this statesmanlike recognition by the Government of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla that there was this terrific feeling in Anguilla, my proposals were agreed to by the State Government. The next step was to tell the rest of the Caribbean about it, which I did. My proposals were acceptable to those Governments in the Caribbean with which I was able to discuss the matter. I then went to Anguilla, knowing before I went that there were arms on the island, knowing that three days before I went there a consignment of machine guns had been taken there. This was a report which came out of the island. These machine carbines had been taken there in addition to the arms which already existed.

Mr. Marten

As the hon. Gentleman knows exactly about this report, can he tell us who took them there, how many guns, and to whom they were delivered?

Mr. Whitlock

We know who took them there. I will not mention that man's name now. We know that there were three crates of these guns. This was a report that came to us. The arms were on the island, I saw them and they have been acknowledged to be there. Mr. Webster acknowledged that he had arms there.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Whitlock

I will deal with these points when I come to them, if I come to them.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

This is extremely important. If the Government can establish that three crates of machine guns were taken into Anguilla it is a very serious matter. May we know what "crates" means? Is this of the order of 30 or 40 machine carbines, or two or three, and what is the quality of the report? Have these guns been found?

Mr. Whitlock

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wants me to describe the crates to him, their markings—

Mr. Eldon Griffiths


Mr. Whitlock

We had reports—this is all I have said—that these crates had been landed by a man on the island who is known, and reports came out that they were machine guns.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Have they been recovered?

Mr. Braine

Have they been found?

Mr. Whitlock

I will come to these points, if I am given time. If hon. Gentlemen want me to reply they will have to wait. I will do it in the manner in which I have decided to do it, and in the sequence in which the questions have been put to me.

The hon. Member for Banbury was somewhat critical of the manner in which I am alleged to have behaved at the airport. Quite a lot has been said about this by Mr. Jack Holcomb at the United Nations. I landed at the airfield, where some 500 Anguillans were assembled to greet me. I did not ignore Mr. Webster, as has been suggested. I shook hands with him and stood with him before the crowd, and then walked to the air terminal building, where he gave a message of welcome to me. Significantly, he said that he hoped that all would join, hand in hand, to give me safety and a full measure of security. That was a rather peculiar thing for the head of a State to say if he was quite sure that I was safe on the island. Mr. Lee had told him two days before that I would be coming, and he had given a guarantee that I would be safe. Yet at the airport he asked the people to secure my safety. He then asked that we present the message we had to give. I spoke, presenting the message, which hon. Gentlemen received, and making a few comments in addition. Even if I had behaved tactlessly at the airport, as has been alleged, was that a justification for running me off the island at the point of a gun? I should like the hon. Gentleman to say whether he believes that it was—because I was run off the island at the point of a gun.

Mr. Marten

I never made that allegation. The only faint criticism I made—and I made it very mildly—of the hon. Gentleman's conduct concerned the wisdom, when Mr. Webster invited him to make a speech, of deploying there and then his proposals. Would it not have been better, in view of the experience of diplomacy that certainly some of us have had, to have gone to have lunch and a chat, have discussions the next day and then deploy his proposals? That was the only criticism I made of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Whitlock

Mr. Webster asked in his speech of welcome at the airport that we present the proposals, and this was done. I then said that I would remain on the island to talk about the proposals—because they were no more than proposals—about which I wished to consult the Anguillans and talk with anyone who wished me to talk about them. I went off to lunch, which had been arranged for me. The hon. Gentleman asked me where I had lunch. I had it in the house which I have since learnt—1 did not know it at the time—was once the house of the administrator on the island. I do not know whether that has any significance for the hon. Gentleman, but that is where I went.

Mr. Marten

Was Henry Howard there?

Mr. Whitlock

No. I met no one there named Howard.

The hon. Gentleman asked how we could justify the use of force. I thought that in our recent foreign affairs debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs justified that decision to the hilt. We used arms in order to carry out our defence and external affairs responsibilities. There is, as a matter of law, an Associated State which is an integrated whole, and the United Kingdom is responsible for the external affairs and defence of this integrated whole. We could not properly discharge those constitutional responsibilities unless, first, the Government of the State could effectively exercise their powers in each part of the State, which was not the case in Anguilla, or, second, if the Government could not operate effectively, the United Kingdom is, under the Act, in a position to ensure such conditions locally as are compatible with the discharge of those responsibilities. That is what we are doing in Anguilla, and that justification was given in the debate the other day by my right hon. Friend.

The hon. Member for Banbury asked how many nationals of other countries were on Anguilla—

Mr. Marten

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the last point, could he say—and I am sure that he should be able to answer this question here and now, even though it is nearly six o'clock—what were the defence and external affairs reasons why we could not manage? That is the whole point.

Mr. Whitlock

I have explained that. We could not properly discharge our constitutional responsibilities unless, first, the Government of the State could effectively exercise their powers in each part of the State—

Mr. Marten

That is not an answer.

