§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I think that I am in order to ask your Lordships to return to the subject of Malta and to the noble Earl's Amendment. I am sure that we all appreciate the noble Earl's deep concern for Malta and the valuable services that he has rendered Malta, both as senior Minister at the Colonial Office for a number of years, and before that as a member of the British delegation that attended the Malta Round Table Conference in Malta 997 in 1955. I can speak from my own recollection, which I am sure will be confirmed by the noble Earl's colleagues, in saying that he did more than anyone else at that time to smooth out the path with the Church authorities in Malta, and he helped us very considerably in obtaining general acceptance for the integration scheme. I also share his regret that that integration scheme was later dropped, because I believe that it was the most promising scheme that was ever put forward for the future of the island.
I should like to make clear at the outset what our attitude is to the noble Earl's Amendment. The purpose of this Amendment is to ask your Lordships' House to reject this Bill. We oppose this proposition for two main reasons. First, as your Lordships are aware, we do not oppose the Second Reading of Bills that have been passed by another place. We should regard this as an abuse of the power which undoubtedly rests in your Lordships' House, and we consider this to be an important constitutional principle. The second reason why we oppose the noble Earl's Amendment is that we do not want to delay indefinitely the attainment of independence by Malta. The effect of the noble Earl's Amendment would be that this Bill would be thrown out, and then independence for Malta would be indefinitely delayed.
There is very little that the two major Parties in Malta—the Nationalists and the Labour Party—agree about, but I think that the one thing on which they do agree is in their desire for independence; and in this respect, at least, they represent the wishes of the majority of the people of Malta. I must confess that I did not agree at all with the noble Earl when he said that there was no evidence to show that the people of Malta want to be independent. Moreover, I think that your Lordships will agree that Malta is a politically mature country, with long administrative experience. Malta has had internal self-government since the Diarchy was established by the Constitution set up after the First World War. Many of us had experience of that Diarchy, which did not work particularly well, but in respect of self-government Malta was far ahead of the great majority of colonial dependencies. Indeed, some of your Lordships may remember a former 998 Prime Minister of Malta during the period, the late Lord Strickland, who took an active part in the work of your Lordships' House. Therefore, I think that nobody can say that Malta lacks political and administrative experience to manage her own affairs. Indeed, in this respect, Malta is a good deal ahead of a number of countries that have already obtained independence.
Malta is a Mediterranean country, politically conscious and politically expert, and we could have no reason for denying it independence if we thought, as we must think, that this was the wish of the majority of the Maltese people. I think that I should tell the noble Earl here and now that, if he asks the House to divide on his Amendment, we should feel obliged to support the Government in the Division Lobby. I very much hope that he will take the course of withdrawing the Amendment.
Having said all this about the noble Earl's Amendment, because I thought that was the right course to take—I hope that your Lordships will agree—I should now like to turn to the merits of the Bill, and of the Agreement that goes with it, and to the way the Government have handled this measure. I do not think that many of us can be satisfied by the conditions under which Malta will obtain her independence or by the way this Bill has been sprung upon Parliament. The Government have asked us to pass this Bill through all its stages this afternoon. This means that we have to approve also the Independence Constitution which will be established by Order in Council, after the Bill is passed into law, as well as the Agreements about defence and financial aid that will come into force when Malta becomes independent.
The Government have not given any of us sufficient time to consider these vastly important matters with the care they deserve. I entirely agree with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, when he said that we were really being asked to "rubber-stamp", decisions which the Government have already taken. This Bill passed through another place on Thursday. It will pass through your Lordships' House to-day. This means that the Government have given Parliament less than a week to decide the whole future of Malta, after 162 years of close 999 and friendly association in war and peace. I ask your Lordships whether that is treating Parliament with proper respect.
I believe that the Government could have avoided springing this Bill upon us in the last week of the Session. I have this suggestion to make of the way this could have been avoided. If the Secretary of State had had the wisdom to delegate more of his work to junior Ministers, the noble Marquess opposite, who has handled this Bill so ably and taken such a valuable part in the negotiations that led up to it, could have been negotiated with Dr. Borg Olivier while he was sitting at the Savoy Hotel waiting for Mr. Sandys to dispose of Northern Rhodesia and, before that, of Aden. We all know that Mr. Sandys is a very overworked Minister. But surely that is no excuse for making small countries like Malta wait at the end of the queue for ministerial decisions, or for obliging Parliament, as has been done, to rush through a Bill that will decide the future of this country for all time.
What has held up the achievement of independence (and this point, I think, was clearly made by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, in his speech) has been the failure of the Maltese Parties to agree about a Constitution; and, of course, this disagreement continues. Our main objection to the Constitution that goes with the Bill is that it is to be imposed on Malta and we have no reason to suppose that it will be acceptable to the Maltese people. I would only remind your Lordships that when the Malta Constitution, the referendum Constitution (a Constitution very like this one, but not exactly the same) was submitted to the electorate in the early part of the year, only 42 per cent. of the electorate voted in favour of it. This Constitution, therefore, has the support of less than half the electorate in Malta, and is opposed, for very different reasons, by all the political Parties, apart from the Nationalist Party.
The imposition of this controversial Constitution, against the wishes of the majority of the people of Malta, must give us the gravest concern about the future of the island. According to The Times of Friday, Mr. Mintoff, the Leader of the Labour Party, the second largest Party in Malta, has already said that his 1000 Party intends—and here I quote what he is reported in The Times to have said:to make every possible effort to abrogate these agreements at the earliest opportunity".Mr. Mintoff, of course, is referring to this Constitution and to the interdependent Defence and Financial Aid Agreements. There will be another General Election—because that is based on the lifetime of the Malta Parliament—not later than the spring of 1966. What will happen if Mr. Mintoff gets a majority? How long can we expect this Constitution and the Defence Agreement to last? What will be the attitude of Malta to us and to the Commonwealth in this event? These grave unresolved questions show that we have good reason to be anxious and apprehensive about the future of Malta.
I do not myself blame the Government for failing to get the agreement of the Labour Party in Malta to the proposed Constitution, but I do blame them for not making sufficient effort to do so. Mr. Mintoff has not been consulted, although he was in London this summer and asked to see the Secretary of State about this final version of the Constitution. I cannot recall any other case since we started to de-colonise when the Opposition there have not been consulted about the final form of an Independence Constitution.
I also hold the Government responsible for not agreeing to have a General Election in Malta on the issue of this Constitution—and on that point I agree heartily with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. Surely, with a country deeply divided, as Malta is, this is the only way to test opinion. In other Colonies we have always insisted on a General Election before independence if a new Constitution is not in our view acceptable to the great majority of the people. We are, for example, insisting on a General Election in British Guiana before independence. There, as in Malta, the Parties are profoundly divided about the Independence Constitution. Surely it is reasonable and democratic that the electorate should be allowed to decide grave issues of this kind when Parties differ about what the people want. That is certainly what we should do in this country, and I do not see why we should deny the same right to the people of any country for which we are responsible.
The proposed Constitution is certainly a much more liberal document than the 1001 referendum Constitution submitted by the Government of Malta at the referendum. I welcome the alterations that have been made, and particularly that to which the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, referred, which makes the Roman Catholic Church in Malta subject to the Constitution, including its provisions about human rights. It has been widely reported in the Press that the support of the Vatican was secured by the Government for the changes they propose to make in the Constitution. If that is the case—I do not know whether or not it is, but it was reported in reliable newspapers—it is a good omen for the future. For the free and peaceful development of Parliamentary government in Malta will depend not nearly so much on any paper safeguards that may be put into the Constitution as on the actual relationship, on whether there is good-will or ill-will between the ecclesiastical authorities in Malta and the political Parties. Let us hope that the Vatican will use its liberalising influence to persuade the ecclesiastical authorities in Malta to adopt very much the same attitude to politics as the Roman Catholic Church already adopts in other Catholic countries.
May I pass on for a few moments to the defence-cum-financial agreement? I think we all welcome the 10-year agreement about the British base in Malta. It will be useful to us, though not, of course, as useful as it was in the past, for our Armed Forces. But to my mind the especially valuable part of the Agreement is Article 5, which will deny Malta to the forces of any other nation without the consent of the two Governments; that is, the United Kingdom Government and the Government of Malta. I think this is a very useful provision indeed.
Malta will, of course, continue to be the Mediterranean headquarters of the NATO forces in the area. I would ask the Government to consider this proposal. I hope that the Government will encourage Malta to ask for membership of the NATO Alliance, and will support her application if she decides to apply for admission. The strategic importance of Malta should make it, in the long run at any rate, a continuing NATO base, in which capacity it will be of great value to the whole of the Western World; and it may be much easier to keep it as a NATO base than as a British base.
1002 But, whatever may happen in this respect, the base will be valueless, either to us or to NATO, without the good will of the people and the Government of Malta. We have often found in the past that we have lost the military value of a base because we have lost the good will of the people of the country where it was located. I do not think that the financial aid which is attached to the use of the base after the first three years of the agreement have elapsed will do anything to secure the good will of the people of Malta. I think it is the sort of thing that is really rather an irritant to national pride. But let us hope that, when these first three years have elapsed, and after another General Election has taken place, there will be the same good will between us and the Government of Malta as exists at the present time.
As to the Financial Agreement, it is a very generous one; indeed, uniquely generous, I think, in relation to the population of Malta. But, I do not grudge one penny of the £50 million that we are to give to Malta during the next ten years. It is our duty, surely, to help Malta to change over, as it is trying to do from a fortress to a civilian economy. If we do not succeed in helping Malta to do this, there will be mass unemployment when the rundown of the British Forces ends in about four years' time.
