§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Queen's Consent signified.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Joseph Godber)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill will make provision for Fiji to become an independent sovereign country. It marks a new and decisive stage in the relations of Fiji and the United Kingdom. But there was always something very special in that relationship. It was at the request of the Fijian leaders of that time that in 1874 the British Government of the day accepted the cession of Fiji to the British Crown. In the same way, in response to an approach from the Chiefs in the island, Rotuma was ceded to Britain and annexed to Fiji in 1881.
Since then great changes have taken place. Fiji has become a multi-racial country. Her forces have achieved valiant exploits in the Far East and Malaysia. Her medical school has become renowned in the Pacific. Her rugby teams have won friendship and admiration. Her economy has shown steady growth with a rapidly developing tourist industry earning valuable foreign exchange to buttress earnings from sugar and other local crops.
Racial co-operation in Fiji has become part of the normal way of life. But this mixed racial population presented difficult constitutional problems. The two main political parties each had their own ideas, for example, about the composition of the future legislature and about the electoral arrangements.
1429 In the course of 1969, talks began between the two main parties to seek agreement on constitutional advance. Early this year Lord Shepherd, then Minister of State, visited Fiji, and his report is to be found at Annex A of the White Paper (Cmnd. 4389) which was published last week. It records that the two parties had agreed that Fiji should proceed to Dominion status; that is to say, that Fiji should become a fully sovereign and independent State with the Queen as Head of State and that Fiji should seek membership of the Commonwealth. They had also agreed that Fiji should proceed to independence after a constitutional conference and without an election before independence. And they had agreed that it should have a bicameral legislature with an Upper House to provide some degree of safeguard for traditional interests. But they had not yet resolved their differences over the future electoral system. Therefore, a constitutional conference was convened in London on 20th April this year and the successful outcome of that conference is recorded in the White Paper.
As recorded in paragraph 5 of the White Paper, a statement was made by the Chief Minister, on behalf of both Fiji parties, setting out the terms of an agreed compromise solution on the future electoral system. The most significant feature of the proposed new Constitution is that it is the work of the elected representatives of the people of Fiji themselves. The Deeds of Cession were the result of initiatives by the Chiefs of Fiji and of Rotuma. The Constitution of an independent Fiji is similarly the fruit of local initiatives.
Though I did not myself have the good fortune to take part in the constitutional conference, I hope that I may be permitted to pay tribute to the Fiji delegation and to their leaders, whose mutual co-operation, tolerance, good will and true sense of patriotism enabled the conference to reach a successful conclusion. I am also glad to record my thanks to my predecessor in office, Lord Shepherd, for his untiring work. This spirit augurs well for the future of Fiji.
Turning now to the provisions in the Bill, Clause 1 names the date on which Fiji is to become independent, 10th October, 1970, which will be the 96th 1430 anniversary of the Deed of Cession by which Fiji originally became a British dependency. Clauses 2 and 3 make provisions on the usual lines regarding national status and citizenship. Here I would refer honourable Members to paragraphs 15 to 17 of the White Paper, which describe the citizenship provisions which are to be embodied in the Fiji Constitution. The result of these will be that the vast majority of the citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who are living in Fiji will automatically become citizens of Fiji at independence.
With certain exceptions mentioned in Clause 3, all these categories will lose their United Kingdom citizenship when they become Fiji citizens. Thus, the only substantial group of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who will remain in Fiji after independence will be those having some special connection with this country or one of its remaining dependencies. Clause 4 of the Bill, together with the Second Schedule, serves to modify various Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament to take account of the granting of independence to Fiji. These are the main provisions of the Bill, which are very much in accord with other ordinances of this kind. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.
I am sure that hon. Members from both sides of the House join me in expressing their good wishes to the people and Government of Fiji for a happy, prosperous and peaceful future. Britain's association with Fiji has been a fruitful one in which both countries can take pride. I am confident that our new relationship will strengthen friendship and co-operation between our two countries which we in Britain, just like the inhabitants of Fiji, so greatly value.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Foley (West Bromwich)
It falls to me to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on introducing the Bill and on the high office which he has achieved, and to pay tribute to my noble Friend, Lord Shepherd, for his valiant work at the constitutional talks that were held earlier this year.
The greatest congratulations, however, must be paid to the leadership and the people in Fiji itself. As the Minister has said, Fiji enjoys a harmony between its 1431 various peoples of different ethnic stock. They live and work together in peace. This is not something which could be imposed from outside. This is the unique contribution of the people of Fiji which is their great investment in their own future.
Since Fiji ceded to Queen Victoria the local Fijian people have been joined by people from the subcontinent of India. They now live together in their islands in roughly equal numbers, as well as with people of other races. The way in which they have approached their difficult problem of reconciling race and culture, history, language, land tenure, and so on, is a reflection on both political parties.
I can do no more than reflect particularly the statement made by the Chief Minister at the constitutional conference earlier this year, when he said:In a multiracial society, trust, understanding and tolerance are the cornerstones of peace and order. These qualities are nourished and developed by the traditions and culture of every race. Hence the provisions in the Constitution to safeguard the culture and interests of the various units which make up the multiracial society of Fiji.The Leader of the Opposition echoed that in a very brief statement in saying:We cannot afford to condemn or hate any race. We will have to live like brother and sister.It is in that spirit of realism and idealism that Fiji approached the constitutional talks and reached agreement on the very difficult issues of the legislative assembly and its future constitution.
I have two sets of questions to put to the Minister. The Bill was prepared by the previous Administration and contains no provisions for defence. Our policy on withdrawal from the Far East was well known and understood by those who participated in the conference. It would seem that the present Government intend to evolve a new policy in this respect concerning the Far East. This is reflected in the Gracious Speech and in the words of the Prime Minister in the debate on the Address on 2nd July, when he said:In South-East Asia, it is a British interest that we should work out with our Commonwealth allies in Malaysia and Singapore, in Australia and New Zealand, a way in which we can join effectively with them in helping to maintain stability in that area.1432 The Prime Minister continued:It is also in the interest of many of their neighbours, about 200 million people in that area who share their need for security … we have reasonable time now to work out with our friends a new and up-to-date system of co-operation based on the realities of the situation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1970; Vol. 803, c. 80.]My first question, therefore, is whether it is the intention of the Government to involve Fiji in their discussions on defence in the Pacific. Will those discussions include matters relating to internal as well as external security? Will the Secretary of State for Defence, on his projected visit to the Far East, include Fiji in his schedule?
