HL Deb 23 February 1965 vol 263 cc702-7

3.40 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that the Kenya Republic Bill is a technical measure and non-contentious. We all agree with this, and it therefore seems a suitable opportunity to follow him, not in discussing the Bill, which is slight, but to give from these Liberal Benches our warmest good wishes to the people of Kenya. I wonder whether it would be impertinent, also, if one were to wish them good luck—because there are such very great difficulties here, chiefly political. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, drew our attention to what is going on in other parts of Africa: we have only to look at the troubles besetting Nigeria, Ghana and even the Sudan. We have only to look at Kenya itself, where the balance between KANU and KADU is held only by the political genius of Mr. Jomo Kenyatta, to see that political talent of the highest order, and indeed the greatest good luck, are needed to achieve what is to be achieved.

There is very little that we can do so far as the political difficulties are concerned, but there are also economic difficulties; and this is where we can help. I am sure that there is a great deal we can do; and, indeed, a great deal that we are already doing. We are doing our best, through various corporations, to develop public utilities, to establish secondary industries and, above all, to do something for agriculture. Kenya is, after all, a poor country. It does not have any great natural resources, and even if oil were to be discovered, the Northern Territory, where it is now being prospected for, is a disputed territory, a fact which in itself will engender great difficulties. So that in the foreseeable future agriculture is going to be the key to Kenya's health and wealth, and it is with this key that we can help very much.

I know that the people and the Government of Kenya will realise what great difficulties—political and social rather than economic—we have in trying to give this kind of help to them. We, on our side, must try to understand that so far as Kenya is concerned there are very great difficulties in accepting this help. We must try to understand the position as it is seen through the eyes of the people of Kenya, and we must never get exasperated and throw in our hands. So far as Kenya's understanding our difficulties is concerned, I am thinking of problems like that caused by the recent expulsion, possibly unjustly, of technicians; or the possible desire of such Governments that we should put our money into projects which are showy rather than useful—things like that which frighten away capital and frighten away advice, rather than encourage it to come in. On the other hand, I think that we ourselves must try to understand that, from Kenya's point of view, there are certain things which we consider sound but which to them are possibly politically unacceptable; things which may appear to them to be the wrong sort of internal interference. Nevertheless, I am absolutely certain that it is in this economic field, and particularly agriculturally, that we can help them most.

I want also to wish Kenya well in its efforts at greater co-operation with its neighbours. The noble Lord mentioned this point, and I should like to say just one word about it. The efforts of the East African Federation seem temporarily to have collapsed. I think they have collapsed not for the reasons which were suggested in The Times a day or two ago, but rather for personal reasons—the sort of personal reason, if one may say it without offence, that the Kabaka will only accept that he himself should be President of such a Confederation and the others do not want him; the sort of personal reason that Mr. Jomo Kenyatta cannot possibly leave the Presidency of Kenya at a moment like this to take on the Presidency of some Federation. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the three Presidents involved are on very friendly terms and are meeting each other frequently, which is greatly to the good.

I want, also, to wish Kenya well as a member of the Commonwealth, whether she follows our foreign policy or not. Since 1947 I think India has set an example in this respect, and it is perfectly possible to be in the Commonwealth and yet to follow a different foreign policy. The same applies to non-alignment vis- á -vis Russia and the West. I do not see that we need to be unhappy if the Kenyan Government in the future wishes to remain non-aligned. I cannot see that this should bother us at all. Our relations with her should not be inhibited even if she has a different foreign policy from us, or even if she is non-aligned.

So I welcome this Bill, as of course we all do, recognising that her change of status within the Commonwealth from a Monarchy to a Republic means no unfriendly feelings towards us at all. I also welcome this opportunity of being able to say again from the Liberal Benches how much we send the people of Kenya our best wishes and wish them good luck.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Henley, in saying at once that we on this side of the House appreciate that this is a completely non-controversial Bill, and we fully understand the reasons why the people of Kenya wish to cease to be a Monarchy and to become a Republic. We appreciate, also, that this in no way whatsoever shows any disrespect for Her Majesty the Queen, nor does it show any diminution of friendship towards this country. It is easily understandable that republican status is the most acceptable form of Constitution for newly emergent African States, and in this new development they have taken we on this side of the House wish Kenya all good fortune and that she may continue to take the great strides in progress that she has taken in recent years. I think it would also be appropriate to pay a tribute to two people in Kenya; one to President Jomo Kenyatta, and the other to our High Commissioner, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald.

I know my right honourable friend Mr. Duncan Sandys, who had many difficult negotiations to bring to a fruitful end while he was Secretary of State for the Commonwealth, found the Kenya Independence Conference one of the hardest nuts he had to crack. Very often late at night he would come away near to despair, because in those months prior to independence there were these two political Parties, founded on a tribal basis. There was, on the one hand, KANU, and on the other hand there was KADU—KANU favouring strong central Government, and KADU wishing to have far more power in the regions—and for a long time it looked as if it was not possible to find common ground on which those two Parties could meet.

Finally, my right honourable friend more or less forced a Constitution through, and then, since independence, what my right honourable friend in another place has alluded to as "almost a miracle" has taken place. Under the guidance of President Kenyatta, Kenya has been welded into one State, and its grave tribal difficulties have been to a great extent, and certainly at the highest level, entirely forgotten. I know one hears criticisms in some parts of this country of the African tendency to form one-Party Governments. I will only say this to your Lordships. I think we want to be careful before we criticise too strongly, particularly in Kenya, because let us remember that in Kenya KADU has been assimilated into KANU. There is no question of KADU having suppressed KANU.

Independence, and the years immediately following it, posed very grave problems for the countries concerned. When we are faced with a grave crisis, as we were in the two World Wars which have so sadly stricken this century, we do not waste many months in internecine Party warfare but form a Coalition Government to meet the crisis. I am not suggesting that independence poses a crisis on the same scale as a world war, but they have not a large number of people trained as politicians or administrators, and I think it is understandable that they should wish to put aside the luxury of Opposition so that all men who are true patriots may work together for the common good.

Great tribute should be paid to President Kenyatta for the way in which he has welded them into one nation. The other tribute which should be paid is to the High Commissioner, who made the unique change from Governor General to High Commissioner. We are quite certain that his responsibilities could be in no better hands than those of this experienced administrator with his amazing gift for getting on with all sections of the community, however varied they may be, and it gives great comfort to this side of the House that he should be in charge at this time.

I would only add that we on this side of the House wish Kenya well. We wish to continue to be her friend. We are delighted that she will remain a bulwark of the Commonwealth, and to her President and all her people we wish every success. May their prestige grow in Africa, and may their peace and prosperity grow and extend throughout the world!

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank both the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, for the warm way in which they have received this little Bill, and to join them in the thoughts they have expressed about the people of Kenya, about President Kenyatta and about our High Commissioner. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for his general observations on the subject of the importance of agricultural development in Kenya.

I would agree most wholeheartedly with the noble Duke about the amazing development under Mr. Kenyatta whereby two Parties have become one, without friction and by a natural process. The change has been brought about entirely by voluntary action, so far as one can see. The Constitution still allows for more Parties than one to exist. The constitutional safeguards were not altered when republican status was introduced, and it may be that over a period of years a two-Party system will emerge; but I agree with the noble Duke that in such a situation there is much to be said for a one-Party system, if indeed it can work harmoniously and happily and make use of all the energy and good will available. I am glad your Lordships have welcomed the Bill in this way, and I hope you will now give it a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.