That is all I have to say, except this. This is probably the last time that we shall discuss the affairs of Malta in your Lordships' House. Those of us who have visited Malta, even for a short time—and I believe there are many noble Lords who know Malta—have come away with an indelible impression of the friendliness of the Maltese people and of the beauty of their country. Where else could you find small villages each with a cathedral? Where else could you find such a combination of man-made and natural beauty? I do not think that we should say our Parliamentary farewell to the people of this lovely island without thanking them for their innumerable services to us and to the Commonwealth in time past; without saluting again their extraordinary gallantry during the last war; without hoping for their friendship in the future, and without wishing them, from the bottom of our hearts, good fortune and happiness in time to come.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I welcome this Bill and I oppose the Amendment. I welcome it because I see no point whatsoever in further delay. As the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, the Prime Minister of Malta was over here for weeks, and possibly months; and from the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, one learnt that he was staying at the Savoy Hotel. That is an indication that this was not a rush job at all. There was a very long process of debate and argument, consideration, arrangements and conferences with the Church in Rome, with the apostolic delegate, with the Archbishop, with the Government of Malta and with every possible person or interest concerned. There has never been a case in the history of any of our colonial territories where there has been so much consideration and discussion as in the case of Malta.
What is the point of dragging it on again? If you have another General Election, I doubt whether it will show any different result from the one that has already been held. You can have another referendum. It will give the same result as the one we have already had. At some time or another in these cases one has to take a decision. I think Her Majesty's Government have been quite right to take the decision they have, although I agree that they should have taken it a little earlier and that it is unfortunate that they have left it so late in the Session. But it had to come now. It is not possible for us to go away, and possibly not resume again in this Parliament except on a formal basis, without deciding on this Bill and on the future of Malta. The argument of the mover of the Amendment, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, was that he wished to give the people of Malta the opportunity of presenting a Petition for integration to the Government. I was against integration when it came up before. I am on record as to that in this House. I think I was almost the only person who was against it.
§ LORD OGMORE
I am glad to hear that. I do not remember vocal support from the noble Earl, and I am glad to think that I have his support now, if he was not particularly vocal at the time. So far as I can recall, there was no 1004 other noble Lord as distinguished as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, who opposed it last time. Integration, of course—I say this for the benefit of those of your Lordships who have not followed this question extremely closely—means integration of the Island of Malta and the Island of Gozo with this country, and Members being elected in Malta and Gozo to sit in the British House of Commons, the complete integration coming under the Home Office. The only reason why that did not come off—it was supported, I may say, by the Government and the Opposition—was because Mr. Mintoff was too greedy. He put up to the British Government at that time proposals which no British Government could accept. I was very glad at that time to support the refusal of Mr. Mintoff's suggestion. That is the reason why integration did not come off, otherwise at this moment we should not have been discussing the Independence Bill for Malta. We should have had several M.P.s from Malta sitting in the House of Commons. I have forgotten which noble Lord on the Benches opposite speaks for the Home Office—I think it is the noble Lord, Lord Derwent—but he would have been answering questions about the water supply in Gozo. Although he is a very accomplished noble Lord, I think he would have had a little difficulty with some of the questions he would have been asked.
I hope the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, will be against this proposal. I hope he will not give way. We must settle this matter once and for all. I think the Government have made a very generous settlement indeed to Malta—far more generous than to many other countries. Only last week we were discussing Northern Rhodesia. Speaking from memory, I think their farewell golden handshake was £5 million, and with Malta it is £50 million. Compare the population of Malta with the population of Northern Rhodesia. In Malta, it is 300,000, and in Northern Rhodesia, six million. When your Lordships compare those figures, you will see that this is a generous settlement. I am all in favour of it, and I am glad that the Government have been generous. They are being generous, and not miserly or niggardly.
I should like to compliment the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, on the work 1005 which I know he personally put in during the course of these difficult negotiations. I feel that Malta's future is a challenge for Malta and for us—because this is not the last we are going to hear of Malta. We shall hear a lot more of Malta from now on, and it is a challenge to us, and one which I hope all Parties in the House will live up to. Malta is a delightful place. Many of your Lordships have visited it and know it. It has this ancient history of which the people are particularly conscious. In mythical times they were visited by Ulysses. In historical times, St. Paul landed there. It was rather an involuntary landing, because your Lordships will remember that he was washed up on the shore when he was being taken under escort from Jerusalem to Rome. He had a very happy reception at first, and then conditions deteriorated somewhat; but good relations were restored in the end. This history, in my experience of Malta, is very much in the minds of people there.
One thing which impresses all of us when we visit Malta is the extreme beauty of the little towns, to which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, referred, and the cleanliness of the atmosphere, the colour in the churches. I do not think I have ever seen anything like it. After the rather foggy, grimy, sort of atmosphere one so often gets in Western Europe and in other industrial countries to-day, the brilliance of the paintings in the churches on the coats of arms, and that sort of thing, was a revelation to me, and perhaps shows what our own country may have been like at one time.
These small Christian communities, living in the Mediterranean—we have one in Cyprus, for example, and another in Malta; there have been others, of course, in Constantinople and other places—were always beleaguered in a sense; they always felt themselves either under an alien occupation or the possibility, or probability, of an alien occupation. Therefore, quite naturally, the Church tended to have in these centres a much greater power and authority than it has in other countries without, as it were, that fortress outlook. I think this is one reason why the Church, whether Orthodox or Catholic, has such an enormous influence on the lives of people there. One can understand it if one remembers the historical background. The reason why Archbishop 1006 Makarios, for instance, is a Prime Minister and an Archbishop—which is rather an unusual combination in the Western World—is this historical reason. In the old days, under the Turks, the Christian community was run and controlled very largely by the Archbishop because it was a Christian community.
The position of the Church in Malta—which is to some extent the reason and cause of a great deal of this controversy, as has been stated—is very clearly set out in the Constitution. Article 2 says:The religion of Malta is the Roman Catholic Apostolic religionThe State guarantees to the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church the right freely to exercise her proper, spiritual and ecclesiastical functions and duties and to maintain her own affairs. Later on it says:Religious teaching of the Roman Catholic faith shall be provided in all State schools.So we can see from that that the position of the Church is maintained in a very powerful manner, and I think rightly so, in view of the history of the country and of the type of situation in which the Christian Church is, and has been for centuries, in this part of the world. Mr. Mintoff has been quoted as being against it. He is against this Agreement. He said that the British Conservative Government have negotiated a new, so-called Independence Constitution, a Defence Treaty and a Financial Agreement solely with Maltese Ministers who are unfairly elected to office through the infliction of spiritual injuries by local representatives of the Roman Catholic Church.
I would say that the matter does not end here. There has been an Agreement—and I support it—but I also entirely support what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said about the future attitude of the Church in Malta. I do not think it would be right for us just to pass over this point to-day without saying a word on it. The fact is that the Church in Malta must—and I believe it will: at least I hope it will—remember that this is the second half of the twentieth century, and that the need to-day (and we all recognise this, to whatever Church Communion we may belong) is for Christian unity and for a new spirit in the Churches, whether they be the Roman Catholic, Anglican or Free Churches. The 1007 most reverend Primate the present Archbishop of Canterbury is and his predecessor was very prominent in this field, I am glad to say. In the Free Churches, including my own, our various leaders have also expressed very firmly this desire for unity. So have the last two Popes, Pope John and the present Pope Paul.
We therefore hope that the Church in Malta will come forward into the general feeling of unity, the general desire for unity which is so strongly expressed in the Western World at this time. Particularly, perhaps, they might look again at the position of Protestants in Malta. We must remember that Malta is an important military, naval and air base, and this Defence Agreement is a very important treaty. There will be large numbers of Protestants living and working in Malta, and considerable numbers of Maltese coming over here to work, and I feel that the position of the Protestants and of Protestant marriages in Malta or by Maltese should be looked at very carefully indeed by the Roman Catholic authorities in Malta.
I want to turn now for a moment to a point which I consider is very important but which I think has not been touched on by anybody so far. The success or otherwise of an independent Malta is really going to turn on the economic development of the island; and this rests, I think, on five pillars. The first is migration. Malta has never been able, at any rate over the last couple of hundred years, to absorb all its population. Therefore we and other parts of the Commonwealth must be prepared every year to take quite a number of people from Malta to work here and in other parts of the Commonwealth—Canada, New Zealand, and elsewhere. This should be a real Commonwealth effort, and after the wonderful success of the Commonwealth Conference, about which we shall be talking to-morrow, this is one matter where we can help the small island by giving a real welcome to many of the people of Malta.
The second pillar is industry. This is a difficult one in a place like Malta, which is off the coast of Africa, where the Maltese language is a dialect of Arabic and where, though there is not exactly a water shortage, one has always to be careful of the water situation. It is also a country where there are no 1008 primary products. This makes the problem of industry all the more a challenge to be tackled imaginatively and with a sense of urgency. The third pillar is agriculture; and here again I believe we can do a great deal to apply to Malta the latest discoveries of agriculture at Rothamsted and other of our own agricultural research institutions. There is a great deal of information on our own and on tropical agriculture, both at Rothamsted and at the School of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad and other places which at present, perhaps, is not always being used.
Fourthly there is tourism. I myself, having been a tourist in Malta, can assure your Lordships who have not been there that it has potential if it is properly developed and if there is real organisation. It means that the authorities and the Church must co-operate: we must have the right type of hotel, the chalet type, for young people; and we must have arrangements with airlines and tourist agencies. Tourism will need a considerable combined effort.
