HL Deb 11 November 1947 vol 152 cc548-55

2.35 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill is technical and legal but it is of a formal nature. It is intended to make in our Statute Book the amendments rendered necessary by the creation of trust territories under the United Nations in place of Mandated Territories under the League of Nations. It would be of interest to your Lordships to know that of the Mandates set up by the League ten are now administered as trust territories under the Charter of the United Nations. They are, firstly, British Togoland and Cameroons and Tanganyika which are now administered under United Kingdom trusteeship; New Guinea now under Australian trusteeship; Western Samoa now under New Zealand trusteeship; French Togoland and Cameroons now under French trusteeship; and Ruanda-Urundi under Belgian trusteeship. In none of these cases did the placing of the territories under trusteeship involve any change in the administering authority. In other words, the State now responsible for the trusteeship is the same State as formerly exercised the Mandate.

While there was no change in the administering authority in the territories to which I have just referred, there was a change in the case of the former Japanese Mandates in the Pacific. These are now under United States trusteeship. There has also been a slight change in the case of Nauru Island. The Mandate for Nauru was conferred by the League on "His Britannic Majesty." In practice the administration was carried out by Australia in agreement with the Governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The trusteeship agreement approved two weeks ago by the General Assembly of the United Nations designates the Governments of Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand as the joint authority for the administration of Nauru, but it also provides for the actual administration to be carried out by Australia unless otherwise agreed by these three Governments. Of the other Mandates set up by the League of Nations, three have become four independent States—namely, Iraq, Syria, the Lebanon and Transjordan. The only other two Mandates established by the League were Palestine and South-West Africa, and these are still administered in accordance with the Mandate.

The International Trusteeship System set up by the Charter of the United Nations provides for the administration of trust territories by a single member of the United Nations; by two or more members jointly; or by the United Nations as a whole. Article 77 of the Charter also provides that the territories which may be placed under trusteeship need not be limited to the former Mandates. As a result of these changes, it has been necessary to examine their effect on our Statute Book. There are numerous Acts of Par- liament which apply or refer to mandated territories. There are references to Mandates exercised by His Majesty without specifying which of His Governments—to United Kingdom Mandates; to Dominion Mandates and to foreign Mandates. They occur in a number of Acts dealing with a great variety of subjects, for instance, Colonial development, air navigation, the Army Act, Customs and so on. In many cases an Act passed for the United Kingdom contains a clause authorizing the extension of the Act by an Order in Council to a territory under United Kingdom Mandate in the same way as to a Colony. It may be said broadly that the purpose of the reference in existing Acts is to put mandated territories in the same position as other dependencies of the country (whether British or foreign) exercising the Mandate.

When the League of Nations came to an end, the Mandatory Powers declared their intention to continue for the time being administering mandated territories in accordance with the Mandates. But it cannot be said to be certain, as a matter of interpretation of our Statutes, that the references in them to mandated territories continue to apply, even to a, mandated territory not placed under trusteeship; for example, Palestine. It is much more difficult to say that these references apply to a mandated territory which has been placed under trusteeship. For these reasons we must amend our Statutes. The main purpose of this Bill is, therefore, to provide that existing enactments referring to mandated territories shall apply to those territories which have become trust territories. Where mandated territories have not become trust territories but continue to be administered in accordance with the provisions of the Mandate, the Bill provides that existing enactments shall continue to apply to them. The Bill does not provide for any change in our Statutes unless there is a change in the Government responsible for administering the territory.

Briefly, the details of the Bill are as follows. The first thing it does, by paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of Clause 1, is to put a trust territory administered by a single State in the same position as far as the application of our Statutes is concerned as if the State was administering it under mandate. Subsection (2) of Clause 1 gives power to adapt our Statutes where there is a change in the State re- sponsible for administering a trust territory. There has been a change in the case of the Japanese Mandates; these territories, as I have already mentioned, are now under United States trusteeship. Subsection (3) of Clause 1 simply provides that references in Acts of Parliament to "mandated territories" shall not be affected by the termination of the League of Nations. Its main application is to Palestine and to South-West Africa. Therefore, this subsection will apply for the interpretation of future as well as past Acts, since it may well be convenient to continue to refer to Palestine and South-West Africa as "mandated territories." The subsection also covers retrospectively the interim period between the termination of the League and the placing of the various trust territories under trusteeship. Subsection (4) of Clause 1 provides that the Bill shall operate to a limited extent on subordinate legislation as well as on the Statutes themselves. This is to avoid having to make amending regulations and so on, on the lines of the Bill in every case. The remaining provisions of the Bill are supplemental.

To sum up, the object of the Bill is to change the designation of "mandated territories" to "trust territories," but in the case of those which have not become trust territories to preserve its validity. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Hall.)

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, if I may say a few words now, this is a Bill which relates to some very very complex provisions. I confess that, when I read it, I was left somewhat in the dark as to its real intention and object. A flood of light has been thrown on that matter by the opening remarks of the noble Viscount who has introduced the measure; it is much clearer now to me and, I hope, to other members of this House. On the other hand, I must confess that, if I am now no longer in doubt as to the object of the Bill, I still have certain doubts as to whether some clauses in the Bill are so exprossed as to carry out precisely that object. There will be opportunities, with the assistance of the noble Lords opposite, of considering any slight Amendments which may be useful. Subject to that, I certainly commend the Second Reading of the Bill.

