§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS AND FOR THE COLONIES (LORD BESWICK)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read 3a.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, I gather that we shall shortly have full details of stringent economic measures foreshadowed for this country, and it is partly for that reason that I have risen to say a very few words on the Third Reading of this Bill. It seems to me very important to emphasise that Britain will not lose all further interest in Lesotho 432 and the other former protectorates just because they have been granted independence and Britain is in financial difficulties. I really could not stomach the expressions of good will, with which I wholeheartedly agree, if they were mere pious words and that were the end of the story. If in future there are requests for economic aid from any of the former Protectorates, I hope that they will be considered sympathetically, either by Britain alone or by Britain together with other Commonwealth countries.
The Basuto people, as noble Lords pointed out during earlier proceedings on this Bill, are in an extraordinarily difficult position, both economically and geographically. They are completely surrounded by South Africa and, alas!, there are all too many unpleasant resemblances between the ruling Party in South Africa and the Nazi régime in Germany before the war. There are similarities in attitude to race, and in some of the brutal methods adopted towards those who disagree with the Government. But I believe that the Basuto people are confident that they will survive and retain their independence in spite of their geographical position, and in this I wish them well.
I agree with other noble Lords who spoke in earlier proceedings on this Bill that it would be pointless for Britain to take on defence obligations which she cannot fulfil. But if any opportunity arises to save Lesotho from complete economic dependence upon South Africa, I hope the opportunity will not be missed. I trust, also, that such proposals as may be put forward will not be turned down merely on the ground that Britain is hard up. After all, the people of the Protectorates are in the Commonwealth because in the last century their forefathers asked for the protection of the British Queen. I believe that created a moral obligation. I do not think that that moral obligation comes to an end with independence, and I hope that the British people will not forget these people living under the dark shadow of the South African régime.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, may I, first of all, thank the noble Lord for the good wishes which he has extended to the impending new country of Lesotho? I should like to add my own good wishes to those expressed by the noble Lord. 433 In fact, on a previous Reading of this Bill, all of us in the House said how well we wished them, and we look forward to a happy future for the people of Lesotho. I would, in any case, have repeated those wishes, and I am sure that all Members of the House would join with me in extending them to the people of Lesotho.
However, I thought that the noble Lord used rather strong words about how he was going to resist any economies, if they were extended to that country. It is not for me to anticipate the Statement which will be made in a few minutes' time from this Box by my noble friend. Indeed, I do not know what is in that Statement, and therefore I cannot anticipate it. But I see no reason to believe, on the evidence before the noble Lord, that he was entitled to use quite such strong language as he did use. I would only repeat to him what my right honourable friend has said in another place: that we have undertaken to meet with the Government of Lesotho in a few months' time. At their wish, this meeting has been postponed for a while, but in a few months' time we shall be meeting with them and considering how best we can help them economically; and in the meantime there are unspent balances upon which the Government of Lesotho can draw. I very much hope that the fears which the noble Lord has expressed will not be realised so far as this kind of economy is concerned.
There is just one other point I would take the opportunity of making, and it is this. In the public Press, and to some extent in what the noble Lord said, there was a reference to our abandoning these people. It is not a question of our abandoning them. "Washing our hands of them" is another phrase which has been used. There is nothing of that at all. These people have themselves asked for independence and, according to their application, according to their wishes, we have agreed with them a Constitution which is acceptable to them and acceptable to us. I, too, hope that we shall regard this as a new stage in partnership in the world, and that there will be no question at all of our cutting off our assistance to them.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.