HL Deb 14 July 1966 vol 276 cc230-6

4.30 p.m.

Second Reading debate resumed.


My Lords, may I revert to the interrupted discussion on the Lesotho Independence Bill? During the earlier debate I pleaded that before independence came into operation in Lesotho there should be elections; and I think that when I urged that, I had very many precedents in other territories moving towards independence. But in that speech, as a result of an interruption, I failed to say something that I intended to say; and I did not emphasise, as I should like to emphasise this afternoon, something that I did say. In Lesotho, as it approaches independence, there is now considerable political division. The two Opposition Parties who together gained a majority in the last elections have now entered into alliance and are conducting a campaign. I wanted to say on the last occasion something which I wish to stress to-day: that I hope that those Opposition Parties in conducting their campaign will refrain from speeches or actions which may suggest that in Lesotho there is a division in rather explosive circumstances which, unless it is controlled, might have unfortunate results. I would appeal to my friends there to refrain from action which may in the least way lead to violence in the months before independence is secured.

The second thing to which I want to refer is a remark which I made in that speech recognising that Chief Jonathan is opposed to the apartheid policy in South Africa. I want to emphasise that this afternoon, because what has been reported in South Africa may have given a wrong impression. I accept entirely that Chief Jonathan, the Prime Minister of Lesotho, is opposed to the policy of apartheid in South Africa; and I do not expect Lesotho, under his Premiership, to enter into any association with South Africa which is likely to lessen the opposition of the Lesotho people to the apartheid system within South Africa.

There is only one further thing I want to say—and this is really a plea to our Government: these three High Commission Territories in Southern Africa are now in a position of extraordinary difficulty. Basutoland is surrounded by South Africa; Bechuanaland is almost entirely surrounded by South Africa and South West Africa; and Swaziland, which will be moving towards its independence, is surrounded by South Africa and by Portuguese-occupied Mozambique. I would urge the Government—indeed, I would urge it upon all Parties in this House, because all have declared their opposition to the apartheid system in South Africa—in these difficulties to give the utmost aid to those peoples in attaining economic viability. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, I think that those three Territories have been rather the "Cinderellas" of our Colonial and Imperial system.


My Lords, I made no comment on it at all. In fact, I would entirely agree with the noble Lord so far as Basutoland and Bechuanaland are concerned, but not so far as Swaziland is concerned.


I thank the noble Lord. I was referring to the fact that he had served in a distinguished way in the Colonial Development Corporation and to his remarks about some aspects of the Corporation and what it was trying to do.

If one looks back on the economic aid which has been given to colonial territories, I think one sees that the three Protectorates, in their exposed position, have deserved much more economic help than we have been able to give them. I appreciate the financial difficulties of this Government, difficulties which have been emphasised by the Statement this afternoon, but I would make this plea: in reality, economic aid to territories like the High Commission Territories in South Africa is no longer a matter for ex-Colonial Powers; it is now moving towards a situation where it is a world matter and where the assistance that is given to these territories in exposed positions should be a United Nations' responsibility, a responsibility of its Special Aid Funds and of its Agencies, to supplement in a greater degree what aid this country can give.

My Lords, some of us have been associated with the struggle for independence of the peoples of these territories over many years. Perhaps, therefore, to-day one can say that one hopes that the new era of independence upon which they are entering, in their extraordinarily difficult positions, will be an era not only of political harmony in their Territories but one in which they may be able to solve both their economic problems and the grave problem of their relationship with South Africa which politically surrounds them.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, may I express my sincere appreciation of the way in which this problem has been dealt with by the Colonial Office and in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick? I thought he made a moderate and wise contribution to our knowledge in this matter. I am bound to say that I thought that the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, the speaker from the Liberal Benches and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, exaggerated just a little the difficulties and the problems of Basutoland. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, struck exactly the right note of hope and good judgment as to the position there. Of course, it is difficult for a small Territory of only one million Africans and only 2,000 Europeans, in a country a third of which is mountainous, much of which is eroded and where so far no minerals worth mining have been found. But it can hardly be compared in difficulty with the position in the United Kingdom, I would say. Many a man might be glad to be living there rather than here.

