§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Michael Cocks)
I have it Command from the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Tuvalu 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.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Evan Luard)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It is only two or three weeks since the House debated the independence Bill for the Solomon Islands. That is a very much larger territory than that with which we are concerned today. The Solomon Islands is a country with a population of about 200,000. On that Bill we encountered considerable complexities in the nationality provisions which aroused a good deal of discussion and debate.
Today we are debating the independence of a very small territory indeed, whose total land area is little more than 10 square miles. It has a very small population, of only about 9,000 people. I am glad to say that on this occasion we shall not encounter the difficulties and complexities with regard to nationality provisions which gave rise to so much debate on the previous occasion.
Before describing the contents of the Bill, I should like to say something about the history of Tuvalu and the developments which led to the introduction of the Bill. Most hon. Members may find the name "Tuvalu" somewhat novel and confusing—they know this territory much better by its old title of the Ellice Islands. Most of us are very familiar with the name "Gilbert and Ellice Islands".
Tuvalu itself comprises only nine coral atolls lying between Fiji and the Gilbert Islands in the South-West Pacific. The total land area is only about 10 square miles in a chain stretching along about 360 miles of sea. The people are mostly Polynesians. Most of the territory is covered by coconut palms, and it enjoys a tropical climate.
871 The first European settlers in Tuvalu were missionaries who came from the London Missionary Society and arrived in about 1865. They installed Samoan pastors on the islands and the islanders were quick to embrace the new faith. Since then, the Protestant Church has had a strong and continuing influence on life there.
In 1877, we established the West Pacific High Commission to protect the islanders from the practice, which at that time was very common in the area, of what was known as "blackbirding"—it was labour recruitment—and we were able to control and to a large extent to put a stop to that activity.
In 1892, the Ellice Islands became a British protectorate, and in 1916 they were joined with the Gilbert Islands to form the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony.
During the Japanese occupation of the Gilbert Islands in the Second World War, many Tuvaluans worked to help the Allied forces and I am glad to say, showed admirable courage and loyalty in that cause.
The Gilbert Islanders are Micronesian and differ culturally, socially and linguistically from the Polynesian inhabitants of the Ellice Islands. The Ellice Islands are also geographically distinct from the Gilbert Islands. It was as a result of these differences that, during the early 1970s, the Ellice Islanders expressed the desire to separate from the Gilberts and to make their own way to independence. This was not a matter of controversy with the Gilbert Islanders. They did not object to separation and, in 1974, a referendum was held in the Ellice Islands which was observed by the United Nations. An overwhelming majority voted in favour of separation.
In 1975, the Ellice Islands were formally established as a separate colony, with the traditional name of Tuvalu. Independence day is planned for 1st October of this year, which is the third anniversary of separation.
In February of this year, a constitutional conference took place in London under the chairmanship of my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Goronwy Roberts. It was agreed that, subject to the approval of Parlia- 872 ment, Tuvalu should become independent as a constitutional monarchy under Her Majesty in October 1978. The report of the conference was published as a White Paper and presented to Parliament on 31st March of this year.
This Bill makes provision for Tuvalu to attain independence and for various connected matters. Clause 1 provides for the independence of Tuvalu within Her Majesty's dominions as from 1st October 1978. Schedule 1 deals with the consequential enlargement of the powers of the Tuvalu legislature.
Clauses 2 and 3 deal with nationality. There are similar to the nationality provisions usually found in independence Acts and, as I mentioned earlier, they contain none of the unusual features included in the Solomon Islands Bill, which caused a certain amount of controversy in this House when we discussed it. Given the concern which was expressed about that Bill, I should make it clear that no resident of Tuvalu will be left stateless as a result of this Bill, and immigration rights will be unchanged.
Clause 4 and Schedule 2 deal with consequential modifications of other enactments. Clauses 5 and 6 deal with interpretation and citation.
I turn to matters which are not covered by the Bill but about which the House may wish to be informed. The independence constitution will provide in detail for the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, about which we in this House have always been so concerned. The constitution will also provide for a legislature of 12 Members elected by universal suffrage, for a Cabinet responsible to the legislature, and for an independent judiciary and public service. We are satisfied that the traditional concern for human rights, which I am glad to say has been shown on these islands, will be maintained there in the future when the country moves to independence.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
This is following the usual practice, as we know, but can my hon. Friend say when the Order in Council encapsulating the constitution is likely to be available for perusal? One assumes that the contents of this will deal with entrenched clauses dealing with the matters to which my hon. Friend has referred.
§ Mr. Luard
I recognise that the House has an interest in such matters. That is why I am saying something about the terms of the constitution. But it is traditional that the Order in Council is not published until after the debate on the independence Bill itself. I can say that it will be published fairly shortly, as was the case with the Solomon Islands Bill.
Right hon. and hon. Members will be concerned about the future economic viability of this very small territory, with its very small population. Inevitably, the economy and development of Tuvalu will depend for some time on outside donors of aid. I am glad to say that we are by far the biggest contributors to development and will remain so for some time. We shall be giving about £6 million over the next few years for the development of these islands, with their population of 8,000 or 9,000. In addition, Australia and New Zealand will contribute to development, as will the European Development Fund, as donors of capital aid. The United Nations Development Programme will provide assistance, through which the United Nations Specialised Agencies will help. The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, the South Pacific Commission and the United States of America will also provide technical co-operation funds.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
Is it the intention that Tuvalu shall accede to the Lomé Convention?
§ Mr. Luard
My hon. Friend anticipated my next sentence. I was about to say that Tuvalu is also expected to accede to the Lomé Convention.
For the first two years after separation from the Gilbert Islands, much of our own aid programme was directed towards providing the necessary infrastructure for good government and creating the administrative backbone for the colony. This work has included the construction of Government buildings, hospitals, schools, harbour works and protection against further devastation by hurricanes. Much of this work has now been completed, and a start has been made on development aid projects which are intended to widen the revenue earning base of Tuvalu. I am sure that we all agree that the ultimate objective must be not to go on providing aid indefinitely but to put Tuvalu in a 874 position in which she can provide her own revenue funds for the future.
A special development fund of £2.5 million with no time limit is included in the financial settlement. This fund will be used for projects of a developmental nature agreed between the British and Tuvalu Governments. We shall also be providing budgetary aid, ordinary capital development aid on grant terms and technical co-operation until 1980. The terms for this have already been agreed.
§ Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)
I am not altogether clear what the relationship would be between the special development fund and what I think the Minister called ordinary capital development of other types. What is the distinction between the two? I think that the special development fund is a somewhat new concept. I am not clear what the division of effort is between that fund, the capital development aid and the technical cooperation.
§ Mr. Luard
The capital development fund will be going for projects which have already been agreed. The special development fund is for projects agreed between the British Government and the Tuvalu Government over the next few years for special programmes which we think will be of assistance in the way that I described.
I am sure that everyone in this House will want to join me in wishing this territory the best for the future. It is probable that there has never been a territory so small in resources or in population for which we have seen an independence Bill through this House. Most of us will feel nothing but admiration for the courage of the population and their Government in embarking on the perilous road to independence with so few resources and so small a population.
I hope that the House will join me in congratulating the people and Government of Tuvalu, especially their Chief Minister, on the great progress that they have made in the short time since they were separated from the Gilbert Islands and on the statesmanlike way in which they have worked to ensure a successful and peaceful future in an independent Tuvalu.
