HL Deb 19 February 1959 vol 214 cc378-421

3.13 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a short and a simple Bill, but it is a very important one. It represents a check for a time, and I hope a very short time, in Malta's constitutional progress, on which many, including several of your Lordships, have been working so hard and so hopefully over the last years. If it is approved, it restores direct colonial rule but—this is most important—it also allows us as soon as the chance offers to go forward again towards a new and liberal Constitution.

I think I ought to go back a little in history. After the Second World War, in which we all remember the gallant part played by Malta, the George Cross Island, and after a short period of continuing direct rule, a Constitution was introduced in 1947, and this Constitution gave the people of Malta a considerable measure of self-government. Section 60 of that Constitution laid down that the prerogative power of amendment or the revocation of certain sections was taken away, and, as a result, the Constitution could not be revoked except by an Act of Parliament or by an Act which restored the full prerogative power to legislate. As your Lordships will see from the Long Title of this Bill, this is precisely the purpose behind it.

It is perhaps worth recalling that this Bill is almost identical with a similar one that was passed in 1936 when, unhappily, we had a situation very much like the one with which we are faced at present. There was a Constitution which did not work. It is sad but true to say that over the last hundred years the history of constitutional progress in Malta has been one of complete ups and complete downs—direct colonial rule alternating with pretty liberal Constitutions with representative government.

Back in 1955 the Constitution, which was introduced, as I have already said, in 1947, was in some difficulty. It was creaking pretty badly, and we were faced with a breakdown. At that time there was the device of a Round Table Conference to recommend what should be done. Your Lordships will remember that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor was Chairman; the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, was a member: there was a panoply of Privy Counsellors and others from all Parties, and indeed myself. The outcome will be remembered: we recommended that Malta should be integrated with the United Kingdom. The proposal was not, however, one of complete integration in the sense that Malta would be a county of the United Kingdom; but rather that Malta should broadly run her own affairs, except in two fields, those of defence and of foreign affairs. Because she wanted to have a say, and very rightly wanted to have a say, in defence and foreign affairs, the device was thought up that she should have representatives in Westminster who would be able to make known the wishes of Malta on all those affairs which directly concerned her.

So negotiations started on this basis. But, my Lords, they were uncharted seas; I suppose Northern Ireland is the nearest parallel. The exact form, just what should be done, was the subject of many and long negotiations on both the constitutional and the financial issues. Indeed, the negotiations lasted for a year and a half and several times it looked as if we were near success, but in the end, unhappily, they broke down.

I do not believe there is any useful purpose served in a post-mortem on negotiations of such length. As I have said, they were uncharted seas with a back history of a hundred years of uncertain constitutional progress. We felt it was most important that this time we should try to get things right. I am not going to say that the fault for the breakdown lay entirely on one side or the other. I need only say that we tried very hard, and I know that Mr. Mintoff, the then Prime Minister, who was indeed in many ways the father of the idea of integration, tried very hard. Proof of that, if proof is needed, is that we had at least fifty meetings. But, for various reasons, one of which I will now touch on, we could not "pull it off".

This reason (and it was a new factor) was that during the eighteen months of negotiation the picture of this country's defence expenditure and defence policy changed. It became clear that the Malta Dockyard, which is the very bones of the island's economy and existence, was no longer needed by Admiralty. We gave assurance to the people of Malta that it would not be closed suddenly and that we would do all we could to make it over to commercial use and, at the same time, to prevent any serious unemployment from arising. Mr. Mintoff asked that we should guarantee that there would be not one person thrown out of work as a result of this change, and that this should be a permanent state of affairs. That guarantee, my Lords, we felt unable to give. Indeed, I am sure that nobody would expect such a guarantee to have been given. At the same time, we put forward a formula which we felt was not only a fair formula but one which would give every assurance that the Maltese had very little to fear in this direction.

Recognising that this new factor had raised doubts in the minds of the Maltese, and at the same time being most anxious not to throw away the imaginative idea of integration and the constitutional progress that had been made in our discussions, we suggested that there should be an interim period of five years during which we would go broadly along the lines suggested for the integration proposals, with the one important difference that there would be no Maltese Members present in Westminster. We suggested that at the end of the five years we could both see how it had all worked. We hoped that that would allay the fears that had been aroused, and would give the Maltese the opportunity to go on with what had been suggested by the Round-Table Conference. There again, we failed. The suggestion was not taken up: and again I see no purpose in looking back and trying to apportion blame.

Then, unhappily, conditions on the Island became very unsettled. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Mintoff, twice resigned his Premiership; the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Borg Olivier, refused, or said he was not able, to form a Government; we had disorders, and at that time, in the spring of last year, the Governor felt that in order to preserve law and order, he had to assume emergency powers and take over the government. And that is the situation which has prevailed until now. But clearly, my Lords, it is undesirable that one should have emergency powers with all that that implies, when there is no actual state of emergency. Further, we are under obligation to have either a new Parliament or a new Constitution by the end of April of this year; otherwise, we should be breaking the law. It is those two factors, my Lords, which have led us to introduce this present Bill.

Shortly after these disorders arose in Malta, and after the Governor had taken over the government, we announced that we were most anxious to see whether we could find a new basis for a new Constitution; and we invited representatives of the three main political parties in Malta to come to London to discuss with us what might be the new form of Constitution. They came last November. We had in mind a Constitution very much along the lines of that which we proposed in the integration proposals: not, of course, entirely on those lines because we were no longer thinking in terms of integration; but that Constitution was a very liberal Constitution, and we were anxious, so far as we could, to go in that direction. Your Lordships will have seen just what we proposed, for a copy has been put in the Printed Paper Office of your Lordships' House.

Unhappily, in our talks in November we were never really able to get down to things. Mr. Mintoff, the leader of the Malta Labour Party, demanded that we should agree to independence for Malta now or, at the latest, by 1962; unless we did that, he would not discuss anything else. We had a useful exchange of ideas with the leaders of the Nationalist Party, who, however, were much hampered in their talks with us by conditions laid down by their Party before they left Malta. We also had good talks with the Progressive Constitutional Party. But in all those talks, first with one Party and then with another, it became clear, in what I would call these "preliminary skirmishes", that there was no common ground between the Parties on which we could build a new Constitution.

In those circumstances, we were forced to come to the Bill which is before us to-day—which, as I have already said, will enable us to start all over again. I say "start all over again", but I do not want to be taken literally, because, of course, we have gained a great deal of experience in these last talks, and I am quite sure that in the next Constitution to be introduced what we have learned will be of immense value. We do not wish to rule directly for one moment longer than we have to. With the people of Malta mature and as experienced as they are, it would be wrong so to do. I know that the Governor is extremely anxious to associate Maltese with his rule right from the start. Before long, we must have another shot at another Constitution which will do what we all want and give the Maltese, broadly, a Government for themselves.

I think it is appropriate, my Lords, that at this moment I should pay a tribute to the Governor, Sir Robert Laycock. He, as your Lordships know, is shortly to end his term of office. His has been a very difficult term of office, but he has shown that he is not only a soldier but also a statesman; and whatever one or two Maltese may have said in the heat of argument or at a time of disturbance, I know that, one and all, they look on him as a true friend—and not only as a personal friend, but as a friend of Malta whose greatest anxiety is to see that Malta flourishes and is happy. As your Lordships know, the Governor-designate has been named—Sir Guy Grantham. He, of course, has much experience of Malta and is loved by the Maltese; and surely his appointment is proof, if proof were needed, that we do not intend to desert Malta. It is very much the opposite: we want to do all we can for her wellbeing. I am quite certain that if the Governor-designate had not believed that, he would never have taken on the job.

In the meantime, until we have this new Constitution we are going to do all we can to help diversify Malta's economy and the changeover of the Dockyard from Admiralty to commercial work. To this end, we have announced that during the next five years we are ready to spend up to £29 million. Messrs, Bailey, of Newport, will, it is expected, take over the Dockyard, and the Admiralty (and this is a very important point) have undertaken to continue to give the yard work to do. Our aim, and that of Bailey's is that the works and the number employed should vary little, if at all, from what it is under the Admiralty to-day.

Some of your Lordships may have seen in this morning's papers an announcement of what Bailey's have in mind for this Dockyard. Their proposals have, of course, been worked out in the closest agreement with the Admiralty. They show that they and we are determined to make these dockyards the equal of any others, and competitive, so that tankers passing from the Middle East to this country and back will be attracted to them for repairs. They will be able to take tankers up to 45.000 tons, and. if we include the use of the dry dock, up to 80.000 tons. Such a changeover is a difficult task, but it is vital to the Island, and I would appeal to the skilled dockyard workers, and to my friends in the General Workers' Union, to do nothing to hamper this changeover and to do all they can to make the plan a success. It is going to be a difficult enough job anyhow, and if somehow or another it gets bedevilled by politics, the plan may founder and all on the Island suffer.