My second series of questions relates to the fact that Fiji has moved rapidly to independence and has omitted the stage of fully internal self-government and proceeded straight away to independence. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to Fiji's stability, its economic growth and development. In assuming the burden for their own affairs, the Fijians will retain links with us, but clearly, too, they will need help in aid and technical assistance. Will this be forthcoming? Is there any project, or are discussions expected with Fiji, on the level of aid and technical assistance? Will this reflect their new status? Will the present level of aid be maintained, or will it be increased? If such talks are to take place, when?
It seems to me that the new Constitution recognises the problems created by a multiracial society and the need to give a fair place and a fair voice in that society to all communities, whether Fijian, Indian or representatives of other races who are part of Fiji. We for our part accept the Bill. We wish the people and the Government of Fiji well for the future.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
I have yet to meet anybody who has had the privilege of visiting Fiji who has not anxiously awaited the next opportunity to go back to that delightful country. I had the privilege of going there with a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation in 1962. Not only did I find a beautiful country, but the people I met then have been some of my closest friends from that time onwards. I have had the privilege at intervals of going 1433 back to see them and they have the good habit of visiting this country, and so we see each other reasonably frequently. It is, therefore, with very real feeling that I express, on behalf of those who know the country, our very warm good wishes to Fiji on this occasion.
It was only this morning, when I was listening to the news, that I learnt that the Fijian team which has come to the Commonwealth Games has gone to the trouble of arranging its own finance to get there. They deserve great commenddation for the spirit which they have shown and their determination to play their part in the Commonwealth Games.
My right hon. Friend the Minister happened to mention that the Fijian footballers had been over here and had won many friends. To have seen a Fijian football team playing, sometimes without any covering on their feet, and the way they are able to control a football in those circumstances, is something which is always remembered.
When the Fijians were here last time, they had the opportunity to go to Wales, where not only did they have some very good football, but they also found people who were able to sing with the same quality as do the Fijians themselves. Great bonds of friendship were built at that time between the Welsh and the Fijians on the basis of their mutual interest in music.
Anyone who has heard the Fijians sing some of their own songs cannot fail to have been moved and would want to have another opportunity of going to listen to them. Their footballers are coming back again in the autumn and a good many of us are looking forward to the opportunity to welcome them here and see the excellent football which they will undoubtedly play.
Another link which many people in this country established with the Fijians was when the Fijian Military Forces came here to take part in the Royal Tournament. They wore sulus, which are not very different from kilts. They found that the Gurkhas dressed in a similar way and marched with similar precision, and they established great friendships when they were here.
I have had the privilege of taking the party that came to the Royal Tournament around this House on two separate occasions. I have never had a more interested 1434 or intelligent band of visitors in the Palace of Westminster. Most of them had never been in an underground train before. They had all kinds of adventures. Some landed up in Wimbledon or Hampstead. However, in due course they turned up here cheerful and happy.
My right hon. Friend said that 10th October is the date on which independence is to be granted to Fiji. That is appropriately the 96th anniversary of the Deed of Cession. On 28th August 1874 King Cakobau and the Council of Chiefs said:We give Fiji unreservedly to the Queen of Britain, that she may rule us justly and affectionately, and that we may live in peace and prosperity.It started with a very happy relationship which has continued through the years.
On some occasions, after we have had Independence Bills before the House, hon. Members have in due course visited the countries concerned with a present from this House to wish the new independent members of the Commonwealth well in the new way in which they are organising their affairs. We will not need to send a Mace to Fiji. Some hon. Members will recall that the war club used by King Cakobau at the time of Cession was turned into a Mace, and it is still being used in the Fiji Legislature. It had a rather adventurous time. It was sent to this country to an exhibition at some stage and it then disappeared for many years. But an enterprising person decided to find out where it was. He wrote to The Times, and it turned up in the Library of Windsor Castle. It was returned to Fiji, and it is used there now.
The Mace used in Fiji being a war club brings me to the point mentioned by the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) concerning defence and about which I want to ask my right hon. Friend. Anyone who has seen the Fijians' war dances and war clubs could have no doubt whatever that they are quite capable of taking any necessary steps to defend themselves in ordinary circumstances. But in the modern world something rather more sophisticated than a war club is required. Is any thought being given to the help which we hope that we can give to the Fijians in dealing with the defence problems with which they will be left after the Bill has been 1435 passed? I hope that it will be possible for the Government to be very generous in the aid that they can give to the Fijians so that they will be able to deal with this problem in the best possible way. There is no doubt that Fijians would put to good use whatever form of arms they were able to afford. Their record in the last war and the way that they fought with our troops gives us the greatest confidence in their ability. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will see that a generous arrangement is made with the Fijians in this respect.
I should like my right hon. Friend to be more specific about the provisions of Clauses 2 and 3. We have become accustomed to arrangements about British nationality and citizenship in the various Bills which have come before the House. But we also have some difficulties brought to our attention from time to time which arise from similar Bills which have been passed. I have read Clauses 2 and 3 with considerable care and I have also looked at paragraphs 15 to 17 of the White Paper. I have a certain amount of anxiety about what exactly the final result will be.
I note that the Leader of the Opposition, in one of his speeches to the constitutional conference, said:… we yould not have to face problems of the Kenya Asians who held British passports and citizenship after Kenya became independent.It may be that that type of difficulty has been well thought out and that it is covered by these two Clauses. However, I was not entirely persuaded by what my right hon. Friend said and I hope that he will be able to spell it out more clearly when he replies to the debate.
I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development is present. On these occasions there is always something that ends up in his Ministry as a result of the actions which we take in passing such a Bill. My right hon. Friend will be aware that negotiations have been going on regarding the officers who will be entitled to compensation as a result of the passing of the Bill. I hope that he will carefully consider the representations that have been made.