I am confident that our long association with that country and the friendship 875 between us will continue for many years. Tuvalu has expressed an intention of joining the Commonwealth, and I am pleased that it will be as fellow members of the Commonwealth that we have the prospect of continuing the close ties that exist between us.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)
We join with the Under-Secretary in offering good wishes and congratulations to the people of Tuvalu. I would like to refer to the remarks of Lord Elton, on 9th May, in another place, in which he said that it was impossible not to admire the courage of such a small people setting out on a course of independence in this very hazardous world.
Tuvalu has a population of between 9,000 and 10,000 of whom 2,000 live abroad. Therefore, the numbers on the nine islands total only 7,000 or 8,000. When one thinks that the nearest capital to Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu, is Suva, which is 650 miles away, and that Sydney is more than 2,500 miles away, one has some idea of the vast spaces in that part of the world and the hazards encountered by those who cross them.
I also welcome the decision of the people of Tuvalu who wish the Queen to remain the Head of their country. The Chief Minister, the honourable Toalipi Lauti, said that it was the unanimous wish of his people that that should be so. Also, we welcome the decision of the Tuvalu people to remain in the Commonwealth.
I believe that we shall see increasingly strong regional groupings of the Commonwealth throughout the various parts of the world. This is something that will gain in force and importance and to which we must give a welcome. At the meeting of the ASEAN and Commonwealth Prime Ministers in Australia in February there was a move in that direction. I would regret it very much if this regional grouping in any way lessened the links that this country has with our friends in the Commonwealth. I hope that these Commonwealth connections will continue the strength of our links with the people of Tuvalu.
There are four criteria by which the independence of a country should be considered when that country wishes to sever its links with us. First, let the 876 people of that country want independence themselves; secondly, we should at least leave as strong a bulwark for justice and liberty as we can in this uncertain world; thirdly, the country that is obtaining independence should have sufficient economic strength, or the prospect of it, to maintain independence; fourthly, the severance should be a just and reasonable one, accepted by both parties with good will and amity.
For the first criterion, there is no doubt that this move represents the wishes of the people of Tuvalu. The Chief Minister said in the constitutional conference that independence was the wish of the people. After 86 years of "togetherness" it is with some sadness that we accept that the people of Tuvalu want their independence. We would never wish to stand in the way of the united desire of the people of any country to go their own way, and when that moment comes on 1st October we shall wish Tuvalu the very best of fortune.
The second criterion is that of justice and liberty. As the Under-Secretary has said, in the independence constitution we have provision in detail for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual. The only sadness we have seen in other parts of the world is that however entrenched these clauses may be they can always be overthrown by the leaders of people who do not themselves believe in justice and liberty. The history of this century has shown that it is impossible to entrench in a constitution or to write into a paper enduring liberty. It must rest within the hearts and minds of those who live in the country and especially those who control their destiny.
I am sure that justice and liberty will be the future history of the people of Tuvalu, especially as I understand that the Church in that country is deeply rooted, and the Christian tradition is strongly represented. Therefore there is a strong hope and prospect that justice and liberty will remain there.
I turn to the third criterion of the economic situation, which, in Tuvalu is more difficult. It calls for one or two questions to the Under-Secretary. I read with special interest the speech at the constitutional conference by Dr. Tomasi Puapua. He represents the unofficial opposition. It seemed that the conference 877 was a great success, except for the non-arrival of the Minister of State, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, who was snowbound. It must have been very strange for the delegates from Tuvalu to find that the Minister was snowbound.
Dr. Tomasi Puapua had some reservations. He said that the Tuvalu people were fully aware that they had been neglected by their old colonial masters—ourselves. He said that the future position of Tuvalu in economic terms could be decribed only as grim. He finished his speech by saying that the delegates had come to the conference carrying empty brief cases, but they hoped that they would leave with brief cases filled with pound notes to take back home. This slight sense of bitterness springs partly from the arrangements that were made when the split between the Gilbert and Ellice islands was arranged by the British Government.
The difficulties involved in these arrangements were touched upon in the speech by the Church representative, the Reverend losia Taomia, who said that the people of Tuvalu had come out of the previous Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony empty-handed and with a sense of injustice, loss and disappointment. He referred specifically to two reasons why they felt that sense of injustice.
The first reason was to do with the Gilbert and Ellice Islands reserve fund. This is a fund of about 30 million to 40 million Australian dollars, which was built on revenues from, phosphates from the well-known Ocean Islands and the even better-known Banabans. This fund was built up jointly by the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, but on the occasion of the split the fund remained with the Gilbert Islands. None of it was passed to the Ellice Islands. It was asked why no share of this fund had gone to the people of Tuvalu.
The second reason, which seemed to have been the cause of some bitterness, was that the previous colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands administered the Phoenix and Line Islands. On independence the people of Tuvalu have asked why they have had no share in continuing the administration of these islands. The nine islands of Tuvalu represent only 10 square miles. The people are short of land, but they intend to prosper and develop. They believe that some share 878 in the Phoenix and Line Islands would have been of value to them. From what they have said, it would seem that they have some reason for taking that view. I read the reply made by the Minister at the conference, which was brief and perhaps somewhat inadequate.
I think there is some truth in the fact that in the 86 years of colonial rule the Gilbert Islands came out of matters more favourably than did the Ellice Islands. It was only in 1975 that Tuvalu was given its own secondary school and a hospital large enough to deal with emergencies in the nine islands.
We are discussing the future of a small chain of islands far away from us—islands for whom we still have responsibility and whose inhabitants still have an apparent sense of injustice. Their economy is based on the export of copra and on remittances sent home by the 2,000 or so of its citizens who work mainly as very good sailors in various parts of the world. The postage stamps from the area, which I remember very well from my stamp collecting days, bring in considerable revenue to the islands. There is also the fishing industry, which is of great importance to the islanders. The islanders, however brave their words, are in a vulnerable position. They have a problem with fishing limits, but it is by no means as difficult as our problem. They wish to have a limit of 200 miles, and I trust that they will effect it more easily than we have tried to effect our limit.
There is a slight area of discord, which I hope has been met by the aid described by the Minister today. That aid amounts to £6 million or £7 million, including a figure of £2½ million from the Special Development Fund, and budgetary and development aid, which will last until 1980. A meeting is to be held in 1980 to see what, if any, further aid is required. However, it must be expected that on independence the islanders can look to wider sources of aid than a colony can be expected to look to. They can join the Lomé Convention. Since the Japanese are interested in fishing, we must remember that the waters round Tuvalu provide excellent fishing grounds. Therefore, perhaps the islanders will be able to come to an advantageous arrangement with their neighbours in that respect.
879 I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure the House that any bitterness or sense of injustice has diminished and that the conference ended on a note of optimism and reassurance. I hope that the representatives of Tuvalu feel that, however history may have served them, they have been fairly and properly treated and are satisfied within reasonable terms that the aid provisions are adequate and that they can have confidence for the future. The citizenship arrangements outlined by the Minister appear to be very satisfactory. The islanders will become citizens by law on 1st October, the day of independence. We wish them well.
We wish god-speed to the citizens of Tuvalu and to their Government as they become a new and independent country. We hope that they will not sever their links with this country, but that independence will serve to strengthen the ties and friendship between our countries, within the Commonwealth, and with Her Majesty the Queen as our monarch.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I wish to intervene briefly on behalf of my Liberal colleagues to express our good wishes and support for this Bill as the people of Tuvalu advance towards the courageous and daunting prospect of nationhood.
