HL Deb 30 June 1966 vol 275 cc790-813

3.53 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Botswana Independence Bill, has consented to place Her prerogative and interest so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. At the Bechuanaland Independence Conference, which was held in London last February, it was agreed that Bechuanaland should become independent on September 30,1966, as a Republic under the name of Botswana. The Botswana Independence Bill implements this agreement and in general follows the form of previous Acts under which other dependent territories have attained independence. The Independence Constitution itself will be provided for separately by Order in Council.

To look back over our association with this country is to review one of the most fascinating and colourful periods of British history. It deals also with a period in which many men of the British Colonial Service in that part of Africa, and elsewhere, have loyally served and guided a community to the point at which it could take its place as an independent member of the Commonwealth and an equal member of the United Nations. We first assumed responsibility for Bechuanaland towards the end of the 19th century when, following trouble between the tribes of the territory and the Boers in the Transvaal, the Botswana appealed to Britain for protection. This appeal was made in 1885 when, with the concurrence of the Chiefs, the whole of Bechuanaland was proclaimed to be under the protection of the Queen—Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

The first constitutional provision for the administration of the territory was contained in an Order in Council dated May 9, 1891, which authorised the British High Commissioner for South Africa to exercise jurisdiction in Bechuanaland. The High Commissioner continued to be responsible for the administration of Bechuanaland until the High Commissioner's post was finally abolished in August, 1964. His powers were exercised through a Resident Commissioner until October, 1963, when the post was upgraded to that of Her Majesty's Commissioner, with the status of that of a Governor and with direct responsibility to the Secretary of State.

The Order in Council of 1891 remained in force until the introduction of a new constitution in 1961, but the intervening period was not without progress. In 1920 two Advisory Councils, representing respectively the European and African inhabitants of the country, were established. These Councils were consulted on major items of policy. In 1950, a Joint Advisory Council was established, consisting of representatives of the two racial Advisory Councils together with a number of Government officials. From its, establishment the Joint Advisory Council was consulted by Government on all important matters affecting both African and European inhabitants. The stimulus for further constitutional reform came from this Joint Advisory Council, which in 1958 recommended the creation of a Legislative Council. As a result of this a Con- stitutional Committee, consisting of 4 Europeans, 4 Africans, and 4 officials, was appointed. The Committee's unanimous Report was endorsed, again unanimously, by the Joint Advisory Council and formed the basis of the Constitution providing for the establishment of Legislative and Executive Councils which came into force at the beginning of 1961.

The tempo of progress quickened with constitutional discussions held locally in 1963.All the political Parties and important groups in the territory were represented at these talks, and here again it was on the unanimous conclusions reached in these discussions (which were endorsed by Her Majesty's Government in a White Paper published in June, 1964) that the present Constitution, introduced in March, 1965, was based. It is worthy of note, as I believe there is an interest in the historical development of this country, that, with the 1965 Constitution, Bechuanaland moved smoothly, and with the unanimous consent of all sections of the population, from a situation in which there was parity between the European and African populations in unofficial membership of the Legislative Council to a Constitution in which there is no provision for separate representation on racial grounds and under which the franchise is based on one man, one vote.

In the latter part of 1965, the Bechuanaland Government sought agreement on a date for independence, and it was announced in October last that the British Government had agreed that Bechuanaland should become independent in the latter part of 1966, and that it was expected that the necessary steps could be taken to enable independence to be achieved by September 30 of this year. At the Conference held in London in February, to which I have already referred, this date was subsequently confirmed as the Independence date.

It was typical of Bechuanaland's constitutional progress that the prime task of this Conference was to consider proposals which had been drawn up locally, and which had been given a general blessing by both the Legislative Council and the House of Chiefs in Bechuanaland. They envisaged the establishment of Bechuanaland as an independent Sovereign Republic to be known as Botswana; and, apart from the change to a Republican form of Government under an executive President, they were, in substance, no more than the adjustments which were required to the 1965 Constitution to adapt it to the circumstances of independence.

Before the proposals were debated in the Legislative Assembly and the House of Chiefs, more than 150 public meetings were arranged throughout the country at which the proposals were explained to the people, and the meeting of the House of Chiefs was postponed to permit those Chiefs who wished to do so to hold kgotlas to discuss the proposals. These kgotlas were attended by Ministers in the Bechuanaland Government.

