HL Deb 23 July 1956 vol 199 cc11-39

2.56 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the introduction of this measure this afternoon is an event of historic significance in the history of the British Caribbean, for it brings to actual fruition a conception which has been maturing now for over three-quarters of a century. Fronde, the historian, in his book The English in the West Indies records that as long ago as 1870 he had a conversation (to quote his words) with a high colonial official specially connected with the West Indian department, in which the federation of the islands … was spoken of as a measure already determined on". But although the idea of a Caribbean Federation existed as long ago as 1870, there were many reasons why it could not become a reality, either then or for many years to come.

As your Lordships know, the Caribbean islands are remote one from another—it is nearly 1,000 miles from Jamaica to Trinidad, and the inhabitants of the islands, varying from one another, as they do in origin and history, were long accustomed to living and thinking in isolation from their neighbours. Indeed, were it not for the advent of the aeroplane and its recent rapid development for civil puposes, I doubt whether even to-day a Federation of the Caribbean islands would have been possible. On the other hand, if improved communications have supplied the means of federation, certainly the increased standard of education and political sophistication in the Caribbean has also increased the desire for federation amongst its peoples. To-day there is no doubt that they are infinitely more aware of their neighbours and of the need to combine in order to be of some account in a competitive world.

Here let me emphasise once again the fact that federation has been regarded by successive Secretaries of State as a matter of decision for the people of the Caribbean themselves. In 1922, my noble friend Lord Halifax reported that opinion in the West Indies was against federation, and even in 1932 the Closer Union Congress came to nothing. However, attention was once again focused on the problems of the West Indies and the possible advantages of Federation by the Royal Commission of 1939 under the chairmanship of the late Lord Moyne. And its Report led to the setting up in 1940 of the body known as the Development and Welfare Organisation of the West Indies, The work of this Organisation has probably done more than anything else to bring the people of the British Caribbean together.

I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to its present Chairman, Sir Stephen Luke, who is known to some of your Lordships, and who has done outstanding work in this field. Since its inception the organisation has been a focus of ever-increasing importance for the pan-Caribbean activities. both social and economic, of the West Indian people; and, of course, the war itself stimulated co-ordination because of the necessity of considering a number of problems, such as those of supplies, on a regional, rather than on a territorial, scale.

Nor indeed is this organisation the only example of regional co-operation in the Caribbean to-day. It has been said. I think rightly, that the first truly pre-federal activity was the development of West Indian cricket, but apart from this we must not forget the happy establishment of that great institution, the University College of the West Indies, where the West Indian leaders of the future are being trained and will in the process have useful experience of working together. Nor should one overlook the extremely valuable activities of such a body as the Regional Economic Committee for the West Indies, British Guiana and British Honduras, which was established by the West Indian Governments themselves, and which has done so much to advise those Governments on economic matters of regional significance and to serve as a means of exchanging information between them.

Of course, as anybody who knows the Caribbean will be aware, there are a whole lot of other regional bodies, such as the Regional Labour Board and the British Caribbean Air Transport Advisory Council, which were established through the agency of the Comptroller for Development and Welfare in the West Indies, whose functions will in due course be absorbed by the Federal Government. I am sure of one thing: that these examples of co-operation which exist to-day between the West Indian territories are a happy augury for the future of the Federation.

To resume this brief history, by 1945 Mr. Oliver Stanley, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, felt that the time was ripe to address a despatch to West Indian Governors suggesting that federation should be seriously considered and adopted as the aim of policy. Your Lordships will be familiar with the series of conferences, committees, commissions and discussions in the West Indian Legislatures which in the succeeding eleven years have demonstrated with increasing certainty the desires of the West Indies and have brought federation for the Colonies of Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, the Leeward and Windward Islands ever closer. In those conferences successive Secretaries of State of both political Parties have played their part. I have mentioned the name of Oliver Stanley, but I should like to take this opportunity also of paying tribute to Mr. Creech. Jones who had this Federation very much at heart and who did a great deal during his time as Colonial Secretary to assist its progress. The last step in this process, which culminates in the present Bill, was the London Conference of February, 1956, which was presided over by my right honourable friend and attended by the leading politicians of all the West Indian Colonies concerned.

This Conference had before it the plan for a British Caribbean Federation which had already been accepted in principle by West Indian Legislatures, and it reached final 'decisions on all major matters affecting federation, with the exception of the questions of the site of the Federal Capital and the establishment of a Customs Union for the Federal Region, matters which it relegated for further inquiry to commissions which have now been appointed. The Conference also established itself as a Standing Federation Committee to meet in the West Indies for the purpose of dealing with all further constitutional and administrative matters prior to, and connected with, the establishment of the Federation. This Committee has already had a successful first meeting at which agreement was reached on a wide range of matters connecting with the setting up of the federal machinery. The London Conference concluded its Report by an unanimous declaration of its earnest wish that the Secretary of State should seek leave to introduce a Bill which would enable the Federation to come into being. That is the Bill which is before your Lordships this afternoon.

At this point, my Lords, it would. I think, be convenient if I were to say a word upon the effect of the Bill itself. The intention of Clause 1 is to enable Her Majesty to provide by Order in Council for a Federation of Barbados, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands of Antigua, Montserrat and St. Chistopher-Nevis-Anguilla (commonly known as St. Kitts), Trinidad and Tobago, and the Windward Islands of Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, as stipulated in the Schedule to the Bill, and to provide for the accession of other Colonies to the Federation. This clause covers the establishment of a Federal Government, a Federal Legislature. a Federal Supreme Court and any other necessary Federal authorities. It further provides that the Order in Council in question must be laid before Parliament in draft for an Affirmative Resoluton in each House. and that it shall be amendable only by Act of Parliament or, in so far as that Order in Council authorises Her Majesty in Council to amend it, by a further Order in Council.