We aim also to diversify the Island's economy. We hope to be able to start up new industries. This is a tricky job, for the Island has little in the way of natural resources, apart from a nice climate, its dockyards, its skilled workers, and its attractions for tourism. We are prepared to spend a good deal of the £29 million in providing basic facilities, such as water and electricity, and a deep harbour. In addition, some money will be used to attract industry to the Island, and various tax reliefs are proposed. To this end also we are doing what we can to provide expert advice, and we have been fortunate in having an Industrial Development Board, of which the noble Lord, Lord Hives, will be Chairman, to advise the Governor. We all realise how great an achievement it has been in landing such a "big fish", when we know how much the noble Lord has done to build up the great Rolls Royce Company. In addition, Sir George Dowty, Sir George Schuster and the noble Viscount, Lord Hampden, will serve on the Board. I think that we could not have got together a better team from this country, and we hope to have some leading Maltese joining them. The Board's job will be to advise the Governor on new projects, on whether money should be given for them, and to persuade firms to go to the Island.

I take this opportunity to appeal to Maltese politicians to do all they can to welcome and further the efforts that we are making to promote the industrialisation of the Island. Whatever may be the constitutional future of Malta and the views of the various political leaders, the success of industrialisation must be for the good of the Island. Even Mr. Mintoff, who seeks independence, must surely appreciate that a policy which will lead to successful industrialisation, whoever may sponsor it, must bring nearer his chance of independence. This is something that I hope the Maltese leaders will remember, because there have been various threats about what may happen that clearly discourage industrialists who may be thinking of going there. And to these industrialists I would say that such threats, which I do not think one should take too seriously, should not cause them to hesitate to go forward. I can hardly imagine that, if they go to Malta and become established there, employing fifty or a hundred people, any Government, whatever its colour, would then take measures to do away with their concerns. I am sure that, whatever people may say, once they got there, they would be left and encouraged, and would continue to thrive.

As I have said, the talks we have had with the Maltese were always mixed up with economic fears and disputes about money. If only we can get a prosperous Island, less dependent on the needs of the Admiralty and the Services, then constitutional progress will be much easier to deal with. We are determined to make a start on this during this interim period. It is going to be a difficult job, which will take many years to achieve; but I am confident that long before these years are over there will be a new Constitution and a new Government of the Maltese people. None of us likes the present state of affairs. Let us make the period of direct rule as short as possible. To this end we pledge ourselves; and we ask those on the Island not to hinder the task of new building. It would be a splendid thing if very soon the Bill which we have before us to-day proves to be the instrument not of retreat but of progress, and if, as a result of it, we can introduce: at an early date a new and final Constitution which will restore the political as well as the natural friendship between the two peoples. I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.

Moved. That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Perth.)

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, however much the noble Earl, Lord Perth, dresses up his speech, this in fact is a melancholy occasion. It is most regrettable that this Bill should have had to be introduced. It gives to Malta direct rule of the earliest and most primitive type that is known in any colonial territory. I do not recall any single territory in the Colonial Empire which now has a form of government so primitive as is now being bestowed on this people.

Malta is an ancient community set in the Mediterranean, the birthplace of Western civilisation and of democracy as we know it. Throughout centuries we have held Malta and held command of much of the area of the inland sea. Its historic monuments, its palaces, its ancient and beautiful churches, its long and obvious association with the Royal Navy, delight all who visit that island. Until recently the constitutional advance of Malta, chequered though it has been, as the noble Earl has so rightly said, was a fairly steady one. Until recently Malta had an elected Legislature and a Government depending on that Legisla- ture, with a considerable amount of self-government, subject to certain reserved subjects which were the prerogative of the Governor and the Lieutenant-Governor. The Lieutenant-Governor of Malta is not a subsidiary or acting or deputy Governor; he is an official of the Colonial Office, who advises the Governor on those parts of his duties which fail under the heading of reserved subjects.

Then came a demand for further constitutional advance, and Mr. Mintoff, the Prime Minister, put up an interesting and novel proposal for integration which, to some extent, would have put Malta in the same position as Northern Ireland is in. I say "to some extent" because there were differences; but, by and large, that was roughly the position. Malta was to have self-government, to a large extent, and have its own Parliament, and was to have representation in another place of at least three Members. Dr. Olivier, the Opposition Leader, proposed a form of government which would seem largely an independent form of government within the Commonwealth, on somewhat the same lines as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland is now—that is, I think, the nearest analogy to it. At a somewhat later date, Miss Strickland, whose Party had no seats in the Legislature, put up a proposal suggesting, among other things, that Malta should be represented in this House. So there were a large number of different proposals for constitutional advance. But as Mr. Mintoff was the Prime Minister and represented the majority Party, his proposal naturally would receive the strongest and fullest consideration.

Her Majesty's Government, wisely, in my opinion, sent to Malta the most powerful delegation from Parliament that has ever gone in the history of this country to any colonial territory. It was led by the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack and comprised most distinguished Members of both Houses, with vast experience; and great weight would naturally be given to any recommendations that they made. They heard the various parties and considered what they had to say, and finally, except for two members, Mr. Maclay, who is now Secretary of State for Scotland, and Mr. Pickthorn, they agreed, irrespective of their Parties in this country, on a Majority Report. By and large, they accepted, as I understand it, Mr. Mintoff's proposal of integration, as we might call it and as the noble Earl has called it, and recommended that it should be accepted and, in particular, that certain Members from Malta should sit in another place. What they actually said was this: We conclude that representation at Westminster is practicable and reasonable, and, subject to the considerations mentioned above, we recommend its acceptance by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and by the Parliament at Westminster. This was a suggestion that had never been made before in respect of any colonial territory, and was a somewhat fascinating one; it certainly fascinated many people in other colonial territories who were beginning to wonder whether it might not also appeal to them. Some of us regarded it as a fine gesture to Malta, but were not so sure whether it was such a fine gesture to the United Kingdom. However, we accepted it and were quite prepared to work it. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Mintoff and the Secretary of State could not agree—we have heard today from the noble Earl, Lord Perth, a resumé of the difficulties that arose—and talks broke down.

Then, later, constitutional talks were proposed in London, but the two Parliamentary leaders, Mr. Mintoff and Dr. Olivier, would not agree to sit in any conference in which Miss Strickland appeared, because her Party was a very small one and had no seats in the Maltese Legislature. They said—and I must say that I feel there is a good deal of force in it—that in the United Kingdom the major Parties would not agree to have representatives of the Parties who had no seats in the Legislature in a constitutional conference. I think that that is right. I do not think for one moment that the Government or the Opposition would be likely to agree to representatives of the Scottish Nationalist Party or the Welsh Nationalist Party appearing and giving their views in a constitutional conference. So that conference broke down and the talks never really got started.

Now we are back to the beginning, to rule in Malta as it was in 1530 when the Knights of Malta established a fortress there; we are back 150 years to the time when British rule first started. Why is that? The onus must be on Her Majesty's Government to justify their actions. I have listened attentively to the noble Earl the Minister of State, but I feel he has not really justified the actions of the Government. He has not told us why things have gone so wrong. As I have indicated to your Lordships, I think Mr. Mintoff was incredibly ill-advised to reject the offer that was made to him. I do not think any colonial territory has had such a good offer as this before. But he wanted what was tantamount to a blank cheque for the support of Maltese economy, which it was difficult, if not impossible, for any United Kingdom Government to give him. I think he should have realised that he had strong cards in his hand. He had, first of all, the love and admiration which the people of this country bear for Malta; secondly, he had powerful advocates in the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and all those other distinguished noble Lords and right honourable gentlemen and honourable gentlemen from another place; and thirdly, he would have had the influence of those Members from Malta at Westminster, which would naturally be very strong when it came to telling people at Westminster of the troubles of the people of Malta. Yet these cards have been thrown away.

The Colonial Ministers appear to have been unable to handle Mr. Mintoff. Mr. Aneurin Bevan, in speaking on this subject, implied that, like equality in the Soviet Union, while all politicians are difficult, some politicians are more difficult than others. I can quite believe that Mr. Mintoff is difficult. But while anyone can deal with easy politicians and solve easy problems, statesmanship really comes in when you handle difficult politicians and solve difficult problems. I think that the trouble has been—I do not want to go into personalities over this—that in all probability the United Kingdom Ministers and Mr. Mintoff were looking at the problem through different spectacles. I give the Government every credit for this: I am sure they were most anxious to come to a reasonable solution, as they showed by appointing this Commission; and so, too, was Mr. Mintoff. As I say, I think the trouble has been that they looked at it through different spectacles. So far as the Secretary of State and the British Government were concerned, I imagine that the problem was mainly a constitutional one, of how best to make provision for the future Constitution of this small island. But to Mr. Mintoff I am certain the problem was mainly an economic one; that is to say, how, even after they got What they wanted constitutionally, he was going to feed his people and maintain a reasonable standard, so that they would not drop to the standard of people in North Africa, which, after all, is not far away. He felt that a constitutional victory without economic safeguards would be a barren one.

