HL Deb 10 March 1964 vol 256 cc341-54

3.40 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Perhaps I might begin with a brief account of its origin and purpose. On October 9, 1963, Uganda ceased to be a part of the Queen's Dominions, though remaining within the Commonwealth. The Bill before your Lordships' House is consequential upon the Uganda legislation which enacted this and certain other changes in the Constitution which Uganda had enjoyed since Independence, exactly a year before. Our own legislation is necessary in order to make it legally possible to treat Uganda in British law as if she were still for practical purposes a part of the Queen's Dominions.

Your Lordships may wonder why there has been a delay in bringing forward the Bill and why its application is retrospective. First, I would say in this connection that the Uganda legislation which has necessitated this Bill was not of our making. Furthermore, we received short notice of the intention of the Uganda Government to take this step. Thirdly, some features of the Uganda legislation in its possible effects upon British law, and the drafting of the Bill, required a good deal of technical discussion. There has also been a very considerable amount of consultation with the Government of Uganda. The time schedule was further prolonged by the incidence of the Parliamentary Recess and, more recently, by the events in East Africa which inevitably and rightly have been a first charge on our attention.

The Bill is drafted to have retrospective effect to the date when Uganda modified her Constitution, because there would otherwise be an awkward hiatus in the operation of certain enactments in our own law as they might affect Uganda—just to give one example, the law governing maintenance orders. As my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State said when commending the Bill in another place—and I do assure your Lordships of this—there is nothing in any way sinister about the retrospection.

Perhaps I should preface my exposition of the Bill's provisions by some reference to the nature of the main changes brought about in the Constitution of Uganda by the legislation passed last October by the Uganda Parliament. As I have said, Uganda then ceased to be a part of the Queen's Dominions. The office of Governor General was abolished and a President was elected. As Your Lordships will know, the first President is the Kabaka of Buganda, the largest of the four Ugandan Kingdoms, which still survive as monarchical elements in the State of Uganda. It may possibly be of some interest, also, to some of your Lordships to know that the first President of Uganda served for some time with the Grenadier Guards during the war, and that regiment has seen fit on the occasion of his becoming President of Uganda to make him an Honorary Colonel of the regiment.

This constitutional peculiarity of these monarchical Constitutions within the main State of Uganda is invoked by the Government of Uganda as the reason for denying the title of "Republic" to the new Constitution. Dr. Obote, the Prime Minister, has in fact repudiated the title of "Republic", preferring that his country should be known as "the Sovereign State of Uganda".

The Bill itself is fundamentally a technical one. It follows broadly the provisions of similar enactments passed when India, Pakistan, Cyprus, Ghana, Tanganyika and, most recently, Nigeria became republics. With your Lordships' permission, I will now run through the clauses with one or two comments on each. Clause 1(1) provides that, as regards the places named in Clause 1(2), all existing laws and, as regards other places to which any Act of Parliament or Order in Council extends, the operation of any such Act or Order shall not be affected as a result of Uganda's change of status. Clause 1(3) gives the whole of Clause 1 retrospective effect to October 9, 1963, which is the date on which Uganda's constitutional changes took effect.

Clause 2 gives power to make such adaptations to any Act of Parliament, by Order in Council, as appear necessary as a consequence of Uganda's change of status, and provides that such Orders or any other Orders varying or revoking previous Orders may be made retrospective to the same date, October 9. Clause 3 generally relates to appeals to the Privy Council that are pending. This clause does not follow the recent Nigeria Republic Act, but returns to the form of similar sections in the Ghana and Tanganyika Republic Acts. This is because Uganda chose to deal with appeals to the Privy Council in a way similar to Ghana and Tanganyika. The clause provides for pending appeals to continue to be heard by the Judicial Committee as the result of arrangements made with Uganda.