There was some difference of opinion in another place as to the exact population of Tuvalu. Clearly it is under 10,000. When one considers that Members of this House represent anything from 50,000 to 70,000 electors, and constituencies even beyond those figures, one is staggered by the fact that here is a population of only 10,000 in an area of 10 square miles who now join the comity of nations. That must be a courageous and daunting step.
Tuvalu has one of the smallest populations in the world. There are one or two other nations that are of equivalent size, but I shall not go into them now because if I did I should leave out some and include others incorrectly. Tuvalu will be dependent on the good will of the variety of organisations to which the Minister referred. Commonwealth technical assistance will be vital. Therefore, it is some consolation to us to know that it will remain members of the Common- 880 wealth. Capital aid funds in the form of ACP through the Lomé Convention will again be a manifestation of the interest of the European Community towards the Third World.
The friendship of Australia and New Zealand will be vital to Tuvalu, as will that of Fiji, on which she will rely for some of her aid staging facilities. The United Nations will need to devote to the islanders the attentions of the Specialised Agencies, particularly WHO, FAO and the Special Fund. We do not know whether the islanders of Tuvalu will become full or associate members of the United Nations; that is a matter for them. I hope that they will not trouble to go to the expense of becoming full members and that they will not look on such membership as an automatic virility symbol. The United Nations will face problems if areas with small populations are to be burdened with the expense and political involvement of full membership. I hope that they will not feel in any way second-class citizens of the world if they do not opt for full membership. They might bear in mind the fact that Switzerland has not become a full member, though for different reasons.
We have been associated with the islanders of Tuvalu for nearly 100 years and that association will continue, but in a new form. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell the House whether there has been an approach in respect of defence treaties or arrangements. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) mentioned the subject of fishing and the interest of Japan in the area. We all know that territorial waters can sometimes turn into troubled waters. Sometimes it is a good thing for a small territory to feel that in times of trouble it has some backing from another nation. Various defence arrangements already exist in that part of the world, there are the various economic groupings, and it will be for the Government of Tuvalu to make approaches. I merely wish to be told whether we have been asked for any form of defence guarantees, or whether such requests have been made of Australia and New Zealand.
I welcome the fact that in 1980 there is to be a review of the British aid programme. I hope that we shall continue to give as generous help as we can then 881 afford to what will still be a small population with a very low per capita income. This appears to be pre-eminently a case in which we should be able to call in our Commonwealth and European partners to help.
I warmly support the Bill and wish the people of Tuvalu success and good fortune in their independence. They have the friendship of this House, of this country and, I hope, of many other nations, too.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
I, shortly, add my welcome to the Bill and congratulations to the people of Tuvalu on joining the independent countries of the world. I do so as Secretary of the Anglo-South Pacific Group of the Commonwealth Parliament Association and as someone who comes from a long line of London Mission Society missionaries. My grandmother was born on a Polynesian island not within Bali but not very far away.
I echo everything that has been said about the importance of the Church at this stage in the development of Tuvalu. Almost every politician on the islands at present was trained as an LMS missionary. The small Pacific countries are training grounds for the Church, teaching, politics and everything else that is essential for a country's administration. Although we have rather less to be proud of in some ways in our treatment of the people of the Pacific over the past 100 years, in that respect we have a certain amount of which we can be proud.
I echo the remarks that have been made about the problems that Tuvalu will face with a population of only about 8,000. It is worth sounding a word of warning. The past few independence treaties—certainly for the Solomon Islands and the Gilbert Islands, the latter of which will be coming before us—have come not so much from passionate campaigning in the colonies for immediate independence but from a passionate desire in the Foreign Office to complete the proces of decolonisation. We may argue which is the greatest force, but both forces were present on this occasion.
There may be a tendency to sweep countries towards independence without thinking of the problems that will be 882 faced in the world by a country consisting of eight tiny islands with a population of only 8,000. I am glad that Tuvalu will joint the Lomé Convention. When I had discussions with the representatives of Tuvalu when they came to this country they expressed doubts about joining the convention, for the same reasons that the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) had doubts about Tuvalu's joining the United Nations. Those in Tuvalu are anxious not to involve themselves in membership of international organisations that presents them with unjustifiable expense.
I hope that I shall have an assurance from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State that the Foreign Office will consider arrangements for new accessions to the Lomé Convention by small countries to ensure that that does not involve them in unnecessary expense and does bring direct benefit to them.
Tuvalu will have a problem with diplomatic representation. I understand that it will be heavily reliant on Fiji to help it in representation throughout the world.
When Prime Minister Kirk became Prime Minister of New Zealand, some years ago, genuine efforts were made to try to establish a constitutional structure so that the small islands of the Pacific would not, if they did not wish to, have to go for total independence but could join some sort of organisation. It is sad that since the new regime in New Zealand there is not nearly so much thrust to try to organise something of that sort. In my view, such a move will be essential over the next 10–20 years.
Mention has been made of a 200-mile fishing limit. Japan has already signed an agreement with the Solomon Islands for fishing. It may move to try to make some arrangements with Tuvalu. If it does, the people of Tuvalu will need some negotiating strength vis-a-vis the great strength of Japan.
Tuvalu has a small land area but it will have a large sea area if it goes to a 200-mile limit or beyond. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State knows—he is the House's greatest expert on the sea bed—that as we run out of mineral resources on land the countries that have control over mineral resources under the sea will become enormously 883 more important, strategically. Therefore, they will become of enormously greater interest to the great Powers that want to get their hands on some of the resources.
If Tuvalu suddenly became important in any negotiations with any of the great Powers, it would not be in a strong position. That is why it is essential to Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and, when we come to them, the Gilbert Islands—it is to be hoped that when the French get round to stopping exploding atomic bombs in the Pacific this will apply to French Polynesia and New Caledonia—that when they reach independence they join the already independent countries, such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, and enter some sort of federation. If that is done, such countries will be in a position to get together to stand up against those from the rest of the world who want to make arrangements with them when the sea bed attains greater strategic importance. In that way they will be able to ensure that the resources are exploited properly and not in a way that does not assist them, causes pollution, or has a number of other bad side-effects.
I know that the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other agencies will be of assistance to the Government of Tuvalu in that respect, but in welcoming Tuvalu to its independence I very much hope that the British Government will do all in their power to help Tuvalu get together with its neighbours. I am sure that something of that sort will be necessary.
Finally, we need not have any fears about human rights and the people of Tuvalu. If anything, they have a few things to teach us about such matters. The Polynesians are one of the five original races in the world. Their record on human rights is a million times better than the record of Europeans. We need have no worry on that score, and there is no need to preach to them. It remains to welcome the people of Tuvalu to their independence and to give them our good wishes for their independence.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (South Angus)
I welcome the Bill and congratulate the people of Tuvalu on gaining their independence from the United Kingdom. The Scottish National Party appreciates their 884 desire to run their own affairs in their own way. We wish them well in their attempt to seek democratic self-government.
I hope that the people of Tuvalu will share my sense of irony and that of other Scots when we hear hon. Members in this place advocating so strongly self-government and the benefits of self-determination and producing a short Bill—it consists of only five pages—granting independent government to other people in the world. The five pages of the Bill show how easily independent government may be granted. I hope that hon. Members will take note of that.
We find that the Bill refers to "independence within the Commonwealth". That is exactly the SNP's policy for Scotland. Every membership card shows that. The remarkable agreement in principle on SNP policy is surely too good an occasion to miss.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument with great care. Do I understand that in expressing enthusiasm for the Bill he is also expressing enthusiasm for the independence of all islands? Is he, therefore, advocating such independence for the Shetlands?