Mr. Whitlock

It is the answer. If the hon. Gentleman looks tomorrow at what I have said and then looks at the Act, he will see that this is a complete justification.

Mr. Marten

It does not make sense.

Mr. Whitlock

The hon. Gentleman asked how many nationals of other countries were in Anguilla. He suggested that Anguilla is a very small place and the number of nationals of other countries on Anguilla was very small. I am not in a position to say exactly how many were there.

Mr. Marten


Mr. Whitlock

Because we had no one on the island who could tell us. From the time Mr. Lee was withdrawn we had no one to say how many were there or who had left.

Mr. Marten

That is precisely the reason the Foreign Secretary gave for launching the attack—that there were people there and protection was needed.

Mr. Whitlock

There were people there, but how many no one could say. We knew there were people but there was no one there to count them on our behalf.

Mr. Marten

Why was Mr. Lee withdrawn?

Mr. Whitlock

Why was Mr. Lee withdrawn? Because Mr. Webster had refused, in his talks here, to continue the interim settlement. He declared it at an end. Mr. Lee was there as part of the interim settlement. He had to leave because Mr. Webster said so, and in the circumstances which applied on the island, we had to use force. My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said that this was because of the pretty disreputable characters who were there.

Mr. Webster, when he was here last October, had discussions for two and a half weeks with me and Mr. Bradshaw, and was adamant in his stand that he could not accept any other arrangement but that of the independence of Anguilla or colonial status under Britain. I tried to persuade the two to come together in some agreement on some kind of confederated set-up for the three islands. Mr. Bradshaw was willing to make concessions, and the lawyer who represented Mr. Webster was also willing to talk about concessions, but however far we got on the road to these concessions, Mr. Webster would come back again and say that it would be suicide for him to go back with any agreement other than independence or colonial status. I somehow feel that the use of the word "suicide" was of some significance when we bear in mind what has happened on the island and what Mr. Webster had to say at the airport when he asked the people to band together to ensure my safety and when I was pinned down in the house on the island. Mr. Webster came to see me and said that it was on his instruction that I was pinned down. He was an extremely frightened man. I believe Mr. Webster was not the master on the island at that period. These characters who chased me off the island were in control of the island and of Mr. Webster.

The hon. Member for Banbury asked me to give a list of names of these people, almost as if one could not make an accusation of robbery unless one—[Interruption.]—has the names of those who carried it out. Robbery has taken place and one knows that it has taken place and that on the island there were disreputable characters. They were known to be there and they ran me off the island. We do not know the names in every case. Maybe we shall never know. Does the hon. Member for Banbury expect them to stay there and give themselves up and say where the arms are? Is it not likely that we shall never find the arms and that they have been taken off the island?

Mr. Marten

The Foreign Secretary said that Mr. Webster was surrounding himself and that this was the real danger, and it is that allegation with which I was dealing, not the gunmen who blew off a few West Indian shots round the hon. Gentleman. It is these people that the Foreign Secretary believes were surrounding Mr. Webster. These are the names I want, and this list must be given.

Mr. Whitlock

Those disreputable characters were surrounding Mr. Webster on a hill in full view of the house in which I was pinned down. They had arms. They had revolvers, pistols and machine carbines. I saw them. We have the report of the inspector of the Special Branch who was with me. He saw them, too. They were there. If anyone doubts my word, there is the evidence of others that they were there.

Mr. Webster has boasted that he has had arms, and he has been photographed proudly with some of them. We know there were weapons on the island. They had arms, and those arms were used. They were used on that occasion to stop me from talking with the Anguillans about these proposals, which I passionately believe were acceptable to the Anguillans as a whole and could have been a solution to the problem.

Mr. Braine

It was no part of my purpose to question the Under-Secretary's conduct on the island. I did not refer to it. He need not defend himself in this recent episode. We know him very well, and none of us can judge what the situation was at the time. My purpose was to show that a situation had built up over a long period of which the hon. Gentleman has now become, really, the first victim. What I hope he will do is to make some reference to the extraordinary complacency of those who preceded him in this matter. There is no need for him to justify himself; that is quite unnecessary.

Mr. Whitlock

I was coming to the hon. Gentleman's comments about the Associated States. The system of associated statehood is unsatisfied in a number of ways, but it was devised because it was recognised that these very small islands could support internal self-government but could not support all the trappings of external affairs and defence. So associated statehood was dreamed up, to put it like that. It was not an ideal solution. But what else could one put in its place? No one has yet produced the answer on what is ideal for the islands. I have had conversations now with the five Governments of the Associated States. Some of them have certain feelings about the way the associated statehood pattern has been working out, and in which they want change. But not one of them yet wants independence. That is significant.

We have to have some form of statehood which is not colonial status, which is not full independence, but which is between the two. This is the best we have been able to devise so far.

In going round the States, I found that three of the five Premiers were much concerned about their internal security. On some of these islands are the same kind of people as I encountered, on Anguilla. The same kind of people were inducing the opposition daily, in one case, to talk about force. They cannot wait for the next election—"Let us bring the Government down by force". In such circumstances, internal security shades over into external affairs, and because of these elements coming from outside, we should be looking very carefully at what is going on and keeping a close eye on them.