Clause 2 of the Bill enables jurisdiction to be conferred on the Federal Supreme Court to hear appeals from the Courts of Colonies not included in the Federation, including British Guiana and the Virgin Islands, and enables the West Indian Court of Appeal to be dissolved. The financial arrangements between Her Majesty's Government and the Federal Government are covered in Clause 3 of the Bill, by which the Secretary of State for the Colonies may make grants of amounts not exceeding £1 million towards defraying the cost of establishing the seat of the Federal Government. This represents the sum announced by the Secretary of State at the 1956 Conference and, although account must be taken of the fact that the estimated costs of setting up the Federal capital have risen considerably in the interim, is a sum twice that previously promised at the earlier Conference in 1953. As the cost of establishing Federal headquarters is now estimated at £1,750,000, exclusive of the cost of the site, the sum which may be given by Her Majesty's Government represents a very considerable proportion of the total.

Clause 3 further provides for budgetary aid to the Federation for the first ten years. As your Lordships are probably aware, several of the territories which will be entering the Federation have been unable to balance their budgets from their own resources, and for many years grants for this purpose have been made to them by Her Majesty's Government. It is necessary to provide for a continuation of this budgetary aid until such time as the Federation itself has been able to solve the financial and economic problems of its members and create the self-sufficiency which all agree is so highly desirable. Clause 4 of the Bill is a formal one. Clause 5 repeals the British Honduras (Court of Appeal) Act of 1881 which is no longer operative and no longer necessary.

So much for the Bill itself, which, as I have explained, prepares the way for the Order in Council which will set forth the Constitution proposed for the British Caribbean Federation. This Constitution, in accordance with the wishes of the West Indian Governments who will be consulted at every stage, will be on the Australian pattern and will leave considerable residual powers to the Governments of the units. For Colonies which are coming together, each with a long and separate history, this is, I believe, the only possible pattern, and although I admit that some fears have been expressed that this form of Constitution may lead to a weak federal structure, there is no reason why the Federal organism should not grow and develop as we all hope it will.

The Federation is to have a Council of State, which will be presided over by the Governor-General and, as the principal instrument of policy, it will have this Council of State which will consist of eleven members appointed by the Governor-General, including a Prime Minister, seven members of the Legislature, nominated by the Prime Minister, and three members of the Federal Senate, appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Federal Legislature is to consist of a Senate of nineteen members, appointed by the Governor-General after consultation with the Governors of the member Colonies, and a House of Representatives consisting of forty-five members chosen by direct election in the member Colonies. The Federal Supreme Court will have original jurisdiction in certain limited matters and a more general jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Supreme Courts of the units and from the Supreme Courts of certain other territories. The only reserve legislative power in the hands of the Governor-General will be a discretion in the matter of assenting to Bills or reserving them for Her Majesty's assent. In the executive field he must, in general—


May I ask the noble Lord to elucidate one point? In the event that the Governor-General reserves a Bill, will it be submitted for advice to Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies or to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations?


I intended to come to that point, but I will answer it now. In the first instance, it would be the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I will deal with the noble Earl's point, and I think he will see the reason for that if he listens a little further to my speech.

As I was saying, the only reserve power in the hands of the Governor-General will be this discretion in the matter of assenting to Bills; otherwise he has, in general, to act in accordance with the advice of his Council of State. The exceptions to this general rule are in respect of defence, external affairs and the financial stability of the Federation, in so far as may be required to avoid the need for financial assistance from Her Majesty's Government or to prevent the credit of the Federation from being adversely affected. In these three fields there is also special power for Her Majesty to legislate by Order in Council. The Constitution is thus politically very advanced, although in the three fields in which Her Majesty's Government have special responsibility it is appropriate for the Governor-General to have the reserve executive powers to which I have referred. I should add that these arrangements have been agreed with the leaders of the West Indian Colonies themselves.

The Federal revenue will be derived initially from the profits on the currency issue, and from a mandatory levy on the unit Governments which will be reduced or abolished to the extent that the Federal Government exercises its power to raise revenue by means of Customs and Excise duties. This power, however, is subject to certain limitations.

Since it is not directly the concern of the Bill this is not really the moment to discuss at length the extremely important question of the economic development of the Caribbean. On the other hand, since the economic development of the West Indies is inevitably closely related to political advance, I feel that I cannot leave the Bill without saying a word about the very real efforts which have been made by Her Majesty's Government towards placing the British Caribbean Colonies or a sound and stable footing.

I should like to remind your Lordships that since April, 1946, the direct financial assistance given or committed by Her Majesty's Government to the region amounts to about £55 million. In addition, valuable indirect assistance had been given to the Caribbean Colonies. First and foremost, the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement safeguards the main crop and industry—which is, of course, sugar—of the area as a whole. We have also agreed with the West Indian Governments detailed schemes to safeguard the banana and citrus industries, which are the other two main agricultural industries. The financial liabilities under these schemes rest very largely upon Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.

For the other main West Indian agricultural products, such as cocoa and spices, there are already reasonably remunerative markets. So far as non-agricultural products are concerned, although the West Indies are not as rich in minerals as some other territories their oil and bauxite are making significant contributions to the region's wealth. Whilst a truly prosperous and stable economy is particularly difficult to achieve, in view of the limited natural resources of the West Indies, their geographical position, far from the best markets open to them, and their rapidly increasing population, it will be seen that we have given the British Caribbean very considerable economic support. We have done so, moreover, at a time when our own economic difficulties have been considerable; and I venture to suggest that this fact is clear evidence—if evidence were needed—of cur desire to help the Caribbean territories and the new Federation to achieve, so far as possible, economic stability. Moreover, although federation in itself cannot solve the area's economic problems, it is our hope that it will at any rate materially improve the conditions in which they can be dealt with.