Finally, the fifth pillar is the defence installations, particularly the NATO base. I do not much like using the word "base" for the island; let me call it the NATO headquarters. In answer to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who raised this question about defence, I would say that NATO is there; in fact, it is mentioned (in, I must say, a somewhat churlish way) in Article 5 of the Defence Treaty. The NATO forces can come in. There are arrangements for them to operate under Article 5 of the Defence Treaty. That is the answer. Malta is not going to be wide open to anybody who likes to walk in. Under the Defence Treaty the only forces that can operate in Malta are the Maltese forces, the British forces and such other forces as we agree on, together with member forces of NATO. I think that that disposes of the argument of the noble Earl. I personally should like to see NATO headquarters there expanded, and Malta used very much as a rest centre for NATO forces, naval, military and air, of which there are very large numbers. For instance there are the American Fleet and other units in the Mediterranean area. Development is a challenge. It is a tough assignment, but with united effort, as I have 1009 said, of both British and Maltese, it can be done.
There are two other points that I should like to make very shortly. First of all, there is nothing in the Bill about an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, although there is mention of it in Clause 103 of the Constitution. We usually put it into the Bill. There is probably some draftsman's logic about it, but at the moment I do not know why it is not in the Bill. Then I would mention the three "hardy annuals" that I have raised for many years on this point in Independence Bill after Independence Bill. Could the noble Marquess try to persuade the Judicial Committee occasionally to visit Malta? Secondly, could the noble Marquess persuade them to have more members from Commonwealth countries other than Great Britain; and thirdly, could the noble Marquess persuade whoever is responsible to have some younger members?
I should like, before I close, to welcome the provision in paragraph 14 of Schedule 2 relating to the Commonwealth Institute. I hope that Malta will play her full part in the affairs of the Institute when she becomes independent, and when she will be entitled to have a representative, who is usually the High Commissioner, upon the Board of Governors. As a Governor, I look forward very much to welcoming the representatives of Malta in our counsels, and I hope that Malta will play a full part in all the work of this quite remarkable organisation, the Commonwealth Institute, which the noble Marquess knows quite well. I think that far too little is known in this country about the Commonwealth Institute. It is one of the few of the Pan-Commonwealth organisations that exist, and as the various countries become independent we are only too glad to welcome their High Commissioners as colleagues of ours on the governing body. Finally, I wish the people of Malta every possible happiness and success in the days ahead. I support the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, as is customary on these occasions, I crave your indulgence. I had not intended to venture to address you so soon after I had taken my seat here but when I 1010 saw that a Motion on Malta was on the Order Paper I felt I might be able to make some contribution. I have recently returned from Malta, where I was the last Flag Officer, Malta. I got back from there last year when my job was abolished by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty. I do not wish this afternoon in any way to oppose the very proper aspirations of the Maltese people for independence within the Commonwealth. But my concern is whether we have the timing right, whether the Maltese are in fact ready to assume these responsibilities, or in fact possess the wherewithal, and whether the results and effects of this measure are fully understood in Malta and in this country.
As the noble Marquess told us, the negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Malta have been long, protracted and at times frustrating. I believe it would waste your Lordships' time if I were to go over the old ground. I myself believe that the present Constitution is the best that can be devised in an extremely complicated political situation. A great deal of play has been made over the special position of the Church in Malta. I do not believe that a Protestant country or the Government of a Protestant country should attempt to impose their will any further in this matter. It is probably not known to all your Lordships that in Malta there is no local government of any sort in the towns and villages, and it is traditional, inevitable, and possibly right, that the people in the villages and towns should turn to the parish priest for guidance and advice and in the village he is possibly the best man to give it.
I feel sure that the amendments already made by the Secretary of State will provide adequate safeguards. Nor do I believe that anything is to be gained by a further election before independence. The last election only took place not much more than two years ago and the wishes of the Maltese people were very clearly expressed then. The referendum which took place only a short time ago seemed to reinforce that view. If Malta is to be given independence now, I believe that the setting is possibly as favourable as it will ever be.
What I am not yet absolutely convinced of is whether we ought to give her independence at this moment. What will be 1011 the effects, particularly on Malta, of independence? It has been said so often that the problem of Malta is economic that I must apologise to your Lordships for having to say it again. Here we have two small islands, grossly over-populated, with only one natural asset; that is their magnificent harbours. They have been conditioned for many years to a fortress economy, and they have very little chance, I believe, in the near future of increasing their industry sufficiently to give employment to their people. They have an infant tourist industry facing many great difficulties. And, last but not least, as has already been said, to retain for those who remain in the island that high standard of living to which they have become accustomed they have to rely to an increasing extent on emigration.
Malta cannot in the foreseeable future be economically independent. She will require British, foreign or Commonwealth aid for many years to come. In view of that, I think we are entitled to ask how political independence is going to help her in tackling this problem. It will inevitably raise her status in the world. At the same time, she will have to spend money on foreign embassies and all the trappings of a sovereign State, which I doubt whether she can afford. The British connection will become a little more remote, and the last safeguard against political exploitation will have gone. Even in Malta itself, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has told us, there appeared, two or three months ago, at any rate to be no very great impatience for independence.
The Church is, to say the least, apprehensive. The centre Parties, which have more influence than their meagre numbers in the Assembly might suggest, have been fighting very hard against it. The business community and a large number of Maltese in all walks of life in Malta are quite definitely doubtful, and some are extremely hostile to the idea. Here I find myself in close agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Perth. The only point on which I disagree with him is that I fear his Amendment comes too late. The tragedy is that it was never put to the Maltese people as a straight issue: should it be independence now or later? Had that been done, we might have had a different answer. But as the Secretary of State has already said in another place, A is now too late to go back to the 1012 independence issue. Having come very recently from Malta, I fear that he is right. But the more the pity!
Now may I turn to the implications for Britain and the Commonwealth? This aspect has already been touched on, but in my view it is rather more serious than any noble Lord has so far stated. For well over a hundred years the balance of power in the Mediterranean has been guaranteed by a powerful British fleet based on Malta. Already the times have changed. Our own sorry reduction in our Armed Forces in the Mediterranean area and the appearance of the American Sixth Fleet has considerably changed the picture. Yet is it really the policy of Her Majesty's Governmet to remove the British presence altogether from the Mediterranean?
I think your Lordships will agree with me that our days in Cyprus and Libya are numbered. We must regard Gibraltar as an outpost of the Atlantic. That leaves only Malta. I am entirely confident that the present Prime Minister and his Government will adhere loyally to all the provisions of the Defence Agreement which is to be signed immediately after independence. But we have already plenty of evidence that a successor might wish to abrogate this Treaty or, even worse, tear it up in a fit of pique. That has happened before now. Should that happen, we, the British, will be out of the Mediterranean with no hope of returning. This is a very serious thought.
There is one more point that I should like to make: it is that we possess in this extremely difficult and delicate situation one enormous asset. That asset must not be forgotten and must not be lost. As a sailor, I have known Malta and the Maltese for the best part of 35 years. Never in all this time has the good will between British and the Maltese in the Island been better. It was my unhappy duty, as the Admiral for Malta, to have to announce the rundown of the naval base rather less than two years ago. This, combined with smaller reductions in the other two Armed Forces in Malta, was a terrible blow to the Maltese, and might well have caused serious unrest and a great deal of hostility. The news was, in fact, received with a great measure of understanding and even good humour. If the granting of independence is going to deepen and strengthen the 1013 good will which already exists, then perhaps the timing is not so far wrong.
I hope that the granting of independence by Her Majesty's Government and the present of £50 million will not be regarded as the final pay-off of our responsibility to the people of Malta. They are going to need aid for a long time to come. I am well aware that in relation to the other colonial territories they have for a good many years been in a privileged position as regards financial aid. I am also a great believer that an independent country should learn to stand on its own feet. But, whatever is done and however much is achieved, Malta will still need help, and it is my hope that no Prime Minister of Malta will ever have to look further than Britain or the Commonwealth to provide his essential needs. Finally, may I echo what has been said by so many of your Lordships to-day, many of whom I see have a deep affection for Malta and its people—that is, simply to remember that we owe this Ally a great deal in both peace and war. I should like to add my good wishes for their great success in this new endeavour.
§ 4.54 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER
My Lords, it does not fall often to a Member of your Lordships' House to follow twice in the same afternoon noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches, and to be able to congratulate them on having overcome this considerable hurdle with flying colours. What strange working of Providence has bestowed this great honour upon me, I cannot think, but I count it a great honour to be able to be the first to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, upon the brilliant speech which he has just delivered to this House. Those of us who have a great affection for the Navy and a passionate belief in its greatness will regard any strengthening of the naval contingent in your Lordships' House as being a good thing. We therefore welcome the noble Earl most warmly for what he is. The speech which he has made has whetted our appetite, and we look forward to many contributions from him in the future.
All those who have experienced the beauty of the Island of Malta and the kindliness of its people will want on this occasion to wish them well at this moment in their history, as they stand on the 1014 threshold of their independence. My own memories of Malta are, I suppose, as dramatic as any that any other noble Lord may possess. I first saw the Grand Harbour of Valetta on November, 1940, from the quarter deck of H.M.S. "Barham" as we escorted the last convoy but one from West to East across the Mediterranean. I have never forgotten the tumultuous welcome that we received from people who were standing on the Fortress as we went in. I was to return to Malta three years later in H.M.S. "Howe", to partake in that occasion on which Andrew Cunningham sent his famous signal:Be pleased to inform their Lordships that the Italian battle fleet now lies at anchor under the guns of the Fortress of Malta.Between those two visits, the Island had taken its terrible punishment. As an outpost of the Free World, face to face with a Europe under the yoke of the dictators, it had been the target for a concentrated attack, the savagery of which has seldom been equalled in the history of war. The Maltese people won the respect and admiration of the Free World for their steadfastness and courage, and it is fitting that on this occasion in the development of their long history we should remember our debt to the people of Malta and once more salute them for their achievements.