Clause 3(5) is, however, a departure from the two precedents which I have given to the House. In those cases, the subsection provides expressly for the termination of all appeals to the Judicial Committee save those dealt with in the subsection—namely, those appeals which are pending (of which, I understand, there is only one case). But Clause 3(5) prevents this Bill from affecting any right of appeal which may continue to subsist under Uganda law. This provision is necessary as we understand that the legislation in Uganda providing for the recent constitutional changes did not have the effect of expressly abolishing the right of appeal in all cases. We understand that it has been abolished in civil and criminal cases, but it is possible that appeals in constitutional cases under Section 96 of the Uganda Constitution may continue to lie to the Privy Council. This can be clarified only if and when such an appeal comes before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council when that Committee will decide whether or not it may hear the case, or further legislation is enacted in Uganda. Our object is simply to leave the matter open.

Clause 4 is self-explanatory. This is a slight departure from the Tanganyika and Nigeria precedents in order to avoid the use of the term "Republic" which, for the reasons which I have given to your Lordships, would not in this case be appropriate.

To conclude, I should like to recall that the Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Obote, on the occasion of the change of constitutional status from which the need for this Bill arises, paid graceful tribute to Her Majesty the Queen as the head and symbol of unity of the free and independent Commonwealth nations and went on to express his appreciation of the Commonwealth. It was my good fortune to be the guest of the Uganda Government on this occasion, and I should like to pay a personal tribute to the warmth with which I was received and to the hospitality which I received from their Government. I was made to feel a very, very welcome guest. I know that we for our part—your Lordships on both sides of the House will, I know, join me in this—will wish Uganda well under her revised Constitution, and continue to value her participation in the Commonwealth. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Duke of Devonshire.)

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, I think we are all very grateful to the noble Duke for his extremely interesting explanation of the background of this Bill, and for his very lucid and accurate account of its contents. I shall not myself complain about the delay in introducing the Bill because, although it is perfectly true that there has been a delay, I do not think it has caused any serious inconvenience to anyone. Of course, Bills of this kind have now become common form when a Commonwealth country ceases to be part of Her Majesty's Dominions. But as the noble Duke pointed out—and I think this is an extremely important matter—there is one important difference between the constitutional change in Uganda and the constitutional changes in other African countries such as Tanganyika, Ghana and Nigeria, when the Queen ceased to be Head of State in those countries.

The latter—the three countries to which I have just referred—became Republics, whereas Uganda has become a sovereign State with a Presidential Head; and, as the noble Duke rightly said, the Prime Minister of Uganda attaches very great importance to the recognition of this new status of Uganda. Of course the difference between a Republic and a State with a Presidential Head is much more than verbal. Republicanism is, after all, regarded by most people as incompatible with monarchy, and this view would certainly be taken in Uganda. But as your Lordships are aware, Uganda has a number of ancient monarchies which, before the British came, were the established system of government, and they have therefore played a much longer part than we have in the history of that country. The people of Uganda still feel a justifiable pride in their ancient monarchies, and intense loyalty towards their traditional rulers.

It was therefore most desirable—and, indeed, an admirable achievement in the Constitution of Uganda—to preserve these monarchies in this new, independent and united country. By framing the Constitution so that a President, elected for a limited period of time, becomes Head of State, each of the traditional rulers becomes eligible for this post, and I am sure nothing will do more for the unity of this new country than this wise association between loyalty to the State, loyalty to Uganda as a whole, and loyalty to a traditional ruler.

I am sure we are all delighted, as the noble Duke has said, that the Kabaka of Buganda has become the first President of Uganda, and we wish him the utmost success in his great office. Those who have the good fortune to know him will realise his devotion to his own people and the affection which he still has for this country which goes back to the time that he spent with fellow members of his regiment here in this country, and which has survived, in spite of the years of exile which he has shared with many other leaders of the new Commonwealth.

We are also delighted that Uganda, under its new Constitution, has elected to stay a member of the Commonwealth. Of course, one of the many advantages of Commonwealth membership is the unwritten obligation of mutual aid in times of difficulty, and Uganda was in a position to realise the advantages of Commonwealth membership very soon after it chose to remain one of us, for this made it possible for Mr. Obote to ask for our help when faced by mutiny among his armed forces. He knew that not only should we send our troops immediately, as we did, but that we should withdraw them the moment we were asked to do so—and I understand that the Secretary of State has already agreed to withdraw these troops very shortly from Uganda. This is surely a striking illustration of the value of the Commonwealth relationship. I hope that the Secretary of State, from whom we hope to have a report on his return from East Africa, will have taken advantage of his visit to Uganda to find out what further assistance we may be in a position to offer in relation to the training of the armed forces.