The Constitutional Conference, the results of which were recorded in the White Paper (Cmnd. 2929) published in March this year, approved the Bechuanaland Government's proposals subject to certain minor modifications, and, as noted above, confirmed September 30 next as the date for independence. It is not proposed that any fresh elections should be held before independence, and the Prime Minister, Dr. Seretse Khama, will become the country's first President; the Ministers in the present Bechuanaland Government will become Ministers in the new Botswana Government; and the members of the present Legislative Assembly will become members of the new National Assembly. With a General Election having been held as recently as March last year, and with a clear-cut result, there is clearly no case for a further election before independence.

My Lords, as this Bill has not been considered as yet in another place, I think I ought to deal in more detail with its provisions. Clause 1 provides that Bechuanaland shall cease to be a protectorate and will become an independent Republic under the name of Botswana on September 30, 1966, from which date Her Majesty shall have no jurisdiction over the territory. Clause 2, in subsections (1) and (3), makes provision (on the lines of that included in section 2, subsections (1) and (3), of the Zambia Independence Act 1964) preserving the operation of existing law of the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and certain existing law of other dependencies, as if Bechuanaland had been renamed Botswana but there had been no change of status. Clause 2, subsection (2), and the Schedule relate to certain United Kingdom enactments which require amendment to take account of the establishment of Botswana as an independent republic within the Commonwealth.

Clauses 3 and 4 make provision on the usual lines regarding nationality matters consequent upon attainment of independence. Certain provisions establishing Botswana citizenship will be included in the Constitution that will come into operation on September 30, and they will be supplemented by local legislation. Clause 3, subsection (1), adds Botswana to the Commonwealth countries listed in Section 1(3) of the British Nationality Act 1948, and omits the Bechuanaland Protectorate from Schedule 2 to the British Protectorates, Protected States and Protected Persons Order 1965. Clause 3, subsection (2), provides for the withdrawal of British protected person status, and Clause 3, subsection (3), for the withdrawal (except as provided in Clause 4) of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies from persons who become citizens of Botswana. Clause 4,in subsections (1), (2) and (3), provides for the retention of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by a person who has such a connection with the United Kingdom or its remaining dependencies as is described in these subsections. The remaining subsections of Clauses 3 and 4 contain minor consequential provisions.

On independence, Botswana will have its own Court of Appeal, and Clause 5 provides that Her Majesty in Council will cease to have jurisdiction. It is, however, intended that the Parliament of Botswana should be empowered by the Constitution to confer jurisdiction on the Judicial Committee to hear appeals from the Court of Appeal. Clause 5 makes provision (on the lines of Section 5 of the Zambia Independence Act) enabling Her Majesty to provide by Order in Council for jurisdiction to be conferred on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In Clause 6 there is provision, again on the lines of Section 6 of the Zambia Independence Act, enabling Her Majesty to confer on the Judicial Committee jurisdiction for the purpose of disposing of Bechuanaland appeals to Her Majesty in Council that are pending immediately before September 30.

Clause 7 permits Orders in Council or other instruments varying or revoking previous Orders in Council or instruments in consequence of the change of status of the Bechuanaland Protectorate and any Order under Clause 6 to be made after independence, but so as to take effect from the date of independence. Clause 7, subsection (2), contains certain other supplementary provisions relating to any Order in Council made under Clause 6. Clause 8 contains the short title and a necessary interpretative provision, and calls for no special comment from me.

My Lords, Botswana will face many problems after independence—we discussed a number of them in detail last week, when my noble friend Lord Mitchison asked his Unstarred Question. I do not propose to go into all those issues again, but those of us who heard what was said, especially by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, will remember very keenly that it is a poor and, as yet, largely undeveloped country, and its precarious economy has been badly hit by the recent famine. There is an urgent need to broaden the base of the economy, and in particular to develop its water resources and agricultural potential. Difficulties are bound to arise as a result of the inevitable strains present in a society moving from a largely tribal basis into nationhood. Its peaceful constitutional progress to a non-racial form of Government will be under the leadership of a President whose dignity in adversity is well-known to the people of this country. Seretse Khama's personal circumstances provide the most effective answer to those who promote racial policies. Progress in Botswana will mean a bright ray of real hope in a part of the world so torn by the doctrines of racial discrimination.

I think, my Lords, I can do no better, in conclusion, than to quote from Dr. Seretse Khama himself, speaking at the opening of the Independence Conference in London in February of this year, when he said—and I quote: I would nevertheless emphasise that I believe approval of our proposals"— these were the constitutional proposals— may affect the spiritual and material interests of other people too. I think I need not dwell on the present state of racial tensions in Africa, and in Southern Africa particularly. It has always been my belief, as it is now, that Bechuanaland, small country though it may be, has a role to play in Southern Africa and in the unnecessary conflicts between black and white. The proposals I have put forward aim at establishing a non-racial society, in which each individual will have an equal right of expression and of opportunity no matter what his race or colour. It will be an essentially democratic society, in which men and women of different colour will live together in mutual respect and understanding". My Lords, these are noble words from a courageous and enlightened man, and I am sure we all hope that we shall live to see them amply fulfilled. I have great pleasure, therefore, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Beswick.)

