HL Deb 16 July 1962 vol 242 cc487-91

4.5 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


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

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


My Lords, I beg your indulgence for a few moments in order to speak on this Bill. I regret not having been able to speak on Second Reading, for reasons which the noble Marquess kindly gave on that occasion, but I have spoken, I think, on practically every Independence Bill since 1945, so far as I can remember, and have had some connection with Jamaica—in fact, a rather interesting one. The first connection I had with Jamaica was when I became a director of the Jamaica Banana Producers' Company. This was not an office of profit, I regret to say, since there were no fees of any kind connected with it. It was a co-operative society (and still is, so far as I am aware), which was inaugurated by the small producers in an attempt—a successful attempt—to protect what they considered to he the stranglehold of a United States fruit company. This indicates the danger which faces all these small territories which are so dependent on one or two cash crops. There is always the danger of some external powerful organisation getting a stranglehold on their economy. This producers' co-operative society did great work in that respect.

Our last legislative link with Jamaica will be broken to-day—an association which has gone back almost 400 years, right through the colourful days of the pirate Henry Morgan, who ended up as a Knight, Lieutenant Governor and in an odour of sanctity—as perhaps is also found with other capitalist adventurers in these days. We in the United Kingdom—this is one reason why I want to speak particularly on this Bill—owe a great debt not only to Jamaica but to the other territories in the West Indies and the Caribbean. I was much distressed recently when so much attention, both in the British Press and in British public life, was paid to what we are supposed to be giving to some of these people who come over from Jamaica, without any regard for the tremendous contribution they themselves have made to our economy over hundreds of years. They have produced great wealth for us in the West Indies and Caribbean, and have given us a highly important strategic position for our Fleet. We perhaps remember in fiction Miss Swartz, the sugar heiress from St. Kitts, who was the object of great attention by the aristocracy, the nobility, the gentry and many of the mercantile families of the City at that time, because in those days colour did not matter, provided the money was good.

During the war, and since, they have helped us in our essential services; they have helped us on our buses, in our trains, with our street-cleaning, in our hospitals, our schools and elsewhere. I know from my own personal experience that the statements that were made during the passage of the Immigration Bill hurt our friends in the West Indies. That is why I feel this Bill should not go from this House without some of us saying how much we owe to the West Indies. I should like to press the Government to repay its debt. Unfortunately, wages and conditions in the West Indies, particularly in Jamaica, are so much worse than they are in this country, and there is a tendency for skilled people to come over here and, if they cannot get skilled work, to do unskilled work. So there is a constant drain of their best people, their most skilled people from Jamaica and the other West Indies, with the possible exception of Trinidad.

I think Members on all sides of the House should ask the Government to do everything they can to support the economy of Jamaica, so that she will be able to support her increasing population and enable it to enjoy a higher standard of living. They must do something about the excessive birth rate, and also the high illegitimacy rate which so often stultifies their efforts to achieve that higher standard of living. On independence we are providing £4¾ million for Jamaica, but £2½ million of this is a sort of notional figure; it is a bookkeeping figure. It is the value which we put on Government lands and buildings, particularly the War Office lands and buildings, which we are handing over to them. There is a balance of £1 million of the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund which was already committed. So, in fact, there will be only £1¼ million of new money available to them. When we look into it, the £4¾ million does not look quite so helpful and generous as it does at first sight. We must also remember that this is a loan; it is not, of course, a grant. It has to be repaid and serviced.

I feel that they need far more, and more varied, assistance than we are proposing to give them. It seems to me that all these countries which are in the same state as is Jamaica need markets—not only aid, grants, loans and assistance. Here I am quite certain that all developed countries, including our own—although, perhaps, our own has far less blame in this respect than many others—such as the United States, West Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, France, and many other developed countries, have an extraordinarily bad record. As time goes on the under-developed countries, or, as they like to call themselves, the developing countries, are getting comparatively poorer. They are not participants in the wealth of the new era in which technical advance is taking place. They are ever becoming poorer, and one reason is that the developed countries are not playing the game. They are constantly either competing with, or producing artificial substitutes for, the only products that these unfortunate countries can sell overseas. There are a large number of such products: rubber, sugar, sisal, tung, abaca, cotton, pyrethrum and many others.

In other words, all the talk at every City dinner, at every meeting of an international association, about aid for the under-developed countries is just humbug, because in fact the developed countries, the Western countries in particular, are not prepared to take the necessary action to buy the goods of these countries at a decent price, at a price which will afford them a livelihood. It makes me sick to hear all the hypocrisy whenever the under-developed territories are mentioned. Throughout the years in time to come, this will be the big problem facing us. Are we going to be sensible? Are we going to be unselfish enough to produce markets for these countries?

One of the great tests will be in the Common Market; and I would say, although I have been, and still am, a supporter of the Common Market on terms, of course—nobody would support it without terms—that it is essential that our negotiators on the Common Market should the whole time draw the attention of their fellow negotiators to the Treaty of Rome itself, and to the Preamble to the Treaty which says that the countries are: Anxious to strengthen the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and by mitigating the backwardness of the less favoured… Intending to confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and overseas countries, and desiring, to ensure the development of their prosperity, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations". Article 3 (k) says: the association of overseas countries and territories with the Community with a view to increasing trade and to pursuing jointly their effort towards economic and social development. So here is a grand opportunity for the countries of Western Europe which are now in the Common Market, not to look upon it as a sort of "closed shop", but to look upon it as a chance at last to give to these people in the underdeveloped territories of the world, and in particular, of course, those who are our special care, a chance of the same sort of life, with the same sort of standard of living, as we in Western Europe enjoy.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, of course a Bill of this sort would not be completely debated if the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, did not take part. It was for that reason that we were disappointed that he was unable to be here on Second Reading. But I am bound to say, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that if I confine myself to what is contained in the Bill, as indeed I must on Third Reading, I really cannot reply to what he has said this afternoon, interesting though it may be.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.