1436 From time to time I have put down a number of Questions about the compensation which has been granted to a number of the countries that have achieved independence from 1960 onwards. The maximum compensation in East Africa in 1960 and a year or two afterwards was fixed at £12,000. By any calculation today, a comparable figure would surely be in the region of £16,500 as a result of devaluation, inflation, and so on. The last arrangement was made with Swaziland. The maximum compensation given in Swaziland was £14,000. In Swaziland only 2 per cent. of the officers entitled were qualified for maximum compensation under the scheme. The maximum that I have been able to trace in other schemes is 10 per cent. The information that I have from Fiji is that 40 per cent. of the entitled officers will receive the maximum. It is, therefore, a matter of great importance to those serving in Fiji that this matter should be given the most careful attention by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development.
I have no doubt that there were conversations with the noble Lord when he was in Fiji. I hope that the impression which has got about in Fiji, that a scheme would be imposed upon the officers serving there and that their representations would be brushed to one side and overlooked, will be dispelled.
I return to the place from which I started when I said that it is with genuine feelings that I am sure all right hon. and hon. Members wish to express their good wishes to Fiji in the events which are now taking place. May I just refer to a short passage in the speech of the Chief Minister on 20th April at the opening of the conference, when he said:Our links with the British Crown are strong and treasured, forged in war and in peace. And all of us in Fiji, of whatever race or age, can look back in gratitude for the wisdom of the Chiefs of Fiji who ceded our islands to Queen Victoria. And looking back over nearly one hundred years, I can say that their wisdom cannot be questioned, and their trust has not been misplaced.The Leader of the Opposition set out a number of matters which he thought were of specific importance, and to which he wished to draw attention. Perhaps I may just deal with one of them, and that is the arrangement which has been 1437 included in the Bill for an Upper House. He said:… it has been agreed that Fiji's future legislature should have an Upper House, not necessarily to act a a House of Review like the House of Lords in England, but as a House of Protection for the autochthonous race … it is interesting to note that the Upper House will give the Fijian people an effective constitutional power to prevent, in a sophisticated way, any legislation being enacted against their wishes which affects their land, their customs, their culture and their way of life. It is pleasing to note that this aspect of the proposal for the establishment of the Upper House was proposed by my party and graciously accepted by the Fijian people through its leaders and Council of Chiefs.I know that there is a unanimous warm feeling which the House wishes to have expressed on this occasion to the people of Fiji.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
I join the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine) in what he said about the people of Fiji. I, too, had the privilege of visiting Fiji and enjoying the hospitality of the people of those islands. I also join the right hon. Gentleman the Minister, and indeed my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley), in paying tribute to the part played at the constitutional conference held in April of this year by my noble Friend the Lord Shepherd, who was then the Minister of State. It is due in no small measure to his visit to Fiji and to the encouragement and understanding that he showed in all the discussions that such a happy outcome was arrived at at the conference.
It is also necessary to pay tribute to the politicians in the Alliance Party of Fiji and in the National Federation Party of Fiji for the great statesmanship that they have shown and the great leadership which they have given in bringing their varying points of view together to enable an agreed constitutional formula to emerge which we all hope will enable Fiji to move forward and open a new page in its history.
There is something unique about the granting of independence to Fiji, because this is one of the rare occasions that I can recall when a British dependency is achieving independence not after a long terrible bloody history of tumult, disunity and revolutionary activity, but in the hopeful atmosphere of a united people, 1438 with united political parties sharing the same aspirations. We hope that the Constitution will follow precisely the lines laid down in the Blue Book issued to the House, and that it will enshrine the dignity of man and the liberty of the people of Fiji.
In Fiji I visited towns, villages, factories and farms, and I was most struck by the kindness of all the races there and by the fortitude of the ordinary people who occupy their time in hard labour in the cane fields and in the other occupations that are open to them. It is a beautiful area, and the people are extremely hospitable to visitors, but I sometimes fear that when people visit a beautiful place such as that they are blind to the problems of those people. The people of Fiji are well aware that independence is no magic formula for solving the problems which confront them. It is, as they know, only the first vital step.
For the ordinary man and woman in Fiji, the person working in the factories, in the shops, in the cane fields and in the sugar mills, national sovereignty and political freedom will have no meaning at all unless it is the runner-up to greater social progress and racial harmony, which is so essential. It is not just a question of who governs them; whether it is self-government or British government. It is really more a matter of how they are governed, and what will be done to ensure that there is social progress for the ordinary people of Fiji.
We in Britain take pride in the part that we have played in the advancement to independence and freedom of so many countries in the world. We have a new rôle now. The old rôle of establishing order and good government in colonial territories has gone for ever. Our new rôle was touched on by the hon. Gentleman, that of giving financial aid and technical advice to developing countries such as this, and I join the hon. Gentleman in saying to the Minister of Overseas Development that we shall carefully watch the activities of the Government and expect them to be extremely generous to Fiji in the difficult years that lie ahead.
During the course of the constitutional conference many fine speeches were made by the delegates and by the leaders of the two parties. I was particularly struck by a passage in the speech of the hon. 1439 S. M. Koya, the Leader of the National Federation Party. Dealing with his firm belief that we were now living in a one-world atmosphere where the problems of every country were the problems of the whole of mankind, he said:This one world recognises a common responsibility for the common welfare, among as within nations.This one world needs a common discipline to ensure advanced science and technology serve man and do not destroy him.The Leader of the Fiji Opposition is absolutely on the ball, and it is, therefore, of great importance to this shortly to become independent territory that we embrace the concept expressed in those words and ensure that we play our part in seeing that the help and the finance are made available for the development of their economy, because we have a continuing responsibility. We have a responsibility to assist in the development of the Fijian economy, and the expansion of her trade and tourist industry. It is only on the basis of a sound and prosperous economy of Fiji. This industry employs harmony and provide the social progress which we wish for the people of those islands, and which they wish for themselves.
That brings me to my main point. The House will be aware of the vital rôle which the sugar industry plays in the economy of Fiji. The industry employs about 30 per cent. of the total working population, and it is on the stability and viability of this industry that the future of Fiji will depend for many years ahead. Such arrangements as the International Sugar Agreement and, in particular, the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement are absolutely vital to Fiji if she is to emerge as a prosperous independent nation in the years ahead.
This country is about to embark upon very deep and perhaps meaningful negotiations for entry into the European Common Market. It is vital that the British Government should ensure the continuity of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement for emergent countries. If the Ministers can spare time from their very private conversation, I hope that they will take note of the point being made about the importance of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. It is a vital necessity for Fiji. But it is important 1440 not only for Fiji but for the United Kingdom. If the entry of Britain into the Common Market should result in a breakdown of the arrangements for the production and marketing of sugar as expressed in the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, it would be a disaster for British housewives as well as an absolute disaster for the producers and the ordinary people of Fiji.
