§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Roy Hattersley)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I have it in Command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place Her Prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Edward Rowlands)
I do not think it will be necessary to go through the chequered history of the Seychelles from the 100 years of administration as a dependency of Mauritius until it became a Crown colony in 1903.
The first elections in Seychelles were held in 1948, and thereafter the pace of constitutional development quickened. Organised political parties emerged in the early 1960's and a new constitution, which conferred a measure of self-government, was introduced in October 1970. General elections were held under this constitution in the same year and again in April 1974. On the second occasion both the Seychelles Democratic Party and the Seychelles People's United Party campaigned on a platform of early independence for Seychelles. Over 80 per cent of the electorate voted and very much the greater part supported either one or other of the two parties. Of the 41,833 votes cast, only 11 went to the single candidate who opposed independence.
168 Following that clear mandate for early independence for Seychelles, a constitutional conference was held in London in March 1975. On that occasion the Seychelles political parties disagreed over some of the essential features of an independence constitution, notably the electoral system and the size and composition of the legislature. They did, however, agree to an interim constitution providing for internal self-government. They also agreed to form a coalition Government, which came into being in June and which has worked very well indeed. The interim constitution was introduced last October.
To help towards a solution of the outstanding matters, an Electoral Review Commission was appointed and made its report in December. Its recommendations were fully taken into account when the constitutional conference was resumed in January 1976. All members of the Seychelles House of Assembly participated in this conference, over which I had the honour to preside. The leaders of the two parties presented a set of joint proposals for a constitution under which Seychelles would, on independence, become a republic. These proposals were, with some minor changes, unanimously adopted by the conference, which also agreed that, subject to the approval of Parliament, Seychelles should become independent at midnight on 28th—29th June 1976. The report of the conference was published as a White Paper and presented to Parliament in February.
The Bill which is now before the House accordingly makes provision for Seychelles to attain fully responsible status as an independent republic on 29th June 1976 and for various connected matters.
Clause 1 provides that on that date the United Kingdom will cease to have responsibility for the government of Seychells. Clause 2 provides for the establishment of Seychelles as a republic on that day.
Clauses 3 and 4 deal with nationality matters. Their general purpose is to remove United Kingdom citizenship from those who become citizens of Seychelles on independence—that is, those con- 169 nected with Seychelles by virtue of birth, registration and naturalisation, descent, and, in the case of women, marriage. There are exceptions in Clause 4 to this general rule. These cover people who become Seychelles citizens on independence but were born, registered or naturalised in the United Kingdom or a remaining colony, or whose father or paternal grandfather, was in one of these categories. In other words, the aim is to prevent dual nationality arising for the vast majority of Seychellois who will automatically become citizens of Seychelles on 29th June. The nationality provisions do not bestow the right of abode in the United Kingdom on any person in Seychelles who does not have it already.
Clause 5 makes provision for the continuation after independence of laws operating in respect of Seychelles before independence. Clause 6 provides that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council shall dispose of any appeals to Her Majesty in Council which may be pending from any court having jurisdiction for Seychelles provided that leave to appeal has been granted either by the court or by Her Majesty in Council before independence day. Clause 7 and the schedule deal with consequential modifications of other enactments. Clauses 8 and 9 deal with interpretation and short title.
I turn now to more general matters not covered by the Bill but about which the House might wish to be informed. I take this occasion to report the successful outcome of talks relating to the return of the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches to Seychelles on independence. The House will recall that these islands were, with the agreement of the Seychelles Government, detached from Seychelles in 1965 to form part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Under an exchange of Notes with the United States in 1966, we agreed to make the islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory available for defence purposes of the two Governments.
It has subsequently become clear that neither Government have plans for the use of the islands for these purposes, and at the January 1976 session of the constitutional conference it was agreed in principle to return them to Seychelles. Tripartite talks between the Governments 170 of the United Kingdom, Seychelles and the United States were accordingly held in March this year and the necessary arrangements were made for their return. This will be effected by an Order in Council now in preparation. The British Indian Ocean Territory will in future consist only of the islands of the Chagos Archipelago.