My Lords, if I have disgressed thus briefly from the main theme of the Bill, I have done so because it is extremely important that economically the West In lies should be able, in due course, to stand on their own feet. Not only is that a desirable end in itself, but it is also desirable in order to facilitate the eventual growth of the Federation into a filly self-governing member of the British Commonwealth. This is an aspiration shared equally by the West Indies and by Her Majesty's Government on their behalf; and in opening the London Conference this year the Secretary of State for the Colonies made it clear that when the Federal Government felt ready to assume the responsibilities and obligations involved in full self-government within the Commonwealth, and when it could demonstrate its ability to do so, Her Majesty's Government would give their full and unreserved support to these West Indian ambitions and would be glad to sponsor the Federation for membership of the Commonwealth. Therefore, although the creation of the British Caribbean Federation, which is the main purpose of this Bill, does not immediately confer on the Federation the status of full membership of the Commonwealth, it is an essential step towards that ardently desired goal.

Your Lordships will have noticed that certain territories within the region are not included in the proposed Federation as listed in the Schedule to the Bill. It is the earnest hope of Her Majesty's Government, and of the leaders in the federating territories, that British Honduras and British Guiana will one day see their way to join the Federation, and it is, in fact, intended that the Federal Constitution shall make it particularly easy for them to do so. For the present, however, these Colonies have not desired to join the Federation, although the Governments of both Colonies are maintaining close contact with recent developments and have sent observers to recent conferences. The British Virgin Islands are another Colony which has expressed a wish to remain outside the Federation but, like British Guiana and British Honduras, they will be enabled to participate in the various regional services which will be co-ordinated by the Federal Government.

In conclusion, may I say that this Bill received a warm welcome in another place and will, I am sure, receive an equally warm welcome in this House. It is something for which both the main political Parties in this country have worked. I am sure that we all wish the emerging Federation well, and I hope that your Lordships will demonstrate this good will by giving a speedy passage to this Bill. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Lloyd.)

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, we on this side welcome this Bill. We regard it as a momentous one, and we agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, that to-day is an historic occasion, not only in the history of the West Indies but also in the history of this country. Our connection with the Caribbean has been one of long standing. It has been part of our history, and many of the most important people, not only in our history but in world history, have at some time or other served in the Caribbean: Christopher Columbus, Nelson, Morgan and many others, have added their contribution, good or bad, to that region. It has been a region where some deep and cruel crimes have been committed; it has been a region where great, distinguished and devoted service has been rendered. It is a region of good and bad, of black and white, and of very little grey; but to-day, as I have said, it is our pleasure to welcome this Bill which confers upon the region of the Caribbean its new status.

The Labour Party, in its Statement of Policy which was approved by the Annual Conference in 1954, said this: Our aim is a multi-racial Commonwealth in which Britain and the former dependent territories work together as equal partners for the benefit of all. Larger territories will become independent states, smaller territories may form a Federation. For territories which are scattered and too small to stand alone, special arrangements will have to be worked out, in agreement with their people, for association with Britain in the Commonwealth. I wish to congratulate all those who have been concerned in this development and, in particular, the people whom the noble Lord has mentioned. I think the long service given to this area and to the solution of this problem by Colonel Oliver Stanley and Mr. Creech Jones is especially in our memory on this day. This Bill in fact, in a way, ensures that the Federation is being born anew into the Commonwealth family.

What sort of a family is the new baby, as it were, in its present form, being born into? I think I cannot do better than quote the words of Mr. St. Laurent, as reported in The Times on his recent visit to this country for the Prime Ministers' Conference. Mr. St. Laurent said: There are people who sometimes wonder how it is that the representatives of an organisation like our Commonwealth, whose members are so widely scattered, whose origins are so diverse, and who have such varied interests and views can meet so frequently in friendly and, I am sure, fruitful conferences. The Timesreport continues: The answer, he said, was quite simple: They were all united in the belief that they could work together towards a greater happiness and prosperity, not only for their own people but for all mankind. He firmly hoped that the discussions would again contribute towards that worthy purpose. In welcoming the new Federation into the Commonwealth we feel that it is an association well worth their joining. The Commonwealth is indeed a living, growing and changing organism, and I particularly stress the word "changing". It needs constant attention, thought and care—it needs, in fact, three things, particularly, from us. First, it needs our interest, and this must be demonstrably shown. Secondly, it needs funds from us for development of the various Commonwealth countries; and in this regard I must point out that for the last six years we have made available only £100 million a year to the various colonial territories, and that these territories now have over £1,200 million invested with us, namely, their balances. I must also point out that lately in the Kariba Gorge scheme and the Trinidad oil scheme we have failed to carry out our primary duty of providing their needs for development. Some months ago I asked the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether we were helping India with her Five-year scheme, and Pakistan also. So Far we have not had any reply. But we must invest in the Commonwealth, or the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth will disintegrate; and to do this we must save, although I agree that this is difficult in these times of full enjoyment.

Thirdly, we must assist in their defence, and whilst this applies especially to Australia, New Zealand and so on, it applies also to the new Federation. I should like to ask here, what contribution will the new Federation make? It will be remembered that the West India Regiment, which was a very fine regiment indeed, was disbanded by the War Office. and I am sure in this area quite a number of excellent troops could be obtained. The War Office has always had a sort of myopic view of Colonial troops—a view that is quite unfounded—and it was only in face of their bitterest hostility that we have managed to get the Malay Regiment formed and expanded as it has been. I hope that there will be a considerable contribution of troops from the new Federation, not only for their own defence but for the defence of the Commonwealth as a whole.