There is one unsolved problem in Uganda which I hope your Lordships will allow me to mention, because of the fact that I and my colleagues, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, where unable to solve it when we were in Uganda in 1962 and because of the importance of a solution of this problem for the future peace and stability of the country. I am referring to what is commonly known as the problem of the lost counties of Bunyoro. It does credit to both Uganda and Bunyoro that since independence there has been no serious violence over the lost counties, but whether this can be avoided later on will depend on the willingness of both tribes to accept the referendum in the lost counties as the means of a final settlement. I am speaking in an entirely personal capacity, and I trust that no one will think that I am interfering in the domestic affairs of another country. I am merely taking the opportunity of expressing an opinion because I and other noble Lords had occasion to be associated with this problem so recently.

There is the possibility, I think, of a final settlement; but the outcome of the referendum will depend on whether the referendum itself is conducted with scrupulous fairness, and I have no doubt that the central Government will take every care to see that this is the case. If this is done, if the referendum itself is conducted with impartiality, then it only remains for both tribes to accept the popular verdict; and no one can doubt, I think, that the peace and stability of Uganda will depend on whether a reasonable settlement of this longstanding dispute is arrived at.

There is only one question I should like to address to the noble Duke, and it is on the subject of Clause 3, subsection (5), to which he referred in his opening remarks. This, I believe—and I think the noble Duke said this himself—is the only respect in which the provisions in this Bill about appeals to the Privy Council differ from the provisions in other, similar Acts, such as the Ghana and Tanganyika Acts. This subsection will allow appeals in constitutional cases, though appeals in civil and criminal cases will no longer be permitted.

I think we are all delighted when any Commonwealth country wishes to retain any element of the right of appeal to the Privy Council, but it was certainly not made clear in another place—and I do not think the noble Duke, if I may say so with respect, made it clear this afternoon—whether this retention of the right of appeal in constitutional cases was in fact the wish of the Uganda Government or whether it was just a slip, such as occurs very often in legislation both here and elsewhere, in Uganda legislation dealing with this matter. Of course, if it was a slip, then clearly it will be corrected later on by the Uganda Legislature; but I should be very much obliged, and I think that many people who have followed the discussion on this Bill, both here and in another place, would be grateful, if it were possible to provide an answer to that question. My Lords, I support the Bill, and I sincerely hope it will receive a speedy passage through your Lordships' House.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him whether there is any other Constitution in which an hereditary monarch has been described as ruler of a "tribe"? I noticed that the noble Earl twice said "tribes". These hereditary monarchies are of some age.


My Lords, in Africa, as the noble Earl will no doubt be aware, the hereditary system prevails, and many of the tribal chiefs are in fact known as kings. They are, therefore, monarchs.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends and myself, I should like to support this Bill. We think a very interesting constitutional situation has been created by the position in Uganda, with an elected President in a monarchy. Taking the Commonwealth as a whole, I think we have in it almost every type of Constitution possible, and this is another one—an instance of how wide-ranging and all-embracing the Commonwealth is. Of course, its nature is changing the whole time, but, so far as I am concerned, I welcome the change because I believe the Commonwealth is adapting itself to an ever-changing world, particularly an ever-changing Asia and Africa, and this is a good thing.

The strength of the Commonwealth, I feel, can be shown in a hundred ways, but I will instance only two. One is the one instanced by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, when he said that three territories, in fact—Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya—came to us for military assistance when difficulties arose recently in East Africa. To my mind, that is one of the finest tributes that could be paid to us in this country. We are all very glad indeed to have been able to give this assistance; and we commend our own troops on the fine performance they put up in these various countries.