The facts are these. Malta has a population of 320,000—it has trebled through our connection with it. The entire economy, one way or another, depends on the Dockyard and the business brought by the Services. The deficit in their budget is made up by the Treasury every year. Changes in strategy have reduced the Royal Navy to a shadow of its former self and it has an ever-dwindling need for the Dockyard. To meet this situation, the United Kingdom Government, as the noble Earl has told us, offered £25 million over five years for economic development, and £4 million as an aid to conversion of the Dockyard from Naval to civil use. Then the Government arranged with C. H. Bailey Limited, of South Wales, to take over the running of the Dockyard as a civil concern.

These facts are sombre. Mr. Mintoff has reacted to them somewhat violently, an] possibly the United Kingdom Government have not allowed sufficiently for both Mr. Mintoff's and Malta's dilemma; because there is a dilemma. In an extreme form, it is the dilemma of many small non-viable States at this moment, and it is aggravated by the cloistered attitude of mind that people in small States, towns or villages, rather tend to get to-day. They think the world revolves around them. We in Parliament ought not to leave this matter as it is. We should be thinking about the future. I do not agree that one could say, "Well, there is the situation; it is a bad situation, and we must go hack to early days ", and so on. We must think about the future. The parties must meet and they must go on meeting until they thresh out a solution which is satisfactory.

There are various alternatives open to them. There is integration which, presumably, is still on the cards. I do not know whether the United Kingdom Government have ever withdrawn the offer. There is a system, as in Singapore, whereby there will be fairly full self-government in internal matters, but defence and foreign policy would be a matter of consultation or joint decision between the United Kingdom and the island. Then there is the independence within or without the Commonwealth. That is what Malta's Opposition Party—or what was the Opposition—wanted. That, I feel, is rather unreal economically. It is rather unreal in the case of an island like Malta to talk about complete independence because, quite frankly, they could not possible run their own services if they had complete independence. There must be some tie with this country or other larger unit.

Finally, there is the further alternative course of action, and that is internationalisation. Our hearts have all been lightened recently by the wonderful news, which we hope will go on being more and more wonderful, of Cyprus. There is an example of internationalisation in a sense—international opinion and aid coming to bear—and it may be that there will be something in that for Malta. It may be that N.A.T.O. will take an interest in Malta. They are interested in Malta as a military base. I do not press it one way or the other, but I say that internationalisation with regard to some of these smaller places such as Malta is a factor which we should consider, as my noble friend Lord Attlee said quite recently when discussing these matters.

For the present, therefore, I would content myself with asking a few questions, hoping that the Government will go on negotiating as to the future of the island with the Maltese representatives. But there are certain questions which I must ask as to the present—that is, with regard to the status quo sto be set up under this 13ill. First of all, when I went to Malta two or three years ago, I found the present Governor a very sincere man. I must say he was anxious to do his best for Malta, and I think we owe him a debt of gratitude for the way in which he has carried out his duties in what must have been a troublesome time for him. I should not have thought that in the circumstances the Governor-designate was, in the normal way, the obvious choice—not he personally, but anyone with his experience—for a colonial territory in the situation in which Malta now is. No one is a greater admirer of the Royal Navy than I am, but I should not have thought that a career in the Royal Navy alone would necessarily have given a man the required diplomatic, economic and other experience to be Governor of a territory in the very tricky situation that Malta is now in.

However, it may be that Malta is a special case. Of course, it has had a long connection with the Royal Navy, and it may be that to have an Admiral there, a professional sailor, is a good thing. I suppose that that depends very much on the Admiral. I take it that the Government have satisfied themselves as to that, but, except for Malta and one or two others, I should not have thought it would be a right choice. We are told that the Government are fortifying him with a Board. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hives, is to be the Chairman, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hampden, is a member of the Board, together with another gentleman whose name I did not catch. I gather that these are to advise the Governor with reference to economic matters.

Is there to be no trade union representative? I think it is a mistake in a matter of this kind where, after all, economic matters are so largely concerned with trade union matters, to have no distinguished member of the trade union movement in a body of this kind. Just lately the Government did exactly the same thing in Wales. They set up a Board with Sir Miles Thomas, who was an excellent choice, as chairman, but unfortunately all the members are industrialists. I make no complaint that many of them should be industrialists; but there were no trade union representatives or anyone like that. I think that that is a weakness of that Board, and that the Government will find it will be a weakness of the Board in Malta. There should undoubtedly be a prominent member of the trade union movement who would be able to advise the Governor and his colleagues on these important matters concerning trade unions. Perhaps we might have an indication from the noble Earl who is to reply whether there is any intention to appoint a trade unionist.

The second question I should like to ask is this. The Governor, Sir Robert Laycock, said this month in the Candlemas ceremony that the Communists con- sidered Malta ripe for further infiltration. What evidence is there of this? I think the House should know, because it is an important factor in the situation if the Governor has evidence of Communist infiltration in Malta. Is this why the Malta versus Bulgaria football match, which was to have taken place last Sunday, was cancelled? The reason, according to the Daily Telegraph, was given as "security." I have heard of pretty rough football matches in my time, especially when foreign teams are playing, but it is a little difficult to know why it should be a matter of security which prohibited the Bulgarian team from playing the Maltese. Who was to be secured? Will the noble Earl tell us that?

The greatest headache in Malta is, as the noble Earl has rightly said, the future of the Dockyard. I have had a word or two with some of the chief people of Bailey's on this matter, and their great hope is to get tankers in there. They think it is an excellent place for tankers, because they can clean out their tanks in the Mediterranean and will not be subject to criticism from bathers on the South Coast of England. After cleaning out their tanks the tankers will go into Malta to effect any repairs. This is a great hope. But has the noble Earl any evidence, or has he any indication at all, that this hope is to be realised? I think that that is an important point in the whole situation.

Are there any hopes for any other economic developments? I should imagine that the distance from raw materials and from markets makes the possibility of getting light industries not quite so hopeful as it otherwise would be. I should have thought that the tourist trade might be a very profitable one. Many noble Lords in the House have been to Malta. When I went there I was enchanted by it. It seemed to me that it had, either actually or potentially, all that is needed for the tourist trade, except that it is rather far away from the markets. But the circle of possible holiday places for the United Kingdom and Western Europe is constantly being expanded, and with cheaper air fares to and from Malta and with proper facilities in Malta many workers and others in this country and Western Europe, and the United States might welcome a holiday in that beautiful island.

To conclude, I would say that the situation will not stand still and time is not on our side; it is against us. At all costs we must avoid the sort of bitter disagreements we have seen so often break out elsewhere. We on this side appeal to the Government to tackle as a matter of urgency this dispute, in a firm resolve to seek a solution, and an early solution. We also appeal to the people of Malta to show the calmness, wisdom, patience and fortitude that they have shown so often in the past, so that these problems may be resolved between old friends to the satisfaction of all.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House more than a very few minutes. I am not concerned to refer to the main subject of this debate, but I feel a duty to add a footnote which is both relevant and important. As your Lordships are no doubt aware, very often footnotes prove interesting and sometimes mere illuminating than the text to which they are attached. All of us join in deploring that our relations with the island of Malta should have come to such an unhappy state as to require a Bill of this sort. Fundamentally, as the noble Earl has indicated, it is no doubt due to economic difficulties. Our debt to Malta is of an imperishable kind, being built on a wonderful record of common friendship and sacrifice in a common cause. On the other hand, such debt can never be translated easily into economic terms, and the obstinate difficulties involved by economic questions remain still to be resolved.

With all that I have no particular concern, but I ought to draw attention to the fact that, whatever may be our constitutional relations with Malta, there are issues of religious freedom involved which in intrinsic merit and importance outweigh all economic considerations. In the old Malta Constitution, now to be withdrawn, are the following clauses. I quote two of them: All persons in Malta shall have full liberty of conscience and enjoy the free exercise of their respective modes of religious worship. Secondly: No person shall be subjected to any disability or be excluded from holding any office by reason of his religious profession. It should be known, I think, that the Colonial Secretary has given explicit assurances that these same clauses will operate in any interim constitutional arrangements and will be included in any new permanent Constitution for Malta.