§ Mr. Welsh
The hon. Gentleman's concern over the Shetlands is of recent origin. I am sure that it blinds his concern for the whole of Scotland. Our policy on the Shetlands is straightforward, and I recommend that he reads it. We believe in the maximum reasonable devolution of powers.
I was tempted to produce an amendment to the Bill to delete "Tuvalu" and insert "Scotland". Let me assure the House that I did not table this amendment because I do not want to spoil the independence celebrations on Tuvalu.
I was tempted to ascertain how serious the English are about giving independence to Tuvalu and to demonstrate to hon. Members now present how easy it would be to give similar independence to Scotland.
In passing, I note the new Tory philosophy—
§ Mr. R. A. McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)
Is there not a vital difference between giving independence to the 885 people of Tuvalu because they want it and giving it to the people of Scotland, who we know do not?
§ Mr. Welsh
That is an interesting point. I was about to note the new Conservative philosophy in regard to this matter. The Conservative Opposition's policy on Tuvalu, which we have heard enunciated today, is abundantly clearer than the shambles that they have created on devolution for Scotland, and thank goodness for that. Of the four criteria, I hope that Tory Opposition Members will do everything they can to honour the fourth when the time comes.
The people of Tuvalu may be lucky in that they have not discovered oil off their shores. Perhaps they are lucky that their geography makes them more distant from London than is Scotland. It is a surprise that Tuvalu did not have a referendum on this issue with a 40 per cent. blocking amendment. It is probably just as well that they escaped the attention of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) in their 1974 referendum.
Indeed, where is the inevitable and—I nearly said "iniquitous"—ubiquitous hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)? I am surprised that he has not scanned every word, comma and dot in the Bill in order to preserve the essential unity of the British colonies as he likes to maintain every possible vestige and ounce of London rule wherever it exists throughout the world. The hon. Gentleman should be here to attack Tuvalu's separatism, as is his wont elsewhere.
I find it ironic that Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Belize and other parts of the British Empire—good luck to them—should be given the blessing of the House on their complete independence, with no caveats, whereas month after month has been spent in this House and in another place haggling over every minor detail of even the most minimal of devolution powers to the ancient nation of Scotland. But, in looking at and approving this Bill, I leave that to the consciences of hon. Members. I hope that those who have spoken in support of the Bill will remember their words when they consider both devolution and a similar Scottish independence Bill when it arrives here.
This is, however, Tuvalu's day. I wish these nine islands and their almost 886 10,000 population well in their move towards independence among the States of the world. I welcome their independent status within the Commonwealth of nations, which Scotland will also one day soon achieve.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
The hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Welsh) has had his fun, and I think that we have all enjoyed it. When my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) intervened, he might have mentioned future independence for St. Kilda as well. One never knows where all this will end.
I follow the argument of the hon. Member for South Angus in perhaps being a little more controversial than some hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, for reasons which I shall make clear later. Before doing so, I want to say what I suppose almost all hon. Members should say on these occasions. I express a welcome and a word of good will for the country that is to become independent.
It is strange how, over the years, these occasions should have become numerous, but progressively less and less controversial. After the rather bitter debates over India immediately after the war, the tempo has diminished until now, unfortunately, the number of hon. Members taking part is small. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rhodesia."] I hear the word "Rhodesia". That is a very special case, as we know.
There is an irony about the Bill which the hon. Member for South Angus did not notice. The Ellice Islands were separated and given a new name and provided with legal authority to stand on their own, but a somewhat similar course of action has been denied to Ocean Island. I do not wish to compare unlike with unlike, but I think that I am entitled to make the point that if Tuvalu is very small, Nauru is smaller still, but not notably larger or smaller than Ocean Island was before it was devastated by the phosphate exploiters. Indeed, Nauru and Ocean Island go very much hand in hand. They were both exploited by the same organisation—the British Phosphate Commission. They are both small and compact islands. Whereas Nauru has been granted independence by the Australians, the future of Ocean Island remains in doubt.
887 I am using this debate, among other things, to give notice to the Government that I find it significant—I hope that I shall derive some satisfaction from this fact—that, whereas it was thought that there were to be three Bills providing for independence in the Pacific in this Session, there appear to be only two: the Solomon Islands Bill, with which we have already dealt, and the Tuvalu Bill with which we are now dealing. The third Bill was to relate to the Gilbert Islands.
I have a feeling that the absence of the Gilbert Islands from the agenda may not be unconnected with the controversy surrounding the future of Ocean Island. I give notice to the Government that if a Gilbert Islands independence Bill should materialise while I am still a Member of the House, it will be subject to a large number of amendments. Indeed, I can speak confidently on behalf of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine), who takes the same view as I do and is a more adept filibusterer than I am. I am sure that he, too, will put down a large number of amendments. If that occurs, I anticipate that that Bill will go through the kind of treatment that another place is dealing out to the Scotland Bill now.
The hon. Member for South Angus shakes his head sadly. He and I may have much the same views about the right of the other place to legislate. It is an interesting precedent. Constitutional Bills, by convention, have to be taken on the Floor of the House, whether they are highly controversial, like the Scotland Bill, or unexceptionable, like this Bill. Therefore, Government managers may look forward to a bit of trouble if there should be a Gilbert Islands Bill and if justice is not done for Ocean Island's rightful owners. We know that there has been a financial settlement, but their request, that Ocean Island should go into associate status with Fiji, where the Banabans have been living in exile for the last 30 years, still has to be resolved.
Having said that, I shall return to perhaps less controversial matters.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
Surely the case of Ocean Island and the Banabans is different from what we are discussing now. Ocean Island could not pos- 888 sibly support more than a few hundred people. The mass of the Banabans live on Fiji territory. It would be absurd to imagine that Ocean Island could be a constitutional entity in itself.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. This measure relates to the independence of Tuvalu, and we should remain there.
§ Mr. Lee
I shall walk circumspectly in view of your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I think that it is in order for me to say that the constituted colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, from which Tuvalu was hived off and is now to be made a fully independent country, was an arbitrary creation. Not only were the Ellice Islands arbitrarily lumped in with the Gilbert Islands; Ocean Island, which had existed separately for a considerable time, was lumped in in the same arbitrary fashion at the same time in the middle of the First World War. I think that that to that extent I can answer the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) without transgressing the Chair. There was a time when it would have been viable. As it is, the proper justice of the case can be met now only by Ocean Island going into Fiji.
I come back to the provisions of the Bill. I intervened earlier to ask the Minister about the constitutional arrangements in the Order in Council under the provisions of the British Settlements Act. Of course, that cannot be produced until there is the necessary legal authority for its provision. We would like to know—I echo the remarks of the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton), who made some observations about civil liberties, from which I am sure none of us dissent—what kind of entrenched clauses are likely to be found.
The hon. Member for Streatham was right to say that, sadly, one constitution after another in the Commonwealth has been ripped up, sometimes only shortly after being produced. The record must be held by Zanzibar. It became independent one month, there was a revolution a month later, and its constitution was thrown out of the window. There were endemic weaknesses in Zanzibar. As a sultanate it was an archaic nonsense. One cannot put too much faith in constitutional provisions, although there is a duty to provide them.