I was going to ask what the status of the new Federation will be, but the. noble Lord has to some extent answered that point in his speech. It will be pretty well an independent member of the Commonwealth, though there are certain. reserved subjects. There are three reserved subjects, as I understand it, but even there I take it that the Federal Legislature and the Federation Government will have full authority, although there will be a sort of concurrent authority in Her Majesty's Government here to make regulations or laws by Order in Council. I do not quite know how that is going to work: out. It might be interesting to hear the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor on this aspect. I should have thought it might tend to confusion if there were two, authorities with concurrent powers to make legislation, but possibly it means that Her Majesty's Government will make legislation only in the case of the breakdown of the machinery in the Federation. It strikes me as a rather difficult thing to carry out if concurrent legislation is to be the normal event, instead of a highly exceptional one. Perhaps the noble Lord will deal with that point when he replies.

I should like to ask whether the Prime Minister of the new Federation will be attending the Prime Ministers' Conferences here. I do not see why not; in fact I hope he will. The Prime Minister of the Central African Federation, Lord Malvern, is always a most acceptable visitor to this country, and has for some time attended the Prime Ministers' Conferences, although the Federation of Central Africa, Rhodesia and Nyasaland, is no more advanced—if as advanced; and in fact it is nothing like as advanced politically—than this new Federation will be. It may be said that his is an exceptional position because he is such a delightful person—that is what Sir Winston Churchill said. But I do not think one can found constitutional practice on the personality of the Prime Minister for the time being. I should have thought that the position of the Federation of the British Caribbean, as I presume it will be called, will be equal to that of Canada and Australia and South Africa, for instance, when the first Prime Ministers' Conferences were held, and, in fact when all the Prime Ministers' Conferences were held up to, say, 1932. I should have thought that under this Bill they had as much legislative power as any of those countries had up to 1932. And as the Prime Ministers of these countries did come here to attend Prime Ministers' Conferences, I see no reason why the Prime Minister of the British Caribbean Federation should not do so. I hope he will, because there is a great fund of loyalty to the Queen in the Caribbean areas, a great fund of loyalty to the British connection; and anything we can do to foster that feeling we should do.

I was also going to ask whether the Commonwealth Relations Office should take over from the Colonial Office. I understand, from a passing remark of the noble Lord—it was no more; he did not expand it—that it is going to remain with the Colonial Office. I am rather sorry about that. I hoped that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations would have been receiving the British Caribbean Federation as one of his "customers" very soon. I think that when a country or Federation gets to the stage that the British Caribbean Federation will reach under this Bill it is obviously time for its smooth transition from the Colonial Office to the Commonwealth Relations Office. So I hope that the Government will think again and will transfer responsibility for this territory from the Colonial Office to the Commonwealth Relations Office. May I also once more point out the fact that the Central African Federation is the responsibility of the noble Earl, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations?


With great respect to the noble Lord, it is the responsibility of both my right honourable friend and the noble Earl.


That, of course, makes my case even stronger, because the same sort of responsibilities that the Colonial Office have for Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia are not present at all in the case of the British Caribbean Federation. So if it is possible for some part of the responsibility to be vested in the Commonwealth Relations Office in the case of the Central African Federation then a fortiori I think it should be vested in the case of the Caribbean.

I should like to be assured by the noble Lord that great care will be taken over the first appointments from this country. I do not know whether the first appointment of Governor-General will be made on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government here. If so, I think that as it is an entirely new appointment, and as he will have very little to go on, the man for the post should be very carefully chosen. I should like to suggest also that great care must be taken in the choice of High Commissioners—if there are to be High Commissioners. I had assumed that the Commonwealth Relations Office were going to take over. If they are not, will there not be a High Commissioner in the capital who will represent the United Kingdom? Surely, if there is to be a High Commissioner ought it not to be the Queen, on the recommendation of the noble Earl the Secretary of State, who appoints him? Should it not be the noble Earl who looks for the man for this post? It is surely odd to have a High Commissioner appointed by and responsible to the Colonial Office. If this is not so, it rather throws the whole thing out, and I do not understand how it is going to operate. There will have to be someone in the Federation akin to a High Commissioner who does the diplomatic and other duties representing the United Kingdom there, just as High Commissioners do here and in the various Commonwealth countries.

I should like now to turn to the Supreme Court. Under Clause 1 (2) (d) of the Bill, provision is made for the Supreme Court to take over the duties of the West Indian Court of Appeal. There are just one or two points which I should like to raise upon that. So much of this is to be done by Order in Council, and I am not sure whether or not other countries not in the Federation who hitherto have had their appeals sent to the West Indian Court of Appeal will also be affected. Will the West Indian Court of Appeal remain so far as these countries are concerned?


Perhaps I can dispose of that point at once. The West Indian Court of Appeal ends, and they will now go to the Supreme Court.


And cases from British Guiana and British Honduras—will they go to the Supreme Court?




They will go to the Supreme Court, although British Guiana and British Honduras are not in fact part of the Federation. May I ask, consequentially, whether there is an appeal from the Supreme Court to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council? Or does the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council lose ultimate responsibility in legal matters?