Your Lordships might well say that such an assurance could be taken for granted, since the principles of religious liberty therein enshrined could never be in jeopardy in this country or under the British Government. But in fact even here they are sometimes in jeopardy, and up to the late war and at limes since those very principles of religious freedom have been jeopardised in Malta, with the connivance and, I would say, encouragement of our own governmental authorities. In another place only yesterday questions were asked about religious freedom in Spain, where, as your Lordships will know, the principles of religious freedom are being denied in most distressing forms. In answer to a Question a spokesman for the Government said that if British subjects in Spain were suffering the Government could take action, but that if the sufferers were Spaniards then Her Majesty's Government have no locus standi.

That principle was very rightly, as I think, challenged on the spot; but the important point is that in Malta itself the British Government has in the past refused to take action to enforce the principles of religious freedom already enshrined in the Constitution of Malta, and it has done its utmost to restrain Anglican and other British subjects who are not members of the Roman Catholic Church from asserting the rights guaranteed them by the terms of the Constitution which I have just quoted. I will refrain from giving illustrations. All that I would say is that if the late Archbishop of York, Dr. Cyril Garbett, were here to-day he would certainly endorse what I have said out of his own personal experience and with all his customary frankness and vigour. I may add that a former Bishop of Gibraltar, in whose jurisdiction Anglicans in Malta are placed, had just before the war given notice to the Colonial Office that he would no longer submit to their pressure to avoid raising awkward questions of religious principle, but would seek legal remedy for certain injustices with regard to marriage from which non-Roman Catholics in Malta were suffering.

As I have said, the Government have given us assurances that so long as Malta is associated constitutionally with this country the principle of religious freedom will be maintained. Even now I am not entirely sure that the Government attach that supreme importance to the safeguarding of principles of religious freedom which is required by the historic travails of this country and of the Church of England, and is now endorsed by the general support of world opinion and of international obligations. Happily, as I have said, we have this very considerable assurance that now and in the future the universal principles of religious freedom will be fully applied in Malta. It is right that this fact should be everywhere recognised and should be borne in mind as part of the background to the search for a solution to the present unhappy constitutional disharmonies—a solution for which every one of us fervently prays.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I could not help feeling, as I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that it was a pity that those in political life in Malta, where passions have run high and, perhaps, unwise words and actions have taken place, could not be here this afternoon to hear this debate, and particularly the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, speaking for the Opposition: critical, to some extent, of Her Majesty's Government's actions, but nevertheless putting forward in a fair way an objective examination of a situation which we all deplore, even though we admit differences as to the proposals for its solution. I believe that there is not one noble Lord in any part of the House who does not feel that this step is regrettable. Where we may differ is whether it is necessary or not. I believe that the step of Her Majesty's Government is inevitable, in the circumstances of to-day, for it is the first duty of Her Majesty's Government to govern. In that one sentence, I believe, lies the answer to Lord Ogmore's question, when he said that the onus must be on the Government to justify their action. He asked for some justification. I believe that is the justification for the action.

Any of us who has studied what has been happening recently in Malta knows of the difficulties which have confronted the Governor in maintaining law and order, and the complete freedom of the police from political action and influence, but I should like to endorse the tribute of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, to Sir Robert Laycock, the present Governor. Those of us who have known him in war in other fields of activity, those of us who have had the advantage of seeing him at his work in Malta, know that he has had only one purpose in mind—namely, the furtherance of the trust that had been given to him. May I also say that those Back-Benchers who support the Government in this action do not intend that support to detract in any way from their affection of, and admiration for, the people of Malta. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, traditionally Malta is a Mediterranean fortress for our navy. Never was it such a fortress for liberty as during the last war. In the last war I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to fly in and out of Malta during the time of its trial and stress; and the bravery, the tenacity and the courage of the people is something that will always be green in our memories.

The noble Earl, Lord Perth, said that this was a check. I should rather have called it a pause in progress—and a pause not of our seeking. I believe that the Government have nothing to apologise for in the long history of patient negotiation which has taken place during the past two years. I think that Mr. Mintoff has forced the situation by his demands: integration, on his terms, or independence, either within or without the Commonwealth—which, is not clear. Those were the two alternatives. An integration on his terms was impossible, and therefore integration as proposed by the Round Table Conference is, I believe, at any rate for as long ahead as we can see, dead.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, himself characterised Mr. Mintoff's proposals of independence as being somewhat unreal. I agree with him. But, after all, it is on that cry that he has been raising the political temperature in Malta. Independence, whether within or without the Commonwealth, means much more than just cheers and an individual flag: it implies an economic policy to sustain the life of the people of that country. I believe that if ever we thought of negotiating in regard to independence on lines put forward by Mr. Mintoff, we should be betraying our trust to the very people that Mr. Mintoff is claiming to represent. Mr. Mintoff has shown in his public declarations an intolerance of the acceptance of logical reasoning, because he has ignored the inevitable links between political aspirations and the economic facts of life in Malta or, indeed, anywhere else.

As we know, Malta has no recourse to raw materials; it has no oil, no coal and no natural wealth. Some 20,000 out of 80.000 workers are employed by the Government. Malta is unable to pay for more than about 20 per cent. of the essential imports of food and other necessities. Independence would mean the loss of the direct Exchequer grant. which I think this year is some £6½ million. It must jeopardise the £29 million of capital expenditure over the next five years which we have said the Exchequer would provide. If outside the Commonwealth, it would mean the losing of the preferential position in trading which Malta at present enjoys. Let us remember that there is no rush of industrialists to set up factories or to start industries in Malta, as Lord Hives said the other day at his Press conference. Independence is an unreal thing on which to try to rally your political supporters.

I believe that during this pause we should do as Lord Ogmore said, and as the Government intend to do—that is, try to evolve a new and workable Constitution for the future. But I believe that there is something more we can do during this time—namely, that we should try at all levels of our national life to bring about a better understanding between the people of Malta and ourselves. I will explain what is in my mind.

It is, of course, true that there are high-level contacts between those responsible for public life in Malta and those responsible for public administration in this country. But I believe that it would be worth while spending some comparatively small sum out of the £6½ million that we are going to pay to the Exchequer in Malta on bringing over here representative Maltese to be our guests, in order that they may see the corresponding side of our national life. When one goes to Malta it is amazing to find how few people in important positions in the island have ever been to Britain. They have travelled to the Mediterranean countries. It is an amazing situation. But I suppose when one remembers that there are quite a number of agricultural workers in the Home Counties who have never been to London, it is not surprising that there are people in Malta, which is a far greater distance away, who have not visited this country.

I should like Her Majesty's Government to consider whether it would not be wise propaganda, possibly better than radio and other forms of propaganda, to bring over to this country as guests—but not to fill them up with propaganda: let them go anywhere they like—let us say, trade union leaders, a small number of operatives, dockers, craftsmen, and let them loose in Britain to see their corresponding number in our country engaged in similar trades and occupations. Let us bring over some professional men, and let them see their professional opposite numbers in this country. Bring over, if you like, some engaged in retail commerce. But do not be niggardly; do not be small-minded in such a project. Bring a large number and let them have two or three weeks in this country. I believe that, if that were done, it would be found that every man they met in this country was an ambassador for better understanding between Malta and Britain. It is only on better understanding that sound and accepted constitutional relationships can progress in the future; and the work of rebuilding confidence and trust can be done only on foundations such as these.

In conclusion, my Lords, I would say this. It is my hope that though political integration as proposed in the past may be dead, we may have a different form of integration during this period of pause, while the Constitution is suspended—an integration of understanding and purpose, so that the people of Malta will know better that we are their friends and that we wish only their advancement in an orderly, proper manner, advantageous to themselves and to the common ideals of liberty which they and we treasure.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, ever since I relinquished the office of Governor I have steadfastly refused to make any public statement about Malta. I did not wish to run the risk, through something I said being misunderstood or misrepresented, of aggravating a delicate situation. But as all the long-drawn negotiations have now come to complete failure I feel relieved from the embargo which I placed upon myself and at liberty to take some part in this discussion. I hope that anything I say will be moderate and constructive and will not add to the difficulties of the present situation.

The real troubles of Malta are economic and not constitutional. The political difficulties arise in a very large part because the leaders of Maltese political Parties refuse to face the hard facts and realities of the economic position of the islands. It is not really correct to say that the present Constitution of Malta has broken down. Maltese politicians have refused to work it; but the Constitution in fact—and I had some part in the discussion on it before it was promulgated—is a liberal Constitution which gives to the Maltese people full and complete control of their internal affairs through a Legislature of forty members, elected upon the widest possible franchise, and a Ministry composed of members of the Legislature and responsible to it, in the same fashion as in this country.