I am glad to inform the House that Seychelles is to extend its policy of strict nature conservancy in the islands which are being returned. In respect of Aldabra, the Seychelles authorities will maintain close consultation with the Royal Society, which has a research station on that atoll. The Royal Society has already held discussions with the Seychelles Government and I am informed that an understanding satisfactory to both has been reached.
We have for many years operated a programme of aid and technical assistance for Seychelles. This will continue after independence. Her Majesty's Government will provide budgetary support amounting to £1.7 million over the first four years of independence and capital aid, in the form of a soft loan amounting to £10 million, over the first two years. We shall also be providing a substantial technical assistance programme.
The successful outcome of the processes which have led to the introduction of the Bill owes much—
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood)
I am interested in Clause 4(1)(c) dealing with registration as a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies. Will the hon. Gentleman explain that in rather more detail?
§ Mr. Rowlands
I have already explained it. Clause 4 covers the small number of cases—I do not suppose that it adds up to more than a couple of score—of people who may, by reason of their descent, be able to claim United Kingdom nationality rather than Seychelles nationality, because of their relationships with the United Kingdom rather than with Seychelles, and no more than another couple of score who may have dual nationality. As I said, the nationality provisions bestow no right of abode in the United Kingdom on any person in Seychelles who does not already have it. Clause 4 covers this point. We 171 are talking about very small numbers. The hon. and learned Gentleman can raise this matter in the debate, but perhaps I might now go on with my speech. I shall be happy to try to deal with any worries or concern that he might have on Clause 4.
I was talking about the successful outcome of the constitutional conference, which has been supported by all political parties in Seychelles and endorsed by the Government. I want to pay tribute to the Seychelles political parties and to the leaders of those parties, Mr. Mancham and Mr. René for the way in which they have worked together with the object of ensuring a successful and peaceful future for Seychelles. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), who preceded me in my present post and who chaired the first of the constitutional conferences, and the Chairman of the Electoral Review Commission and his team, who helped so much to create a greater accord on electoral matters.
The friendship between Britain and Seychelles, which has endured now for 160 years, will not be affected by the Bill. The achievement of Seychelles independence in no way diminishes this. Indeed, with the growth of modern communications and the progress of tourism in Seychelles, which owes much to the opening of the international airport in 1971, the opportunities for an even closer relationship between our two peoples are greater than ever.
Seychelles has already applied for membership of the Commonwealth. She will be the thirty-sixth member of that great association whose multi-racial principles are to be enshrined in the Seychelles constitution. Indeed, they are exemplified by the inter-racial harmony for which Seychelles is already renowned.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Tugendhat (City of London and Westminster, South)
We concur in everything that the Minister said about the desire of this country for friendship and good relations with Seychelles. The relationship between this country and Seychelles has always been close. Anyone who read the letter which the Prime Minister of Seychelles wrote to The Times after the successful con- 172 stitutional conference, in which he talked about his regret at the ending of the tie and about his long-held desire that Seychelles should be integrated into the United Kingdom, will appreciate that this colony is leaving its dependence status with nothing but good will towards us and the hope for closer relations with us.
It is appropriate to point out that Seychelles is the thirty-eighth territory to have been granted independence by the United Kingdom. This shows both the scope of the Commonwealth and the success of the decolonisation process in which this country has been engaged. Comparison between what has happened in the territories which were under British dominion and what has happened in Eastern Europe and in the Communist world shows on which side of the line respect and regard for human freedom lies. Almost one-quarter of the countries of the United Nations were once members of the British Empire. Seychelles joins a long line of other territories.
The first point on which we should like to express concern relates to defence. I appreciate that Seychelles, with a small number of people and being islands which are not very easy to defend, wishes to be neutral. I believe that it will not have any armed forces. That is an understandable policy for a country of its size and with limited economic resources, but it does not alter the fact that Seychelles is in a very strategic position. It may not be easy for it to maintain the neutrality, or even freedom from pressure, to which I am sure it aspires. In a divided world, it may not be easy for it to steer the course of an Indian Ocean Switzerland which it might wish to pursue.