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, we welcome this Bill, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining it. The provisions described by the noble Lord are all acceptable to us, and therefore my remarks will be purely of a general character. It seems to me that Botswana, the former Bechuanaland, is fortunate in having a stable Government with a sizeable majority at the start of its independence, unlike some other countries which have recently become or are about to become independent. I am glad, too, that Dr. Seretse Khama has no illusions about the difficulties inherent in independence. I notice from his closing speech at the Independence Conference, which has already been quoted by the noble Lord, that he said that, having rounded the last bend in their journey, they had realised that this was to the very great satisfaction of all the people of Bechuanaland. Yet his feelings were, I see, nevertheless, a little mixed. There was at the same time, he felt, a strong measure of nostalgia for present security and present relationships and a measure of trepidation in respect of the future.

We must remember that Bechuanaland's geographical situation is at present extremely important. The only rail link between South Africa and Rhodesia runs through the country, and it carries a high proportion of the goods now flowing from South Africa to Rhodesia. In addition, Her Majesty's Government have set up a radio station in order to beam propaganda to Rhodesia from Francis-town in the North. This station is protected by a company of British soldiers. But I think it right that Botswana should become independent; for Seretse Khama's idea of a non-racial society is greatly to be commended. In this society, as Dr. Khama said and as the' noble Lord has repeated: each individual will have an equal right of expression and of opportunity, no matter what his race or colour. It will be a…democratic society", Only a week ago, as the noble Lord said, we discussed the present drought in the country and expressed our sympathy with its people. But, despite the drought, Dr. Khama believes that with our help, with that of the World Food Programme and with other assistance, they can get on their feet and demonstrate to the world their ability to maintain political and constitutional advance with economic progress. We wish them well and we are delighted that Botswana is, as I understand it, to ask for Commonwealth membership and that therefore their links with this country will be maintained and, perhaps, even strengthened. The country finds itself in the middle of racial passions which are dividing Southern Africa. Under wise leadership it has decided to devote its energies to bettering the lot of its own people while co-existing with its neighbours to the North and South. Good luck to Botswana and to its new capital Gabarone! The famous town of Mafeking used to be the Protectorate headquarters. When that town was relieved in 1899 there was great rejoicing in London. I hope, despite the drought, there will be rejoicing again in Gabarone as well as in Mafeking when the country becomes independent on September 30.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, we on these Benches welcome this Bill. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for the very clear way he expounded it and also for the happy ending to his speech in which he set the Bill in relation to what most of us feel about Botswana and its future. This House should take particular interest in this debate, because it so happens that fifteen years ago, almost to the day, on June 27, 1951, we had what was for this House a heated debate—not, perhaps, 'heated" in terms of the other place, but certainly so for this House. It was on the subject of Bechuanaland and there were two Motions on the Order Paper. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, moved one of them and the late Lord Stansgate moved the other. They were replied to by the late Lord Lucan and by me. I do not think anybody on June 27, 1951, could have imagined that in fifteen years' time, almost to the day, there would have been this very happy result. In my view, it reflects the greatest credit on everyone who has brought it about: on Dr. Seretse Khama, on Mrs. Ruth Khama (who played a great part in this) and on the Civil Service, both African and British, who worked hard in preparing it. Credit is due, too, to the Commonwealth Development Corporation and to many civilians of various races who worked there.

I am very pleased indeed that the trouble of the Bamangwato has long ended. Now we can see, in the new State of Botswana, a happy future for what we called Bechuanaland. This country, as was said only last week, has many problems of an economic nature; but we hope that fortunately there are not many of a social and political nature. In the first place, it is considerably larger than France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Luxembourg put together; and with that vast area it has the population of a middle-sized English town. That, in itself, constitutes a considerable problem. Its resources, as we have heard, are few and consist mainly of its cattle. There is a great deal of water low down, but there is not much water in the subsoil. That also entails great problems in getting water, not only to the cattle but to the grass. It constitutes two separate problems.