It is true that the Maltese Government had not control of certain matters. There was reserved to the British Government control of the defence of the islands. The British taxpayer pays the whole cost of that, and there is no one in Malta who wishes it to be otherwise. In those circumstances it is inevitable that the control of defence should be in the hands of this country. With defence there go, of course, foreign policy—because there is no foreign policy without defence, and vice versa. With it also there goes control of civil aviation, which is so intimately linked with military aviation, especially in an island which is so small that the airport facilities have to be shared between civil and military purposes. Control of immigration was also reserved to the British Government, and that necessarily went with the defence of the island and control of foreign policy. Over and above all that, the only other matter of importance which was reserved to the control of the British Government was the currency of the island, and that, it seems to me, was also inevitable in a country which was unable to provide either sterling or dollars to pay for neces- sary imports, and necessary, also, if it is desired to attract to Malta investment capital from other countries.

Let me say, in addition, that although there was this division of functions between the Maltese Government and the British Government, there was also provision for joint consultation, either through the Privy Council presided over by the Governor and composed of Ministers and the Governor's advisers, or by informal consultations with the Prime Minister of Malta; and during my time, at any rate, those methods of joint consultation were fully used. So I say that it is not that the Constitution has broken down. It has perished from no inherent defect but simply from the refusal to operate it.

Now let me say a little about the economic situation—and in this, of course, I am referring to all the Maltese Islands, although for shortness I will speak of Malta. Here we have, in the middle of the Mediterranean, 120 square miles of coralline limestone thrown up from the bed of the sea. It has in many places no soil whatever, in other parts a thin covering of soil upon the rock. It has a very small annual rainfall—some 18 inches—in a very warm climate where evaporation is very considerable. In addition, a very large part of the rainfall is lost because it often comes down in heavy downpours—perhaps 1 inch or 2 inches in a day—and runs off into the sea. If that does not happen, the rain sinks down through the porous rock until it reaches the sea level, from which it can be recovered only with great pains and difficulty. Agriculture, therefore, is carried on in circumstances in many ways adverse, but it has proved possible in the past to maintain the fertility of the soil, and to prevent erosion, by means of traditional methods of agriculture suited to the circumstances of the islands. While I was there I endeavoured to encourage these methods and to improve and systematise them, in order to help to increase the amount of agricultural produce that could be obtained.

Apart from that, as has been said, Malta has only a fine natural harbour, which needs to be improved in its berthing and handling facilities; and that I sincerely hope will be well developed under the auspices of the company who are going to undertake this work. I hope that their project for developing the dockyard for commercial purposes will be successful.

Once upon a time Malta was important as a coaling station, but that declined with the change from coal to oil. It was, of course, very important to us for many years as a naval station, but in the last fifteen years the picture has completely altered. Indeed, even when I was there it had become apparent that the island was not likely to be of vital importance if another major war should occur, but that no doubt it would still be necessary and essential to deny its use to any potential enemy. But that is a very great change from what the rôle of Malta as a naval station was in the past. Of course, when we look at the number of ships which now constitute the Royal Navy, and when we see that dockyards in this country are being closed down completely, it is evident that the Maltese Dockyard could not be maintained as it was in the past. These are very unfortunate facts, but I am afraid that they are inescapable.

I hope that the efforts which are being made to encourage the establishment of industry in Malta will meet with success. As has already been pointed out, there are no sources of power available in Malta; there are no indigenous sources of raw materials. The water supply—that is, unsalt water—is very small; but for processes which need water only for cooling purposes there is, of course, an ample supply in the surrounding sea. But it is evident that industry in Malta will be carried on under difficulties when all raw materials have to be imported and then exported, and double costs of transport are incurred. The choice of industries which are suitable in those circumstances is correspondingly limited.

The population of Malta now is 320,000 persons or more. When the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem went there in 1530 the population was some 20,000. When the Knights left at the end of the 18th century the population was about 100,000. At the beginning of this century it had risen to some 200,000; and to-day, as I have already said, it is 320,000. It is now increasing more rapidly than at any previous time in its history, and unless the natural increase of population should be counterbalanced by emigration, the economic position of Malta is likely to become increasingly difficult. If the population should increase rapidly beyond the development of industry, there might easily come a period of unrest, of agitation, and the infiltration of Communist ideas and the breakdown of the traditional values of Maltese civilisation; and forces might become unleashed which neither Maltese political leaders nor the Church could control. This is a prospect which deserves to be pondered.

My Lords, even with the most determined efforts it will take a considerable time before Malta, even with her present population, can be made self-supporting. Financial assistance from this country will have to be forthcoming for a long period, as generously as it has been in recent times, in order to tide the islands over their difficulties. I am sure that none of us would grudge that aid, and our hope is that it will be used to the best advantage.

When I look back to that beautiful autumn day in 1947 when I drove with the Duke of Gloucester to the seat of Government in Valletta for the opening of the first Session of the Legislature under the present Constitution, and when I recall how the people came out in their thousands, with their bands playing, to greet the Duke and the Duchess, I cannot help feeling that there has been a very sad deterioration in the situation. The highest political skill and tact will now be required on both sides in order to restore that atmosphere in which the real interests of Malta will be considered and useless political altercations abandoned. For the sake of the Maltese people, for whom I have the deepest affection, I hope that we shall see soon the beginning of a more constructive and profitable era in Maltese affairs.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, I have never been to Malta; therefore, I cannot speak on the subject with any first-hand experience. Nevertheless, when a Bill of this nature comes before your Lordships' House, to one who like myself takes a special interest over the whole field of colonial affairs there inevitably occur many thoughts and memories, some of them based on personal experience, others of a more historical nature, which lead one to make comparisons with other situations of a somewhat similar nature which have occurred in the past in other Colonies and which, so far as one can foretell, may occur in yet further Colonies in the future—comparisons which one hopes may be valid and of some use when one comes to consider what to do in the present situation.

Having such thoughts and memories, although I do not know Malta, I have felt it my duty to add one further voice from this side of the House to that of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, in order at least to express the sense of very real anxiety that we have in this situation, and to send a message of exceptional friendliness to the people of Malta, for whom we all have the warmest admiration. In view of Malta's past history, which has been one of honour and valour over the centuries in the defence of Christianity itself—no less—it would be unthinkable that the Maltese people should have even the impression that we, the British people, could ever let them down in their hour of need; and I think that that should be stressed on the occasion of this debate, when feelings are running especially high in Malta.

My Lords, if there is one lesson I have learned by spending, as I have, a few years in the Colonies, it is to have a deep appreciation not only of the activities of the people who live in the Colonies but of their way of life and their thoughts and feelings, and a deep awareness of the way in which legislation passed in this country, perhaps 5,000 miles away, can affect the individual lives of ordinary, innocent people who ask nothing more than to be left to live their lives in peace. With that awareness, I feel that all of us here want to ensure that what the Government is doing to-day, or rather the consequences which will flow from the Government's action, will, indeed, be to the benefit of the Maltese people—and that is the whole crux of this debate.

There clearly seem to be two sides to this problem—the constitutional and the economic; and with both of them there is inextricably linked the strategic aspect as well. Turning to the constitutional coupled with the strategic aspect, one cannot help but turn one's eyes further east towards that other island, Cyprus. Now it has been said by, I think, two speakers on this debate in another place—and said with some confidence—that anything similar to the Cyprus situation could never arise in Malta; and those speakers based their confidence upon the extreme friendliness of the Maltese people. I have known a number of very friendly people in the Colonies, and yet there has been bloodshed: in Kenya, in the Gold Coast before it was Ghana, in Nyasaland, in the West Indies, and, even as recently as only last year, very unfortunately, in Northern Rhodesia.

My Lords, I cannot accept that there cannot be bloodshed in Malta, and I wish to stress that possibility to the Government. I ask them to take positive action in order to prevent such a deterioration in an island where, although you cannot possibly have anything in the nature of a Mau Mau or guerilla warfare owing to the smallness of the territory, you could, nevertheless, have very serious riots and, owing to the density of the population, a considerable spilling of innocent blood for no good and sufficient reasons. I hope that the Government will take positive action in order to prevent that situation arising—and by that I mean not only police and military action, but the necessary political action which will bring about a feeling in Malta which will cut at the roots of any attempt at organised riots.

Turning to the economic side now, I would point out that the Government have announced great economic aid and have said something of the plans they have for Malta; and in another place I think they have said that there is going to be a complete programme for the economic advancement of Malta ready to be put into force by next April. But, here again, I ask Her Majesty's Government not to delude themselves into believing that economic aid alone is going to be sufficient to satisfy the aspirations of the Maltese people. Again there are lessons to be learned from other parts of our Colonial Empire—and I turn once more for the purpose of illustration, to the case of Nyasaland. No country has received greater benefit economically than has Nyasaland by joining the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and yet the leaders of the African Nationalists there, and the leaders who command the biggest majorities, have openly said that they would prefer some form of political freedom and even have to starve in order to get it rather than benefit economically without that sort of freedom. That is a subject we may perhaps be discussing later in the year; but that is the sort of thing I mean. However prosperous Malta may be in the future, I am sure that if, at the end of a twelvemonth, something has not been done to further the political aspirations of the Maltese people, all that we may do economically may go to waste and the friendliness between the two nations may be beyond the point of return.