The House would be interested to hear from the Minister what defence contact he believes it would be appropriate to maintain. Does he believe that it would be right to have contingency plans? What are his views about the strategic implications of the independence of Seychelles? He mentioned that it was thought that there might be Anglo-American plans for bases in the area, which in the event came to nothing, but this emphasises the extremely sensitive position in the world which Seychelles occupies, and it should not be ignored.
173 I am sure that all hon. Members were interested in what the Minister said about the arrangements which have been made with the Royal Society. I believe that Seychelles has five species of bird unknown elsewhere in the world and that it has a remark able ornithological interest. We were delighted to hear of the agreement with the Royal Society, which will please many people in this country who perhaps are not always very interested in politics.
However, when the Minister was referring to the arrangements made by the Royal Society, and particularly when he spoke about Aldabra, he did not say what would happen to the British Indian Ocean Territory. I recognise that the British Indian Ocean Territory is very small, but none the less it is there. What arrangements do the Government propose to make for its administration? How is that administration to be financed and sustained? What plans do the Government have for the islands concerned? These matters are directly relevant to the Bill because part of the territory which is to form the Republic of Seychelles was until recently part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, and one must consider the two areas together.
I come to the question of Clause 4 and the matter of citizenship. I realise that the population of Seychelles is extremely small and that we are dealing with a territory quite unlike some of the colonies in Africa and the Caribbean to which independence has been given. In terms of scale, there is no comparison between the two. None the less, a principle is at stake. As emerged from the debate which took place earlier today about immigration, it is very important that the British public should feel that the Government are taking every possible precaution against an increase in immigration into Britain and against this country being faced with a repetition of some of the problems which have emerged with Africa.
I listened with great interest to what the Minister said in reply to the intervention by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder). He said that small numbers of people would be involved. There is a comparison here between this Bill and the Bahamas Independence Act. The Bahamas Independence Act states that 174 people who acquire one citizenship lose the other. I cannot understand why, at a time when everybody is very concerned about immigration into Britain, the Seychelles Bill should appear to be so loosely drawn.
As the Minister said, it may well be justifiable in the case of Seychelles as such, but we are dealing with a subject of deep concern to the British public. There are other territories that still have to become independent. What is the principle that the Government are applying? Why is this Bill different from the Bahamas Independence Act? Why have the Government seen fit to change the very tight provisions of the Bahamas Independence Act to the very loose provisions in the Bill?
The Conservative Opposition give Seychelles the very warmest of welcomes into the Commonwealth. We are delighted that Seychelles is to join the Lomé Convention. We are delighted, too, that we have very good relations with Seychelles. On the point which causes deep concern, we should like further elucidation from the Minister.
§ Mr. Crowder
I am very concerned about the phrase in Clause 4(1)(d):became a British subject by reason of the annexation of any territory included in a colony.Since when has any territory been annexed as such? I do not like the word "annexed". I do not know what it means. It is a matter which we on this side should carefully explore, otherwise at this time of night these things are apt to go through on a statement by a Minister that "only a few people are involved." In modern times "annexation" is an extraordinary word to find in a Socialist Government's Bill.
§ Mr. Tugendhat
It must be some time since the United Kingdom annexed any territory—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rockall."]—apart from Rockall. I do not think that there were many creatures apart from birds on Rockall at the time we annexed it. The situation with Aldabra is quite different. Putting aside the point about annexation, the concern expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ruislip—Northwood about Clause 4 is felt not only by him but by other hon. Members. Once this issue is raised, it becomes very important that 175 the Government should be able to provide us with a fuller explanation than they have done so far. In particular, I should be obliged if they would explain why the perfectly satisfactory provisions of the Bahamas Independence Act do not appear to have been carried forward into this Bill.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Before the House becomes too involved in the complications of Clause 4, I wish to raise a minor point. Though it may seem somewhat far-fetched to suggest that there is any connection between Birmingham and Seychelles, I have a direct constituency interest. The wildlife of Seychelles and the interest of the Royal Society have been described. The descriptive literature of the wildlife in Seychelles is printed in my constituency.