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, speaking a few minutes ago in this House on a horticultural measure, talked about—and I took a note of what he said—the danger of unmanageable surpluses in horticultural production in the United Kingdom. This danger, the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, hastened to reassure him, was not a fact: measures would be taken to ensure that there would be no surpluses in horticultural production. I can assure your Lordships there is no danger of there being an unmanageable surplus of anything, except land, in Botswana. It seems to me extraordinary, in this day and age, that we take great care in Parliament and that the Government takes measures in order to prevent surpluses of foodstuffs, when two-thirds of the world's population are living below the hunger line; and that a member of the Government can reassure a member of the Opposition here that measures will be taken—in a subsidised scheme—to ensure that there are no surpluses. This seems to me to be "haywire". It is quite extraordinary to hear two debates of this kind following one another. They do not match up to reality.

I think Botswana has got off to a good start. The country is in fact a republic. Previously, as we know, a country gaining independence started off by being, as I suppose one could say, "under a crowned head"; and then very shortly afterwards, in about a year, a Bill would be introduced under which the country was made a republic within the Commonwealth. I think it is a good thing that in this case Botswana has started off as a republic within the Commonwealth, rather than it should go in for a two-tier movement such as has been the case generally in the past.

I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, could help us in any way regarding some of the more detailed proposals that are likely to be made in regard to the country; perhaps he can do so later, if not to-day. But we have heard nothing about defence. This place is utterly undefended at the present moment. Its neighbours are, on the one hand, South Africa, and, on the other, Mr. Smith's Rhodesia. What is going to happen suppose it quarrels with its neighbours? Are we under any obligation to come to its defence; and, if we are, how do we get there? These are the kind of problems I should like to hear something about, if not to-day then at some other time. What about diplomatic arrangements? Are there to be any arrangements for the exchange of Ambassadors with South Africa? Do we know that? Presumably there should be, because Botswana will be very dependent in every possible way on SouthAfrica—very dependent economically and in other ways, so I presume they must have an exchange of Ambassadors.

What finance commitments are there? Are we balancing their budget for some years ahead? We are giving £5 million a year to Guyana which is not, in my opinion, anything like as dependent on us as is this country. The trouble in Guyana is not that it has no great resources but that it has not much political sense. They have not been able to come down to brass tacks and live together. They have plenty of resources to develop. In Botswana there are no great resources, and it seems to me that over the next few years we ought to give them at any rate some money to balance their budget; and I am sure we are going to do so.

When we come to this point, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will say to me, as he said to me and to others on Tuesday, "It is all very well your talking about giving aid to these countries, but are you prepared to go to the country and recommend more taxation?". In many speeches I have made in this House and in another place, and in the country, I have recommended not more taxation but, rather, more expenditure on aid for underdeveloped territories. I do not admit that if we want more aid for these territories it necessarily implies more taxation. I do not think that this is the occasion to do so, but I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that I—and, I have no doubt, other noble Lords—should be only too happy to give him a number of instances where I suggest that the Government could cut down substantially on expenditure which in my view is unnecessary. Thus we could make money available for these underdeveloped countries. I, at any rate, think that it would be far better that the money should be spent on Botswana, and on other people, than on some of the nonsensical schemes on which it is spent to-day.

There are two other points which I wish to make. First, I hope that Dr. Seretse Khama will not follow the bad example of many Western countries, developed countries, and, unhappily, also many underdeveloped countries, and have a lot of Odeon-type Embassies around the world and "Cadillac ambassadors", wasting money, as is done in so many cases, on this vulgar ostentation. We in the Western world have given a very bad example to the underdeveloped nations in this regard. I feel ashamed as I go round various countries in many parts of the world and see this vulgar ostentation at Embassies. I can assure your Lordships that every pound and every dollar they can get hold of is needed for the poor people of Botswana and should not be spent on ostentation outside the country.

My final point is a question of which I have given notice to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. It refers to the little bushmen. I asked a Question on this matter of the former Government, on November 27, 1956, and I got a fairly good reply. I have for many years been concerned about the bushmen; there are not many of them left. They are, as your Lordships know, a primitive people compared with Western standards. I have no doubt that when there is a bit of food around they are happy, but they live an extremely hard life in the Kalahari Desert and in parts of Bechuanaland, or Botswana as it is now known. In answer to my Question I was informed that the Government were making inquiries into the position of the bushmen and appointing a district officer, a civil servant, to look after them and to see that they were not being prejudiced or harshly treated by other tribes more able to look after themselves than are the little bushmen.