I come now to the present and the future. I will not go at all into the past, for that has already been done. What, then, can the Government do? Here I would say that I am sure that they must, at least, pass this Bill to-day; that it is necessary to bring it in; and that they are not to blame for what has happened hitherto. But what are we going to do in the future? The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the very distinguished delegation which was known as the Round-Table Conference, which, in 1955, reported on integration. I wonder whether it is not possible to set up another delegation of that nature; to examine not all the old ground of integration, or to recommend what has already been turned down, but to examine objectively the alternatives, including integration, independence within the Commonwealth, and even the independence idea of Mr. Mintoff. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, that Mr. Mintoff's proposal is impracticable, but the point is that the only people who have said it is impracticable at the moment are the Colonial Secretary and the Colonial Office; and Mr. Mintoff, who has control over the people, has raised them to the point of rioting and striking and national days of mourning, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inch-rye, has pointed out, on the cry of "Independence!"

If it can be shown objectively and rationally, by some delegation of the same nature as the Round-Table Conference delegation, that these alternatives would lead to certain conclusions, and the whole thing is put before the people of Malta, I am sure that they will choose the right course. Possibly some Maltese might even sit on this delegation, which could make an objective report analysing the whole situation and reaching certain conclusions. I do not know if the Gov- ernment can say at this stage whether any such delegation is in their minds, but I hope, at least, that they may consider such a possibility as the best course for breaking the deadlock which, on the official level, it seems virtually impossible to break in the present circumstances.

I support the Bill, but in the hope and belief that Her Majesty's Government are really seized with the gravity of the situation and with the necessary sense of urgency to take action of a constitutional and political nature in the near future. Because it seems to me that when the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said that as soon as a chance offers itself, their intention is to go forward again to a new liberal Constitution, that does not convey the necessary sense of urgency. Something rather more than that needs to be done before the time when any form of Constitution can be granted again to the Maltese people.

4.52. p.m.


My Lords, we are nearly at the end of a rather melancholy debate but I feel that the speeches that have been made this afternoon will give a good deal of comfort to the people of Malta. We have heard speeches from my noble friend Lord Ogmore and from the noble Lords, Lord Balfour of Inchrye and Lord Douglas of Barloch, and we have had, if I may say so, a particularly good speech from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. He has expressed the views that are held clearly and forcibly by the Party which I represent this afternoon, and I believe that when they are read in Malta those views will give a feeling of great satisfaction and a conviction that all is not lost.

It must have been with a heavy heart that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, moved the Second Reading of this Bill. During my short time in your Lordships' House, I have heard the noble Earl move the Second Reading of a number of Bills which have given constitutional advancement to various territories. Therefore it must have been with some sadness that he moved this afternoon the Second Reading of a Bill of this character. I wonder what must be the feelings of the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack. He was Chairman of that powerful Committee in 1955, now called the Round Table Conference on Malta. I am sure that he feels sad that the great hopes that came from that Conference are dead and gone. To-day, three and a half years later, your Lordships are called upon to commit this final act. It has become the custom that the Opposition do not divide on a Second Reading, and this afternoon we shall follow the advice of our noble Leader in not dividing; but I think it should be made perfectly clear to your Lordships' House that noble Lords on this side are bitterly opposed to this Bill. We wish to state, clearly and forcibly, that we will have no part in it.

Like the noble Earl, Lord Perth, I do not propose to dwell long on the past. As he said, mistakes have been made, and made by both sides. Hard words have been uttered by both parties. In my view, the sooner those words are forgotten the better it will be for Malta and for this country. But we should not forget the mistakes that have been made. It is not only the people of Malta who look with anxiety on the present position, but also the political leaders of the small territories which hope for advancement and have basically the same problems as Malta. When a Colony or Protectorate seeks constitutional advancement, two factors have to be taken into account. The first is whether they have attained a high political standard and have leaders capable of taking greater administrative responsibility. So far as Malta is concerned, in spite of the attitude that has been taken by its political leaders to the 1947 Constitution I do not believe that there is any doubt that the leaders are capable of taking greater administrative responsibility in Malta. The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies acknowledged this fact in another place on February 16, when he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 600 (No. 58), col. 147]: It would be absurd for us to approach the Maltese problem in the belief that they were not fitted intellectually or morally for a good constitution. We firmly believe that they are. Before I leave this point, I feel that I should make some reference to the rather serious accusation that has been made this afternoon by the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. He made the charge that there was a degree of religious intolerance in Malta. His charge is even more serious in that he suggested that Her Majesty's Government and the Colonial Office were aware of this intolerance and that it was an infringement of the Constitution. That is a serious charge to make.


My Lords, it is not a new charge at all. It has been stated in public many times and argued with the Colonial Office itself. It is an old charge—if it is a charge at all. As a matter of fact, I did not make it as a charge. I said that if it showed anything, it was that we now have an assurance that it will not occur again.


My Lords, I take note of those remarks, but I cannot help feeling that a charge was made. The most reverend Primate said that this was no new charge, but I think that the charge which has been made this afternoon demands a reply from Her Majesty's Government.

An important factor which must be taken into account when a territory has constitutional advancement is the question of its economy. In the case of Malta, the economy is basically that of a military and a naval base, an economy for which we in this country are entirely responsible. For 150 years the Colony has been under our control, and therefore we are to a degree responsible for its development. But unfortunately the island has no mineral resources, and there is a grave shortage of water, which has perhaps prevented the development of secondary industries. Its main source of employment and income is derived from the Naval Dockyard which employs over a quarter of the working population. Its weak economy, I believe, precludes any possibility of its being granted complete independence, as has been claimed by Mr. Mintoff. Even with increased industrialisation and productivity one cannot foresee this island ever standing on its own; it must always be tied to a bigger unit.

A variety of Constitutions were considered by the Round Table Conference in 1955. This Conference rejected all of them, and its final recommendation was that the island should be integrated into the United Kingdom. This original and novel recommendation was accepted by Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition, and by the majority of the Maltese people. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, in his speech this afternoon, stated that the whole scheme fell down because of Mr. Mintoff's demands in regard to unemployment. The economic fears of Mr. Mintoff and his colleagues were expressed in 1955. It was only natural that the Maltese people, when they were considering what Constitution they should adopt, should have in mind what material benefits would be available to them.

They hoped that their economy would be developed to bring their standards of living at least towards some parity with those in the United Kingdom. This was their hope, and I do not think they were claiming something that was not their right, when we remember that they have been a Crown Colony for 150 years and have been one of our main bulwarks, both in time of peace and in time of war. I think is fair to point out that in 1955 the Maltese representatives were not demanding immediate or early parity; their attitude was that they would be content with a steady improvement in their standards of living, hoping that parity would be reached in fifteen to twenty years.

As I understand it, the negotiations between the Maltese Government and Her Majesty's Government basically fell down due to the fact that Her Majesty's Government were unable to pledge sufficient investment capital to make it possible to give the parity of standards, within this time limit. This is a most tragic circumstance, for the task of raising the standards of the Maltese people is not such a formidable one: they are relatively few, and in fact it is a task that we shall have to accept, even if the island remains a Crown Colony. At the present moment this country contributes between £4 million and £6 million a year to balance the Maltese Budget; in the present circumstances there is no alternative. But surely it is a complete waste of public money if, year in and year out, we pay this subsidy and make little or no effort to raise the economy of the island, so that such a subsidy is no longer required.

Her Majesty's Government have set up the Hives Committee to advise on the method of raising the economic potential of the island. Can Her Majesty's Government tell us whether that Committee has commenced work, and when we may expect its first recommendations? I must say that I was disappointed, listening to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, this afternoon, to note that in discussing the Hives Committee he laid tremendous stress on its advisory capacity. If Malta is to be developed economically, and at a fairly quick rate, something more than an advisory capacity is required.

I would ask the noble Earl what staff and what facilities will be available to the Hives Committee. If there is to be constitutional advancement in Malta, good will and confidence must be built up. I believe that the greatest contribution to this good will would be a clear and obvious sign that the United Kingdom is doing the maximum to build up the economy of the island. If secondary industries are established, considerable investment will be required, not only for the industries themselves but for electrical power, water conservation arid training. I would ask the noble Earl whether the Hives Committee will be able to make concrete suggestions, arid whether immediate capital will be available to proceed with their recommendations.