The present Government of Seychelles are very lax about paying their printing bills. Hon. Members may laugh, but it is the wages of some of my constituents that are affected. There have been three delayed payments in the past 18 months, and there is one outstanding bill now for several thousand pounds due to the Renault Printing Company of Perry Barr and a subsidiary G. T. Phillips and Company.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will give an undertaking that discussions will be held with the Government of Seychelles and the Crown Agents with a view to getting the bill paid before we grant independence. I shall not have the opportunity to raise the matter again, and if the bill is not paid before the end of June several thousand pounds due to British workers who have printed very nice documents about what is apparently a very nice natural life in Seychelles will be down the drain. I hope that my hon. Friend will address himself to this point before we start a debate on Clause 4.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
On behalf of my colleagues, I join those who wish Seychelles well on 29th June and thereafter. We also welcome the fact that it is to remain a member of the Commonwealth and is 176 to be associated with the EEC through the Lomé Convention.
Although we may regard the 92 islands and 60,000 people as being relatively remote and perhaps in world terms insignificant, it is as well to realise that, with the addition of the three islands which have been referred to, assuming that the Law of the Sea Conference extends rights to 200 miles, the whole area takes on a quite considerably increased strategic importance in that part of the world.
Since the development of the airport within the last couple of years, the area has become one of great potential for tourism, and the islands will enjoy, I hope, considerable income from that source, which was very restricted in previous years because the only access was by sea, usually from the coast of Kenya. Like others, I hope that the new Government will pay particular attention to the preservation of the flora and fauna of the islands, and I welcome the agreement in that regard.
There is one peculiar interest which we in the Liberal Party have in the independence of Seychelles, which is in the constitutional settlement of the electoral system. I do not know whether it is widely noted in the House that eight Members of the Parliament there will be elected by the straight first-past-the-post constituency system but that 17 will be elected on a proportionate system from party lists. It is in principle the same kind of dual electoral system as is operated in the Federal Republic of Germany, and we are always being told that it is far too complicated for us to understand. Therefore, we note with interest that it has been agreed by the British Government as appropriate for Seychelles.
I wish the people and the Government of the Seychelles all success after the end of June in their quest for independence.
§ 10.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
For reasons that I shall come to, I do not think that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) need worry about the payment of the bills outstanding to his constituents.
I regret the introduction of this Bill, and it gives me no pleasure to see the severance of the ties which have linked 177 Seychelles to this country for more than 150 years. Fifteen years ago I used to read reports and take part in study groups considering the constitutional problems of the smaller colonies. Many ingenious schemes for representation were put forward.
Mr. Mancham, the present Prime Minister and future President of the Seychelles Republic, was twice elected on a platform of integration with this country. I regret that, through inertia and lack of imagination, our sensible suggestions have been ignored and that we are now pushing yet another mini-nation out into a hostile world.
In the past there were reasonable grounds for saying that we paid little attention in this House and in this country to the affairs of Seychelles. Indeed, it has been reported that Mr. Mancham first went into politics because he once heard a British diplomat saying "The Seychelles—do they belong to us?" But the charge of neglect can hardly be levelled against us now, because in the debate on the Bill in another place the Government announced that they were making available to Seychelles in the course of the next four years budgetary and capital aid worth£11.7 million.
The Government estimate that the adult population of Seychelles is 58,000, or rather less than the population of my constituency. The amount of aid being made available in the course of the next four years works out at £20,000 per head. This is, I believe, the largest golden handshake in the entire history of de-colonisation, and I do not believe that the hon. Member for Perry Barr, given those figures, need worry about the payment of an outstanding bill of a few thousand pounds.
I am sure that under the rule of order it would not be proper in a debate on the Bill to refer to the £2 million South Penge Park housing scheme in my constituency, for which loan sanction has just been refused by the Government although the scheme is of very great importance indeed to my constituents.