I should like to know whether, in the complicated arrangements being made for the future of Botswana, any regard has been had for these little people. They are little in many senses of the word. They are happy people, but they are small in stature and there are not many of them. I should like to feel confident that some regard has been had for their future in the arrangements that have been made for the future of Botswana. I have no other points to raise. I would only say that we on these Benches wish Botswana every possible happiness and success in the years to come.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, a week ago I held out a begging bowl on behalf of these people. I am not going to repeat what I said then. I think we all wish them success and such prosperity as they may have in difficulties which are as great as any which have confronted a small country facing independence, as they are doing now. They are plucky people, they are intelligent people, and they have a history of advance from a fairly recent condition of inter-tribal warfare to the rather high level they have now reached. I believe that advance will continue, and it is surely right that they should direct it themselves. But, my Lords, we have never given independence to a hungrier or thirstier lot than the people of Bechuanaland, and there are one or two things that we ought to consider when we pass this Bill. We may not have other opportunities to do so.

My Lords, I say no more about famine relief than this: that I have since discovered a solution for the one-third of the population which is at present living on a diet of 10 oz. of maize and I oz. of vegetable oil a day. The wisest thing they can do is to get imprisoned as rapidly as possible. They will get much better food. The prison diet is 1½ lb. of maize a day, and the prisoners get fresh vegetables or dehydrated vegetables, sugar, tea, and all kinds of things. The only difficulty is that I am afraid the prisons are rather overcrowded already. My Lords, it is not right to leave a country in that condition and to consider that you have done your duty by them. It was eighty years ago, or thereabouts, when we took this country under our protection; our protection, as it was then, mainly against people living in, or concerned with, what is now the Republic of South Africa. But I think we owe them another protection too. If you give a country political freedom, as is being done by this Bill, you are bound to secure that they have a certain amount of economic independence, for without it the forms of political freedom may prove to be of little value.

This is, at the moment, mainly a pastoral country. As I told your Lordships the other day, these people have lost a third of their herd of cattle in the drought which has been going on now for years; and of course that cannot be put right until there is a proper water supply. We in this country have had the Protectorate, and some responsibility for it, for all these long years, and we have never, so far as I can see (and nothing said by my noble friend Lord Beswick the other day showed the contrary), had a proper hydrological survey, a proper investigation of what are the water resources, let alone a proper scheme for getting the water round in the country where it is needed; and, my Lords, it is needed both for men and for cattle. This is absolutely the first thing to be done.

We were told the other day by my noble friend Lord Beswick—I am not complaining about this; it is a matter unfortunately too common in the history of colonial dominion and something that I cannot think is right: An approach is now being made to the United Nations Special Fund for the preparation of a comprehensive plan for the development of irrigation…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 275 (No. 25), col. 449, 23/6/66.] And then as to the cost—not very large—we were told: I have no doubt that some will say that Her Majesty's Government have a responsibility to provide additional funds for this water development, but I can only point again to the total aid which has already been allocated to Bechuanaland, and to say that it is primarily for the Bechuanaland Government itself to decide priorities as between one form of economic development and another." [Ibid.] No doubt this is so, but this is not merely a case of economic development—I will have a word to say about that in a minute; it is a case of relieving acute suffering in a country where one-third of the population is now on famine relief and where the pastoral industry of the country has had a severe shock for the time being.

These are matters of common charity and humanity between people living in an advanced country, as we are, and people in a poorer part of the world. I do not believe that we shall ever get peace in the world unless we are prepared to consider this kind of problem as the human and social problem that it is. I do not mind where the money comes from. I do not mind if the Treasury cannot afford it at the moment and gets it from somewhere else. But we must see that it is done. We have to decide about this, not on any constitutional question but in discharge of our duty as in an advanced nation.

I read with interest the other day the life of a Member of your Lordships' House—my noble friend Lord Boyd-Orr. No man in the world, I think, has done more than he to charge civilised countries and civilised people with the importance of this duty and of the terrible dangers that await mankind unless this responsibility is discharged. It is no good saying to people in the position of Bechuanaland that we are giving them independence and then washing our hands, to some extent at any rate, of the responsibility which we assumed towards them eighty years ago. So, while I welcome this Bill most cordially and trust that this plucky and intelligent people will be helped in every way in the performance of their duties under it and in the advancement of their country, I feel that it does not discharge us from the responsibility I have mentioned.

