HL Deb 20 December 1960 vol 227 cc862-5

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, with your permission, I will make this statement which is similar to one that my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary is making in another place at this moment on the security of land titles in Kenya.

At the Lancaster House Conference there were proposals from all the delegates for the enactment of a code to protect the fundamental rights of the individual, including his rights in property. Her Majesty's Government then undertook to provide for the judicial protection of human rights in the new Constitution.

Her Majesty's Government have noted increasing recognition among Kenya political leaders of the need for measures and policies which will encourage the expansion of local and overseas investment. We welcome this recognition because without security and confidence private investment in agriculture and industry will not take place, and it will also be extremely difficult to proceed with resettlement schemes in any part of the territory for peasant and yeoman farmers. Unless these new African farmers, under settlement schemes, are assured of continuity and security of title it is unlikely that any will take up land which will be offered by the Settlement Board. Security of title to land is an essential prerequisite to confidence and to renewed investment and the full use and settlement of the land; this, of course, is a problem not confined to one race only, nor only to agricultural titles. As a result of land consolidation under the Swynnerton Plan there are already over 145,000 African farmers with registered titles. Outside the Coast there are over 11,000 agricultural titles held mostly by non-Africans and over 17,000 residential, commercial and industrial titles spread among all races. At the Coast registered titles exceed 16,000. If confidence is to be won and maintained, all these must be fully secure.

Her Majesty's Government have now completed their examination of methods of ensuring this security both up to and after independence. Detailed provisions designed for the protection of all rights, including rights in property, have now been included in the new Constitution. The results of this study will also be taken into account in any further discussions on further constitutional advance, since the continued protection of fundamental rights, including rights in property, will inevitably be an essential part of those discussions. Indeed, such protection for all individuals without regard to race, tribe or religion follows naturally from the general acceptance of the right of all to stay and take part, without fear of discrimination or victimisation, in the public and economic life of the country. Her Majesty's Government consider it is their duty to promote the general acceptance of these rights.


My Lords, we on this side of the House welcome the statement by the noble Earl the Minister of State which gives a guaranteed security of tenure to farmers of all races in Kenya, and we welcome it particularly because it will apply both before and after independence. We hope that this will reassure many farmers, particularly those European farmers in the White Highlands, as they are called, in Kenya, whose presence contributes very much to the prosperity of Kenya and who we all hope will stay on whatever political changes may take place in that country.

I should like to ask the noble Earl two questions. One is this: is he satisfied that the provisions of the Constitution, with this amendment, are such that this guarantee cannot easily be altered? Because after independence the then Government will clearly be able to amend the Constitution. The second question I would ask the noble Earl is about the African farmers. It is clearly essential that African farmers should take their fair share in the agricultural development of the country, and particularly take advantage of the opportunity which is being given them to take farms in the White Highlands, which provide the best agricultural holdings. Can the noble Earl say what advantage has been taken up till now of the resettlement scheme by Africans, and whether in his view this guarantee will encourage a much larger number of Africans to take advantage of the resettlement scheme?


My Lords, I am sure we all welcome the remarks of the noble Earl. He asked me two questions which, if I may say so, are both very apposite to the issue. Of course, once a country is independent it is in a position, by the very nature of the term, to do what it may wish in regard to its Constitution. But we have studied very carefully the question of the degree to which, for example, clauses on human rights can be entrenched in the Constitution, and it is our determination that they shall be very strongly entrenched. It is our thought that when one reaches the stage of final constitutional discussions on independence, those with whom we are discussing will not only pay lip service but clearly wish that such terms shall be entrenched in the Constitution, and it is certainly our purpose to ensure that that is done in the most effective way.

On the second question the noble Earl raises, I would say that the scheme for the settlement of African farmers, both yeoman farmers and peasant farmers, is at the moment in its pilot stage. These things are difficult to work out. We are at this moment having the assistance of the World Bank in going into the larger scheme, which it is envisaged will cost some £9 million over the next three years. At this stage, therefore, it is too early to say how things are going because we have only embarked on the pilot scheme. But I would say this: I feel sure that security of title, as it has been outlined, will be of assistance by encouraging them to come in.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for that statement and commending the Government for their enlightened proposals as outlined by him, may I ask him whether he, or the Government, will take steps to enlighten public opinion in Kenya on the necessity of the permanence of these titles? Because, as we all know, without permanent titles there can be no agricultural development in any country. That is so in Kenya as elsewhere. Will he therefore do that as a matter of urgency, because only last week, as your Lordships know, one prominent politician in Kenya cast grave doubt on whether the validity of these titles was going to subsist after independence.


My Lords, I am heartily in agreement with the noble Lord on the importance of recognition by the people of Kenya that this is an essential part of their continued development and prosperity. I assure him that we and the Kenya Government—who, I know, will support us in this—will do all we can to bring it home to the people of Kenya.