The second instance is the instance of our own people. We have in Kensington a place the noble Duke knows very well, the Commonwealth Institute; a new institute which has been put up. It is a very attractive building and no fewer than 13,000 visitors go to it every week. In permanent exhibition terms, this is quite a lot; and, apart from that, a large number of activities are carried on by the Commonwealth Institute throughout the country: travelling exhibitions, schools advisory services, film strips, lectures, conferences, and, of course, at the Institute itself there is a reference library, a first-class art gallery, a theatre, and so on. All these are being more and more utilised; people, and especially young people, are ever more interested in the Commonwealth. There is a branch in Scotland as well. The only failure—and this is a failure not of the Institute, but of the Treasury—is that we have not yet been able to get a very modest branch in Wales. I do not know whether the Treasury thinks that Wales is not interested in the Commonwealth, but we hope next year to be able to start in Wales as well.

This is just an instance of the sort of feeling existing in this country about the Commonwealth. I would say that there is apparent in this country a warmer feeling towards the Commonwealth at the present moment than I have ever known in my time, and I have been connected for many years with both the Commonwealth and the Empire. I am not talking about the few people who were, shall I say, 110 per cent. Empireminded; I am talking about the average schoolchild, particularly, and the average men and women in this country. They are very anxious to know all about developments in the Commonwealth.

I was going to say that this is not the place to discuss the question of the intended merger of the Commonwealth Relations service with the Foreign Service and the retention of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and his Department, with the noble Duke—if he is still at that time in office—and his colleague Lord Lansdowne; but, instead, I will say that this is not the debate in which to discuss these things. However, I would say—and this is the place to say this—that I hope that, when the arrangements are carried out, great care will be taken in the beginning in Africa, and in States such as Uganda, because we have a very special relationship there. I hope that some of the old Commonwealth Relations people will be retained in this sort of country, which has a long history of association with us and great feelings of friendship to us, as, indeed, we have to them.

I would particularly stress to-day the economic advances that have taken place in Uganda in the past ten or eleven years. These have been achieved largely by the Uganda Development Corporation—though not entirely so; there was a great deal of other development as well. But the Corporation has made an immense contribution to the development of Uganda. It was set up by the Uganda Government to assist, in association with private enterprise, in development in finance, property, industry, mining, commerce, hotels and tourism; and its work has been greatly appreciated. And I am sure that the man who has been responsible for this more than anyone else is the present Chairman, Mr. J. T. Simpson, who is retiring before the end of the year as Chairman, but who is to stay on as a Director. I should like to pay a tribute to him now, as this is possibly the last chance we shall have to do so. He has assisted in building up this quite remarkable corporation.

My Lords, I should now like to say a word on the question of military assistance. I gather from reports in the Press, and particularly those in The Times, which I have read in the last few days, that we are soon to withdraw our officers and N.C.O.s from the Uganda forces, and that in their place will be sent out a military mission to the Uganda Army. I gather that flying training for Ugandans will be carried out under the scheme established in Kenya. I believe this is the right course to take. I feel that the practice of having European officers or N.C.O.s in armies in Africa is probably coming to an end; and this military mission is far more appropriate in the I circumstances.

I have only one regret that I must convey to the noble Duke on this Bill. He will expect it, for I have voiced it on every Bill of this kind in the last six or seven years—and perhaps longer—though without the slightest effect. That is that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is no longer to receive appeals, except those which are already pending. There is one doubt in this case, to which I will refer in a moment; but I have felt for years past that we in this country have shown a singular lack of imagination, a singular lack of initiative and a good deal of parochialism in not being prepared, and in not taking the necessary steps—and this is the point, that we have not taken the necessary steps—to fit the Judicial Committee for its new role, so that it could become a real Court for the Commonwealth as it had been for the Empire. Those steps have not been taken; we are faced with independent country after independent country going out from within the ægis of the Judicial Committee; and hence there is no body of law being built up, as there used to be under the old set-up. We now have Supreme Courts or Courts of Appeal in large numbers of territories, with possibly very differing judgments on the same issues. This is a serious matter, and attention has been called to it by university law teachers, among others. This is, to me, one of the important points, though not the most important: the most important is that here is another Commonwealth link being unnecessarily severed, and due to our own fault. We cannot take any pride in this.

