HL Deb 19 May 1960 vol 223 cc1073-5

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, if it is convenient to your Lordships, perhaps I may now make a statement similar to that which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary on the discussions with Nigerian Ministers which ended to-day.

The primary object was to settle a number of points in the drafting of the Constitutions for Independence but other matters wore also dealt with. My right honourable friend the Leader of the House discussed the scheme for technical assistance to Nigeria and my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary and the Minister of Defence discussed with the Federal Ministers, the Regional Premiers and the President of the Senate the proposed Defence Agreement which was first discussed in 1958. I am glad to say that all these discussions, which were throughout most cordial, were entirely successful and we reached complete understanding and agreement on all points.

The conclusions on constitutional matters will be embodied in a draft Order in Council which will be laid before Her Majesty before the end of the summer. The Nigerian representatives stated that if after the plebiscite to be held next February the Southern Cameroons joined Nigeria it would be with the status of a fully self-governing Region while the Northern Cameroons would form part of the Northern Region and the local government arrangements recently introduced there would continue. Nigerian troops will be withdrawn from the Cameroons before October 1. Should it be necessary they will be replaced by United Kingdom forces during the remaining months of trusteeship.

On defence each country will give the other assistance in mutual defence. We will help Nigeria over training, equipment and supplies, and the two countries will give each other staging facilities for aircraft. They do not for this purpose seek any concessions of land but are content to rely on mutual goodwill. I need hardly say that there is of course no question of establishing a British base in Nigeria. The agreement on defence, certain details of which still have to be worked out, will be signed after independence and will not come into force until thereafter it has been ratified by both Governments. In the case of Nigeria this will involve a resolution being passed in both Federal Houses approving its terms.

My right honourable friend was very happy to be able in the course of the discussions to inform Nigerian Ministers of the decision of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers that when Nigeria becomes independent she will become a full Member of the Commonwealth. This was received with acclamation.

The United Kingdom Bill to provide for Nigerian Independence will, I hope, be introduced after the Whitsun Recess. Members of all Parties will, I am sure, give it a warm welcome. My right honourable friend is giving further details of the discussions in a written reply to a question which is being asked in another place to-day.


My Lords, I am sure that all parts of your Lordships' House will wish to give a warm welcome to the statement which has just been made. The arrangement about defence appeals to me very much. We are not demanding a base but we are going to help them in their defence. When one remembers the fact that the Nigerian Regiment formed a large part of the West African Defence Force, which served with such distinction in the last war, I am sure we shall do all we possibly can to help them for their own security. There is only one point in the statement which I should like to mention. I am happy to see, from the words used in the statement, that there has been complete agreement about technical assistance, but I take it that further information will be given to Parliament about what exactly is proposed and under what general authority. Perhaps we may be able to discuss this question, if we are not quite satisfied, on the draft Order.


My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the statement made by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and we should like to congratulate Her Majesty's Government, the Federal Ministers from Nigeria, the Regional Premiers and the President of the Senate upon what seems to be a most comprehensive and happy agreement. The only question mark, so far as I can see, is that relating to the Cameroons. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he and Her Majesty's Government will do everything they can in the next few months, with reference to both the Northern Cameroons and the Southern Cameroons, to arrive at a happy solution for the future of these two Territories.


My Lords, I am not at all surprised, if I may say so, at the welcome which has been given to the statement, because they were very happy discussions and the results have been what we had all hoped and perhaps expected. As regards the point on technical aid raised by the noble Viscount, I think that the scheme will go along lines similar to those which have already been followed in Ghana and Malaya. I expect that the details will be published, but if that is not the ordinary practice I will see what information can be given in connection with it.

As regards the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, on the Cameroons, I can assure him and your Lordships that we will do all we can to help the outcome for these two territories. The matter is not entirely in our own hands, as your Lordships know. The plebiscite comes up next year, and in this two questions will be asked, as already arranged by the United Nations: whether they want to join with the French Cameroons in a new Cameroon State or whether they want to join with Nigeria. During that period we want to do all we possibly can to ensure that there is law and order and a proper course of events, so that at the time an answer is sought it will be given under normal conditions.

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