The Minister should tell the House why the Government propose to give aid amounting to £20,000 a head in the next four years to these islands. After all, the proposals run counter to the guidelines set out in the Government's own 178 White Paper dealing with the distribution of overseas aid which were approved by the House and which laid down that maximum aid should in general go to the countries in greatest need. I do not think anyone could claim that Seychelles, with an attractive tourist industry, could rank among the poorest countries in the world. I am sure that there is a good reason why we are handing over this substantial amount of aid, but before we finally approve the Bill I hope that the Minister will tell us the reason.
The future Leader of the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Roxburg, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), has discussed the question of security in the area, and I note that Mr. Mancham has in the past expressed the hope that the Seychelles islands would be a sort of Switzerland in the Indian Ocean. I share that hope, but I note that Switzerland has a very substantial army, an excellent police force and a large and well-armed citizen reserve. Seychelles, as far as I know, has none of these attributes for maintaining its independence.
Of the nearby territories, I note that the Government of Zanzibar was overthrown a few weeks after independence by the incursion of a platoon of outside subversive agents. I note that in a country even closer to Seychelles—the Comores Islands, a French possession—there has recently been considerable internal disturbance which led to the reintroduction of French soldiers.
I wonder what agreement has been reached on future security arrangements with the Seychelles authorities. It is said that there will be no army, which presumably means that there must be a substantial police force with para-military capabilities. What training agreements have we? Are we to maintain any sort of security mission there? This is a highly sensitive strategic area, and it would be folly to sever ties with Seychelles without making any security arrangements.
I join those who have already spoken in hoping that the independent Seychelles Republic will have a long and happy history. Its ornithological riches have been noted already. We were reminded that there are five species of birds which are known nowhere else in the world. If we believe that merely handing over 179 independence without making any arrangements for security will lead to the happiness and well-being of the inhabitants of the Seychelles Islands, we deserve to live in cloud-cuckoo-land.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
I add my voice to those who welcome this Bill. Events might have turned out differently, but as they have turned out it would be generous of this House and all its Members to wish Seychelles well on the course upon which it and we have embarked. I do so with all my heart. I recall with pleasure the great welcome given to me in the islands when I had some ministerial responsibility.
I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) said. I, too, think that we would like to know the purposes for which the aid is being given. It is very difficult to invest money usefully in a territory as little developed as Seychelles. It would be interesting to know how we think we can invest this quite large sum of money on behalf of Seychelles so as to produce a viable future for it.
I take it that most of the money will be devoted to the development of tourism. But if the tourist industry were to be driven too hard and developed too fast, which the sum of money indicated suggests might be the case, many of the aspects of Seychelles which we so much admire would be in danger of being destroyed.
I remember that it was laid down by the last Governor that there should be no more than 400 new hotel rooms each year, that being, he thought, the limit of the capacity of the construction industry to build and of the hotel industry to provide the necessary staff, and so as not to help inflation on its way. I wonder whether that policy will be maintained. I hope that it will be, because nothing could be more fatal to these marvellous islands than the destruction of the very attractions which until now have brought certain numbers of tourists to the area.
What my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham said about defence is very pertinent. After all, Diego Garcia lies not very far away and forms part of British Indian Ocean Territory. There 180 fore, the vulnerability of that part of the world is very great. Seychelles cannot be equated to some kind of Switzerland. Switzerland lies in a closely-held part of the world, where there are lots of other territories surrounding it. Seychelles stands almost entirely by itself. For anyone wanting to make a landfall anywhere in the Indian Ocean, there is only Gan and Seychelles to which he can go. The islands must therefore be a prime target for anyone who wants a landfall in that part of the world. They would enable the establishment of technological instruments close to what is apparently our key base at Diega Garcia.
I doubt whether the militia on the islands could be raised, or if it were raised whether it could give any account of itself in the circumstances which might face it. Undoubtedly a landing party could be put on any of the numerous islands, and installations could be set up which might not even be discovered. We would therefore like to know what arrangements have been made between the two Governments about defence of the territory.
I listened with great sympathy to what was said by the future Leader of the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), about electoral reform. It is amazing how, whenever British Governments have anything to do with electoral reform in foreign territories, they always provide something different from what we have here. No doubt that is in recognition of the shortcomings of our system. I hope that we shall soon have a Bill to give electoral reform for our other territories, such as Scotland or Wales; we have already done it for Northern Ireland. What is good enough for Seychelles is good enough for the United Kingdom.