In those momentous years, Malta was a bastion of freedom and a symbol of what the Free World was fighting for. It is because those memories are so precious that I venture to voice certain misgivings about features of the Constitution which goes hand in hand with this Bill and which forms the major part of the decision which is required of this House to-day. I speak of these things with considerable reluctance, for I should not wish it to be thought that I was using this occasion for stirring up any animosity.
Malta is an intensely religious Island, and we all respect the faithfulness and the devotion of its people. When, in 1802, the Maltese placed themselves under British rule they were assured of the continuity of their religious tradition. That that should be safeguarded is, I am sure, something that we should all accept. The draft Constitution honours that pledge, and I fancy that there are few, if any, of your Lordships 1015 who would wish it to be otherwise. But as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has reminded us, there is a considerable population in the Island which does not belong to the Roman Catholic Church—people who live in Malta, people who visit the Island. It may well be that the Royal Navy will not be based on Malta to the same extent as it has been in the past, but for many years to come—indeed, the very prosperity of the Island demands it—Malta will continue to be a cosmopolitan centre. People of differing nationalities and creeds will come to the Island. They have their rights, and it is essential that the Constitution should safeguard these things.
Misgivings on this score are not new; nor are they confined to members of my own Communion. In what I have to say, I speak not only for the Church of England, but for the British Council of Churches. As soon as the draft Constitution was published in 1961 there were long and protracted negotiations between ecclesiastical leaders in this country and the Colonial Office, in order to ensure that the rights of minority, non-Roman Catholic groups should be adequately protected. The question of the validity of mixed marriages in the Island was of particular concern. Those expressions of anxiety were somewhat reluctantly withdrawn, because it was pointed out that Section 13 of the Constitution provided thatAll persons in Malta shall have full liberty of conscience and enjoy the free exercise of their respective modes of religious worship.No person shall be subject to any disability or be excluded from holding any office by reason of his religious profession.It was argued at the time, I understand, that if there should appear to be any discrimination in the administration of the marriage law this would be "a disability" within the meaning of the Constitution and that therefore there was sufficient safeguard.
The next document that we come to is the Constitution for Independence, published by the Government of Malta. In that document Clause 41 repeats the two subsections of Section 13 of the 1961 Constitution which I have just quoted, but adds a third subsection which states: 1016Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent or in contravention of subsection (1), to the extent that the law in question makes provision that is reasonably required in the interests of public safety, public order, public morality or decency, public health, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, and except so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof, is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.Your Lordships may feel that the provision for "public safety, public order, public morality or decency, public health, or the protection of the rights or freedoms of others "or what" is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society" throws open the doors very wide and considerably minimises the safeguards which were provided by the 1961 draft. But at least in the Malta document the disability clause remains.
But the document before us to-day goes considerably further even than this, and in the opinion of many virtually removes the safeguards which had been sought and which it was understood had been assured. Section 41(1) repeats the first subsection of the 1961 draft and the Malta versions. Subsection (2) repeats the questionable subsection of the Malta version. But the really vital section of both previous documents giving the assurance that "no person shall be subject to any disability" now disappears. This is a very serious modification and one which has caused considerable concern to those who expressed their misgivings in 1961 and withdrew their opposition only on the understanding that such a section should be included.
No doubt attention will be directed to Section 46 of the Constitution which provides against discriminatory legislation of any kind. But paragraph (4)(c) specifically provides thatthis section shall not apply to any law so far as that law makes provision with respect to adoption, marriage, dissolution of marriage, burial, devolution of property on death or any matters of personal law not hereinbefore specified".In other words, the Constitution before us specifically excludes from the ban on discriminatory legislation that province of the law which deals with marriage, which is the very area in which we have for a long time asked for reassurance and guarantee. If, therefore, the religious rights of those who are not Roman 1017 Catholics are to be preserved, it is essential that Section 13 of the original draft, which provides that, no person shall be subject to any disability for conscience sake, should be restored, so that there may be no doubt whatever on this score.
There is one further aspect of the situation to which I must draw your Lordships' attention. I refer to the protection of church buildings in the possession of Communions other than the Roman Catholics. Clause 38 providesProtection from deprivation of property without compensation",but the protection is tenuous. There are Christian Communions which I understand have buildings situated on land at present held by one of the Services. It would give much assurance if this matter could be re-examined and an assurance given to safeguard at least the existing buildings owned by Communions other than the Roman Catholics in the Island.
It is extremely distasteful to me to have to voice these considerable misgivings, and I hope it will be understood that I do so in a spirit of charity. Non-Roman Catholics will recognise with gratitude the statesmanship which has resulted in the removal of subsections 10 and 11 of Section 48 of the Malta Constitution which appeared to set the Church above the law. But it is of concern to many of us that in this day, when so many human rights are threatened and when, the world over, freedom is in jeopardy, we should appear to approve of legislation which in the slightest degree condones the continuance of restrictions and disabilities on religious grounds. This new Constitution is, in the opinion of many, a backward step from the 1961 draft. We ask that the protection from disability should be restored; and that church property should be protected without question. With these provisions in the Constitution we should be able to support the measure before us; and we sincerely desire to do so, for we wish Godspeed to the people of Malta.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ THE EARL, OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate who has just spoken has voiced some very sincere misgivings which I certainly would not attempt to dispel at a 1018 moment's notice. I will leave it to the noble Marquess who is to reply to answer the right reverend Prelate. I can only hope and believe that the misgivings of the right reverend Prelate will prove to be misplaced. I should like to say that I entirely agree with him in the tribute he paid to the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow. The right reverend Prelate is much better qualified to eulogise a naval Lord and to refer to the powerful addition being made to "the naval contingent". I suppose the best I can do is to express my satisfaction at the powerful addition which has been made to the contingent of Earls. Here the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, will join with me; and if the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, refuses to have anything to do with us because we sit in this House as Barons, I will pray in aid my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who has the advantage of being a noble Earl and a naval Lord and who is everything that makes him best qualified to congratulate the noble Earl.
I am not going to deal with general topics, but only with one particular aspect. I must just say, as the first spokesman from this side since the very interesting maiden speech of the noble Earl, that he is completely mistaken if he supposes that a Labour Government would repudiate the Defence agreement. They have publicly supported it elsewhere, and no doubt would do the same again in all circumstances. So I hope the noble Earl can remove those misgivings from his mind.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, may I just interrupt to make it clear that I was in fact referring to a Maltese Prime Minister—not to the Labour Government in this country.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Then I apologise. I know that I was not the only noble Lord who misunderstood the noble Earl, so I am glad we have been able to clear it up together.
I have never ventured before to address this House on the subject of Malta, though I have tried to keep in touch with events there. When I paid a visit—it is now a good many years ago—the very capable Governor was the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, who has kindly given way to me and 1019 will speak later in this debate. If I venture to speak to-day it is purely in an individual capacity. As a Roman Catholic I have often spoken and have often uttered opinions on Catholic matters. I have told the House what I thought was the state of Catholic opinion, though I was never quite sure whether I was right—perhaps sometimes I was, and sometimes I was not. But to-day I am rather better qualified to give the House a brief account of the Roman Catholic attitude in one or two matters. May I say that I know that all noble Lords who have spoken about my Church have done so in a spirit of charity. I should like to thank particularly the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for what he said about the helpfulness of the Vatican, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the right reverend Prelate were trying to be as helpful as possible.
I should like, then, to assure the House of the sincere good will of the Roman Catholic authorities at all levels in Malta, and still higher up, if I may so put it, towards the settlement which is now being arrived at, on which they rest their high hopes for the future. I should like to emphasise, in view of a question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that there is, I am assured, complete agreement between the Vatican and the authorities in the island. I do not know the past history, but to-day there is complete agreement between all Catholic authorities on this matter, and I should not like the impression to get about that somebody had been coerced by somebody else. The Holy See, as I have good reason to know, wishes every possible success to Malta and the people of Malta in the new era of independence that is now beginning.
The Catholic Church looks upon this arrangement as no doubt imperfect, like everything human, but as the foundation of what should be many years of progress and concord; and certainly all Catholics hope that past misunderstandings, and in some cases bitterness and antagonism, will be overcome and forgotten. The Catholic Church hopes that it is possible for all sections of opinion, religious and political, including all political Parties, to be reconciled on the new basis and in the new atmo- 1020 sphere. If I am asked whether what I am saying seems to me an olive branch held out by the Roman Catholic Church towards those with whom it has been in conflict, I can only reply that that is how I understand it——
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
—and I hope that everywhere, and not least in your Lordships' House, it will be received as such.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
My Lords, since I relinquished the office of Governor of Malta fifteen years ago, I have studiously refrained (I except the previous occasion when a Constitution for Malta was put before us) from speaking in public about the affairs of Malta. I have done so because these matters have been very hotly contested in Malta, and I thought it better that one who had held that responsibility should be extremely careful in his conduct, and should not run the risk of saying something which might conceivably be interpreted as a reflection of official opinion in this country. But, my Lords, this is presumably the last occasion on which we shall be called upon to discuss a Constitution for Malta, and I feel that I should be lacking in my duty to this House if I refrained from saying something this afternoon.