The hon. Member for Banbury asked why nothing had been done between January and the conference last October when I spent about two and a half weeks trying to get agreement between Mr. Webster and Mr. Bradshaw, during which period, incidentally, I spent quite a lot of time with Mr. Webster himself and came to know him particularly well. I had letters from him afterwards to say how much he appreciated the way in which these things had been handled.

Why was nothing done between then and January? Of course, lots of things were done. Attempts were made by Mr. Lee to persuade Mr. Webster not to go again along the course which he took in January. Letters were sent by me to Mr. Webster and to others on this matter. Every possible effort was made to induce the two sides to come to an agreement. It was not possible at that stage.

I hoped on my visit recently, having talked with the Government of St. Kitts, that I might go to the Island of Anguilla and explain to Mr. Webster and all the Anguillans exactly what I had in mind, and that over a period the Caribbean as a whole would see on the Island of Anguilla the development coming along which we now want to put on the island, and the Anguillans would be able to express themselves freely and without fear of intimidation; I hoped the whole Caribbean would see the Island of Anguilla ever increasingly getting to know its colleagues and St. Kitts and maybe—only maybe—wanting to go back to association with St. Kitts, or making it evident to all concerned that there was no hope of that reconciliation ever taking place again.

Those were the things which I tried to achieve, and which I am quite sure I could have achieved had I been allowed to do so.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) has also asked me a number of questions about the police force. I am afraid that I cannot deal with all the technical points he has raised with me, but I will write to him later on giving him answers, if I can, to all the points he has raised.

The police contingent there is known as the Anguillan Police Unit. It is a British civil police force established in pursuance of the Police (Overseas Service) Act 1945, which, I am sure, the hon. Gentleman knows very well. The members of the force will be engaged under the control of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the performance of police duties on behalf of Her Majesty's Commissioner on the island. Operationally, the force is under the command of its own senior police officer.

There are a number of precedents, for the establishment of British civil police forces overseas. Hon Members will recall that in the immediate post-war period there were British civil police forces in Germany, Austria, Greece and Trieste, and later in Malaya, Cyprus and Nyasaland.

As contemplated by the 1945 Act, my right hon. Friend has made regulations as respects the government and discipline of the Anguillan police unit.

All members of the police unit have come from the Metropolitan Police Force, and I am most grateful indeed to the Commissioner for the Metropolis for making the men available. I would like to emphasise that the Anguillan police unit is a civil police unit which will perform police duties in Anguilla in broadly the same manner as the Metropolitan and provincial police forces are accustomed to perform their duties in this country.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

The question of crucial importance for a variety of reasons is: are they still members of the Metropolitan Police or not?

Mr. Whitlock

I am coming to that, but I was dealing with other points which the hon. Member raised. I understand that Her Majesty's Commissioner on the island will ensure that the members of the unit will get the same powers, privileges and immunities as members of the local police force in Anguilla.

While serving in the unit the men concerned will continue to be pensionable under the Police Pensions Regulations, and on completing their service in Anguilla they will be entitled, under the 1945 Act, to resume service with the Metropolitan Police and reckon their overseas service as police service for the purposes of pay and increments.

I am confident that the unit carries with it in Anguilla all the best traditions of the police in this country, and I think we have a police force which is second to none anywhere in the world.

How long the police will be there, we cannot at the moment say. I hope that it will be for as short a period as possible. We want, of course, to have an Anguillan police force. There may be, before that comes along, a Caribbean police force. One of the things which I did in the Caribbean when explaining my proposals about Anguilla to other States was to say that in the initial period, at any rate when the first danger was over, we would hope to have, as envisaged at the Barbados Conference of 1967, a Caribbean police force, and some States promised that once the trouble was sorted out they would provide that police force.

The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) rehearsed a great deal of the sorry story of past misunderstanding and past events which increased the bitterness between Anguilla and St. Kitts which already existed. That bitterness I hope is going to die down. It is extremely unfortunate, and a matter of great concern to me, that what I had carefully worked out in the Caribbean, which I thought was acceptable to the State of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, and which I still think was acceptable to the Anguillans as a whole, it was not possible to put to them in the way I had hoped when I went to the island.

Our aid is now going into the island, and I think the islanders will increasingly have the knowledge that throughout the Caribbean, and not merely in Britain, there is sympathy with the point of view that they hold, and that the whole of the Caribbean wants the future of Anguilla to be worked out in accordance with the wishes of the Anguillans, but that whatever changes come shall be brought about lawfully and in accordance with law and order.

If that can be done, then I am sure that the future of Anguilla is a bright one. Having met these people both here and elsewhere, and finding them extremely likeable, peace-loving and Godfearing people, it will be my great wish that in the not-too-distant future this little island will settle down happily to fulfil the destiny which I am sure everyone in this House wishes it to have.