We have heard a lot during the last few months about the naval base. Last July the noble Earl, Lord Perth, announced in your Lordships' House that, in view of the reduced requirements by the Navy of the Naval Dockyard, negotiations had been entered into with C. H. Bailey, Ltd. I was pleased to see in the Western Mail that Bailey's are proceeding in their plans to take over the Naval Dockyard, but I remember clearly that the noble Earl, in his statement, said that Bailey's and the Colonial Development Corporation were going into this project together. Yet this afternoon, when discussing the naval base and Bailey's, the noble Earl did not on one occasion mention the Colonial Development Corporation.

My information is that negotiations are still proceeding between Bailey's and the Colonial Development Corporation. Am I to understand that Bailey's are going into this project on their own; or are they still hoping that the Colonial Development Corporation will come in with them? I understand that the Colonial Development Corporation which is an eminently suitable organisation in the view of noble Lords on this side of the House for developing countries like Malta, has no projects in view: I believe that it has considered two projects, but has been forced to turn them down. I would ask the noble Earl: were they turned down through lack of finance, or is it the old problem that the Colonial Development Corporation can enter into projects only where there is an immediate chance of profit? I believe that the Colonial Development Corporation is eminently suitable for giving assistance to Malta, and I would ask the Minister if he will give an undertaking that the Colonial Office will have urgent conversations with the Corporation to see whether some projects cannot be started in Malta.

I cannot stress too strongly that if we are to retain the good will of the Maltese people, the problem of industrial development must be given absolute priority, and it must be clearly shown to the Maltese people that action is being taken. As soon as it is clearly shown to the Maltese people that Her Majesty's Government and the people are aware of the difficulties in Malta and are taking urgent steps to improve their standards and industrialisation, you will change the whole political climate in Malta and you will be able to arrange a fresh constitutional conference.

A fresh effort must be made to have a new constitutional conference. I should like to have an undertaking from the Government this afternoon that if the political leaders in Malta are willing to enter into further conversations with them Her Majesty's Government will not lose one day in opening those talks. If we do not make this offer I believe that a serious and dangerous position will arise. There are in Malta strong political Parties. There are also strong and active trade unions. All these organisations are nationalistic. If these organisations feel that they cannot obtain constitutional advancement and economic progress, it there is any delay on the part of Her Majesty's Government to meet the desire for further talks, I believe those organisations will be driven straight into the hands of the Communist Party.

This afternoon my noble friend Lord Ogmore mentioned the report of the present Governor about Communist infiltration. I believe that this is a serious matter. The fact that the Maltese people have been loyal supporters of this country and the fact that there is a strong Catholic faith are no protection against Communism. If you permit the natural aspirations of a proud people to be bottled up, to have no expression, these organisations are bound to fall into the hands of subversive groups. We have illustrations throughout the world, and I think in particular of Indo-China.

My noble friend Lord Ogmore brought up the subject of the appointment of the new Governor. I wish to pick my words most carefully, for I certainly do not wish to weaken Sir Guy Grantham's already delicate position in Malta. But one is bound to say that when one acknowledges the weak economic position of Malta and the effect on its constitutional position, one wonders whether it would not have been better to have appointed an official with industrial experience to be the spearhead, or, if you like, the agitator, for economic development in Malta. The appointment has been made, and I am sure all my noble friends on this side of the House would wish to extend to Admiral Grantham their sincerest best wishes that he may be able to attain in Malta what his predecessor unfortunately has failed to achieve.

I should like to pay a tribute to the present Governor who, throughout his time, has striven to bring better relations between Malta and this country. He must be a very sad man that he must leave office without attaining his goal. But the Governor will now govern Malta through a Council. We on this side of the House would like a little information as to who will be appointed. If the major Parties do not co-operate with the Governor and agree to have representatives on that Council, I believe it will be the height of folly for the Governor to appoint any of the minority Parties. This would only create bitterness, and might well delay a fresh constitutional conference. I think it would be better, if the main political Parties are not prepared to go on the Council, that it should be a completely official Council. I should like to make a special plea in regard to appointment to this Council. I believe that one of these officials should have industrial and trading experience—an official who can concentrate on developing the Colony's economy. This official should be able to work in the closest harmony with the Hives Committee and the Colonial Development Corporation, and with any enterprise that is willing to set up an industry or project in Malta. I believe also that a trade union representative should be appointed to the Council. We have to rebuild a harmony between the workers and management of the island, and I believe that if a trade union representative can be persuaded to join the Council, that would be a very good thing.

As I see it, our problem is that there cannot be constitutional advancement in Malta without an increasing productivity. The Secretary of State for the Colonies stressed this in his speech in another place. But you will not get investment, especially private investment, unless you have political stability; and you will not have political stability until there is a constitutional progress. Initially, I believe the chain of economic development in Malta will depend on public funds, and I hope that we shall hear from the noble Earl that if the Hives Committee make definite recommendations, there will be no absence of funds or capital.

It may be questioned whether the British taxpayer has any obligation to the people of Malta. I think the words of paragraph 100 of the Round Table Conference Report answers that point. If I may, I will read a few words, because I think they set out what are the true sentiments, not only of your Lordships' House but also of the country. The Report, speaking of Malta, says: She voluntarily came under the British Crown 150 years ago and continued to accept, with the prestige and material benefits of being a stronghold in the Mediterranean, the difficulties of an island fortress. She has been a tower of strength to the causes which the British and Maltese people both believe to be Close of the civilisation of which Malta has been again and again a bastion. The two world wars of this century have set their seal on Britain and Malta standing together. As I have said earlier on, noble Lords on this side of the House object strongly to this Bill. We are not convinced that to put the island back to the crudest form of colonial rule is really necessary. In spite of the long conferences, the frustrating conferences, we should have liked one last, final appeal to be made to the people of Malta before this Bill became law. But it is clear that the Bill will pass through its remaining stages this afternoon, and therefore we call upon Her Majesty's Government to give us a definite undertaking that the revised Constitution is only a temporary one and that as soon as the political leaders of Malta are prepared to discuss the problem Her Majesty's Government will immediately convene that Conference, and that they will forget all the hard words that have been spoken and enter that Conference with a determination to design a Constitution acceptable to the people of Malta and to this country.

We are under a great obligation to Malta. I think we should do all we can to speed this new Constitution, and I believe the final words of the Report are worth quoting: In these circumstances we believe that the people of Malta are entitled to a special road to political equality and that the road should be, if they choose, representation in Westminster. I conclude by stressing those words, "entitled to a special road to political equality."

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be brief because we have very little time, but I want to make two comments on the debate. The first is this. We are always told that one great advantage of your Lordships' House is that it is a bulwark against sudden revolutionary change. If ever there was a sudden revolutionary change it is the abolition of the Parliament of Malta, and this is being executed by your Lordships to-day in all its six stages in one sitting of Parliament—indeed, the Commission is waiting in the wings to carry out the execution at six o'clock, and that is the reason brevity of speech is necessary.

We are to-day to kill a Parliament; that is to say, we are following the example of the Sudan, Pakistan, Siam and Laos, an example which is becoming general in the Middle East, of abolishing Parliamentary institutions. It is because I am a deep and fervent believer in Parliamentary institutions that I think it is a most deplorable act. "Sadness" is not at all a sufficient word; it is a wicked thing to do. We are doing it at a moment when we ought to know that public opinion in these parts on questions of Parliamentary freedom and freedom of government, self-government, is very sensitive and acute. That we should put an end to the Parliament of Malta at a moment when the Cyprus situation is so sensitive seems to me absolutely unbelievable. I say no more than that.

We believe, as my noble friend has said in his speech, that this Bill should be withdrawn. We believe that the Parliament should be permitted to meet in April to see what could be made of it. If, as my noble friend Lord Ogmore said, the breakdown really occurred because those people in Malta refused to meet an English lady who could not get a single Parliamentary seat for her Party I think there might be some hope of a better result of another meeting. That is all I say in a general way.