Before I sit down, I desire to put the matter in another way. Intensive efforts are being made to start industries in Bechuanaland. It is going to be a difficult business: it always is in a country as poor as this. There may be cases, for instance, where protection is needed for the time being for a growing industry. I ought not to have to impress on noble Lords opposite the occasional advantages of a measure of proection. The position in Botswana is that the customs and excise revenue is simply a percentage—between 2 and 3 per cent.—of the customs revenue of the Republic of South Africa. My noble friend will no doubt correct me if I am wrong, but in these circumstances it seems to me that in practice the independence of Botswana will not make any change in these customs duties. Botswana may wish to protect some growing industry against the competition of the Republic of South Africa itself. That shows a measure of dependence, I think. I could go far beyond that.

It seems to me that if their independence is to be the reality and the opportunity for which we all hope, we must do rather more than we are doing at present. by way of securing real independence from their powerful neighbours in South Africa. The two countries are very close. They do not like South Africa. They are not going to form part of South Africa willingly. They may be driven into it by sheer economic need—and that again is a reason why I suggest that we should consider at least the primary responsibility to provide food and water in the country as something which will remain with us, not on any constitutional ground, but on the ground of common humanity and on the ground of founding the future peace of the world on proper relations between developed countries, such as our own, and emerging countries, like this small, plucky, poor one, to which we are to-day giving independence.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I am confident that there will be no reservations on the part of any Member of your Lordships' House in welcoming this Bill and in extending good wishes to all the people of Bechuanaland on the establishment of the Botswana Republic. I think that the statesmanlike words of Dr. Seretse Khama, which my noble friend Lord Beswick quoted, are an indication of the philosophy which will guide him in the capacity of President of the Botswana Republic in the future.

Over past years, this House has seen a succession of Bills granting independence to what were once dependent States, and we have marked the steady dissolution of what was once an Empire. Such a course was inevitable, in spite of the nostalgic feelings of those who sought to retain the British Empire and its influence. Perhaps there is some consolation to them, and some credit for Britain, in the manner in which we are effecting the transition. I believe that history will judge the worth of our action, not by decisions such as that we are taking to-day with regard to Bechuanaland, but by our conduct after independence is granted and the Republic is established.

My noble friend Lord Mitchison has already indicated the appalling difficulties which will confront this young Republic. I am sure that the first flush of enthusiasm following independence may obscure some of the difficulties which they will experience in developing the new State. Botswana is a small country, with 500,000 people at the most, with little or no resources, and with the constant threat of drought and famine. These are terrible conditions under which to establish an economically viable country, and it is no criticism of the establishment of the Botswana Republic when I say that it is a pity that independence is found in so small a unit, making it so difficult for them to establish a sound and developing economy in the future. But in spite of those difficulties, independence had to come. I believe that the difficulties that lie ahead will be recognised by Seretse Khama and by the people. Facing those difficulties will be part of the process of growing up; and, indeed, as all nations have experienced in the past, there is no easy passage to nationhood.

But we did learn, in the course of the debate a few days ago, something of what was being done by the people of Bechuanaland in an effort to develop and sustain their own economy. I had the privilege of making reference to the development of co-operative organisations in Bechuanaland. It is true that such organisations are comparatively new, compared with other African territories. I repeat now the tribute that I paid on a previous occasion to OXFAM for providing the initial funds a year or so ago; providing for a registrar of cooperatives, introducing the staff, and seeking to develop a co-operative organisation in those territories. It is simply incredible that, despite the almost total failure of the crop in 1965, there has been substantial progress in the agricultural marketing societies, in cattle marketing societies and in thrift and loan societies, all within a period of two to three years, stimulated, I believe, by a recognition on the part of the people that they were approaching nationhood, and there was a necessity not only to secure political freedom, but also to develop experience in order to be able to be economically independent.

There is at the present time in Bechuanaland a project to establish four consumer societies, one in each of the four principal tribal towns. The main purpose of this development, I believe, will be to bring about the stimulation of training—training organisation—and to give those people a stake in the commercial life of their own country. Those who know the area know that in the past the people of Bechuanaland had little control over what was commercial practice in the country: it was left to other nationals. I believe that this development will make a substantial contribution of aid to the people of Bechuanaland in developing their own Republic of Botswana.

But my main purpose in speaking this afternoon is to indicate to this House, and to people outside the House, that it would indeed be a tragedy if it were felt that independence relieved Britain of its' continuing moral responsibility to Bechuanaland. If anything, I believe that it will be greater in the future than it has been in the past. For 80 years it has been under the protection of the British Government. I believe that we shall be judged, not by the fact that independence has been granted on this occasion, but by the progress of the new Republic in the years that lie ahead. I am confident—and I base that confidence upon what has already been expressed by my noble friend on the Front Bench—that Her Majesty's Government will recognise that continuing responsibility.