May I next ask the noble Lord where the seat of the Federal Government—the Federal Capital, as it is called in this rather pompous language—is going to be? We are paying £1 million towards it and I think we are entitled to know where it is to be located. The noble Lord and his Minister have recently—and quite properly, in my view; they are to be congratulated upon it—created an Oversea Civil Service with a much wider field than it used to have. May I ask him whether its members will be available to serve in the Federation, if so required, after this Bill is passed? I think they should be. It is obvious that many of these countries which are coming toward independence, whatever their exact status, will for years feel the need of considerable help from this country in technical ways, and they will also feel the need of assistance in administrative matters. In some cases they do not think they will, but I feel sure they will. And it seems to me that the new Oversea Civil Service has been created at a particularly fortunate time, because it will enable us to supply that help if needed, whereas six months ago we could not have done so.

I should like now to turn for a moment to the Colonial Development Corporation. Will that Corporation be able to carry out its existing commitments and to undertake new ones in the sphere of operation of the Federation? I hope they will, as here again I think that this is one of the services which we ought to be able to render to these territories. In fact, as I said when speaking on the Motion relating to the Colonial Development Corporation, I should like to see its activity widened to cover all territories which have at any time been included in the Commonwealth. Perhaps we can amend the Overseas Resources Bill, when it comes here, to include the British Caribbean Federation, if that is necessary.

Finally, I agree with the noble Lord that it is a pity that British Guiana and British Honduras have not joined the Federation. I do not think we can rush them. We must just hope that in due course they will come in. The Federation is a little unbalanced without them, particularly so far as population is concerned. We should like to have these important territories join with the Federation. It would give a better balance. Now is the time for all the present members of the Commonwealth to welcome with open arms this new member, and assist her in every way possible. We wish her well.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, I want to mention one or two matters in connection with this most important Bill. I feel that there is no one in your Lordships' House who does not welcome the fact that we have reached this stage after eleven years of hard thinking over something which seems to me to be unique in its conception. I believe it is no further from London to Constantinople than it is from British Honduras to Trinidad, and yet this scheme is going to attempt to bring so many diverse parts together in the great Federation. I am sure that federation will be of the greatest benefit. I feel equally sure that we must not leave it at that. We must follow it through ourselves and help in the West Indies in many more ways than we have done up to now. I do not say that we have not done a great deal, but there is much still to do.

The noble Lord who introduced the Bill did not mention one of the greatest industries which is developing in the West Indies—the tourist industry. That industry is going to bring in an enormous increase of revenue if it is properly handled. Vast sums of money have been spent in different parts of the West Indies in providing accommodation and in taking steps to attract tourists. It must be obvious to everyone that as the location of the West Indies is so near to the United States and Canada, and the islands have such amazing climatic conditions, touring there and holiday-making there will become increasingly popular with the people of North America: and communication, which is the life-blood of the whole federal scheme, will have to be improved if we are to gain from this scheme the benefits which we should gain. I believe it is high time that communications between the West Indies and the United Kingdom—both sea communications and air communications—were improved. Had it not been for the enterprise of various people like Squadron-Leader Roberts and others who had the enterprise and forethought to develop flying services, I am certain that, as the noble Lord has said, we should not be discussing this federal scheme, which must be based on improved communications.

There is one other point which I think is very important—it has been touched upon by Lord Ogmore. I refer to the attitude of the Service Departments here to colonial Forces. It seems to me extraordinary that a regiment like the West Indies Regiment should not be made a great centre and link between the different islands, a great centre of common service, as it was before. If you have the right type of officers to take charge of those contacts it will make the Federation all the more real. Just as wonderful work is being done at the West Indies University in Jamaica to make the people understand each other, if the Navy, Army and Air Force go out to recruit troops out there and train them technically, not necessarily only for war purposes though that will be the basis of it, that technical education would be useful in industry. I believe that that matter ought to be considered and carried through, but it seems to me that unless something is done by Parliament in this country it will be difficult to get the Service Departments to make this move.

The noble Lord said it would be a great mistake to force those portions of the West Indies which do not want to enter the Federation at the moment. to come in. I am sure it would be. I understand that so far as the British Virgin Islands and other territories are concerned, all those who have expressed the wish not to be incorporated in the Federation will be able to participate in the various co-ordinated and advisory services which will be carried out by the Federal Government, and provision will have to be made for appeals from all these territories to be heard by the Federal Supreme Court.

I do not suppose that anybody imagines that the Caribbean Federation will take its final shape for some years, and everything should be done to help the Federation to take hold; but we shall not do that by forcing people in against their will. They have to come in willingly. After seeing the good results that follow the economic side of federation, they will possibly want to come in. I am sure that if the Federation is going to be what we all hope it will be, if we give it the aid I trust we shall give, by improved communications and developments of that kind, no doubt in due course it will be the wish of these territories now standing outside to come in; but on no account must they be forced. It is important to mention that now, because there is a risk that a bad impression will be formed if, for the sake of administrative convenience, certain territories far removed from a Colony which had been attached to it in the past for purely local administrative reasons—outlying islands like the Virgin Islands—were not left to go into this matter and make representations in the proper quarters that their special conditions should be considered.

Finally, there is the question of the arrival in this country of so many British West Indians to obtain work here. Many of them are doing very well. I am sure that one of the most important matters is to use the Federal economic schemes to build up local industries which will be sufficiently attractive to keep West Indians in the West Indies, and to train them there. Some organisation should be formed to test people before they leave the West Indies to come here, so that they could be fitted into suitable jobs through the Ministry of Labour and other organisations. Of course, it is recognised that it is a case of "Last in, first out" should there by any industrial crisis leading to unemployment, the threat of which is with us to-day. It is not fair to the people in the West Indies not to give them the opportunity of a preliminary training which would help them to get jobs automatically when they arrive here, without their having to seek them out.