889 Are there to be entrenched clauses to deal with appointments to the judiciary and a public service commission to deal with Civil Service appointments? I assume that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council will remain the final court of appeal for certain matters. That has been the case in a number of territories, including many in the new Commonwealth, such as Fiji. A colonial governor once said somewhat acidly that he was vexed by the unhelpful decisions of distant judges, but if this were to be the case Tuvalu would be relieved of the responsibility and expense of having its own appellate court.
We are not faced with the same problem of nationality as we were when dealing with the Solomon Islands and which troubled some of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). It would be helpful to know whether there will be such provisions.
The people of Tuvalu have undertaken a difficult task by deciding to go it alone as an independent nation. I wish them all the luck in the world. Unlike Belize, they do not face a direct military threat. I suppose that that is the only reason why Belize is not yet an independent territory. The fear is that if we walk out somebody else, such as the Guatemalans, will walk in. But Tuvalu is small and economically vulnerable. There must be a risk of a measure of undesirable economic penetration. I hope that we shall be generous with them for a long time.
One cannot talk in terms of an open-ended commitment. No Government could do that in a technical sense because no Parliament can bind its successor. It would be unrealistic and basically undesirable for an open-ended commitment of an indefinite character to be made The recipient might not want such a commitment. But I should like more detail about what economic development is envisaged.
These islands are too far from any main centre of population to be a tourist attraction and for tourism to be a fruitful source of income. Although they are beautiful islands, they are not as beautiful as Samoa, which I had the pleasure of visiting three years ago. These islands are a little further off the beaten track. They do not have the urban amenities 890 required by the rich tourists who are the only tourists who are likely to go there for some time.
What my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West said about undersea resources is only too true. If resources were to be discovered the situation there might be transformed overnight. But it might also subject the people of Tuvalu to pressures and temptations and the possibility of improper interference from other sources. What type of defence assistance is to be provided? I regard most of British defence policy as singularly unrealistic and expensive but I have never subscribed to the view that there should be no such thing as defence. Perhaps in this context we can, for once, do something useful without it being too expensive.
I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West said about overseas representation. I assume that we shall continue to bear the diplomatic burden on Tuvalu's behalf for many purposes. I cannot believe that they will wish to beggar themselves by having diplomatic representations all over the world merely for prestige.
When one looks at progress towards independence it is strange to find that this territory has been under British administration for longer than many of the mainland territories in Africa, and yet those territories received independence some time ago. One of the principal reasons was not a reluctance on our part to grant independence but the difficulty of finding a way to make the islands economically viable.
§ Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)
We are dealing with territories which a few years ago we never contemplated would want independence or separatism because they were so small. Will it not be a real problem to make reasonable provision not only for defence but for education and health care in contemporary terms? It is a terrifying thought that the Bill states:the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the government of Tuvalu.It might as well say "no responsibility for the people". That is terrifying in a territory as small as this.
§ Mr. Lee
I understand that. The hon. Member has made a point of substance.
I hope that the idea of some kind of West Pacific federation will be promoted 891 in the next few years. Federations have fallen into disrepute—and for good reason. Two or three have been tried since the war. With the exception of the West Indies, which was a good idea—I sadly regret that it foundered—some are distinctly suspect in character. I am thinking of the South Arabian Federation and the Federation of South Rhodesia and Nyasaland. One would not regard them as happy precedents.
Such a federation would enable burdens to be shared among a number of territories which are small in potential and likely to remain so. If several East African mainland territories can have the East African Common Services Commission, which Tanzania, Kenya and, before the recent unspeakable events, Uganda joined, something similar should be possible among the Gilberts, the Solomons, Tuvalu and Fiji.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West referred to the Western Pacific High Commission. Although he might be technically correct that this concept originated in the nineteenth century, it was not until 1952 that the Western Pacific High Commission per se was separated from the governorship of Fiji, and then it lasted only for about 20 years. They incorporated the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, the Solomons, the Phoenix Islands and one or two other territories. When my hon. Friend the Minister replies to the debate I hope that he will say a few words by way of encouragement for the concept of a federation.
There is a University of the Pacific, which is another example of shared amenities among a number of different territories. It must be a daunting task to administer a university which has a catchment area larger than the areas of some continents. However, in that part of the world the people seem to be used to large distances and they can deal with them reasonably well.
I have made a few criticisms and raised a few controversial points, but like everyone else in the debate, from the far Left to the far Right, I have nothing but good will for these people and hope they have a prosperous and happy future, and that they will continue to want to stay in the Commonwealth, as they have so far indicated.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)
I rise to give a warm welcome to the Bill and to wish the people of Tuvalu, who are about to embark upon independence, well. I say that having visited a number of island nations in the South Pacific. The people are among the most friendly and kindly that I have met anywhere, and I am sure that that will stand Tuvalu in good stead as it approaches independence.
I have had the privilege of meeting many of the statesmen from Tuvalu, and I pay a tribute to them for the way in which they assisted in the constitutional conference and in the other conferences which took place in earlier months. I also pay tribute to the Government, and particularly to Lord Goronwy-Roberts for the outstanding part he played in winning the confidence of the statesmen he met and in conducting negotiations which, even when they are between countries which have bonds as strong as those between Tuvalu and Britain, are inevitably difficult.
A number of hon. Members have mentioned the courage of this small nation, and at this time we remember its immense courage during the Second World War. That courage will stand it in good stead for the tasks ahead. I am delighted that Tuvalu will have as head of State Her Majesty the Queen, that it intends to be a member of the Commonwealth and that it intends to sign the Lomé Convention. These steps will ensure the maintenance of strong bonds between Tuvalu and Britain. The two countries also have a strong common Christian heritage, a heritage which is perhaps stronger in Tuvalu these days than in Britain. It is noticeable that many of the leading people in that community are either in orders or have had the benefit of an education by missionaries and so on.
It is also particularly interesting to note that in that part of the world there are a number of British colonies that will be receiving independence at about the same time. Among those colonies is the Solomon Islands, the Bill on which we discussed a few weeks ago. I was unable to take part in that debate because I was in West Africa. There are also the Gilbert Islands, and we look forward to their receiving their just and due independence before too long. I hope that 893 as part of that independence settlement there will be justice for the Gilbertese and a proper place for the Banabans. One hopes that before long the New Hebrides will be following the same path.
There is, therefore, a series of island States in that fascinating part of the world all of which are approaching independence at about the same time. I am glad that the Under-Secretary emphasised that Australia and New Zealand will continue to play a leading part with Britain in providing various kinds of aid for this new nation, Tuvalu.
Against that welcoming background, I wish to raise two specific points that I hope the Under-Secretary will deal with. A number of hon. Members have suggested that a federal solution is probably the answer to these island nations in that part of the world. I wish to utter a word of caution about this. We in this country have had some experience in the last 20 to 25 years of trying to impose federal solutions. On the whole they have been unsuccessful. For us to appear to be trying to sugegst a solution of that kind at this time would be very unwise. After all, we are discussing independence for Tuvalu when only recently it separated of its own free will from the Gilbert Islands. It may be that in process of time these nations will wish to come closer together economically. However, it is far better that that should happen as a natural and evolutionary process and that there should be no suggestion of that type of solution being imposed or even suggested from this country.
I turn now to the economic future. The Under-Secretary rightly emphasised the importance of the aid and investment that is provided being used to ensure that the economy of this small nation becomes viable both in its own eyes and in the eyes of the world. I hope that the Minister, however, will be able to give the House more information about what is proposed. He did not give an adequate answer to the questions I put earlier. I hope that he will deal with this matter during the debate so that we may judge a little better the effectiveness and direction of British aid in particular.