I welcome the Bill and wish Seychelles very well.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
There has always been in this country a strong interest in the people of Seychelles, their affairs and their future. In 1971 a parliamentary delegation which went out there from this House, of which I had the privilege to be leader, was greatly impressed by the desire of the people to maintain the closest links possible with 181 this country. One of the principal policies of Mr. Mancham's party was that there should be integration with the United Kingdom. I have a sort of wistful regret that policies of that kind were not fully understood or appreciated in this country at the time. The moment has now come when we must realise that the whole situation has changed, and there is no alternative to the Bill.
No one who has been to this part of the Indian Ocean could disagree with the description of Seychelles as some of the most beautiful islands in the world. It is perhaps worth noting that when General Gordon of Khartoum went out in the nineteenth century and saw these islands for the first time he was so astonished by the beauty of the Val de Mai, with its enormous palm trees and luxurious vegetation, that he truly believed he had discovered the original site of the Garden of Eden. It is not surprising, therefore, that the people of Seychelles can look forward to a future based on tourism.
As Chairman of the Anglo-Seychelles Parliamentary Group, I should like on behalf of the group to send my warmest wishes to the people there for a most happy and prosperous future.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
I was also one of the fortunate members of the parliamentary delegation to Seychelles in 1971. We were received most hospitably and we were overcome by the beauty of the islands. At that time arguments raged between the political party led by Mr. Mancham, who wanted even closer ties with the United Kingdom, and the other party, led by Mr. Rena, who wanted independence.
The party for independence was strongly influenced by the Organisation of African Unity, and the party which wished to remain close to the United Kingdom was suspicious of the activities of those in Africa who wanted to see Seychelles break away from the United Kingdom. Those arguments continued for several years. Our Government and country played a somewhat passive role, but, of course, the islands are far away and remote. Eventually the party which wanted integration decided that independence was inevitable.
182 Mr. Mancham's arguments were interesting. Apart from demanding independence, he and his party preferred to remain part of the British interest. He had seen what had happened to the various countries in Africa which had become independent and he decided that Seychelles would be better off with its existing status. That has now changed and the situation has moved on.
Apart from the beauty of the islands, one is struck most by the extraordinarily interesting wildlife and general ecology. But many of the fascinating places that we saw are threatened by the development of tourism. Hotels have been erected in the most beautiful places and will have an effect on the wildlife and ecology. I well remember Port Launay, a place of outstanding beauty which will be damaged by hotel development.
In addition to the bird life, there are many other interesting facets of the islands. In particular, the islands of Cousin and Cousine are exceptionally interesting. Extraordinary flying foxes are to be found on Praslin, one of the few places in the world where they exist.
Tourism has caused problems. Tourists make great demands on the fish supplies and local inhabitants often have to go without. Tourism has also made enormous demands on the local population, who have been attracted away from their previous occupations, causing a minor revolution on the islands.
I did not catch what the Minister said about the agreement for Aldabra. Will the lease to the Royal Society on the islands last until the year 2005? What are the effects on Clause 4 of the departmental inquiry by the Home Office on British nationality laws? Have these investigations influenced the drafting of the Bill?
As my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) said, the position of Seychelles in the heart of the Indian Ocean is of great strategic importance. No doubt the islands will be hard put to it to maintain their status as a kind of Switzerland in the middle of the Indian Ocean, as they have described it. Already when I was there a Soviet survey ship was charting the water around the islands. In view of the permanent presence of the Soviet navy in the Indian Ocean, we can expect much more interest from the Russians in that direction. Is 183 there any defence agreement that we should go to the aid of Seychelles if it was being interfered with?
I wish the very friendly people of Seychelles well in their independence.
§ 11.1 p.m.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood)
I welcome the Bill but not its drafting. Clause 4(1)(d) reads:became a British subject by reason of the annexation of any territory included in the colony."Annexation" is a word that Labour Members will understand. They have annexed enough property within this country. Why are those words included? What is meant by the expression "any territory within the colony"? This is clumsy, broken-down drafting in the extreme.