The three questions which we have to ask ourselves are these. Should Malta be granted an independent Government; if so, should it be granted now; and is the Constitution proposed a suitable one for Malta? To those questions, my Lords, I answer unhesitatingly, Yes. I think that the time has arrived when Malta should have its complete independence. We must remember that this is an ancient and proud society, which has a long tradition of civilisation and culture, and that political questions, and particularly constitutional ones, have been actively agitated in Malta for many years. At first, perhaps, this was more a subject of discussion among a minority of educated Maltese. But to-day it is a subject of discussion among Maltese of every rank, because Malta is a country which is educated politically and there cannot be the slightest doubt that the majority of the Maltese want independence in some form or other.
1021 Therefore, I say that Malta should be granted its independence, and that it should have it now. There is no point to be gained by any further delay. It will only create an impression of hesitancy and shiftiness upon the part of the British Government, and that impression ought not to be created. The time for decision has arrived and the Maltese should now have their complete independence. As to the third question, whether the proposed Constitution is reasonably suited to the needs of the Maltese people, I say that the answer is, Yes. It is in its general pattern similar to many other Constitutions that have been granted to colonial territories in recent years. It has in it a number of adaptations which are dictated by the legislative system and conditions as they have grown up in Malta over many years, and on the whole I think that these adaptations are right.
I know that it is strange to us in this country to find in the Constitution a provision which says that the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion is the religion of Malta. But that has, in fact, been part of the Statute Law of Malta for many years. It is merely a statement of a truism, for at the present time the vast majority of the inhabitants of Malta are adherents—and mostly, I think, very devout adherents—of the Roman Catholic Church. I sympathise to a certain extent with the points which the right reverend Prelate has raised with regard to this matter. It is perfectly true that the position of other religions in Malta is somewhat anomalous because there is in Malta no civil law of marriage. Marriages can take place there only according to the rites and customs of some particular Church. But the fact that has continued to be the position in Malta is something for which this country cannot excuse itself if it is wrong, because we had the opportunity on many occasions, when the government reverted completely into British hands, to alter it if we considered it advisable to do so.
On this point, and on the whole question of safeguards for individual liberties and freedoms of all kinds, I think we have to recognise that, in the long run, the ultimate sanction for these things in a democracy lies in a realisation, such as I hope we have achieved in this country, and such as I hope has been achieved, and will continue to be expressed, in Malta, that basic freedoms 1022 in a democracy in which all can vote depend ultimately upon respect by the majority for the rights of the minority. This is absolutely fundamental for the working of any democracy in which the Legislature has absolute power. If we are not prepared to respect the rights of minorities, democracy ceases to serve its real purpose and there arises a dictatorship. Therefore, I would express the hope that a Government of Malta will one day see fit to establish civil laws relating to marriages of those who are not Catholics, at any rate, which will be in accord with what normally exists in Western countries. I think that that stage is bound to come, and I venture to express the opinion that the Catholic Church, which has shown a desire for reconciliation with other Churches, would be well advised to encourage or facilitate any such legislation in the event of its being proposed in the future.
My Lords, there remains one other matter to which I would briefly refer, and which has been mentioned by previous speakers, and particularly by the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, to whose speech we listened with so much attention; that is, the economic position of Malta. I have mentioned this question before, when I have spoken to your Lordships about Malta. There is no doubt that the position is an extremely difficult one, because the island is lacking in almost all natural resources. A large part of it is bare rock, and the remainder, with its scanty coating of earth, is not capable of feeding more than one-fifth of the population. The Maltese have therefore to exist by what industry they can create in a country which has no basic raw materials, and where, therefore, they must live by the natural advantage which the sun has given to them by tourism, or by adapting themselves to manufactures in which skill predominates much more than raw materials. Even so, the economic position of Malta is, and is bound to remain, extremely difficult so long as the population continues to increase. In fact, this difficulty has been met only by emigration and by a very liberal financial support from the taxpayers of this country. Continued financial help is being guaranteed to the Maltese, in a very generous fashion, for ten years. But it would be wrong, I think, to let them believe that it will necessarily continue 1023 to the same extent and indefinitely after the end of ten years.
Therefore, one of the greatest responsibilities which will fall upon Maltese Governments in the future, of whatever Party they may be, will be to foster the economic ability of Malta and its inhabitants to support themselves to the greatest possible extent. This is a very great responsibility which they have to undertake, and, for my part (and I have the greatest affection for the Maltese people: I have enjoyed the many contacts and, indeed, the many friendships with them that I have had and still have), all I can say is that we must wish them the wisdom, the judgment and the energy to cope successfully with that responsibility and to show that self-government in Malta is something to be proud of and to be respected.
§ 5.28 p.m.
My Lords, I rise to join in the warm welcome given from most parts of the House to this Bill, and I should like particularly to congratulate my noble and gallant friend Admiral Lord Glasgow on his maiden speech. I first met him in 1923, when we were new boys in the same house at the same school on the same day. Forty years later we celebrated that anniversary when he was the Flag Officer, Malta, and I was the General Officer Commanding. We were both members of the Consultative Council, the Heads of Services Committee and the Defence Committee; and I think no one knows better than I how very much he had the wellbeing of the people of Malta at heart. When he left, a unique distinction was paid to him when the leading trade union leaders wrote to him and to the Press deploring his departure at such a critical time, when they so greatly valued his help. I hope we shall hear him many times in your Lordships' House.
My Lords, much as I welcome this Bill, I regret that it comes at a time of acute economic crisis. I think the financial agreement is very generous, but it has come only just in time. I know the treasure chest of the Island is nearly empty, and though the money will help for the time being, and I hope for a long time to come, and will get things going properly, it will not solve the problem of unemployment. When I left last 1024 December, 11 per cent. of the islanders were unemployed. I do not know whether my noble friend who is to reply to the debate can tell us what the present figures are, but I should be very grateful to know. But this is a very serious matter and unless the money that is going to Malta is invested in measures to improve the economy and create more jobs, then in ten years' time when the money is spent Malta will be no better off than it is to-day. We do not know what our defence requirements will be in the Mediterranean then.
I wish we saw in Malta more confidence among the Maltese in investing their savings in their own island. There has been very little of this in the past. Huge sums every month are sent from Malta to England and to other countries. No one will have confidence in an island, now to be an independent country, that has no confidence in itself. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, touched on the question of emigration. The population is rising quickly, the birth rate rises very much more than the combined numbers of those who die and those who emigrate. I was in Australia earlier this year and I was glad to find how well the Maltese immigrants there are doing. I was also glad to play a small part myself in opening the doors of New Zealand for Maltese immigrants. I hope that these two great countries will do all they can to take these admirable workers, and that other countries in the Commonwealth will assist in the same way.
I deeply regret the reception given to this Constitution by the Malta Labour Party. I am certain it is the best possible Constitution we could get in the circumstances. I warmly congratulate the Secretary of State and my noble friend Lord Lansdowne because I know well the hours of work and discussion they have put in over the last two years—not one year, but over two years. There were countless consultations with the political leaders time after time, both in Malta and in this country, and they have shown patience and understanding at all times. From my own small acquaintance with Mr. Mintoff, I like him. We met only at official affairs, as he was one of the most efficient architects for the War Department, and we occasionally had a pleasant glass of beer together while 1025 discussing the work to be done. But I do not think for one moment that it is the wish of even a few of his supporters that the British connection should be terminated in favour of whatever country will pay the highest price.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, said there was a chill in the hearts of the Maltese about forthcoming independence. It is quite true there was a chill; but I do not believe there is a chill now. I believe that, with this Constitution and with the Financial Agreement, they will be quite satisfied; and I am sure that we shall get no further forward and do no good by postponing it. I strongly urge your Lordships to reject the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I have said that I regret that independence comes at a time of economic crisis, but it is too late now to go back. If we accept this Amendment there will be bloodshed and bitterness against us. As your Lordships have heard, there is now a wealth of affection and trust towards the British in the Island. This I think would be seriously threatened.
I congratulate the Government on the Defence Agreement, and I hope that the Minister of Defence will take full advantage of it. The more ships, soldiers and aircraft that can go to Malta for training or stationing there the more we shall help the economy of the Island. The Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm would have tremendous advantages in training in the Mediterranean at all times of the year, which is not always possible in this country.
There is no mention in the Defence Agreement about the Royal Malta Artillery, and I have not heard any noble Lord or any Member of another place mention it. I should like to say just a few words about it, and to ask the Minister one question. The Royal Malta Artillery is part of the British Army. It has at the moment one Regular regiment in Germany which drives lorries and does a job similar to the R.A.S.C.; and the regiment is doing it extremely well. The second Regular regiment is in a cadre form on the Island. There are two Territorial Gunner regiments and a Territorial infantry battalion. They have a very proud tradition. The Regular officers of the Royal Malta Artillery are eligible for staff appointments all over 1026 the world, as are officers of any British unit. They go to Sandhurst to start with and to the Staff College and numerous other schools. They are commanded by a most capable and efficient Maltese officer, possibly the best they have ever had. They would not welcome the termination of this long connection with the British Army, and I hope that the Minister will be able to tell me that some formula can be found to keep up this great connection, because I know they would hate to see it go.