Britain receives her sugar under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. It is a stable supply and we receive it at a fair price. In return, countries such as Fiji are able to sustain a stable economy, based on the sugar industry, and they receive a fair return. Failure by the Government to maintain this essential Commonwealth interest would not only be a blow to the British housewife but would undermine the whole effort of granting independence to Fiji.
I welcome the statements made by the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who are responsible for negotiations for our entry into Europe. As I understand their statements, they intend during the course of the E.E.C. negotiations to pay particular attention to the question of maintaining the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. The bond of friendship between Britain and Fiji—to which the hon. Member referred—is long and historic, and it has been a gallant one. As the Minister of State said, we are indebted to those from Fiji who served with us in two world wars. It is many years since the Deed of Cession. I am glad that 10th October will be the appointed day for independence for Fiji. I hope that the present happy relationship will continue between our two countries, and that the mutual benefit that both have received from that relationship will also continue.
At the opening of the conference the Chief Minister of Fiji—Ratu Mara—made a speech using words that seem to me to sum up the feelings of this House as we wish Fiji well in the course upon which it is about to embark. He said that success would be achieved if the Constitution enabled themto create a Fiji where people of different races, opinions and culture can live and work together for the good of all; can differ without rancour, govern without violence, and accept responsibility as reasonable people intent on serving the best interests of all.1441 I am sure that it would be the feeling of this Parliament and of our people that it is in that spirit and hope that we wish well to the people of Fiji in the independence upon which they will shortly embark.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Last October I had the fascinating experience of visiting Fiji as a member of a parliamentary delegation. I want briefly to pay tribute to Mr. Harold Davies, who led us on that delegation, for the manner in which he performed this duty, which led to a happy delegation, and, I hope, to many full and fruitful discussions with the Fijian people while we were there.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) referred to the rapid move to independence in Fiji. It has been very rapid indeed. Perhaps this striving for independence has been inevitable, but the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) rightly pointed out that it has not come as a result of a bloody struggle against rulers from this country, as has been the case with other countries in the past, or from agitation of one sort or another. My experience there has led me to the conclusion that independence has come not as a result of pressure from the ordinary citizen. Pressure has not come from below. However, the die is now cast, and the wisdom of taking the decision will no doubt be judged in the future.
The Bill seems to be a standard reproduction of similar Bills in the past—a dry-as-dust, legal document. I could wish that there was a little more panache about it, signifying more graphically the changes that have taken place and what they mean for the men and women of Fiji, because the changes will be very great. There might even have been a recognition, somewhere, of the loyal support in war and peace that has been given to this country by the people of Fiji.
I want to raise one or two points about the Bill. The Minister mentioned the question of citizenship. Reading the Bill and other documents it seems to me that many people might be involved in claiming British citizenship. I shall not go into all the details, but do we really mean that all these people may become British citizens? If so, can the Minister give 1442 some estimate of what the numbers might be? We ought to know whether many thousands or many tens of thousands will be allowed into this country in the event of trouble. We do not want to repeat the experience of having to go back on our word as we did in respect of East Africa. There may be trouble in the future, and I should like to know whether, if there is, this country can take the numbers involved. It seems unlikely that we should have to do this, but it seemed unlikely many years ago in the case of East Africa. It may happen with Fiji, because it happened with East Africa, and we should know what numbers are involved. If they are very great, might it not be wiser to make the position of this country clear and not hold out promises that may prove to be false?
My second point concerns Clause 5. It provides that "Fiji" meansthe territories which immediately before the appointed day constitute the Colony of Fiji.We are accustomed to look at the map and see two or three major islands but as now constituted Fiji consists of hundreds of islands, covering a large expanse of ocean. Unless this is made crystal clear and recognised internationally seeds of trouble could be sown for the future. May I support what the hon. Member for West Bromwich said about defence? The Fijians have great military traditions. They fought gallantly alongside us. Their islands are strategically placed, with many fine harbours, and it would be of mutual value if we could retain some association.
The decision has been taken to grant independence. I pay tribute to the loyalty and the service which all Fijians have given to this country. They are charming and friendly people. I hope that our association in future will be as friendly and as fruitful as it has been in the past. They will need help, as the hon. Member said. No former colony could be more worthy of it than Fiji.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. William Rodgers (Stockton-on-Tees)
May I add my word of welcome to the Bill and declare my membership of the club of those, who having visited Fiji, enjoyed the occasion very much? I was there within the last 12 months, and particularly enjoyed the kindly 1443 hospitality of Mr. Charles Stimson, the Minister responsible for communciations, works and tourism, who was a member of the constitutional conference. They are idyllic islands for visitors. Although I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) said about the importance of sugar, we must all accept that tourism will be a growing factor in the economy of Fiji as the years go by.
As an incurable romantic, I hope that the development of tourism will not entirely destroy some of the primitive qualities which are still available to visitors to the island. I should still like to believe that it was possible to combine the romantic world of Sir Arthur Grimble with the necessary developments to give a decent standard of living to people in the twentieth century. This is not the case yet in the South Pacific, but there are still places where it is a pleasure to go, and where it is possible to get away from some of the worst and most soured characteristics of civilisation.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) mentioned racial harmony, and we all hope that it will persist, although we do not imagine that it will without a great deal of effort on the part of the communities in the islands to make the Constitution work and make a reality of the freedom which Fiji will enjoy under the Constitution. It is a good beginning, and I hope that it will continue in the same way.
I should like the Minister of State to explain how our present relations with Fiji with regard to aviation are affected by the Bill. There is a reference in Schedule 2(9) to the Civil Aviation Licensing Act, 1960, but I do not think that this tells the whole story, even if I fully understood what that paragraph means. I hope that the independence of Fiji will not diminish in any way the United Kingdom's interest in aviation in that part of the world or the contribution which we have been willing to make in the past to the growth of aviation in the South Pacific.