I do not like the word "annexation". It reminds me of Warren Hastings, India in the old days, the Far East and so on. Under what circumstances have a Labour Government annexed anything in the Seychelles?
§ Mr. Rowlands
If the hon. and learned Gentleman read the subsection properly, he would see that it read "included in a colony", not "the colony". It is not Seychelles; it is "a colony".
§ Mr. Crowder
Why "a colony"? Is not the Minister dealing with Seychelles? What other colony has he in mind? Answer. You cannot answer. If you will not answer—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman keeps saying "you". "You" in this House means me. The hon. and learned Gentleman has been here too long not to know.
§ Mr. Crowder
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. I think that never in your history in the House, which I think dates back before me, to 1945, have you seen the word "annexation", have you? I am only too delighted to address you in those terms, Mr. Speaker.
It is disgraceful that in a Bill of this sort we should have the word "annexation". It is unattractive and unnecessary and it means absolutely nothing. How it ever came to be included, I do not know. All I ask is that the Minister should remove it.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Rowlands
A number of points have been raised. The first concerns the question of the islands' defence future in relation to regional security. Seychelles has decided to be a non-aligned, independent nation. It is not right for us to be pressed to sign defence guarantees or enter into defence agreements with a new country which wishes to be independent in terms of defence and foreign policy.
However, Seychelles and the United States Government have reached agreement on the continuation of the American satellite tracking facility and the associated financial arrangements. That augurs well for a policy of close working relations without jeopardising the nonalignment and feeling of neutrality strongly expressed by the democratically-elected leaders of Seychelles. Concepts of defence guarantees and trying to bind Seychelles into a one-sided military pact are not the issues tonight.
Certain changes will be necessary in the administration of British Indian Ocean Territory. Senior officials of the Foreign Office will take over the administration of the territory in place of the Governor and Deputy-Governor of Seychelles who exercise those duties at present. The Commissioner's representative at Diego Garcia will remain as Royal Navy liaison officer. These and other changes which may be necessary in the administration of BIOT will be provided for by Order in Council.
I have been asked a number of questions on aid. I hope that the geography of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) is better than his arithmetic. He worked out a figure of £20,000 per head. In fact, it is £200 per head over four years—£50 per person per year. That is a relatively modest sum in comparison with the hon. Member's calculation. There is capital aid and budgetary aid. I think that the hon. Member confused them.
We do not deny that we are giving Seychelles a generous amount of aid. The hon. Member for Beckenham claimed that our proposals contradicted our White Paper on aid. In the White Paper, however, we say that one of the first charges on the aid programme is the territories for which we have specific 185 responsibilities, particularly newly independent territories like Seychelles.
It is sensible, within the concepts of the White Paper, to ensure that a territory going forward to independence has a generous and reasonable financial and economic aid programme to accompany it. I do not think that our proposals are excessive. They are reasonable and generous. Obviously Seychelles Ministers pressed me, when they were here recently, to increase the aid, but I regard it as a reasonable and generous deal.
I was also asked about how the aid will be used. The hon. Member for Beckenham suggested that most of it would be spent on hotels and the like, but most of the money will be used for social and educational infrastructure, and there will be discussions between us and the Seychelles Government during the development of the aid programme.
I cannot answer the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) about his constituents' bills, but I am sure his remarks will have been noted and I hope that the bills will be paid, but I do not think that the aid programme should be used to pay the debts of individual firms. I am sure that the Seychelles Government will live up to their reputation and ensure that the bills are paid.
The hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Norwood (Mr. Crowder) raised a number of questions on citizenship as he laboured the point about Clause 4. There are some people who, besides having connections with Seychelles, have a suitably close connection with the United Kingdom or remaining independent territories. They should be able to keep their citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies under this provision.