I am sure that we shall all remember this day as a day of high promise. I think everybody who has played any part in this scheme ought to be congratulated—Sir Hubert Rance, Sir Stephen Luke and others, not forgetting the present Governors of some of the larger Islands of the British West Indies, who have done so much to prepare the way, as a result of which Parliament is able to consider this measure to-day.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, as congratulations, all well deserved, are flying about this afternoon, perhaps I may be allowed to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, on the pleasing and able manner in which he introduced this Bill, and to say how much I agree with him, and with my noble friend. Lord Ogmore, that this Bill is of real importance in the history of the British West Indies and in the history of the Commonwealth.

I should begin by declaring a personal interest in the Bill. I believe that I was the first Minister at the Colonial Office after the war—it has been done frequently since then—to make a round trip of all the British territories in the Caribbean. My tour ended—and this, I think, was a distinctive feature which has not been shared by subsequent Ministers—with a conference in Barbados of the Caribbean Governors. At that conference, with the help of Sir Hubert Rance, who had been chairman of the Standing Closer Association Committee, we discussed, among other things, the Report of this Committee on Federation. This experience of mine in the West Indies convinced me, if I needed any convincing, that federation offered the only path to self-government for these small and poor territories. Ever since that time I have followed their progress in that direction with immense interest and hopefulness.

A long time—nine years in all—has passed since the Montego Bay Conference in 1947, which first accepted the principle of federation and, the introduction of this enabling Bill to establish the Federal Constitution. I do not regret this long interval: I regard it as having been necessary to allow the West Indian leaders time to agree among themselves about the structure of the Federal Government. I do not think anyone has mentioned this point so far, so I should like here to say that I think the West Indian political leaders, above all., are to be warmly con- gratulated on the patient and skilful negotiations that have eventuated in unanimous agreement about the new federal set-up. Indeed, the most promising feature of the federal structure is that it is a genuine West Indian product, not a product of Whitehall.

At successive conferences between 1947 and the February conference this year, in London, as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd pointed out, and by majority votes in the West Indian Legislatures all the decisions leading to federation had been taken by the elected representatives of the West Indian peoples. They have chosen to federate of their own free will. The role of Whitehall has been limited to that of giving encouragement and expert advice—and very valuable these have been. To my mind, this is the ideal relationship between Whitehall and any Colony in the framing of a self-governing Constitution. The British Caribbean Federation, because it has not been imposed by us and has had to wait for the consent of the territories that will now come in, is not likely to show the strains and stresses that are already, unfortunately, showing in the Central African Federation.

Of course our friends in the West Indies still have many difficulties to face, and perhaps we can do them a useful service by pointing out some of the main obstacles. The strength of any country depends, in the last resort, on the loyalty of its citizens. In the British Caribbean there is plenty of local patriotism, and the islanders are extremely proud of their own islands; but at the present time only a few educated people at the top have any conception of a wider loyalty. The islanders. when this Bill passes into law, will become British Caribbean citizens, but I think that they will not at once feel a British Caribbean patriotism. There is no reason why this should not come in the course of time, but something must be done to bridge the immense distances that separate the islands. I believe that cheap sea and air services between the islands and the mainland territories, which would enable the ordinary islanders to travel in their holidays—it might well be organised by the new Federal Government—would do more than anything else to develop the wider patriotism. If the ordinary Trinidadian or the Jamaican is to feel as much pride in the future at being a British Caribbean as he now feels in belonging to his native island, much greater emphasis will have to be placed, from the earliest possible age, starting in the schoolroom, on everything that opens the mind to the unity of the British West Indies.

Another difficult problem is that of personnel for ministerial positions in the Federal Government. I was rather concerned, I must admit, about the decision of the February Conference of Ministers, that the Federal Ministers in the Territorial Governments could not serve simultaneously in the Federal Government. The quality of the West Indian political leaders is very high, and a man like Mr. Manley, or Mr. Grantley Adams. would hold his own as a statesman in any country. Able men of this calibre who go into politics arc few in number. however, and it might be disastrous if, during the crucial initial stage in federation, during the early years, the Federal Government were unable to secure the services of the ablest and most experienced of the West Indian political leaders. Without intending to be presumptuous, I suggest that this is a matter where there might be second thoughts. As my noble friend Lord Ogmore pointed out, so long as it lacks the support of membership of the two mainland territories the new Federation will not be as complete as many of us had hoped it might be. But the door has been left wide open for them, and they can come in later. Of course, it would be the greatest mistake to force the pace. Here, I agree entirely with my noble relative Lord Glyn and my noble friend Lord Ogmore, both of whom rightly placed a great deal of emphasis on this point

Surely the best advertisement for federation will be the popularity and success of the Federal Government and the Federal Administration and, of course, to reinforce this there will be all the advantages of regional co-operation, in which the mainland territories will continue to share. We all know that British Honduras is chronically afraid and suspicious of Jamaica. But if Jamaica—as no doubt will be the case—does not use her strength in the Federal Legislature to push Jamaican interests, surely that will give great reassurance to the British Honduranians. Again, they will also realise, after federation has got going, that this is not British rule in another form, because they will see for themselves that we are not interfering in the affairs of the Federal Government

So far as British Guiana is concerned, I think it is clear—and here we are in entire agreement with Her Majesty's Government—that we must wait until there is an elected Legislature for a decision about federation. If Dr. Jagan's Party were to secure a majority at a General Election, then presumably British Guiana would stay outside. But, fortunately, his Party appears to be split, and there are many indications, of which I know the noble Lord opposite is well aware, that moderate opinion in British Guiana is gaining ground. Most of the Guianese of African origin would, I feel, be willing to come in. The East Indians, who form a large part of the population, and who still have some anxiety about the African majority in a Federal Parliament, will be reassured when they find that the Federal Parliament, when it gets going, respects minority rights—as, of course, it will do. But the timing of the decision in British Guiana is all-important. I think that if we have patience, and are prepared to wait for the right moment, then there is a good chance that this enormous and largely undeveloped territory, with its substantial population, will join its island neighbours