As a Protestant I have avoided the controversial subject about the power of the Church. I believe that this Constitution marks a big advance, but in another place and in your Lordships' House serious doubts were expressed about the freedom of religion. I am personally quite confident that that will work out very happily. Only a year ago I attended a large service in St. John's Roman Catholic Cathedral on behalf of passengers on a cruise of the World Council of Churches. At the service I saw there the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter, a Presbyterian parson, a Benedictine monk and the canon of the Roman Catholic Cathedral lead the whole party in the Creed and the Lord's Prayer in English. I thought it was a wonderful thing. That that should happen in the great cathedral of the Knights was, I feel, an example that things were moving a great deal faster towards understanding and unity than we had expected. I therefore congratulate the Government most warmly on this Constitution and on the Defence and Financial Agreements. I should like to send affectionate greetings to my many friends in Malta, and I hope that your Lordships will reject the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ The EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, having had as Secretary of State for the Colonies to guide the destinies of Malta through some difficult years in the early 'thirties, I should like to add my warmest welcome to this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, will remember that we had had some difficulties with the Bishops and the Church then. In fact the Constitution had been suspended—I am not quite sure whether it was by his Government or by ours—owing to the quite unjustifiable intervention of the Church of Rome in the 1027 Elections, under, I must admit, a certain amount of provocation from the late Lord Strickland. Fortunately, wiser counsels prevailed and we came to a wise agreement. The Church withdrew the extreme pretensions it had exercised, and I would say without any hesitation that if there had been another Constitution then, in 1931, and the same provisions about the Church that are in this Constitution and, still more, the spirit which obviously is being displayed now by the Church in Malta and by the Vatican as well, we should never have had these difficulties. But I believe that they are all things of the past.
I have no doubt that this Bill should be passed and that the Amendment of the noble Earl should be rejected. Of course, it is tiresome that the Bill comes to us at such short notice and that we have to pass it at the end of the Session, but we should be doing a terrible injustice to Malta and, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, we should be arousing the maximum of suspicion in a Malta which now trusts us, if we hesitated to pass this Bill. If there is one thing that is certain about Malta, with all its differences of opinion, it is that at least 90 per cent. of the people want independence. It is surely not any question of independence being granted too soon. All parties in this country would have been willing to grant independence to Malta months ago—probably years ago—if only we could have got agreement between the statesmen in Malta as to the form the Constitution should take.
I am quite sure that we should pass the Bill now. I am equally sure, if I may venture to say so without undue dogmatism, that it will be wrong to pass the Amendment which is down in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel (I do not know whether he means to move it) giving Malta complete self-government now, but saying that that should not come into force until there had been a General Election in the near future. I think that would be entirely unusual. If it is right to pass this Bill at all, it is right to bring it into force in Malta as soon as possible.
I would add not only that it would be very unusual and I think very unfair and unwise to do that, but that surely much 1028 the best way of testing opinion in Malta on the Constitution, on the British connection and on the value of the Defence Agreement will be when this Bill is passed and the Constitution is put into effect and a Government responsible to the Legislature has the responsibility of carrying on the government of the island under the Constitution. I feel sure that that would give the people of Malta a chance of seeing the Constitution in operation, would dissipate all the propaganda and counter-propaganda, often extremely tendentious, and would bring the Government and the Opposition and the people of Malta face to face with realities. I do not think we could do them a better service than to give them that opportunity. Finally, I would join my noble friend, Lord Glasgow, who made an admirable speech, and my noble friend, Lord Thurlow, in giving our best wishes to the people of Malta in going forward in their new independence to what I hope may be happiness and prosperity.
§ 5.45 p.m.
EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I have listened to most of this debate, but unfortunately I had another enagagement and missed one of the speeches about three-quarters of an hour ago. I must say that I am glad the debate has gone as it has so far. The noble Earl who put the Amendment on the Order Paper is, as he has always been, a genuine friend of Malta, but I think he is very mistaken in putting this Amendment on the Order Paper to-day. As my noble friend Lord Listowel said earlier, we will be bound to vote against it, if it were to go to a Division. I beg the noble Earl to withdraw his Amendment.
On the other hand, developments arise in a debate like this which are exceedingly interesting and test our individual consciences with regard to the proper protection of the ordinary, normal freedoms in a free State. Whilst it is true that in the provisions of the new draft Constitution there are some changes from the attitude of the Church some years ago which are an improvement, nevertheless I must say that the great pressure upon us to get this measure through, as all Parties have promised to do, in a one-day debate in each House has not enabled us—and I confess it—to examine the draft with 1029 the same detailed attention as the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chester has shown he has done. I must say that it lands us in a bit of difficulty. We are under a promise, made by all three Parties through the usual channels, to see this Bill through in one day, and that arrangement cannot be upset. But when we come to the changes which have been made in respect of the freedoms which had been secured in the draft Agreement of 1961, and detailed for us this afternoon by the right reverend Prelate, I think that strong notice ought to be taken of this—very strong notice indeed.
How best can we deal with the matter at this stage? Whatever the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, may think about our attitude in regard to any Amendment we may have put forward on Committee stage, it is important to make sure, even if under the agreement we have already made to take the Bill in one day we cannot get an Amendment included, that we draw the attention of the Maltese authorities, of both the Church and the Government in Malta, to the disabilities which must inevitably arise in Malta in the freedom sense unless we can restore to the new Constitution those safeguards which were agreed in the draft Agreement of 1961.
How is that to be done? I am sorry to have to put this question to the noble Marquess who is in charge of the Bill in this House, but he may be able to advise me as to how best it can be done. Two or three of my colleagues have discussed this question with me, and I think it would be possible to deal with the matter, if the Government could give us now an undertaking that they would proceed to examine closely the speech of the right reverend Prelate and the revelation he made of the safeguards which have been omitted from this new constitutional agreement, and which were in the 1961 Agreement, and undertake that they will take up with the Government of Malta, without in any way breaking the arrangement to pass the Bill through all its stages to-day, and have that put right. This could be done, so far as I can gather, by an amendment to the Order in Council. If I understand the position correctly, the Constitution does not come into operation until there has been an Order in 1030 Council. Will the Government undertake to discuss at once with the Maltese authorities an amendment to the new Constitution, so that, before independence begins to operate, or as soon thereafter as possible, they may agree to the reintroduction of the freedoms which were in the 1961 draft but have been left out of this Constitution?
I do not want to speak at length; I just want to get over this problem. If it would help the noble Marquess to deal with this matter if we put down a manuscript Amendment, so that we may discuss it in more detail and the rest of the House can have an opportunity to put their views on the situation, I think that could be arranged. But in the meantime, in the winding-up of this debate on the Second Reading of the Bill, may we have an assurance from the Government that they will go into this matter and seek to reintroduce those vastly important safeguards which were in the 1961 draft but have been left out of this Constitution?
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, before my noble friend replies to the debate, I wonder if one who has spent less than a fortnight in the Island, but like so many others fell completely in love with it for its beauty, its architectural glory, its heroic history, and its archaeological wealth, may say how much I have been impressed by some speeches in this debate. One cannot learn very much, perhaps, in so short a visit, but I was very fortunate indeed in enjoying the kindness of my noble and gallant friend Lord Thurlow who was at that time G.O.C., Malta; and in his hospitable house I had the good fortune to meet the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, who was commanding the Navy there. You can imagine with what joy I heard the brilliant speech he made to us this afternoon. I found out, not for the first time, how our soldiers and sailors can be both most knowledgeable on the problems of the stations where they are serving, and most enlightening to occasional visitors. I also had the good fortune to meet and have the advice of the Governor and of Sir Edward Wakefield.
I am completely convinced by the advice given by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Thurlow, and the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow. I must admit that I had had some doubt and regret, which has been 1031 shared in many quarters, at the necessary brevity of our proceedings in both Houses on this great Bill. Nevertheless, having heard those noble Lords, and my noble friend Lord Swinton, who has had such great experience in these matters, I have no hesitation in following the Government on this occasion.
§ 5.55 p.m.
My Lords, if I detain your Lordships for just a few minutes, it is not particularly because I have lived in Malta and know the Island and her delightful people fairly well, but far more because I was in Malta at the time of the last General Election. I think it may be of some interest to your Lordships to be told the atmosphere in which that Election took place. It is my conviction that such were the practices of one Party, at any rate, in Malta, that it is quite impossible to regard the present Maltese Government as having a mandate from the Maltese people. We in this country are so used to democratic practices, and are so disinclined to accept or believe the outrageous, that I do not think we always make enough allowance for those who know their own country better than we do and know when they have cause for alarm.
There are in this proposed Constitution a number of loopholes, some of which have appeared in other Constitutions and can be described, I believe, as common form, but which, in fact, are extremely dangerous if they are not operated in a strictly democratic manner. There is the rule against discrimination on any ground. The right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Chester, said that this would probably be quoted in extenuation of the omission of the protection for non-Catholic communities. That may be. But, on the other hand, there is the succeeding section which makes a number of exemptions, which are intended, I believe, to allow the exclusion of Communists from the public service. This may seem not unreasonable. But it is so worded that it could be used to exclude anybody.
I regret that, owing to our constitutional attitude, I am unable this afternoon to go into the Lobby with the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I should not have gone in with him entirely on the 1032 same grounds as he would go himself, but I should have liked to go with him because I believe that if this Bill had not been rushed through Parliament with such precipitous haste it would have been possible to amend and improve it to give to the people of Malta the assurances which it is clear from the quotations from papers we are now getting from Malta they desire. It would be possible, I think, to put in qualifications which would set their anxieties at rest. But none of this is possible in the circumstances of a Bill which has taken less than a week to go through both Houses of Parliament. For that reason, I deeply deplore the, frankly, unseemly haste with which this Bill has been thrust through this House and another place.
As has been said by many speakers, there are two other documents as well as the constitutional document. These seem to me, on the whole, to be admirable. I think that both the Maltese and the British Governments can congratulate themselves on the Defence and the Financial Agreements. The Financial Agreement, in particular, shows great generosity, and a generosity which I hope and believe, if it is not enough, will be reinforced with additional funds at a later stage.