I gather from the noble Duke to-day that the Judicial Committee, although it will not be able to hear appeals in civil and criminal matters, may be able to hear appeals on constitutional questions. I am surprised that there is any doubt on this. I should have thought that in this Bill, when we are dealing with the whole matter, it should be possible not only for us but for everybody else to be clear as to what the position is. To have doubt at this stage seems to me extraordinary. The Judicial Committee either can or cannot hear appeals in the future. There is nothing against making the situation quite clear in this Bill. Why some unfortunate litigant will have to go to the enormous expense of coming from Uganda, taking an appeal to the Privy Council here, in order to ascertain something that we should now be doing for him by putting it in the Bill, I cannot understand. There may be a reason for it; but the noble Duke has not given us any. No doubt he knows the reason—perhaps he does not want to give it: in which case I will not press him too hard. I am certain that if he could give the reason, he would do so. But I feel that we should register surprise that at this stage in the proceedings a matter of this kind should be left in tile air, so to speak. That is all I have to say on this Bill, my Lords. My noble friends and myself wish the sovereign. State of Uganda well, and we shall look forward to steady progress in that part of Africa in the future, as in the past.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl and to the noble Lord for the way in which they have welcomed this Bill and for their most helpful and constructive speeches. The convention of the House forbids me from alluding to them as "my noble friends"; but they both are that; and I am grateful to them on this occasion, as on many occasions in the past, for their support on a measure such as this.

The main question that both noble Lords raised was of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I must apologise to the noble Earl, because I am afraid I misled him. I had intended to say that on constitutional matters appeals "may be heard", rather than "will be heard". I think the noble Earl understood that. I should like, if I can, to try to throw some light on this point. It is a highly technical matter, and I am afraid that, by trying to throw light on it, I may only add to the confusion.

The position is this. Appeals come under Section 96 of the Uganda Constitution and this is an entrenched clause. The Uganda Government, for reasons of their own, did not see fit to propose the necessary measures to amend this entrenched clause; therefore it remains in their Constitution. We have had considerable discussions with the Uganda Government on this subject. At the risk of being probably too frank, I would say that they made it quite clear that, for their own reasons, they did not want to go through the procedure necessary to amend their Constitution. The position is obscure, but we are not in a position to force the Uganda Government to take the necessary measures to amend this entrenched clause in their Constitution. For that reason, it will be put to the test only if a case comes before the Judicial Committee to decide whether or not an appeal does lie before that Committee. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore: we did all that we could, but there was nothing that we could do to force them to amend this clause.


My Lords, I thought I had made it clear that I appreciate that this is only permissive. It leaves the Uganda Government merely with power to appeal in con-constitutional cases. But what I want to know is whether it was the deliberate intention of the Uganda Government to leave this section of the Constitution unamended or whether they are likely to amend it and therefore this right of appeal will disappear.


My Lords, I find myself in some difficulty, because I do not wish to put the intention of the Uganda Government, which may not be ours. Perhaps it will be sufficient if I say that I think it remained unamended due to the complications of the existing Uganda Constitution, containing all these monarchies, and that they preferred to leave the matter unresolved rather than take a final decision. But I would make it clear that this is not something we are imposing upon them. The decision is entirely theirs.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, will not expect me to follow him in his interesting remarks on the Commonwealth Institute. I know he has done a great deal of work in the Commonwealth Institute and I think it is only a matter of time before Wales becomes a member of the Institute. Perhaps I was anticipating his remarks about the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and came armed with some evidence from the debate when this Bill was before another place, when something was said which might have given him some hope; but unfortunately my noble friend Lord Dundee removed my copy of Hansard when he left the House, and I have been disarmed. But if the noble Lord will look at that, I think that he will be interested. He will also know that there is to be a conference of the Commonwealth Law Society, and we may hope that something on the lines of what he has long been advocating may be proposed. If so, a great deal of the credit will have to go to the noble Lord. I will not detain the House any longer and again thank the noble Lords for the co-operation I have received.

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.