The Minister mentioned that there would be budgetary aid. That is fully understood. That follows the normal pattern for a country of this kind. He also mentioned that there would be 894 capital development aid on grant terms and technical co-operation. He said that these three types of assistance had been agreed up to 1980 and that before they ran out further consideration could be given to additional assistance which might still be required. That follows a fairly traditional pattern, and I understand it. He said, however, that in addition there would be a special development fund with no time limit. It would be helpful at this stage to have a little more information as to the nature of the fund and the sort of projects that it is intended should be promoted by it.
I wish to deal with the Lomé Convention. I am delighted that Tuvalu, along with one or two other countries, such as Fiji, which are already benefiting from the Lomé Convention, intends to sign it.
However, I hope that Her Majesty's Government recognise that Tuvalu will need a lot of assistance from Her Majesty's Government in making its appropriate applications to the Lomé Convention. One cannot expect a country of this size, taking on independence, to know its way around Brussels and to know how to make applications under the Lomé Convention for the various grants that are available.
I hope, therefore, that the Under-Secretary will give an assurance that in relation to this particular form of aid which will be available Her Majesty's Government will do their utmost to ensure that the Government of Tuvalu understand the procedures in order to make applications, because I feel that they will welcome the advice and help of Her Majesty's Government in ensuring that they are able to gain whatever is their due under the Lomé Convention.
I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able this evening to enlarge a little on those two points.
I conclude, as I began, by giving a warm welcome to the Bill and by sending, along with the whole House, warmest wishes to the Government and people of Tuvalu as they embark on their independence.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
The achievement of independence by the people of Tuvalu is very much to be welcomed, and I join with other hon. Members in adding my good wishes.
895 I believe that it is right that all peoples, even those living in remote islands constituting only small populations, should have the right to self-government and the right of their national self-determination to be recognised. We do it in the case of larger populations, and I think it is equally desirable that we should do it in a case such as that of the people of Tuvalu. I therefore express my support for the Bill very warmly.
At a time such as this, however, it would be wrong if we did not recognise the difficulties, to which hon. Members have already drawn attention, which confront a small population of 10,000 people in facing up to the very many problems which independence will bring. In much larger territories, political independence has not always been followed by economic independence. Indeed, the discovery of some source of economic wealth has frequently led to the end of effective political sovereignty for people of a particular territory. In other words, colonialism has all too frequently been succeeded by neocolonialism.
The bitterness that some citizens of Tuvalu may feel at present about past events could in certain circumstances be paralleled by future bitterness produced by difficulties arising from the discovery of some source of wealth. In these circumstances, I hope that we shall give all possible help to the people of Tuvalu in overcoming any problems that arise in this way.
As has been said, Tuvalu will undoubtedly need economic aid, and aid in terms of grants may not be sufficient. The people of Tuvalu may well wish to visit this country. I hope that we shall be prepared to welcome to Britain the citizens of Tuvalu who wish to undertake educational or training courses and that we shall be prepared in the future to endeavour to assist them with all the technical, educational and training aid that they require. I hope that we shall assist them by providing them with personnel if that appears to be what they desire.
It is important that in a debate of this sort it does not appear that we are merely washing our hands of certain islands and certain people which have become troublesome in the conditions of the 896 modern world. I very much welcome their independence and wish the people of Tuvalu well, but I hope that they will continue to feel that they have friends in this country. I hope that we shall assure them that in the future we shall be prepared to give them tangible proof of our friendship, not by undermining their independence but by offering them any reasonable form of assistance that they may require.
I believe that over the years many difficulties will be faced by a people in a small territory such as this, but if they genuinely feel that they can turn to people in Britain, or elsewhere for that matter, for assistance without the feeling that they will merely be subjected to some form of economic thraldom, this will greatly assist them in making progress and in achieving proper standards of life and decent conditions.
On this basis, I take great pleasure in welcoming the Bill and wishing all prosperity to the people of Tuvalu in their independent future.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)
I merely want to add one or two remarks to what has already been said.
Naturally, like all others who have participated in the debate, I support the Bill and I wish everyone in this very small territory every good fortune in the years ahead. At the same time, as I intimated in an intervention earlier, this is something on a scale completely different from the kind of Bill that was passed years ago when we first embarked on the very difficult operation of extending self-government to territories of differing sizes, histories and attainments. As I intimated, it was not long ago that we did not contemplate the possibility that territories of such limited resources and such small populations as this would be likely to embark upon self-government.
In one sense, I suppose that our obligation to a territory of this size may be deemed to be greater than was the case with a much larger territory such as Nigeria, with its far greater resources. Indeed, it can be said that Britain has still sufficient wealth to do something for the smaller territories. We simply do not have the resources to do much for some of the great territories such as India and 897 Pakistan and countries of that size, but I imagine that for the foreseeable future we can hope to do something if countries such as Tuvalu unfortunately have probblems which cannot now me foreseen.
§ Sir R. Gower
No, I am not saying that. I am pointing out some of the very serious problems that are likely to arise for a territory as small as this. If the hon. Gentleman cannot draw a distinction between a small, remote territory in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and a country such as Scotland, which is part of the single island of England, Scotland and Wales and is integrated with the life of England and Wales, I just cannot understand his argument. We are dealing with something very different. I was trying to emphasise some of the difficulties.
That is why there is something almost sombre about the phraseology of Clause 1, which says that after independence dayHer Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the government of Tuvalu.It is almost a frightening phrase. It is almost like saying that we should have no responsibility for the people of Tuvalu. I suppose that legally that is the position. This is the legal language in which the Bill must be couched. But we have a very great moral responsibility for the people of this territory, and of similar territories, although there are very few in the particular position of this territory. They will have very great problems.
The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) said that some of the people will be coming here on visits. Of the 8,000 or so people there, how many does he think will be able to afford to come here on a visit? It is inconceivable that many of them would be able to afford it.
§ Mr. Newens
I entirely agree with what the hon. Member has said. I hope that we will endeavour to assist people in making that tremendous journey if they want to come to here for education and training. That was precisely my point.
§ Sir R. Gower
There is nothing in the Bill or in the associated arrangements to ensure that. Perhaps it is merely a pious hope, with which I agree. However, we should be doing something more. There is nothing envisaged beyond what was outlined by the Minister at the beginning of the debate.
I share the hope of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) that there will not be compulsion. My hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) was quite right in saying that there must not be compulsion or a dogmatic approach to the problem of a federal solution. On the other hand, we should be persuasive in pointing out the advantages that could accrue from some getting together of these territories. With our constitutional know-how, we could try to persuade territories such as Tuvalu to co-operate more than they at present intend to do.
There must be some organisation beyond anything that we have at present to assist territories such as this, which are too weak. Tuvalu will be a weak and frail State for some time to come. It will not have the resources to arrange for reasonable education for its citizens, to ensure modern health treatment and so on. It will need help, encouragement and finance from the countries which have the means to give it assistance.
I welcome the principle of the Bill, but I am not entirely happy about the way in which this small territory is prematurely plunging into the great responsibility of independence without the resources to do so. While I hope that all will be well, I have anxieties. Tuvalu is not the sort of territory which can look forward to prosperity in the years to come. We must consider the possibility of its encountering great difficulties. Future Parliaments should be generous beyond the terms of the Bill or the arrangements outlined by the Minister.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
I had not intended to become involved in the debate, but some of my colleagues in the corridors compelled me to make a little contribution. Representing an Irish constituency and knowing something of the history of Ireland, I had always believed that when independence for any territory was being discussed in the House the corridors and the Chamber would 899 be packed and there would be an atmosphere of tension. I now find fewer than 20 people present to discuss the independence of Tuvalu.