Given good will—and there is a measure of good will—I do not think we render a service by exaggerating the difficulties. These are men, these Basuto, of very good sense and very good reason, not given to the excesses which have been demonstrated in some other parts of Africa. I think there is a very good hope that they may prove to be one of the few countries, perhaps one of the only countries in Africa, where something like the Westminster system will be understood and worked. So far there is no other ex-Colonial country in Africa in which it has worked. Oppositions have been liquidated, hanged and suppressed, but not in Basutoland; and it is my hope that, having regard to the Government of Mr. Mokhele for five years and under the Government of the present Prime Minister and under the very able guidance of the Speaker, whom they have had for these seven years, they will have learnt how to work a Parliament and to recognise the responsibilities of Government and the responsibilities of Opposition.

It is a very difficult thing to understand about Opposition in a country where, whether under Colonial Office or under tribal systems, Opposition was not understood and where there was only one way to deal with them and that was by suppression. It is my hope, therefore, that if we do not exaggerate the difficulties of Basutoland, and if the Basutos do not exaggerate them for themselves, and under the Paramount Chief so soon to become King, almost the last King in Africa (let us remember that while Haile Selassie survives the Kabaka does not) it may well be that this country will be an example of which we shall all be proud.

My Lords, I should like, finally, to say that the Constitution agreed to by all Parties (admittedly it was sought to be put off for a time, but nevertheless it was previously agreed to by all Parties), seems to me to be a sensible and a wise one, and that Her Majesty's Government and the Colonial Office, particularly under previous Colonial Secretaries and the present one, have done well in this matter, with their very able civil servants. Perhaps we may all join unanimously in wishing the future King, the future Parliament, with its full sovereign powers, and the people of this rugged, mountainous and very attractive country, the best of good fortune in their new and strange life as the independent country of Lesotho.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, replies may I ask him one very technical question? I probably ought to know the answer to it. This Bill deals with the establishment of the Kingdom of Lesotho, the operation of law, nationality and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but it does not say anywhere how Lesotho is to be governed. Is this Bill not in any way connected with any Constitution at all? Or does the Constitution come under some entirely different Act of Parliament? I should be very grateful if the noble Lord could explain to me this very technical point: how the Government of Lesotho is to arise and on what basis the Constitution will exist.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, I thank all those noble Lords who have taken part in this discussion. May I also thank those who, as I believe, have contributed helpfully to the progress of this Bill? All that has been said has, I think, been helpful; and even the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, to some extent changed the line he adopted in the previous discussion. I greatly appreciate the moderate advice he has tendered to his friends in Basutoland. I was asked one or two specific questions; for example, about the Constitution. I think that if the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, had been in his place—he probably was not—


My Lords, I was.


I am sorry—but I did say in the course of my introduction that the Constitution would be a matter for an Order in Council. It is an agreed Constitution and it will be made by an Order in Council.


Under this Bill?


Not under this Bill. This Bill refers to the establishment of the State, but the Constitution under which that State will be established will be promulgated in an Order in Council.


Is not the Order in Council under this Bill?




Then will there be another Bill?


There will be an Order in Council which will set out the Constitution.

My Lords, I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about the position with regard to defence. We all know the difficulties, the practical difficulties, the logistic difficulties, of defending these countries in this part of Africa, surrounded, as the noble Lord rightly said, by another great country. At the Constitution Conference there was no question of our giving any assurance about military aid. None has been asked for, and no assurances have been given, so far as the provision of military aid is concerned. The noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, asked about the passage of this Bill. Provided that it passes through this House expeditiously, it is our hope and our intention that it shall go to the Statute Book as quickly as possible. Arrangements are being made in another place to that end.

I think that I can only echo some other words used by the noble Duke, in which he referred to a slogan which has been adopted in Kenya and which, as he said, could be translated as "Let us all pull together". I think that what has been said in this House could be summed up in that slogan, as advice to the new nation: "Pull together". Differences have been voiced; doubts have been expressed, but, having given expression to these differences of opinion, the new country will clearly progress better if there can be unity of purpose. It is my firm hope that this advice which has been tendered from both sides of your Lordships' House will be accepted by the people in this new, young country. My Lords, again I ask that you give a Second Reading to this Bill.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask whether he can explain a little his answer to my noble friend Lord Selkirk, which I did not quite understand? Whence derives the power to issue the Order in Council?


My Lords, I can only repeat the words which I used to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, that the Constitution will be issued by Order in Council on the Royal Prerogative.


My Lords, an Order in Council must be under an Act of Parliament or the Queen's Prerogative. I am only asking for information.


My Lords, I used the term, the "Royal Prerogative"; probably I should have said the Queen's Prerogative.

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