§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
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 Barbados 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.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, this is the sixth time this Session that I have had the privilege of introducing into your Lordships' House a Bill which reflects the changes in the institutions and provides for growth within the Commonwealth. It is the fourth measure providing for the establishment of an independent nation State where previously there 1013 was a dependent territory. This afternoon we are dealing with a Bill which establishes the independent State of Barbados. In each of the four cases there have been special characteristics: each community and country has its own personality, and that of Barbados, as many noble Lords in this House who know the country intimately will agree, is as delightful and attractive as any.
Barbados is one of the countries with which we have the longest association of any of our territories, and for more than three centuries it has come within the constitutional framework of British territories. Administrative experience has been steadily acquired over many years which I believe will stand them in good stead as they now move into independence. It is true to say that the economy of the country is very narrowly based, being dependent virtually on one crop, but nevertheless sound financial administration has marked the development of this country. Barbados proudly points to the fact that it never called upon us for a grant towards the cost of its public services. Indeed, in human as well as financial resources it has been largely independent of us and has been able to provide from its own resources an efficient Civil Service.
Nature has endowed this island in the Caribbean with a wonderful climate, and, due to its natural attractions and the growth of comparatively cheap air transport, its tourist industry has grown apace. I understand that it has more than doubled over the past five or six years and shows every sign of expanding further. Thus, with tourism helping out sugar as a basis for her economy, with the average national income amongst the highest in the British Caribbean, Barbados enters independence more reasonably placed economically than some of the other newer Commonwealth countries with which we have recently been dealing. Her political experience, too, should enable her to meet the growing pains which undoubtedly all countries clothed in brand new Constitutions are liable to experience.
Although on independence she will cease to qualify for Commonwealth Development and Welfare aid, it has been agreed that an amount equivalent to the unspent balance of the C.D. and W. allocation will be made available to 1014 Barbados as a grant, subject to not more than £150,000 being spent in the financial year 1967–68. In addition, we shall continue to provide the capital aid already pledged from C.D. and W. funds up to July, 1969, for the Barbados College of Arts and Science. We shall also be ready to continue to provide Barbados with technical assistance under the various programmes. The value of this aid to Barbados has risen yearly since 1961–62 when co-ordinated records were first maintained.
Clause 1 provides for fully responsible status for Barbados as from November 30. Clauses 2 and 3 deal with nationality matters. Clause 4, together with Schedule 2, deals with modifications of various U.K. enactments consequent upon the grant of independence. Clause 5 provides that Her Majesty may, by Order in Council made before November 30, provide a Constitution for Barbados to come into effect upon that day. Clause 6 contains a Short Title and the usual interpretative provisions.
I am sure that Members of this House from all sides will join with those in another place to wish this new country and its proud and happy people a future as bright as the sunshine that blesses them. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ 4.14 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, we are most grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation of this Bill and his remarks on the independence of Barbados which all sides of the House must share. It is indeed a very happy thought that Her Majesty the Queen will now be Queen of yet another very beautiful island in the Caribbean. I have only once visited Barbados myself, and I must say that my wife and I thought it the happiest four-day holiday of our lives. Its golden sands provided an agreeable intermission in what was otherwise a hard-working business tour. I long to see some of those first-class cricketers play on our ground in West Sussex, although I hope they will not bowl us too many googlies—and in that connection I can assure the noble Lord opposite that I will not bowl him any googlies this afternoon.
As the noble Lord said, this is the fourth occasion in six months when we 1015 have had the pleasure of passing a Bill to advance an independent territory to fully responsible status. I think we must congratulate all those responsible for achieving this, particularly the Governor, Sir John Stow, for all he has done to smooth the passage of the country towards independence, and, of course, Mr. Barrow, the Prime Minister, whom we must now all congratulate on his very recent victory at the polls.
As we know, the Barbados Parliament is the third oldest Legislature in the whole Commonwealth. We must greatly respect them for this, even if there is perhaps a tendency for them to cross the Floor of the House more often than we now do here, although this was not such an uncommon occurrence in your Lordships' House some time ago. I do not think that we need worry unduly about this, and I sincerely hope that political differences in Barbados will not lead to any instability.
As we have been told, Barbados has virtually a single crop economy (a most useful one at that, the sugar industry), but they also have that other industry, tourism, to which the noble Lord referred, and which has, I believe, more than doubled in the past five or six years. We all wish the Barbadians all happiness and prosperity in their newly-won independence. We and the Canadians have been giving them considerable aid, and I was interested in what the noble Lord said about that this afternoon, particularly about the new College of Arts and Science which we are helping to set up. I hope that this aid, technical and otherwise, will continue in accordance with our pledge to the United Nations.