I also hope that the many private and co-operative organisations in this country which have recognised their responsibilities in the past and given aid to Bechuanaland, will, despite independence—or probably because of it—increase that aid rather than diminish it. I hope that, with the establishment of the Republic of Botswana, and with a full recognition of the enormous economic problems that confront the country and the people, the many folk in our own land who have given assistance in the years past will maintain, or indeed increase it in the years to come.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have welcomed this Bill and expressed good feelings towards this new country of Botswana. I am sure that what has been said will be welcomed by the people of Botswana. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that, if we look back to 1951, there was not a great deal of reason for the assumption that by this year, 1966, we should he considering an Independence Bill. As he said, and as I said in my earlier speech and now echo, the fact that we have reached this point reflects great credit on many people, some of them British, and we need not be ashamed of this, as well as the political discipline of the people of Botswana itself.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about this undoubted anachronism—and, indeed, one might almost say crime—that we have allowed in the world some areas with a food surplus and other areas with a food famine. I do not disagree with the noble Lord when he emphasises that this is some- thing that ought to be changed. I would, however, refer him back to what I said in the debate last week, when I pointed out to him, as I did again to-day, that the World Food Programme is now providing food for something like 114,000 people in Bechuanaland, and that provision has been made, under the food-for-work scheme, for extending that to over 300,000 people. This, at any rate, indicates that something is being done, and to some extent we in Britain have helped in this.

My noble friend Lord Mitchison was, I thought, rather unfair in comparing the allowance, being made under the World Food Programme, to the food allowance which is issued to a person in prison. After all, an individual in prison is not in the same position to supplement that diet. People in prison are not able to go out into the fields and kill an animal for food; they are not able to sell an animal; they are not being given food for a limited amount of work a week—limited in order that they can earn a certain amount of other money with which they can supplement their allowance. I do not need my noble friend, or anyone else, to tell me that the amount issued to them is inadequate. Of course it is. But I do not think that we should belittle the effort that is being made, and I do not think we should exaggerate the problems which are being tackled, or which some good people are trying to tackle, in that part of the world.


My Lords, if I may interrupt my noble friend for one moment, I would first of all say that I am sorry that he thought I was being unfair. However, I had in mind what he said about the diet of 10 ounces of maize and one ounce of vegetable oil. He said that it was a standard diet, which was considered reasonable and balanced by the experts of the W.F.P., who went into this most carefully. Some of the people who are receiving it—for instance, children, sick people and others—are not in a position to supplement their allowance.


I think if my noble friend had read further he would have read the fact that I did give details of this scheme, and it is for work for 25 hours a week; and that was that the people who were receiving this amount of food would be able to earn money and there was food available for them to buy in the shops. I also pointed out then, as I pointed out a minute or two ago, that they were able to add to that amount by the cattle which they had—the killing of cattle—and that in some cases they had been selling cattle. I do not underestimate the poverty that is there. I do not think that any of us would wish to underestimate the poverty there. But when one makes comparisons of the kind that my noble friend made earlier, I think it is a little unfair, and he may well lose some of the undoubted sympathy which he gained during the last debate, if I may put it to him in a friendly way, if he over-exaggerates the problem that we are trying to tackle.

I was asked, in quite a different field, about defence aid to this country. I think we all understand the difficulties there must he so far as any defence arrangement is concerned with a country like Botswana, in that particular geographical situation. The Bechuanaland Government has not sought any assurances from us about post-independence defence. The geographical situation would, I think, make it virtually inaccessible to us after independence, without the cooperation of neighbouring territories. On physical and logistical grounds alone, I am sure that most noble Lords would agree that it would be quite impossible for us to honour any obligation which we might undertake for direct military assistance there.

Having said that, I would also say that there is no reason to envisage that Bechuanaland will suffer from any threat of external aggression. One noble Lord used the phrase "co-existence". I believe that co-existence there is one of the facts of life that will have to be learned. I spoke about Basutoland. So far as that country is concerned, they are ready to accept this necessity for co-existence with their republican neighbour. As I have already indicated, Bechuanaland are prepared, without in any way sacrificing principles, to live as good neighbours next to the great republic. I only wish that some of the same common sense were apparent in one of the other territories in that part of the world.