Under this heading there are three specific points. The first is the future of Nandi Airport, to which the United Kingdom Government, together with Australia and New Zealand, have mad a substantial contribution, towards both 1444 operating and capital costs over the years. Particularly, I wonder whether the United Kingdom still intends to make a substantial contribution to the capital expenditure involved in equipping Nandi Airport to deal with the new generation of jumbo jets. The second point relates to the negotiation of traffic rights in Fiji. This may be what Schedule 2(9) is concerned with. Who will in future negotiate traffic rights at Nandi?
Third, I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman could say that B.O.A.C., with the full support of the Government, will maintain its interest in Fiji Airways. At present, I believe, B.O.A.C., Qantas Air, the New Zealand Government and the Fiji Government each have roughly a 25 per cent. interest in Fiji Airways. Is it the Government's view that this percentage should be maintained and that we should share fully in the planning of Fiji Airways and its future rôle in the area? In other words, will the Bill and the independence of Fiji in any way affect, in the short run and in the longer run, the present aviation status quo in the area?
There is a mutual interest between Fiji and the United Kingdom in maintaining this status quo, give or take a little, For Fiji, there is the importance of Nandi for tourism, which will be of increasing importance as the years go by. In addition, it is a very important crossroads in the South Pacific, and even if the revenues from landing rights are relatively small, there is no reason to believe that in future they may not be considerably greater. The fact that the improvements are to take place at Nandi shows how far the new generation of jumbo jets still need a stopping place on the route across the Pacific, particularly bound for Australia.
The third consideration for Fiji is that they cannot possibly bear the whole cost or even the very much larger part of capital and operating costs at Nandi, so they have an interest in that respect in mutual co-operation.
I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will not enter upon useless and expensive further commitments east of Suez, but, on the other hand, will not, in a niggling way, seek to make the economies which they will require to compensate for such excesses as they may 1445 be foolish enough to embark upon by cutting services which we provide today which are of mutual advantage to ourselves and other countries. I have in mind here the need for developments in the South Pacific on the aviation side which will be valuable to Fiji Airways, to Fiji itself and also to this country, in so far as we wish to maintain our interest in that part of the world.
I have always thought that, as our military commitments diminish, so our commercial interests, our aid and information services should expand, so that we can make a continuing contribution out of our experience to the stability of an area with all the mutual advantages which this will bring. I should have thought that maintaining our present association with Fiji by providing facilities at Nandi Airport and in Fiji Airways was fully worth while.
I do not know whether the Minister would be prepared to say tonight, but I ask him to confirm the desirabilily of pursuing such studies as may be required in the South Pacific so that its full economic potential is seen from Fiji and they all contribute in the best way, at what I believe will be relatively small cost, towards the developments which will take place. Some of these will be the responsibility of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development. That right hon. Gentleman will have to consider what aid should be given either by the United Kingdom or by our Com-wealth friends to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, to Tonga, to the New Hebrides and the Solomons, to mention only a number of the territories round about which are served by Fiji Airways and have a real part to play in the development of the economy and aviation in co-operation in the South Pacific.
We celebrate the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I only ask that, in this new chapter, in certain aspects like aviation, where there has been a robust co-operation, this should continue.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I hope that the Hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the romanticisms of Sir Arthur Grimble, except to mention that having spent some 1446 time exploring the islands to see if what Sir Arthur has described in fact exists, I have reached the conclusion that he was a charming man and a very good journalist.
Few hon. Members would have thought, say, four years ago that we would now be welcoming self-government and independence for Fiji, particularly in such a happy situation as exists today. There had been evidence of some unfortunate racial strife building up, but due largely to the statesmanship of Ratu K. K. T. Mara and S. M. Koya, in the last year or eighteen months progress has been made to such an extent that we are now able to welcome the emergence of a territory which has every reason to believe that it can be viable and have a happy and prosperous future.
I wish early in my remarks to pay tribute to a Minister who went to Fiji on behalf of the Labour Government. I refer to Mrs. Eirene White, who, as a Minister, did an extremely successful job in getting the confidence of many people and starting a lot of thinking along the road to self-government in areas and communities where many people were determined not to think in such terms. I pay tribute to her for the magnificent job which she did.
There are a number of races in Fiji, some of whom have not lost their identities, and in many respects I hope that they will retain them. Equally, I hope that a new name will soon be thought up—many people are trying to think of a suitable name now—for those who have been born in Fiji, whether they come from the early invasions of the Polynesians, Melanesians or Micronesians or the later invasions of the European, Indians and Chinese. I say this because those who have been born in Fiji must learn to live and work together, and the sooner they have an accepted unity of nationality the better. In this connection, I would like to see an end to the Fiji Affairs Board. I have no doubt that this matter will be worked out by the various races after independence.
The subject of the future pattern of political life in the Pacific has given rise to much thought and anxiety in that part of the world. I can envisage emerging two centres of learning, one at the University of Papua in New Guinea and the 1447 other at the university in Fiji. I hope that once Fiji attains independence we shall not forget the Fiji University. Indeed, we should do everything possible to encourage it to develop.
The University of Fiji is an extremely poor relative of other universities, particularly when one thinks of the amount of money that has been pumped into the university at Port Moresby. This university is in great danger of becoming a second-class organisation. Just because there is harmony in Fiji, a part of the world which does not hit the headlines and which is virtually exactly the other side of the world, we must not forget the need for opportunities that exist at this university.
Although a federation with the Gilbert and Ellice Islands and with the Solomons and the New Hebrides may not be possible, any more than from the north it will be possible for the other islands, from the Solomons, to merge with Papua and New Guinea, there is a possibility that we may get what might be called a "talking area" in this part of the world from which a stronger identity of involvement might be built up.
I hope that Australia and New Zealand will continue to look benevolently, particularly from the financial point of view, at the development of Fiji. The New Zealanders have provided some teachers and school places to enable a few Fijians to go to New Zealand. Many New Zealanders have gone to work in the island. Australia has provided much of the money and banking facilities as well as a certain number of people, but not many.
It is essential that Australia expands its aid in the Pacific through A.S.T.A.P. and makes available loans to Fiji to enable certain tasks to be undertaken. A limited amount is being done but more must be done. I hope that relations between Australia and Fiji and New Zealand and Fiji will continue friendly and helpful, not only for the development of Fiji but because of the unity of interests that they have.