But it is no use supplying yourselves nowadays with a Defence Agreement with a country that does not want you on its soil. I do not believe that the Maltese want to be rid of us; far from it. In fact, I took exception to the remark from the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, who implied that Mr. Mintoff was anti-British. Perhaps I misunderstood the noble Lord. If, however, he did imply that, I can most authoritatively contradict him. Mr. Mintoff I count as my friend; I know him well, and his affection for his English friends and for England itself is, I think, second only to that for his own country. But quarrels can arise, and particularly on matters of defence. It seems to me that in order to have the greatest use of a Defence Agreement you must have the general acceptance of it by all the people in the country to which it refers.
I will not detain your Lordships further. I will only, if I may, say one more word in appreciation of the admirable speech of the noble Earl, Lord 1033 Glasgow. I admired immensely the eloquence and the fluency with which he spoke without any notes, much less reading any. I hope that we shall hear him very often, and that he will maintain his good habits and continue to set an example to the rest of us. I appreciated in particular his tribute to the people of Malta. They are, I think, the friendliest, kindliest, most hospitable of people among whom I have ever been. I have travelled pretty widely, and I know of no other country in which the visitor is made to feel so much at home and so little a visitor. The kindliness and the affectionate reception one gets in Malta is really remarkable, and one never gets that feeling one so often has in some other countries, that perhaps what is most interesting to the host is what one brings in one's pocket. That is never so in Malta. Therefore, although I think this, Bill is wrongly introduced and far from perfect in its form, apart from its having some good qualities, I join with other noble Lords in wishing a very happy birthday to Malta and a very happy future.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, in this very interesting debate there has been one common thread running through all the speeches of noble Lords in all parts of your Lordships' House—and of this I feel very conscious—and that is the obvious deep affection that we British people have for the people of Malta. This has been apparent in all the speeches to which I have listened, and I have listened to them all. I think perhaps it would be wise if I were to deal with the matter which was raised by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Chester, to which the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition has just referred. I think this is a matter which is of the greatest importance, and I think your Lordships would perhaps wish that I should deal with this first.
I wish to make it perfectly plain that it was never the intention, either of the British Government or of the Maltese Government, that the Constitution, as amended in our White Paper, should in any respect provide less effective safeguards against discrimination of any kind than were provided by the earlier version of the Constitution which was 1034 submitted to the recent referendum in Malta. The right reverend Prelate referred to the Constitution of 1961, and he also referred to the Constitution put to the referendum. I will not confuse your Lordships with the different paragraphs, but in each of these Constitutions the same paragraph occurs. I wish to make it perfectly clear that all amendments subsequently made by us were specifically designed to strengthen the existing safeguards.
It was for this same purpose that the wider provision of the new Clause 46, to which the right reverend Prelate referred, was substituted for the more limited provisions of subsection (3) of Clause 41 of the earlier Maltese draft; that is, the draft submitted to the referendum. Clause 46 follows closely the lines of similar non-discrimination clauses which have been accepted again and again by Parliament in the Independence Constitutions of other British Colonies.
But I accept that the right reverend Prelate, and the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, have drawn our attention to what appears to be a weakness. I can give the noble Earl an assurance that my right honourable friend will immediately get in touch with the Prime Minister of Malta and draw his attention to this anomalous situation which has emerged by mistake; because, as I have explained, everything that we did was designed to strengthen the existing safeguards. If by some misfortune we have in fact done the reverse, this is a result which certainly the Prime Minister of Malta did not wish to achieve; nor, of course, did Her Majesty's Government. So I can give the noble Earl this assurance. Beyond this I cannot go but this is a very serious matter and, of course, we will deal with it with the utmost expedition. This I assure noble Lords in all quarters of the House.
The right reverend Prelate also referred to the question of the tenure of land of religious communities. I am assured—and I have looked into this very carefully—that there is nothing in the Constitution which affects adversely the tenure of any owner of property, or which need give the churches any anxiety at all. The only provision in the Constitution relating to property is Clause 38, which provides that there shall be no 1035 compulsory acquisition of property without compensation. But I know of no reason why the State should wish to acquire compulsorily any property belonging to the churches in Malta. I hope that what I have said will reassure the right reverend Prelate on that other important point which he raised.
Naturally, there has been criticism from noble Lords in all parts of the House about the speed at which we have been obliged to ask your Lordships to deal with this very important measure. Indeed, I have already expressed my thanks to noble Lords for assisting us in facilitating the passage of this Bill, and I recognise the inconvenience to which noble Lords have been put. I should like to explain why, in the Government's view, that speed was unavoidable. I believe that the Constitution and the Defence and Finance Agreements which have been published are the best that can be obtained in all the circumstances. I was greatly encouraged to see the number of noble Lords, from all parts of the House, who have expressed a similar view. As several noble Lords have mentioned, there have already been eighteen months of discussions, and I do not believe that there would be any prospect of a wider measure of agreement being obtained if there were further delays and further conferences.
I was also glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, say how important he feels it is that there should be no further delay. This view was expressed by other noble Lords of equal experience, and I feel that certainly if we were to delay further there would be the risk, as the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, said, of arousing grave suspicions in Malta, and even perhaps, as the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, said in his admirable speech, of more serious trouble. My right honourable friend fixed a target date for independence of not later than May 31 this year, and it is unfortunate that this target could not be achieved because negotiations were not concluded in time. I really cannot accept the observations of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that this was due to some lack of energy on the part of my right honourable friend. It is true that he has a very full programme, but I can assure the noble Earl that he always finds time to 1036 squeeze forty-eight hours into twenty-four. So it was not because he was not prepared to delegate his authority that these negotiations have been very protracted indeed. I have borne my full share, and I can assure the noble Earl that the Prime Minister of Malta was not sitting in the Savoy Hotel doing nothing.
My Lords, I think it would be most unfortunate if, by failing to pass this Bill now, independence were to be deferred further; and, as I see it, if it were deferred further, independence could not come for Malta before probably the beginning of next year. Once a country has been promised independence and the arrangements have been made and the agreements reached, surely it is most unwise to give any appearance, however unintentional, of wishing to hold back; and this, I feel, we should certainly be doing.
There are also good, strong economic arguments for going ahead now. The Government of Malta are most anxious to press ahead with planning their economic development and, as I explained in my opening speech, the Financial Agreement which we have made takes account of the Malta development programme. As noble Lords know, this Agreement will not be signed until after independence. If, therefore, independence were delayed, so would progress on the development programme be delayed.
I was very glad that the noble Lords. Lord Douglas of Barloch and Lord Ogmore, and also the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, in his admirable maiden speech, referred to the importance of economics and the development of Malta. Of course, this is an absolutely vital matter, and we realise that, due to the run-down, the economy of Malta has indeed suffered. But Malta is going to set up a Development Corporation, and under Article 4 of our Financial Agreement the way in which it will be set up and function is to be agreed with us later on. We hope also that the Commonwealth Development Corporation will be closely associated with it. I noticed the interest expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. Of course he could not refer to the Commonwealth Development Corporation but I am hopeful that his interest will in fact continue in the development of Malta.
1037 The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, asked me one or two questions about the Royal Malta Artillery and as, judging from the way he phrased his question, there is some misapprehension, I hasten to try to put the noble Lord right. The position is this. There will, in fact, be no change in the present status of the R.M.A. It will continue as part of the British Army on the same basis as at present, although the numbers in Malta will be run down, by limiting the intake and taking advantage of normal wastage, towards the number actually required as backing for the R.M.A. in the B.A.O.R. Its position will be reviewed in 1965 in the light of British Army recruiting at that time. But if the need for them still exists, the British Government will presumably be ready to retain the R.M.A. after 1965 as part of the British Army. I hope that that will assure the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow.
The noble Lord also asked me for some figures on unemployment. The latest unemployment figure I have, which was for June, is 6,749, which represents a little over 7 per cent. of the estimated Maltese work force. There has, in fact, been some reduction in recent months from the peak figure, which reached 7,484 in February.
Several noble Lords have referred to the whole economy of Malta, and the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, particularly referred to investment in Malta by the Maltese. This is a question to which we have given considerable attention. The amount of private savings being invested outside Malta has been steadily rising and is now running at an annual rate of something in the neighbourhood of £4.8 million. In the financial talks which we have had with the Maltese the need to divert these savings to investment in Malta's own development plan has been very strongly stressed by us. The Maltese naturally accept that this is desirable, but they have not been 'very convincing about their ability to check the outflow. Nevertheless, I believe that if the various development projects can be got under way—and I see no reason why they should not—then confidence will rise and Maltese money will be directed towards Maltese investment.
Several noble Lords referred to emigration, and on this I can only say that the 1038 situation is good. We have had great help from the Commonwealth countries; and to give noble Lords an indication I will quote a few figures. In 1962, emigration totalled 3,641, of whom over 2,000 went to Australia, 1,129 came here and 371 went to Canada. In 1963, the total increased to 6,579, of whom over 4,000 went to Australia, 1,332 came to the United Kingdom, and 905 went to Canada. The British Government have made a substantial financial contribution in this field in the past, and have agreed, as noble Lords will see in the Financial Agreement, to continue to provide financial assistance towards the cost of emigration. I was so glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, that in his recent travels in Australia he was able to see for himself how well the Maltese are fitting into the Australian life. This I have heard on many occasions myself, but I was glad to hear it confirmed firsthand from the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, put a question to me about a right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the fact that there was no provision for this in the Bill. The reason that this is not in the Bill is that Malta is remaining as part of the Queen's Dominions and there is no strong reason for anticipating that it will become a republic in the near future. I think that answers the noble Lord's question on that point.