The whole debate to-day has been utterly unreal. If it is true that all these blessings flow from the connection, why do the Maltese throw them away? If it is true that their living depends on us, why do they want to cut the painter? Your Lordships' House has not realised in this debate the burning passion for political independence sweeping through the Middle East and Asia to-day. What we have to do, and cannot do to-night, is to give serious examination to this problem. Where do we stand as to the theory of the fortress Colony? Are we entitled to mark out part of the world and say, "This is a fortress Colony. All we say about liberty and self-government does not apply here because, in our opinion, this is a strategic centre and we must hold it."? This problem requires debate and debate. It involves the whole issue of whether you believe the world is becoming inevitably divided, with a great gulf between, or whether you believe that there is a way of living together. However, I see that the headsmen are already sharpening their axe ready to enter the stage. Therefore, what we say is: let the Parliament of Malta meet, and let us see what the result of that meeting is. Let a further effort be made. Let it be made quite clear, so far as the Labour Party are concerned, that they are utterly opposed to bringing back in the twentieth century, as my noble friend Lord Ogmore said, a Government which was suitable for the sixteenth century.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I want to say two words, because to my mind this problem is basically an economic problem. The economy in an island of this sort, where there are no natural resources, is bound to be an artificial economy. If one views it from that aspect, I think one realises that very few people feed on politics; there must be industry there to keep the economy going. Nevertheless there are one or two gestures which I think might be made. I cannot help feeling that it would be a great advantage if we had, for example, a Maltese Life Peer in your Lordships' House. I cannot help feeling that the building of a dockyard is one thing, but whether ships can be encouraged to go there and use that dockyard depends entirely on the economics of the dockyard. Therefore I support the Opposition's opinion that a trade union leader, who controls these matters to such a large extent, should be on the Council. I do think that that is a point which should be very carefully considered.

The other point I should like to make is that if one had tax-free oil, ships might refuel at Malta. After all, the Canary Islands' economy depends upon refuelling, because it is cheaper to refuel there than anywhere else in that part of the world; ships go there for that reason. I think that that example might be copied in Malta. That is all I have to say.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, there have been, I think we should all agree, very helpful speeches to-day. Not everybody has liked the Bill; nor do we like the Bill. But what has come out of our debate has been forward looking and constructive. It has shown our full friendship for Malta. Before I get down to what I think has been perhaps the main theme of our debate, namely, the economic question, I would make a comment on one or two remarks made about the Governor-designate. Let me say that he is an old friend of Malta. He is somebody the Maltese know well already; the dockers know him and trust him absolutely. He also is a sailor and one who has had a great deal to do with dockyards. I cannot think of anybody in fact whose appointment is more appropriate at this time to show the Maltese that we recognise what the priority is and we are not going to let them down. I know that that is how they have taken he appointment.

The noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, who of course has great experience as a Governor, said that he felt that the real problem here was an economic rather than a constitutional one. In some senses that is true. When we had our integration negotiations they broke down not on the constitutional side—in fact, in the end we reached agreement there—but rather on the economic side. So it is the economic side to which we want now to attach particular importance. It is a difficult business but it is not, as I think some might have thought on listening to Lord Shepherd, something which we had ignored and something which we do not know about. Far from it. When listening to him I wondered whether perhaps he had been listening to my speech when I told your Lordships a little of what we intend to do on the economic side.

We feel that the first priority on the economic side is to get the Dockyard going. That is what we have been working on as an absolutely top priority. Changing a dockyard from work for an Admiralty base to work for a commercial base is a highly difficult and technical job. It is not something about which you can just say, "We do it to-morrow." You must have every kind of change made, such as lengthening the docks, new forms of machinery and difficult engineering undertakings. That is going to take quite a while. You have to work out all the plans. That is what we have been working on above all else. For that we have decided, I would almost say, that money does not count; but that is not quite true, because of course money always must count. But we are determined that the conversion of the Dockyard shall be a success. We think it is a first priority, and have so treated it. But that does not mean that we have been ignoring other things at the same time.

There have been various discussions on just what are the functions of the Industrial Development Board which I mentioned earlier. There was some criticism of the fact that it was essentially an advisory body. I think that perhaps that is due to some misunderstanding of what is going to be the set-up for the industrial development of the island at the present time. There are to be two bodies, one of which is called the Industrial Aids Committee. That is an advisory body for promoting the island's economic diversification. That body will have the responsibility of advising the Governor on spending the £29 million. It will deal with such things as water conservation, roads and electricity, and building sites which we hope will then be taken by industrial companies. On that Committee I think will be the real place for a trade union representative There will be Maltese advisers, and the chairman of the Committee will probably be the Financial Secretary on the island who, happily, has had considerable experience in these things; he will be the one who will draw up the main plan. The second body is the Industrial Development Board, of which Lord Hives will be the chairman. That Board's job is rather to advise whether a project which has been put forward is a good one. and further they will do what they can to entice industry to go there. If they advise that a project is a good thing, or if they can induce an industry to go there, then I assure the noble Lord—I think it was again Lord Shepherd who asked me—that there will be money out of the £29 million available for such industries.

Some reference was made to the Colonial Development Corporation working with Bailey's. I am not quite certain just what is the position between Bailey's and the Colonial Development Corporation, but I think talks are still going on. If the Colonial Development Corporation do not want to go forward because they do not judge it suitable, that is their affair; but we are certainly not standing in the way. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that there were two projects in which the C.D.C. had been told they could not go on in Malta. I frankly do not know what those cases are. If he will tell me about them I shall be happy to look into the matter. I am most puzzled because it seems to me a most improbable State of affairs. If the C.D.C. can find any industry which they want to go into in Malta, we shall be most happy.

Mention has been made of the tourist trade. On that, I would say to Lord Hastings, who has not yet been to. Malta, that perhaps he might be one of the first to try it. Then Lord Douglas of Barloch said that we must not forget that whatever we may do in industrialisation and economic development, the population grows. This is a very real problem. He is quite right when he says that, hand in hand with everything else, emigration is an essential part of the job. The Government have done what they can to encourage emigration and will continue to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, made the suggestion that we might try to bring some Maltese over here so that they can get experience of our ways of life, and so forth. On that, I can only say that I think it is an interesting suggestion and that we will certainly go into it further.

The most reverend Primate raised the important matter of religious toleration. I am not going to say much about that or go into any cases. I know that there have been one or two instances of difficulty on religious matters over the many years past. But I must, and I do most categorically, deny that there has been connivance by the authorities in Malta. The most reverend Primate some little while ago had correspondence with the Governor on this question generally, and I think I might quote one sentence of what the Governor said in reply to the most reverend Primate. He said that: there is every indication of an improvement in the relations between the Anglican and the Roman Catholic churches in Malta.


My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Earl quoted that passage. I can support that in any number of examples because there has been an immense improvement; but it has happened in Malta, not here.


The only other thing that I would say on the religious side is to confirm the assurances that were given by my Secretary of State on what would happen, both now and in future Constitutions, in relation to religious toleration.

I would repeat the pledge that I have already given. We hope that the present period of direct rule will be extremely short; and if the Maltese leaders come to us and say, "Now we are ready to talk; now we should like to discuss a new Constitution", I can only say that we shall like nothing better. But the suggestion of one or two noble Lords that the reason why the last talks failed was that Miss Strickland was invited to join the talks, really does not stand up to examination. There were many other reasons. After all, she and her Party came to the Round Table Conference. I do not want to go into the merits or de-merits of what was done, but to suggest that this was the cause of the failure is just not sensible.

As I have said, we are most anxious to get on with the new Constitution. I still count all the politicians of Malta as my personal friends, and I can assure them that our anxiety is to find a bridge by which we can go forward to new places. Meantime, I feel that it is most important, as so many noble Lords have said, that we should get on with the job of industrialisation in the Dockyard and finding new industries; and that is not something which depends only upon us. A great deal depends upon the Maltese themselves and, above all, on the Maltese politicians. I have made this appeal once and I repeat it: I hope that they will do nothing to hinder what we are trying to do in getting things going once more. If only we can get industry into the island, that will not only be for its own welfare but make constitutional problems so much easier.

This Bill allows the island to have, through Order in Council, a new Constitution at any time that we choose. For that purpose we certainly will want the best advice of the Maltese people, and we shall want them to have a Constitution which is liberal and forward-looking in every way. And if, before too long, it is my pleasure to come here and tell your Lordships that that has been achieved, none will be happier than I will be.


My Lords, before the noble Earl finishes his speech, could be comment on the suggestion I made for establishing a Round Table Conference? Even if he is against it, I think that we should like to know. Is there any chance of that being considered?


My Lords, certainly. I am in no way against that, and I am ready to consider any constructive suggestion such as the noble Lord has made.

On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived.

Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been dispensed with (pursuant to the Resolution of February 18):


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Perth.)


My Lords, may I take this opportunity of asking the noble Earl what the representative process will be, in the happy event of something being possible? Will a statutory instrument be introduced, or will it be done by the introduction of legislation? That is an important point, because in the case of a change of Government they can proceed partly by legislation: they have the power behind them. In the case of a statutory instrument there is a parity of power, so that it is important to know which course would be pursued if it were possible to take either.


My Lords, as I understand it, the likelihood would be that we should introduce a new Constitution under an Order in Council.

On Question Bill read 3a, and passed.

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