The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, mentioned a particular problem, namely, the Central African relay station which has been erected. I think he was referring to the station in Francistown. This is a quite separate defence issue, and the question of the protection of that station will be a matter for discussion with the Bechuanaland Government. I was asked about the provision of Ambassadors for this new small country of Botswana. This, of course, would be a matter entirely for the Botswana Government. I have no doubt that the advice the noble Earl gave, which seems to sound even more persuasive every time he gives it, will be noted very carefully by the Government of Botswana.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, gave me notice that he proposed to raise the question of the bushmen in Bechuanaland. I inquired what had been done since he first raised the question some years ago. I understand that a trained anthropologist was commissioned to consider the welfare or the position of these people. He made a survey, and a copy of the report was published last year and is in the Library of the House. It may be that the noble Lord has seen it, but if not I am sure that both he and I will read it with great interest. Responsibility for the bushmen's affairs has been placed within the Portfolio of the Deputy Prime Minister, and the extent to which the Bechuanaland Government can devote funds, especially to assist these people, will depend upon other competing demands. However, there is no reason to suppose that the bushmen will not be treated by the Botswana Government with understanding and sympathy, as everything that they have done, so far, indicates that this will be the case.

There is one other aspect of this matter. As the noble Lord knows, these bushmen are dependent to a large extent upon the food which they themselves obtain by hunting. I am advised that the game reserve which was established a few years ago to safeguard their hunting interests will be continued under the new dispensation, and, indeed, there is a fundamental rights provision in the existing Constitution, which will be carried on into the new Constitution and which will make specific provision for the safeguarding of this hunting area.

I am assuming that my noble friend Lord Mitchison was not arguing that, because we have not yet discharged all the obligations that we should like to discharge to those people in Bechuanaland, as well as all the other colonial territories for which we have had responsibility, we should withhold independence. Having been prepared to grant the independence which the people of Bechuanaland themselves requested we readily accept that by the granting of this independence we do not, by this token, discharge all other obligations.


My Lords, if my noble friend will excuse me for a moment, he need make no such assumption. I said quite clearly that I welcomed it.


My Lords, I am glad to have that assurance from my noble friend. I was going on to say that we accept the obligation for continuing aid, and in July my right honourable friend, whose sympathy with this part of the world I am sure my noble friend will accept, will be having talks with representatives of Botswana. These talks will take place against the background of the economic needs of the country and the special needs which are presented by the famine. I hope very much that the aid which will be given, if not entirely commensurate with the needs, will at any rate bear in mind all the pleas which have been put forward by my noble friend and others.

Finally, I must refer to what was said by my noble friend Lord Peddie. I welcome what he said about the co-operative organisations there, having myself in some little measure helped to encourage the work in that Colony and other areas in Africa and Asia. I greatly appreciate what he said. He then went on to say that there was reason to have some doubt about the wisdom of launching into the world these small units as separate independent nation States. I am sure that this last week especially, as we have been considering one country after another, many of us will have had similar doubts. Is it wise, in a world in which there is too much national sovereignty, to encourage too readily these further independent nation States? There is cause for reflection in this.

As I listened to my noble friend the thought went through my mind that we in Europe, at any rate, have no reason to preach to these people, when we think of the way in which boundaries have been drawn and redrawn in our own Continent, and that in the course of these changes there have been, in the lifetime of most of us in this Chamber, millions of people slaughtered, and only now are we beginning to think how we can get together and how we can eliminate national boundaries and live together in closer harmony. I hope that, we having granted independence for these small units, they will learn from our experience, and that they will cut out some of the stupidities in which we in the Western world have indulged and will move, for one purpose or function or another, in closer union with their neighbours around them. I hope that in the years ahead this will be possible. Meanwhile, I trust that, having considered the Bill, we shall agree this afternoon to give it a Second Reading.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will forgive me—



I am for the first, and probably the last, time in my life. speaking as a Prelate.



Am I not allowed to speak from this Bench? All right, I will go back. I am sorry because I should have liked to be a Bishop.

The only remark I want to add to the speech that has just been made by the noble Lord is this. I think he missed the basic problem. The basic problem confronting all these countries is not that of independence of one another but, ultimately, of birth control in some form or another. I feel this is absolutely vital and that over the next decade it has to come. A great friend of mine who has made a life-long study of India said to me the other day: "It does not matter what economic measures they put in hand, within a matter of months they are submerged again in the torrent of countless births". I believe that to be absolutely true, and it is a point which ought to be made.

It cannot be done overnight, but it will have to be done in the end, because basically I think Malthus was right, and I recommend the noble Lord to read the "Essay on Population" which was published. I think, in 1798, when Malthus was only 32. He was not far off the mark, and we ought to bear that in mind. I am not prepared to advocate a tremendous campaign, but I do not see how we can compete in the small countries, or the large countries, in Africa and Asia with the problems confronting them over the next 40 or 50 years unless we make determined efforts to tackle this problem.

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