This new Commonwealth country, the British Caribbean Federation, is in a position to make a unique contribution to the whole Commonwealth, and we shall have much to learn from it. It will be the first multi-racial State to enter the inner circle of self-governing Commonwealth countries. It will be able to show the multi-racial societies in other parts of the Commonwealth. in Africa and Asia, that political power in the hands of non-Europeans need not be used to discriminate against Europeans or other racial minorities. We must learn from it how black, brown and white people can live together, without separation by social, economic or political barriers. But the influence of the British Caribbean Federation on the rest of the Commonwealth will depend largely on the intimacy of its relationship with other Commonwealth Governments

The British Caribbean Federation will not, of course, have Dominion status, and it may have a long time to wait before it has. But—and here I should like to endorse the view of my noble friend Lord Ogmore—is there any real reason why, even at this stage of its development, when it will have complete internal self-government, it should not be asked to take part in many of those discussions and exchanges of opinion at ministerial level which are the lifeblood of the Commonwealth? The recent Prime Ministers' Conference decided that the Central African Federation should, as of right, attend future conferences of Prime Ministers. I believe that that right is not limited to the tenure of office of the noble Viscount, Lord Malvern, and that anyone who becomes Prime Minister of the Central African Federation in future will receive an invitation to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. Of course, the Central African Federation is also less than a Dominion, and its constitutional status is similar and comparable to that which the British Caribbean Federation will have

I hope, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government and the other Commonwealth Governments—because it concerns them just as much as it does us—will start considering now whether the Prime Minister of the British Caribbean Federation should not be asked to Conferences of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, and whether other Ministers, such as the Finance Minister, should not be invited to ministerial conferences when they are concerned with matters affecting the Caribbean territories. If we treat the British Caribbean Federation as an equal in consultation and discussion, we shall do much to make up for its lack of political equality and for its continuing subordination in certain matters—external affairs and, to some extent, finance—to the British Government

It will take some time before the new Federation reaches Dominion status, and the pressure of opinion in the West Indies for this status will grow steadily and rapidly as time passes. Of course, we all recognise that time must elapse for the Federation to organise its own defence services, its representation in other countries and the other requirements of sovereign independence. As it does this, it will find that increasing expenditure will add to the difficulty which it now experiences of gaining financial independence of the United Kingdom. I very much fear, looking to the future, that financial dependence may become the main obstacle to the achievement of Dominion status. I trust that, when the time comes, Her Majesty's Government will not confront the Federation with the cruel choice between freedom and penury. I cannot believe that Her Majesty's Government could not devise a method of giving financial aid to the West Indies without retaining political control. After all, it has been done before. Economic aid without political strings has been given by the Marshall Plan, and is now being given by the Colombo Plan. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise a method of this kind, and surely, if ever it should apply. it should apply to members bf our own Commonwealth and our own fellow-citizens in the West Indies

I should like to join with the other speakers on both sides of the House in welcoming this Bill, in wishing every success to the British Caribbean Federation, arid in expressing the hope that within the shortest possible tune it will achieve Dominion status.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be brief, because I know that there is a great deal of business still before your Lordships. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken for the warm welcome they have given to this Bill, and I will try briefly to deal with the points raked during the course of the debate.


This is a very important Bill, which deals with the future of all these territories, and, if I may say so, I do not think the noble Lord need hurry. I would much rather he took his time.


I was thinking merely of the convenience of the House. They will hear me again twice this afternoon, I am afraid. However, I am quite prepared to take as much time as the noble Lord wants. But there is only one answer to every question, arid I will do my best to give it as expeditiously as I can.

Both the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, raised a certain amount of speculation about the future of the Federation, and I do not in any way blame them for that, because, clearly, it is something we have to consider. At the same time, however, we have reached only this stage, and it has taken us eleven years to get here. Therefore, do not let us speculate too soon about the future until we are quite certain that we have established what this Bill seeks to establish. That is going to take a year or two in itself. As regards the status of the Federation, clearly that is a matter which in due course will have to be considered. It is not really a matter upon which either noble Lord can expect me, standing at this Box, to give a final answer this afternoon, because it is a subject which depends ultimately upon the Commonwealth Prime Ministers themselves. Whom they invite to their conferences is a matter entirely for them, and one which must be agreed amongst themselves. I am sure that they will pay attention to what noble Lords have said, but it is, after all, their affair. The noble Lord regretted that the Federation would for the time being continue to be administered by the Colonial Office. That, after all, is the ordinary procedure until any state or territory, or federation of territories, achieves full membership.


May I point out that relations with the Government of the Central African Federation are dealt with by the Commonwealth Relations Office?


With great respect, I would point out that the noble Earl is not entirely correct. To be accurate, they are dealt with by both. Therefore, membership of the Commonwealth must depend, as I see it. on the consideration of all members of that Commonwealth. I do not wish to come to any final or definite conclusion this afternoon—it is far too early—and that is clearly a matter which will have to be considered and discussed in the light of the progress of the Federation and also in the light of the views of the members of the Commonwealth as to whether the new Federation has the qualifications of independence and viability which qualify it for that membership. That, I think, is as far as it would be wise to speculate this afternoon.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said something with which I entirely agree. He drew attention to the great importance of the first appointments of this new Federation, in particular of the Governor-General. Clearly at this stage I am in no position to discuss those appointments. But I should like to assure the noble Lord that we are just as conscious as he is of the importance of having the right people and the best people in those jobs at this important and critical period in the constitutional development which is taking place.