I regret that the Denning Report made it impossible for Pacific Sugar Mills to continue beyond 1972 in Fiji. However, while this organisation is withdrawing, it is doing so in the most helpful way and has offered technical and supervisory 1448 assistance in the form of managerial and marketing assistance over any transitional period. I also welcome the fact that the Ministry of Overseas Development has been able to secure the services of Sir Ronald Leach of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Partners to advise the Fiji Government on the future of this industry, which is of vital importance to the island.
Tourism is, of course, of vital importance, and I share with the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees, if not a love of Grimble, then a desire that a number of the dude islands should be preserved so that future generations will be able to see them. I have in mind one dude island on which I shall be staying for a while during the Summer Recess and where I shall be doing a bit of reef diving and deep-sea fishing.
I hope that the strong sentimental and practical bonds that exist between Fiji and this country will be maintained and that Fiji will itself be able, through its university, to be a leader in the Pacific area, both to the North and to the North-West, and that further links will be forged between Australia and Fiji and New Zealand and Fiji, as well as between all those Pacific islands where, happily, the thought of fighting a war is today only a memory from the past.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
I welcome the Bill, and I thank the Minister of State for the manner in which he introduced its provisions. I also congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his new Ministerial appointment. His translation from agriculture to foreign and commonwealth affairs will be a very severe loss to his party's agricultural forces. Nevertheless, we can hope that he will tutor his new departmental colleagues in the importance of agriculture, and especially in the importance of the international problems which affect the future of that great industry.
As the Minister of State appreciates, the Bill is founded on the work of his predecessors, and my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) has played a distinguished part in the winning of independence by colonial countries. I know that it is a proud occasion for my hon. Friend, because no one 1449 here has made a bigger contribution than he to liberating colonial peoples.
Everyone who has been to their islands knows that the Fijians are a remarkably friendly and industrious people. He has not been to Fiji who would not pay tribute to the warm hospitality of the people of every race there. This is a momentous occasion for them. There are men there who have achieved what only a very few years ago seemed an impossible dream. It looked then as though tension could destroy the bright prospects of sovereign independence based on racial harmony. I pay tribute to the leaders of all parties in Fiji who have contributed, with my hon. Friend, to the making of the present Measure.
Sovereign independence is one thing, but it can become meaningless unless economic survival is assured. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) referred in particular to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. I am sure that hon. Members who know Fiji will agree that that agreement is at present central to the economy of the islands. Fiji is very heavily dependent on her sugar and other exports to the United Kingdom, and the continuance of the agreement is of vital importance to her people. Nothing will contribute more to Fiji's political and economic stability than a definite assurance that we shall not in any way damage the agreement.
It is here, I suggest, that the right hon. Gentleman's previous expertise should inform his new responsibilities. I hope he will very strongly emphasise that there can be no phasing out of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. If in negotiations with the Common Market countries we were to weaken, or phase out that agreement, we would be doing a major disservice to the people to whom we are now granting independence. There are people in agriculture, as there are people working in other industries, who see that their future is bound up with the continuance of the agreement. There are those who say, as my hon. Friend will appreciate from his deeply honourable record in working for the freedom of colonial peoples, that freedom comes before bread; that it is more important that Fiji and other dependencies should be independent than that 1450 we should guarantee their economic future. But there is no reason why they should not have both freedom and bread, both sovereign independence and economic prosperity.
The present danger is that there are so many developed, prosperous countries which are now themselves producing what is one of Fiji's most important crops. I have been looking at the F.A.O. Provisional Indicative World Plan for Agricultural Development. In its treatment of the importance of sugar production to the poor and developing countries, it states that in many developed countries… the level of protection is such as to permit the export of sugar at prices substantially lower than in domestic markets, exports being subsidised either indirectly by domestic sugar consumers or by other sectors of the economy through explicit export subsidies.The right hon. Gentleman appreciates that the price for beet sugar in much of Western Europe and, in particular, in the countries of the European Economic Community is unreasonably high. He appreciates that the price of beet sugar in the Community is a threat to the poorer countries producing cane sugar and, in particular, to countries like Fiji and Mauritius. The F.A.O. report goes on:It would be difficult to transfer a part of the resources currently being used for sugar production in many tropical countries to other uses without causing a serious fall in income whereas, at least in the longer run, the greater diversity of potential resource use in temperate, high-income countries would allow this to be done.Thus the F.A.O. emphasises that it is much easier for developed countries in Western Europe to diversify their economies than it is for poorer countries like Fiji to carry through the diversification which many people advise.
I appreciate that on both sides it is recognised that the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement is a matter of fundamental importance in negotiations with the Common Market countries. I hope that from this debate the cane growers of Fiji, with many of whom I have personal contact, will appreciate that there are those of us on both sides who will campaign, and campaign again, for the continuance, and indeed the strengthening, of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.
In congratulating the people of Fiji on achieving their independence, I say 1451 to them that they have loyal friends on both sides of the House who are deter- mined that Fiji's economic future shall be assured. It may be, as one of my right hon. Friends said in a debate here in 1967, that the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement could be a breaking point in negotiations with the Common Market. If that happens, so be it. We shall have broken on a matter of honour, for the C.S.A. is a matter of honour between Britain and our poorer friends in the Commonwealth. If the Common Market countries are not prepared to accept the importance of instruments like the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, there can be no question of our wishing to join them at the cost of causing damage to the economies of countries such as Fiji.
This is a very happy day for people throughout Fiji. As has been acknowledged in this debate, they fought alongside the people of this country and they have always cherished their link with this country. They are honoured by everyone here who knows them and their islands. I wish them well. I hope that not only will sovereign independence be assured but also that their economic future will be vouchsafed.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)
I wish first to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the first Independence Bill he has introduced in his present office. I join with everyone who has spoken in wishing well to the new independent country of Fiji and in sending the best wishes of this House.
I listened with care to the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris). I quarrel with hardly anything in his speech, but I wish to amend something he said when paying tribute to his hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley), to whom I also pay tribute. The hon. Member for Wythenshawe said that his hon. Friend had given freedom to more colonial countries than anyone else. I cannot let that go by in spite of my deep regard for him, because it is known that independence was given to more Commonwealth countries during the 13 years of Conservative Government up to 1964.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
I did not say that my hon. Friend had liberated more colonial dependencies than any Minister or ex-Minister, but I recalled that he played a very distinguished part, as I know from my association with him, in movements which had the purpose in the late 1940s and early 1950s of giving freedom to colonial countries.