There are not many people in the House who are aware of the pronunciation of the name of this territory. I have heard various pronunciations. In the Bill, we are giving independence to a territory which was formerly part of the British Commonwealth. The hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) said that this small territory with a small population might be seeking independence prematurely. When, in the view of Conservative Members, did any part of the British Empire or any colony seek independence other than prematurely? If we had been talking about whether it was right at this time, India, Pakistan, Kenya and other parts of Africa and all the colonial settlements which were formerly governed by Britain would still be part of the Commonwealth.
I recognise that there is only a small population in Tuvalu. The Government would not be extra generous if they ensured that the people of Tuvalu had a good economic future. It may be that the people cannot do better and that they are not facing the facts of life. The economic considerations of Tuvalu may make them worse off than they are now, but they have an ideology. They believe that they can govern their territory themselves rather than be governed by someone 10,000 or 20,000 miles away. They may be wrong.
I hope that the Government will some day, possibly sooner rather than later, see the wisdom of arriving at the conclusion that it may be easier not to govern a reluctant island just off the mainland of Britain.
§ Sir Raymond Gower
The point that I made in my speech was that in ending our responsibility for the government of the people of Tuvalu we are not ending our responsibility for the people themselves.
§ Mr. Fitt
I find that a hard distinction to draw. We hear statements every day from Amnesty International and other people about the moral obligation to look after the interests of the people and of the country. Perhaps we shall have the opportunity to discuss those issues as well.
900 The hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Welsh) said that there was a similarity between what is happening with Tuvalu and devolution of power from England to Scotland. I am as much a nationalist, though in relation to Irish nationalism, as any Scottish National Party Member, but it would not be totally fair to compare what is happening in the Pacific with what is happening here.
§ Mr. Fitt
I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. I have already indicated that there is not a right time for anyone wanting to break away from the British Commonwealth or the British Empire.
Fortunately, on the Labour Benches—I refer particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens)—there are many people who for many years have fought a tenacious battle to ensure that people who wanted to attain independence, whether they were right or wrong and whether there was a rosy or a bleak future for them, had the opportunity to find out for themselves.
I hope that this small country, with its small population, will have a rosy future. I wish the people of Tuvalu all that they wish themselves, but I hope that future British Governments will not take the view that because the island has cut its links and is no longer part of the Commonwealth we should disregard its economic future. I hope that British Governments will be as generous to this small group of people as they have been to others in the past.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Luard
I shall try to reply to as many as possible of the points raised by hon. Members. The debate has shown that there is no controversy about the main purpose of the Bill. We all welcome independence for Tuvalu and wish the best possible future for its Government and people. Hon. Members have referred mainly to detailed points about the way in which the island's future will be safeguarded, arrangements made by the British Government and so on.
901 The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) referred to the criteria that he and the Opposition consider when a question of independence arises—for example, do the people wish to have independence? There is no doubt that the people of Tuvalu wish independence for themselves. Are their constitutional rights and liberties adequately safeguarded? I said earlier that such arrangements had been made. We were concerned about this point, and I shall mention it in greater detail later. Has the economic future of the territory been adequately safeguarded? I said quite a lot about this, and I shall elaborate about the precise ways in which we hope to give assistance in future.
The hon. Member for Streatham raised specific points that he said had been brought up by the opposition group at the independence conference. One was the feeling among some people in Tuvalu that they might have been able to have a share of some of the phosphate revenues for Ocean Island. The Government of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands had a share of those revenues when Tuvalu was still in association with the Gilberts. This was not primarily a matter for us. Tuvalu was asking for separation from the Gilbert Islands, and that had to be conceded by the Government of the Gilbert Islands. Not surprisingly, they made certain conditions and one was that they would retain control of the phosphate revenues fund. This was accepted voluntarily by the representatives of Tuvalu. They may have raised certain matters, but they accepted that they could not claim any share of those revenues. Discussion is continuing about Ocean Island and the Banabans in that respect, but that is a separate problem.
The hon. Member for Streatham also raised the claims made during the independence conference that Tuvalu should be able to make a claim to one of the Phoenix and Line Islands. This claim could be conceded only by the Government of the Gilbert Islands, and they believe that all the Phoenix and Line Islands should be part of the Gilbert territories. They were not prepared to concede the Tuvalu claim, but it was left that this was a matter that was open to the Government of Tuvalu to continue to raise with the Gilbert Islands 902 in any manner open to them. They accepted that in accepting the proposals for independence.
The hon. Member for Streatham said that one of the opposition leaders had spoken with some bitterness at the independence conference and had felt that Tuvalu had been neglected by the previous colonial Government. I think that this was said more in hope for the future than in regret for the past. I think that the leader in question felt that Tuvalu was not the most prosperous place in the world. No one denies that, but we have been engaged in a fairly extensive development programme over several years and Tuvalu was sharing in the general development of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in previous years. More important, we have made substantial commitments of economic aid in future. Those who went away from the independence conference were reasonably well gratified with our offers—and that includes members of the opposition group in Tuvalu.
I was asked about future arrangements for the defence of Tuvalu. A territory with 9,000 people cannot expect to be able to engage in extensive defence forces of its own. No one in Tuvalu, least of all the Government, has any great ambitions in that direction. Neither we nor the Government of Tuvalu believe that the island is subject to any external threat. It does not expect to be invaded by its neighbours, and the fact that it has no defence forces is not a matter of great concern to the Government of Tuvalu.
Arrangements to help directly or indirectly, in the defence of the island could be made only on a regional basis. We all accept that the long-term future and security of a little territory in the Pacific must lie in close co-operative arrangements with its neighbours. However, if the Government of Tuvalu asked us for help in acquiring a fisheries protection capability we would be prepared to give training and assistance for that, but that would be help of a special sort designed to help them to help themselves.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) asked a number of questions. He welcomed the fact that Tuvalu was to be party to the Lomé Convention but wondered whether more assistance could be given to small States of this sort. We have given a good deal 903 of help. Of course, we recognise that, in the initial stages, we must help in making such arrangements. For example, immediately after the independence conference we made arrangements for the Chief Minister of Tuvalu to go to Brussels. Our representative there arranged for him to meet significant figures in the EEC Commission in order to set Tuvalu on its way to making such arrangements. I am sure that we shall continue to be willing to give whatever assistance of this sort is needed, as we do for other small territories.
My hon. Friend also mentioned other problems faced by small States when they become independent, particularly the fact that there was a need for regional arrangements, possibly even for a federation in the area, and he stressed that these small island territories are able to claim large areas of the ocean as part of their 200-mile zone, both for fisheries purposes and for claiming the resources beneath the seas.
My hon. Friend seemed to regard this as representing a threat to them because those attributes might be attractive to large Powers which might feel tempted to try to get their hands on them. I look at this in another way. The claim that these territories are able to lay to large parts of the surface of the waters and areas beneath the seas represents one of the few resources at their disposal. These resources should not be minimised, because they provide the best hope for the future of many of these territories. They need not fear that they will be subject to claims from elsewhere. Such claims can usually be settled through normal diplomatic negotiations, as similar fisheries claims are being settled all over the world.
My hon. Friend mentioned the need for co-operative arrangements. Tuvalu will be represented in the South Pacific Fishing Agency, when it is formed, which will negotiate fishing rights on behalf of small territories with fishing fleet owners from outside the area. That is one arrangement which will assist Tuvalu.
The hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Welsh) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) talked about the prospects for independence of some other territory with which this debate is not concerned. 904 That semed an abuse of the procedures of the House. As the hon. Member for South Angus said, today is the day of Tuvalu, and most of us came here to discuss its affairs and to wish it well. It is not a constructive approach to spend most of the time on the affairs of Scotland. However, the constitutional futures of both Ocean Island and Scotland are being debated elsewhere and these matters will be resolved through normal constitutional procedures.
§ Mr. Luard
There is one general principle which the hon. Gentleman totally ignored, and that is the only one which is relevant here. We are talking about a territory whose people are almost unanimously clamouring for independence. That is not the case with Scotland. A handful of hon. Members claim to want that, yet every opinion poll that I have seen shows that little more than 20 per cent. of the population of Scotland—I am sorry to devote any time to Scotland at this moment—might want independence. There may be an opportunity of testing their wishes in the near future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth mentioned the arrangements to safeguard human rights after independence. As I said, it is never possible to publish the constitution at the time of an independence debate of this kind—it will be published shortly—but obviously its text is known. I assure my hon. Friend that those points are adequately safeguarded.
A whole chapter of the constitution is concerned with the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual—the right to life and liberty, the security of the person, protection of the law, freedom of conscience, of expression, of assembly and association, protection for the privacy of the home and of other property, protection from deprivation of property without compensation, provision that no person shall be deprived of his life intentionally, protection of the right to personal liberty, and freedom from inhumane treatment and from slavery and 905 forced labour. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend.
However, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West that few peoples in the world have less need of special protection of their rights than the peoples of the Pacific areas, who have traditionally shown great concern in that respect.
I can also assure my hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth that a right to appeal to the Privy Council will be maintained and included in the constitution.
My hon. Friend also asked for more detail about the types of development that we hope to assist in Tuvalu. As I said, we are anxious to work in cooperation with the Government of Tuvalu. What happens will depend on the application for assistance that they make, but I can suggest the kind of areas where we think development assistance will be of value.
Obviously, there is great scope for the development of fisheries, with which we are already giving assistance. There is scope for the development of coconuts and the copra industry—one of the few crops which can be grown in this small territory is the coconut. We shall also be helping with the development of the handicrafts industry and to some extent with subsistence agriculture. There is also the possibility of developing fish-related industries.
My hon. Friend also mentioned regionalism.
§ Mr. Lee
On an allied point, has the question of currency been considered? This is not strictly a matter of economic development, but newly independent countries sometimes like to mark their break with the past by creating their own currency—often with disastrous consequences, because it has no negotiable value and crashes to the floor. I hope that the Government of Tuvalu will not fall into that trap and that they will be counselled to that effect by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Luard
So far as I know, that question has not arisen, but I will look into the matter and write to my hon. Friend if necessary. As he knows, I was not myself concerned in these negotiations.
906 Regionalism is an important question considering the future of Tuvalu. My views fall between those of my hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth and those of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean). We certainly cannot impose any kind of federation or federalism in the Pacific area. That must be a matter for the peoples and Governments of those islands, and it is up to them to enter into discussions and negotiations.
However, no one would deny that there must be the closest co-operation between those peoples and Governments. Some of them are small territories. They have a number of common problems. We should all wish to see closer co-operation under which they can face those problems with common solutions. Apart from the effort and activities of the Governments themselves, a number of outside bodies may be able to help.
The British Government will give whatever help they can, although we are no longer closely involved. Obviously, the Governments of Australia and New Zealand will wish to take a close interest in the affairs of these territories and to help in promoting co-operative arrangements. Some international organisations may be concerned. The Commonwealth may have a role to play. The regional meeting in Sydney promoted by the Australian Government earlier this year was a valuable initiative which may set a precedent, not only in this area but in other parts of the Commonwealth. I hope that that kind of regional arrangement will be promoted and sustained by the Commonwealth.
If I may give my personal view, I should like to see the United Nations playing a larger role in assisting newly independent territories which face great difficulty. I said that the UNDP will be giving some economic assistance, but perhaps the United Nations could play a larger role.
The hon. Member for Somerset, North spoke of the warm and friendly character of the people of Tuvalu and, indeed, of the whole area. I entirely endorse what he said. I welcome what he said about the role of my noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, who has had the entire responsibility—I hope it was a pleasant one—of undertaking these negotiations and whose very valuable contribution I personally know very 907 well. I am glad to join in the tribute paid to him by hon. Members today.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about a federal future in the area. I have already covered that aspect.
The hon. Gentleman asked me in particular about the type of aid which the Special Development Fund would be providing. I have indicated the areas in which that money might be used. What is specific is that the projects will be proposed by the Government of Tuvalu rather than by the British Government. There will be no time limit. The other types of assistance are in regard to moneys to be spent largely by 1980, and we shall then consider what we can do for the future. This is a continuing programme involving £2½million, and it will remain in existence for some time to come.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about the possibility of giving assistance in helping the Tuvalu Government to make their arrangements under the Lomé agreement. As I have said, we are prepared to give help of this kind. We have already given some help, and we shall continue to do so in the future.
I do not think that there was anything in the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) with which I could disagree. I confirm that we shall by no means be washing our hands of Tuvalu and the people of Tuvalu when the independence Bill is passed. Clearly, we shall not be doing that. I mentioned the development assistance, which will be continuing for a considerable time in the future. We shall be maintaining contacts through the usual channels. We shall have diplomatic representation through our High Commission in Suva. Tuvalu will be maintaining links of the same kind with the fellow members of the Commonwealth, so that there will be a number of forms of contact and communication. We shall take account of the points that my hon. Friend mentioned in his speech in considering how our development aid should be used in the future.
I do not take quite such a gloomy view as my hon. Friend took or as the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) took in his speech. The hon. Gentleman seemed to feel that it would be impossible for such a very small territory to survive at all. I do not think that this is necessarily 908 the case, provided that our own Government, above all, and others, such as New Zealand and Australia—as well as the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the international organisations that I have mentioned—continue to play an active part in giving assistance. I believe that with such assistance, territories of this kind can survive perfectly well and become better able to survive in the future on their own resources than they are now.
§ Mr. Newens
I am sure that my hon. Friend did not understand me to take such a gloomy view that I did not believe that Tuvalu would be able to survive. I very much welcome the Bill. I merely asked about certain forms of aid and in particular about the ability of the people of Tuvalu to visit this country and to receive education and training here.
§ Mr. Luard
The people of Tuvalu will be able to qualify for educational grants in the same way as other people from developing countries, and in many cases those grants will provide for funds to enable them to come to this country.
It was the hon. Member for Barry who was taking a very gloomy view as to the possibilities of the people of Tuvalu being able to survive on their own. My answer is that they will not be entirely on their own. They will have friends who are willing, ready and anxious to help. I believe that the people of Tuvalu will develop capacities of their own and industries of their own—above all, the fishing industry—which will make them better equipped than they are today to survive on their own feet.
I hope that I have answered the main points raised in the debate. I reiterate, in conclusion, the very warm welcome that we in the Government give to the Government and people of Tuvalu on attaining independence. I wish to say how pleased we are that they will remain a fellow member with us in the Commonwealth. On behalf of the Government and of the House, I extend to Tuvalu our very warm wishes for the future.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Jim Marshall.]
§ Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without amendment.909
§ 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.