My Lords, I wish now to turn to the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Perth. Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I accept at once the absolute sincerity which has prompted my noble friend to table this Amendment. I know full well, like other noble Lords who have spoken, the deep affection the noble Earl has for Malta, and how much he did for Malta when he occupied the position in the Government which I now hold. But I am bound to say that I am convinced that his suggestion is not in the interests of the people whom he wishes to serve. I feel that it is not in the interests of the Maltese people and not in the interests of Anglo-Maltese relations. His speech seemed to me to be a nostalgic speech, a speech of regret, a speech regretting that integration, in which he believes so strongly, had failed.
1039 With great respect to him, and with great regard for his most certain conscientious thought and careful consideration, I put it to noble Lords that this is not a proposal that can be considered at this time. We have passed this point and the Maltese now are thinking of themselves as very shortly to be going into independence. The Prime Minister of Malta returned to that country and received a very warm welcome indeed. And now—not at the eleventh hour: for we are past the eleventh hour—to suggest that we could in some way pull back seems to me to be quite unrealistic. And to introduce, at the last minute, some new element would surely call in question everything that has so far been agreed. I earnestly advise my noble friend to withdraw his Amendment. While respecting the motives which inspired him to put it down, I hope that he will think again and withdraw this Amendment.
My Lords, this has been a wide-ranging debate, and it is possible that I have omitted to reply to some of the questions. I have made a list here, and I see a few that I have overlooked. Several noble Lords referred to the association with NATO of Malta. Of course after independence, this will be a matter for Malta herself. But I should like to echo the hope that has been expressed by a number of noble Lords during the course of this debate, that the NATO headquarters, at least, will remain in Malta. I was gratified to note how many of your Lordships gave a warm welcome to the Financial Agreement that we have been able to arrange and to the Defence Agreement. This is most encouraging after the many weeks and hours of hard work. I do not think, in all humility, that in the circumstances they could have been improved upon.
In conclusion, I would echo the words of my noble friend Lord Glasgow. He said that one great asset that we have in Malta is the good will of the Maltese people. Let us not do anything to-day to risk losing this good will, which I believe to be so valuable to the British people as a whole and perhaps, in the long term, so valuable and important for the peace of the world.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I said at the beginning when I moved this Amendment that I was not going to comment on the Constitution, on the Defence Agreement or on the question of aid, and I remain firm of purpose on that; although I must confess that several times in the debate I have been much tempted to challenge remarks on those subjects made by various noble Lords. I have also not had from my noble friend Lord Lansdowne a satisfactory answer to the question I put to him, about what would be the attitude of the Government if it became clear that the people of Malta wished some other solution than independence now.
All the same, so far as the people of Malta are concerned, I hope that, if they really want this, I have pointed the way to them. So I am not going to press my Amendment. I must confess that I was mightily tempted to do so, after hearing the splendid speech of my noble friend Lord Glasgow, who has had at least as much experience as anyone else and who, broadly, I heard to be on my side in this question. Just as I am not going to press my Amendment, I shall not take part in any further proceedings to do with this Bill—and I am sure your Lordships will understand my reasons for that. So I take this opportunity, along with many others, to wish my gallant friends and all those in Malta, one and all, every good fortune, every happiness and blessing in their new venture. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, before we give the Bill a Second Reading I should like to thank the noble Marquess for his willingness to undertake to look into the matter I mentioned. I had a draft Amendment ready to put down on Committee stage. I should also like to ask the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chester whether he is satisfied that the course I put to the noble Marquess will satisfy him.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER
My Lords, that is the case. I am very grateful indeed to the noble Marquess for the understanding he has shown over this. We do attach the greatest possible 1041 importance to this word "disability", and as this was in the 1961 draft and the Malta referendum draft, we very much hope that it may be possible for that clause to be inserted in the White Paper before us. I am most grateful to the noble Marquess for the assurances he has given.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of July 20):
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on the Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD STRANG in the Chair]
Clause 1 [Fully responsible status of Malta]:
1.—(1) On and after such day as Her Majesty may by Order in Council appoint (in this Act referred to as "the appointed day") Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the government of Malta.
§ THE EARL, OF LISTOWEL
I beg to move the manuscript Amendment in my name. With your Lordships' permission, I will read it. The Amendment is to add to subsection (1), at page 1, line 8:Provided that no such Order in Council shall be made until after the dissolution of the present Legislative Assembly of Malta and the holding of a General Election there.Repetition is one of the deadly sins of Parliamentary debate and I hope I shall not commit it. The object of this Amendment is quite simple; it is to ensure that there should be a General Election in Malta before independence. The reasons for desiring this have already been stated, I think, fairly fully, but I would make 'two brief comments by way of reminding your Lordships of what was said.
The first is that in this country it is a constitutional convention that if there were a serious disagreement between the two major Parties about a change in the 1042 Constitution there would be a General Election and the matter would be referred to the electorate. We are asking for the same constitutional convention that we apply here to be applied in Malta.
The second comment is this. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said that this would be a rare and unusual practice. That is really not the case. On the contrary, it is the normal thing that if Parties are divided before a country becomes independent there is a General Election; and I should be surprised if any noble Lord could quote the example of any country in the Commonwealth which has obtained independence where, if there was a serious division of opinion in that country about the Independence Constitution, there has not been a General Election. So we are asking only for the same constitutional convention that we accept for ourselves to be applied in Malta, and for the general practice in promoting the independence of our Colonies to be followed in Malta. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 8, at end insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ LORD OGMORE
I was against the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and I am against this, for much the same reasons. I believe that Malta has for many years past been plunged into turmoil over these constitutional matters. It seems to me that Her Majesty's Government have allowed for a fair solution of the problems of Malta. It is not perfect but in human affairs few things are perfect. I believe that what is required in Malta is that everybody should be quite certain, as they are, as to what the Constitution is; that the Constitution should be put into effect without any further delay, and that everybody should get down to working it in a responsible manner.
I reiterate what I said before, that the great problem in Malta is the economic problem, and that until this Constitution is in being, and the Finance Agreement and other Agreements are in force, no real start can be made with the serious problem of tackling the economic problems of Malta. Therefore, I ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I have nothing to add to the argument which I have already advanced against 1043 delay. I am most grateful for the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and I feel that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, himself must see that here again is another risk of arousing suspicions. We cannot I think at this late hour introduce another condition before the people of Malta are given independence. I hope that noble Lords will reject this Amendment.
EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I should like to say that of course the question of putting down this Amendment was to emphasise the points which had been raised in another place by the Party to which I have the honour to belong, and which is as good a friend of Malta as any other Party. I would say that the remarks of my noble friend Lord Faringdon in the Second Reading debate were also evidence that there was a great deal to be said for proceeding along the lines which are indicated in our Amendment.
The Amendment was not carried in another place, but I felt it was our duty to put the point to this Committee from that angle, because in the previous election, especially in the circumstances referred to by my noble friend Lord Faringdon, there was good reason to suppose that, if it had not been for the extraordinary practices that were carried out then, it may well be that you would not have had the same type of Government as you have at the present time, and with whom the present agreement is being made. However, it is not, I think, essential that we should go into the Lobby on this matter. We have done our duty by repeating what was done in another place, and if the Government like to treat the matter on the basis that we do not withdraw our Amendment but that it will just be negatived, that is the course we shall adopt.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Amendments not affecting the law of Malta]:
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. This deals with an obvious mistake in 1044 the Bill, and I had hoped that by drawing attention to the mistake it might conceivably have been possible to treat it as a mere mistake and to print the matter correctly. But I dare say it goes beyond that, and therefore I beg to move the Amendment, which makes sense of the Schedule. Section 2 of the 1949 Act provides as follows:For section four hundred and twenty-seven of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, (in this Act referred to as 'the principal Act'), there shall be substituted the following section"—and then there is a completely new section which paragraph 7 of Schedule 2 amends. It is quite obvious that when you substitute "B" for "A", "A" is replaced by "B"; it is not substituted by "B", which makes nonsense. I therefore beg to move the Amendment that makes the matter grammatically correct and good sense.
Page 6, line 37, leave out ("substituted") and insert ("replaced").—(Lord Conesford.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think it is probably dangerous to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, on legal matters, but I have taken legal advice on this and I am advised that the noble Lord is in error. In the first place, the word "replaced" would not be correct since Section 2 of the Act of 1949 did not replace Section 427(2), as it would have done if Section 427(2) had been repealed by the Act of 1949, and Section 2 had instead been enacted as a new substantive enactment. What Section 2 in fact did was to substitute a new version of Section 427 for the original version of that section.
Secondly, one Independence Act after another over a period of many years has contained, as the noble Lord is well aware, this provision using the word "substituted". However, I will admit that perhaps the wording is inelegant, and in future in any other Independence Bills perhaps we will have a look at this matter to see whether the intention can be expressed in a more elegant way. But I do not think that the noble Lord's Amendment is correct, that we should substitute the word "replaced" for "substituted". I therefore hope that noble Lords will reject this Amendment.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I can see a possible argument against "replaced", but I can see no conceivable argument in favour of "substituted". The word that I should be quite content with, if the noble Marquess would agree, would be "amended". Nevertheless, as this appears to be the sole Amendment now left, and as I think I shall interpret the wishes of the Committee correctly if I do not press it, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 2 agreed to.
§ Remaining Schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without Amendment; Report received; Bill read 3a, and passed.