§ Mr. King
I join in the personal tribute, but I do not think the hon. Member for Wythenshawe phrased it in the way I would have chosen.
However, that is not the point I wish to make; it is rather a point not of criticism but of interrogation. I find it hard to interpret Clause 2(2)Except as provided by section 3 of this Act, 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 he becomes on that day a citizen of Fiji.That by itself is reasonably clear until we come to Clause 3. There is a reference to those who will not cease to be citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies, from which I deduce that there will be at least two classes of person, those who remain citizens of Fiji and those who remain citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. When the Minister winds up the debate I hope he will clarify who are which and in what circumstances.
I think all of us feel that this phrase,citizen of the United Kingdom and Coloniesis not a fortunate phrase. It has already given rise to a great deal of trouble and misunderstanding, and I cannot see why we should perpetuate it. It seems illogical if we say in Clause 1 that the United Kingdom no longer has any responsibility for the government of Fiji while at the same time we are to create citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies based on residence in Fiji, which at least raises a question of what is meant. I fear the precedent of the damage already done in Africa and elsewhere by the creation of such a type of citizen. If the Minister, when he winds up, can ease my mind on these matters I shall be grateful.
I join with other hon. Members in wishing this ex-colony every prosperity.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
Unlike many hon. Members who 1453 have taken part in this debate, I have never visited Fiji, except for a landing, fuelling and taking off again in pitch darkness, if that counts as a visit. So I have no qualification to speak about the constitutional arrangements in this Bill.
But the importance of Fiji, underlined for me even by that very short visit, lies in its position, forming one of the main crossroads of the air routes of the Pacific. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be aware how when one is flying hour after hour over wastes of apparently limitless ocean it is a comfort, as well as something of a navigational miracle, to find a small island conveniently located with an airfield. Navigators of small ships have not always found it easy to locate little islands. I remember finding even Malta difficult to locate. As I was flying the White Ensign I signalled the captain of a merchant ship in convoy "Report your destination". He replied "Malta". So after a decent interval I turned round and followed the convoy!
The geographical position of Fiji enables me to make the wider point about the importance of adequate protection and surveillance of the trade routes used by British shipping and British aircraft world wide. The late Government, I am sorry to say, were very much lacking in understanding at this basic fundamental point. For the first two or three years after 1964 their Front Bench struggled manfully to maintain a presence east of Suez. HANSARD is full of stirring speeches by the former Secretary of State, for example, about the importance of peace-keeping and how small British forces can stop a minor incident turning into a major one, and so forth.
But then, as we know, after 1967 all this was cast aside and we were told that only in the N.A.T.O. area was there any threat. One of the difficulties facing small and newly independent countries such as Fiji is how to achieve any valid defence posture in a world which—however remote the threat—has clearly by no means abandoned force as a way of settling disputes. Even more applicable to Fiji, it is a world in which one of the Great Powers has 400 U-boats and many other ships ranging all over the oceans, not necessarily to fight wars, but certainly available as a ready means of landing 1454 agents to pursue the objectives of an ideological struggle.
One of the lessons of the present decade is how a very small minority of trouble makers trained, supplied or financed from outside can make trouble especially where different races are working together in harmony to try to achieve unity, as I understand is the situation in Fiji. I emphasise that I am speaking not about Fiji fighting a war, but of Fiji or any other country needing the facilities for surveillance of its own coastline and the waters surrounding it.
I stress the need for some sort of defence agreement to be made simultaneously with or immediately after Fiji's independence. This will be needed by Fiji for the very limited objectives I have mentioned; and by the United Kingdom because of Fiji's geographical importance on the trans-Pacific route to Australia and New Zealand, which may—we never know when—be of the greatest possible significance to us. This is another opportunity for taking the joint action with other Commonwealth countries which has been suggested in the east of Suez-Far East situation.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is recognised in the House as being a leading exponent of his party's defence policy. Will he go a little further in respect of the defence of Fiji by indicating what he thinks would be a minimum requirement there both from a coastal defence and from an internal security point of view?
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
It is entirely a matter for the Fiji Government, newly independent, to make representations to the United Kingdom Government. The only point I am making is that I hope that the United Kingdom Government would look favourably on any request which might be made for the requirements as the Fiji Government see them.
I agree with what right hon. and hon. Members have said about the importance of overseas economic aid. The basic statistics of Fiji are that she not unnaturally imports much more than she exports. In cases such as this we have a continuing moral obligation from the past to be as helpful as we possibly can from 1455 the economic aid point of view to newly independent countres.
I join in sending very warm greetings and a message of good will from the House to Fiji as she achieves independence in a very wicked world.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
I, too, support the Bill and wish Fiji well as she achieves independence. My only purpose in rising is to underline once more the importance of the sugar industry to Fiji, as it is an important industry to many other parts of the Commonwealth.
I underline also the enormous value of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. Fiji's sugar industry has been passing through a difficult time. The situation may well be aggravated in the future as a result of some commercial decisions. Notwithstanding that, I believe that sugar will remain an important industry in Fiji for a long time to come.
My right hon. Friend and neighbour, the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), is more than familiar with the problems of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. He has expressed his ideas on the subject on numerous occasions. I am glad that he is now in a position to wield some influence in the matter now as regards Fiji.
If Fiji's sugar industry is to contract, we can only hope that other industries will emerge. We have heard much of Fiji's tourist potential. I understand that there is also some mineral potential. It is to be hoped that the explorations now taking place will prove successful. It is certain that there will be a need for other industries to emerge and to flourish in Fiji if the sugar industry plays a lesser part in its economy. So long as it plays a part in its economy, I urge my right hon. Friend to bear in mind, as I know that he will, the enormous value of the Agreement, not only to Fiji, but to other parts of the Commonwealth.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Godber
With the permission of the House, I will respond to some of the points which have been made. I want straightaway to pick up the thread which has run right through the debate in the speeches which have been made from 1456 both sides; namely, the tremendous friendliness and good will which has been shown towards the people of Fiji. I hope this message will go out to the people of Fiji tonight as the feeling of the whole House towards Fiji as she takes this step to independence.
I will deal with as many as I can of the individual issues which have been raised. I join in the expressions of gratitude to the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) for what he did in this field during the time that he was at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The hon. Gentleman spoke on this subject with a great deal of knowledge and sympathy.