A great deal has been made about Clause 4(1)(d) concerning the word "annexation". As I have pointed out, it is basically a historic provision to ensure that, if there are people whose ancestors, as described in the clause, were citizens of territories which were annexed 50 to 100 years ago, they nevertheless will not be outside the provisions of the clause. It is an omnibus clause to ensure that the very odd or occasional case is covered.
186 Anyone who has dealt with cases of citizenship and the hundred and one problems that can arise for the individual, and the anomalies that occasionally occur, will realise that there is a need to draft even in terms of territories annexed perhaps 50 to 100 years ago, where the father or paternal grandfather was a citizen of that annexed territory, and a person who by descent is covered under this provision should not now be prevented from exercising the right that we should like to provide. The clause is trying to ensure that the very unusual case will not turn up some time in the future and bedevil us or cause individual injustice or problems.
§ Mr. Crowder
I wonder whether we should remove the word "annexation". It could be replaced by the phrase "taken over" or something else. It is unattractive nowadays.
§ Mr. Rowlands
I find it unattractive today, too, but I am sure that it has meaning in terms of the actual problem of defining the territory of annexation historically. I am a historian but not, I am glad to say, a colonial law imperial historian. The word "annexation" is used, and it must be reflected in present-day legislation in that respect. I agree that it is offensive now, in 1976, but we are trying to cover the case of someone whose rights may descend from a father or paternal grandfather under the provisions of the clause.
§ Mr. Tugendhat
Who exactly are these people who have a special relationship with the United Kingdom? We quite accept that, by definition, anything to do with Seychelles is likely to mean that they will be few in number, but we are creating, or following, a precedent. What precedent is the Minister following? Why can he not be more explicit about who these people are who have this special relationship with the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Rowlands
I suspect that it is because we do not know and have not analysed the birth certificates of individuals who at present live in Seychelles but who may qualify under this provision to maintain United Kingdom citizenship. It will be on a very individual basis, and I cannot define a particular section or group. To my knowledge, there is no 187 sort of well-known community within Seychelles such as was mentioned, perhaps, in debates in the last few weeks about a particular community in Malawi. There is no close-knit section of the community. We are trying here to provide for individual cases rather than a specific section of the community. That is why it is difficult to define or outline in considerable detail who might qualify.
However, the clause obviously gives rights to two types of person, in general terms. First, there is the person who has a connection with Seychelles and who has suitably close connections with the United Kingdom or a remaining dependent territory. He can keep citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies under Clause 4(1), subject to the subsections laid out. Then there is subsection (3), which is very specialised, enabling a person who becomes a Seychelles citizen on independence to keep his citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies of his father or grandfather was locally naturalised in a remaining dependent territory which prior to the British Nationality Act 1948 had local naturalisation laws and that ancestor had died before the Act came into force on 1st January 1949.
One can see from the explanation that we are trying to deal with the sort of individual who may well find that he is unjustly treated or should have a right that is not covered unless we make such a provision. I cannot forecast numbers, but it is not a large section of the community in Seychells to which we are giving some special right. It is more for the few individuals who might be concerned. It will come to no more than 100 or 200 if one adds dual nationals and those who retain their United Kingdom citizenship. The number of dual nationals can be no more than a couple of score. It is impossible to make a detailed assessment, and I hope that it will be considered reasonable to safeguard an individual's citizenship rights.
I was asked whether we had taken into account the review of nationality. We cannot do so. The review is not complete, its findings have not been published, there has been no consultation or debate and, therefore, it would be wrong and improper to anticipate in any independence Bill such as this what may emerge 188 from the review. The citizenship provisions here follow tradition and are based on our own concept of nationality as written into the 1948 Act.
The hon. Member for Beckenham basically does not want Seychelles to be independent. I have to tell him that it is the wish of the overwhelming majority of the people of Seychelles that they become independent, whatever may have been their views in the past. They are going independent under a stable coalition Government. The parties have buried their differences of opinion in order to achieve independence, and this is a fair indication of what we hope will be a successful and reasonably prosperous new independent State. My personal regret is that because my wife is expecting a baby I shall not be attending the independence celebrations on 28th June.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Thomas Cox.]
§ Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third reading), and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without amendment.