The noble Lord referred to the need that there will almost certainly be for expatriate staff to be available to the Federation, certainly in technical fields and, the noble Lord thought, in the administrative field as well. I can give the noble Lord the assurance that we shall continue to make them available. The noble Lord then asked a question whether the Colonial Development Corporation will be able to continue its work. The answer is that it will, in exactly the same way as it does now—not merely with existing schemes, but in any future schemes it chooses to undertake. I hope that on those points the noble Lord will feel reasonably satisfied.

The noble Lord also mentioned the question of the West India Regiment, and here again I agree with what he said. As a matter of fact, my right honourable friend has been for some time in consultation with the Governments of the West Indian territories with a view to re-forming the West India Regiment. These consultations, I am afraid, have inevitably taken some time. in view of the number of Governments to be consulted and various other complications which always arise when this sort of thing is being done. But I can tell the noble Lord this much: that we are now considering certain proposals which have been agreed at least in principle by the West Indian Governments, and that is an advance.

Next, the noble Lord asked me about the position of appeals to the Privy Council, which I quite agree is a very important matter. I think I had better give him the full position. There will be no restriction on Her Majesty's right to grant special leave to appeal to the Privy Council from the decision of any court in the Federation. Subject to that, there will be a right of appeal to the Privy Council from the Federal Supreme Court in the following cases: first, from the final judgments of the Federal Supreme Court within its original jurisdiction except in regard to election petitions; secondly, from final judgments of the Federal Supreme Court on constitutional questions referred to it by inferior courts; thirdly. from final judgments of the Federal Supreme Court in civil appeals where the subject matter of the dispute is of the 'value of £500 or more, and in divorce; and, fourthly, by leave of the Privy Council from other judgments of the Federal Supreme Court, whether final or interlocutory, where the question involved in the appeal is one which, by reason of its general or public importance, or otherwise, ought to be submitted to the Privy Council for decision.

Whether these appeals will be provided for in the Constitution or by separate Order in Council under the Judicial Committee Acts—I believe that is the usual procedure—has riot been decided, but I do not think that is what the noble Lord minds about. He wishes to make quite sure that the right of appeal is preserved, and I hope he is satisfied. I ought to add that 'there will be no right of appeal of a member Territory from the Supreme Court to the Privy Council except with the leave of the Federal Supreme Court, which will be granted only in exceptional circumstances—that is to say, the system cannot be short-circuited. The case will have to go through what are known as "the proper channels;" and I think that is quite right.

My noble friend Lord Glyn, in his interesting speech, made reference to the tourist industry. He is quite right, and I agree with every word he said. It is not only a very important industry, but, particularly in Jamaica, it might in future become almost the most important industry. The main point of his speech was that he urged that people should not be forced into the Federation against their wishes. Certainly I would be the first person to agree with him about that. The principle, as has been brought out by every noble Lord who has spoken, is that this was done, and always has been done, at the wishes of the West Indian territories themselves. The British Virgin Islands decided that they did not want to come in, and they have not come in. Nor, so far, have British Honduras or British Guiana.

The only case that I gather the noble Lord has in mind is the Cayman islands. I am bound to tell the noble Lord that, although I have heard from private conversations in some quarters that there was not entire satisfaction in the Cayman Islands over this question of Federation, so far as I am aware no official repre- sentation has ever been received by my right honourable friend, that there was any dissatisfaction over this matter. As all noble Lords are aware, the Cayman Islands are an appendage of Jamaica, but they do not come under the Jamaica Legislature; they are administered directly by the Governor. If there had been this great discontent, I should have expected to hear some official representation from those in the Cayman Islands themselves. As a matter of fact, the only recent view that we have had expressed from the Cayman Islands was a wish to retain their present relationship with Jamaica.


Does that mean that they retain their special position as being administered by the Governor, and free from any other links?


Quite so. I appreciate that point, but I rather gathered from the noble Lord that he was suggesting that they were being forced into Federation against their will. That: may be the case—I am not suggesting that it is not—but I have not heard that that is their feeling, though I have heard that they wish to remain under the administration of the Governor. We are locking to see what safeguards can be given them in that respect.

May I turn to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel? I regard him almost as I do myself: an old West Indian by now. He knows these Islands probably better than I do. He managed to extract from the taxpayers more trips there than I have done, and I have always regarded him particularly as a friend of the West Indians. He questions one point which is an important point: that is, the decision taken by the London Conference that Members or Ministers should not be able to sit in both Houses. As the noble Earl would probably expect, there was a considerable debate about this matter and different points of view were expressed, but in the end there is no doubt whatsoever that the majority of those present—the West Indians themselves—felt that, although there were the advantages which were adumbrated by the noble Earl this afternoon, the practical disadvantages, the virtual impossibility, because of the travelling difficulties, for anybody to be a Minister in both places, on the whole outweighed the other advantages. Therefore they were not as despondent as the noble Earl is. That decision was taken not by Her Majesty's Government but by the Conference. Therefore there is nothing more to be said about it.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore—I omitted this point before—asked me where the capital was going to be. The answer is, "I wish I knew"; because if I did know, it would make much simpler a great deal of the planning of the Federation. He probably knows that this was a matter on which strong feelings were expressed by everyone in the Conference, and after twenty-four hours' debate no great decision could be reached. It was therefore considered prudent to refer the whole question to a Commission, which would recommend on practical grounds the most suitable place or would make a choice of suitable places upon which a decision would be taken by the Standing Committee in the West Indies. That Commission is now working. It will recommend in due course and I hope that eventually the matter will be solved to the satisfaction of everyone. I hope I have covered all the questions raised, and I apologise for detaining your Lordships for so long.

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