The hon. Gentleman raised two specific points. He asked, first, whether we would be involved with Fiji in defence talks, a point which was taken up by other hon. Members. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers) managed to bring into that point a reference to our policy east of Suez, which I recognise must have some bearing on this. We shall be very happy to debate our policy east of Suez with the hon. Gentleman in great detail as we come to elaborate that policy, but I do not think that it fits very well into this debate.
I am thinking of this in the wider context. The normal position of countries within the Commonwealth reaching their independence will be maintained in the case of Fiji, and after independence the United Kingdom will have no formal residual responsibility for defence or external affairs. This is merely a repetition of the position in regard to other countries as they reach independence.
The Chief Minister of Fiji and the Leader of the Opposition understand and accept that Britain will not retain any precise defence commitments for an independent Fiji. This does not for one moment preclude a continuation of the existing informal arrangements for military training and for collaboration in any other suitable ways.
My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Brian Harrison) rightly referred to the interests of Australia and New Zealand in this regard; they play an importants part in relation to the future of countries in that area, and I believe that already New Zealand has certain arrangements with Fiji. We shall always be happy to talk with the Fijians about 1457 any particular problems, and we recognise their need for consultation from time to time on defence matters. At the moment, there is no foreseeable external threat to Fiji, and long may that situation continue.
The second specific question raised by the hon. Member for West Bromwich referred to the future of aid. The Government of which he was a Member had certain specific aid arrangements in relation to Fiji, and arising from them there is still the proposal put forward by the then British Government in April for capital assistance in the form of the unexpended balance of the Colonial Development and Welfare schemes approved at the end of March this year, estimated at £2.4 million. There is also the unexpended balance of the Colonial Development and Welfare higher education allocation for the University of the South Pacific, estimated at about £1 million. My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon referred to that university, and there is that definite commitment.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison
Does my right hon. Friend realise that this assistance to the university is about one-third—or even less—of what is going to the University of Papua and New Guinea?
§ Mr. Godber
I was not aware of that precise comparison. I apologise for not having all these figures in my head, but I am merely stating the position as it is now. It will always be open for consideration, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development is glad to look at particular points of that nature.
I was about to add that there is also the £1,354,000 for development schemes to be approved in the financial year 1970–71, and there is a sum estimated at £245,000 for commutation and compensation payments falling due before 1st April next. That is the present position as regards grants.
As regards loans, after we have had discussions with the Government of Fiji on their 1970–74 development plan, the Government will be ready to offer further support for the plan on loan terms, and when doing so we shall recognise the specific position of the University of the South Pacific and the development of the British dependencies in the region. In addition, there will be the question of technical assistance to be made available 1458 on the same basis and at much the same level as hitherto. We shall welcome discussions with the Fiji Government on all aspects of aid, being anxious to give such help and assistance as we can.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine) made some interesting comments about Fiji and told us of the mace. We have no intention of depriving Fiji of its mace. I was not aware of its unique significance. I am not quite sure whether my hon. Friend was suggesting that we should adopt a similar sort of mace in this House—a suggestion which I should choose to resist, I think—but he gave us an interesting piece of history in that connection.
The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) spoke of sugar as being at the centre of the Fiji economy, as did several other hon. Members. It is absolutely right to stress the great importance of sugar to Fiji, and hon. Members were right also to remind the House of the problems in this respect. Obviously, with discussions going on in relation to our possible membership of the E.E.C., we must all bear closely in mind the future of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement and all it means to a number of territories such as Fiji and Mauritius, and others in the Caribbean, where it represents a notable part of the contribution which Britain makes to the economies of some of these countries, a contribution for which, incidentally, Britain is not always given full credit, particularly when international comparisons are made, and one hears of the requirement for certain countries to provide more from the economies to help the under-developed world. This is one form of very material help which Britain provides and to which it is as well to call attention.
Obviously, the future of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement must depend on the outcome of negotiations, but I am sure that my right hon. Friends most closely concerned with it will have much in mind the points raised in the debate. In any case, the agreement goes forward in its present form till 1974, and there is ample opportunity for discussion and consideration. This House, I know, will carefully watch the aspects of the matter which have rightly been stressed tonight. We recognise the continuing need of the people of Fiji for help in this regard, and 1459 this need will certainly be to the fore in our thoughts and consultations on the matter.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) referred to the problem of Clause 3, on United Kingdom citizenship, and those who are affected. A number of other hon. Members mentioned this, including my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King), who asked a specific question about numbers. We are following the practice of recent independence arrangements. Clause 2 covers the great majority of citizens. A relatively small number of citizens come within the definition of Clause 3. The best estimate I have been given of the number of people involved—and it must be a very rough estimate—is that the number of persons possibly affected by Clause 3 would not be more than a few hundred. This is nothing like the problem which has been mentioned concerning parts of Africa. But we must make provision for people who have a special connection with the United Kingdom, and we are following very closely the pattern developed over the past few years. I do not see that any particular problems are likely to arise.
My hon. and gallant Friend also spoke of the reference in Clause 5 to "Fiji". Although we all recognise that a large number of islands come within this generic term, I understand that that is the normal way of referring to the Fiji islands. There is no difficulty about this.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees raised one or two specific points about aviation. Fiji will be in a position to negotiate on the points he raised in its own right after independence. Matters concerning civil aviation in the South Pacific will have to be discussed with our partners there, including Fiji. I can assure the House that we expect to continue our help to Nandi Airport with any requirements that are evident there. It must be a matter for discussion, and Fiji as an independent sovereign State will play her full part in discussions. We recognise the need for the maintenance and improvement of Nandi Airport, and shall certainly play our part.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), after 1460 some kind references which I appreciate, also talked about the importance of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. I do not think that I can add very much to what I have already said, except to repeat that we recognise that the future health of the economy of Fiji is closely bound up in the matter, and we shall keep this very much in mind.
I very much appreciate the close attention which hon. Members have paid, and have shown in the debate, to the continuing health of the economy of Fiji and the wellbeing of her people. It is with this encouragement and support, as Fiji enters upon her new independent existence, that I should like to send a warm message from the House. We have a strong feeling for Fiji, and shall look with interest and continuing sympathy to her proper requirements, and shall continue to help her in any way we can.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Clegg.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.