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, has explained very lucidly the purpose of this Bill. I think I can assure the noble Lord at once that the dangerously obstructive propensities which, as noble Lords are aware, are being attributed to this side of the House, are not likely to be exercised with regard to it. I say that with more emphasis because, inasmuch as this Bill originates in this House, it is not governed by the Parliament Act of 1911.

The noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, has expressed certain doubt as to whether some of the phraseology carries out the purpose of the Bill. I, like the noble Viscount, have some slight doubts, too, and I think they are probably best reserved to a later stage. But may I mention two of them now. They are these: In the first place, in subsection (2) of Clause 1, a power is taken actually to amend an enactment by an Order in Council. Orders in Council, of course, frequently take powers to interpret in that way, but I was not aware that power actually to amend the language of a measure had been taken in that way. I should be interested if I could have a little further enlightenment upon that point. It is understood, of course, that such amendments would be for transitional or consequential purposes, as laid down in the Bill, but "transitional" is a word of very doubtful meaning. It might be that, under the language of this Bill, where the control of territory passes from one Dominion to another or from a Dominion to this country, there would be an opportunity of altering completely by Order in Council some enactment referring to it. I should like to have further light thrown on that because I think it is important that such points should be watched by Parliament.

Secondly, I feel some doubt with regard to subsection (3) of the same clause. The noble Viscount, I think, said that it referred only to Palestine and South-West Africa. Its application to Palestine, of course, is very natural, but I am perplexed as to how this Parliament has any responsibility whatever for Bills or Acts dealing with South-West Africa. I understood that that was entirely a South-African affair, and why this Parliament is invoked to say anything whatever about South-West Africa, I really do not understand. Perhaps the noble Viscount would enlighten me on that matter.

Germane to the Bill, although not actually covered by it, is one other consideration about which I should like to say a word. There have been suggestions at Lake Success, at the meetings of the Assembly, that the other Colonial territories belonging to the British Empire should now all become trustee territories. I hasten to say from this side of the House that we entirely and whole-heartedly endorse the attitude taken up in regard to that subject by the Colonial Secretary at Lake Success. We have taken the lead in putting mandated territories under trust, but I hope that there is No 1ntention whatever of proceeding to tamper with the structure of the rest of the British Empire. With those observations, I think I can fairly say that we on this side of the House regard this as a timely Bill. Subject to some small Amendments which may be necessary, it will have our support.



My Lords, the noble Viscount moving the Second Reading described this Bill as a highly legal and technical Bill. I confess that I read it with great care two or three times. I do think that I know a little about the mandate trustee system, but I failed to understand really what the Bill was meant to effect. Now that the noble Viscount has given an explanation, it seems to me clearer. We agree in principle with what is proposed in the Bill. We should like, however, to reserve our rights to make any Amendments necessary at a later stage.



My Lords, I can but express my thanks to the noble Lords for being so generous to myself in relation to the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a highly technical Bill, and with regard to the points which have been put by the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, I should be quite happy to arrange for the noble Viscount to meet some of the legal members of the Department and satisfy himself upon the points which he mentioned. The same thing can be said to the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham. With regard to the last point which the noble Lord put, I can assure him that the Secretary of State for the Colonies did express the definite opinion of His Majesty's Government in relation to any suggestion about the transfer of any Colonial Dependencies to the trusteeship system. There is no doubt at all about that decision.

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, could the noble Viscount say one word about Soyth-West Africa, because it seems to me very mysterious that that Mandate should come into any Bill before this Parliament. I was on the original Mandates Commission. Consequently I was often at the Colonial Office, and subsequently I became British High Commissioner in South Africa. On nothing is the Union of South Africa more sensitive than the fact that from the beginning the Mandate for South-West Africa was given by the principal Allied and Associated Powers, and confirmed by the League of Nations, to the Union of South Africa alone, and not to the British Commonwealth or Empire; and this country has nothing to do with it. One knows, too, their strong feelings on this matter. There is still a very large German population there—a population which, before the war and in the days of Hitler, Germany having joined the League of Nations, made it clear that they were German citizens and subject to the German Reich and all that that meant vis-à -vis the Union of South Africa—and there is a German majority still in their principal port. Before we include a reference to that Mandate in any Statute of this Parliament, I should like to be assured that the Government of the Union of South Africa, who have been placed in an intolerable position, have been consulted and are agreeable to it.

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, I think there must be some misunderstanding and I do hope that it has not arisen as the result of anything which I have said. It is quite true that this Mandate was granted entirely and absolutely to South Africa.

This Bill will provide that in the event of any Statute in relation to ourselves and South Africa making any mention of mandated territory, the designation could be changed if necessary in the event of a trusteeship applying to South-West Africa. A United Kingdom Act may also apply to the trusteeship terri- tories of which the United States of America have been given the trust. There might be some reference in the Statutes—I think there is in one or two cases—to Japanese mandated territory, and there must be a change from Japanese mandated territory to United States trust territory. I think the proposal is on those lines, but I will certainly consult my legal advisers and will write to the noble Lord in relation to this matter.

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.