The Barbadians are old friends of ours, and I hope they will long remain so. Even if the larger West Indian Federation never came to fruition, we have no reason to blame the Barbadians for that. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hailes, is to say a few words this afternoon on that subject, for he held the most distinguished position it was possible to hold in the Caribbean some years ago. Therefore, all I would say in conclusion is that we wish Barbados well and welcome them warmly as, I think, the twenty-sixth member of the Commonwealth.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, my noble friends and I myself would wish to join most heartily with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and the noble Earl, Lord Bess borough, in wishing every possible happiness and success to the people of Barbados, a country, a territory, an island, which, as has been mentioned, has been connected with us in this country for over 300 years. But I am bound to say —I am sorry to say this—that I think the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, looked upon the future with rosy-hued spectacles. I quite agree when he pointed out, quite rightly, that this country is far more able to support itself than many others. That is so. Many other countries whose Independence Bills have gone through this House cannot support themselves at all. So it is only a very modified argument that he presents to your Lordships.
I must say that I rather wonder what the future of these small countries is going to be. There are little earthenware pots, bobbing down the stream among their big brass brothers—or, anyway, big brass other pots—not brother pots; they may be antagonistic pots. I believe that we should years ago have given far more thought, in all parts of the House, to the future of these small territories than we did. I am on record for the last sixteen years in this House as regularly raising this matter, without the slightest success. Dicey once said that it took thirty years in Parliament to get an idea into the head of the Legislature. It had to be raised outside Parliament and inside Parliament for thirty years; that was the average time, or the normal time, according to Dicey, that it took to get any idea accepted in Britain. I must say that sixteen years is not, in the circumstances, a long time.
Fortunately, most of these countries in the meantime have become independent; but in my view we have not given as much thought to them as we should have done. But in the last week or so the Stationery Office have produced an interesting reprint of some House of Lords Papers from the Victoria Tower, relating to the years 1706 to 1708, in the reign of good Queen Anne. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will no doubt have seen it. I looked up in this 1017 book the name Barbados, and found several references to Barbados. They were all about exactly the same sort of things as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has been talking to-day, and which I shall be talking about. They are the problems of Barbados to-day: they have not changed. The first was:An Act to supply the want of cash and to authorise a paper currency …to meet that want. This, I may say, was disallowed. There is still a want of cash in Barbados, as there is in every small territory of this type—and in larger ones, too, for that matter.
The position of Barbados, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has said, is dependent largely on sugar. The soil of Barbados is not nearly so fertile as some of the other islands—St.Kitts, for instance. No doubt your Lordships will remember that in Thackeray's Vanity Fair the heiress Miss Swartz was much admired by the youth and glamour of London in those days because she was rich. In those days the nobility and gentry did not mind so much about colour, so long as the money was good. Miss Swartz certainly had the money. St. Kitts and some of the other islands are quite fertile. Unfortunately Barbados is not. It has always been a problem in Barbados to maintain the fertility of the land and to keep the sugar crop up to normal. At times they have not succeeded. I think every five years they are not allowed to grow sugar and have to grow other crops.
The other big contribution made to the Barbados economy is, of course, tourism. In this respect Barbados is fortunate, because it is the centre of communication for the whole area. There is a good air and sea service to and from the island. But the cost of credit is high. Jamaica has just floated a loan on the London Market and is paying 7¾ per cent. for £3 million. Jamaica is one of the best countries there is, so far as credit is concerned: it has a high reputation in the City. But 7¾ per cent. represents a great deal of money to pay out for money which will be spent on development. It seems to me that the Western World, the rich nations of the world, should recognise this situation and help the poorer countries who cannot afford to pay such interest as 7¾ per cent. I should like to ask the noble Lord what he thinks the economic future of 1018 Barbados is going to be. I should be only too glad to have an assurance that it will have a happy economic future, but I think he will need to reassure me, because this is an important question in relation to the island's future.
The second subject which was dealt with in these House of Lords Papers was defence, and it was said that:Owing to the weak condition of the Militia and danger in war, Barbados desired the formation of a full Barbados Regiment.I cannot find in these House of Lords Papers what was the result of that wish. Queen Anne does not seem to have given any command on the subject. I have never heard of a full Barbados Regiment, however, so I assume that nothing was done about it. But the defence situation is of course that there is no Barbados Army at the moment, even if there was one in the past. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, what are the prospects, or the intentions, with regard to the defence of Barbados. Are we in Britain committed in any way in defence to Barbados? So far as I know, we have only one battalion of infantry in the whole of the vast area of the West Indies and Caribbean. There may be one or two gunboats there, or something of that sort; but the defence forces are quite thin on the ground. I am not suggesting that they should be more thickly spread on the ground, but I think we in this House ought to know what the intentions are.
Finally, in these Papers there were proposals relating to the President of the Council and the extension of the term of the Assembly. One of these proposals was allowed by Queen Anne; the other was disallowed. It is an interesting fact that there was a Legislative Assembly in those days, and it had some sort of a franchise. There are now two Chambers. I do not know whether there were in those days. Your Lordships can see how old and stable the whole system is, but even in those days Queen Anne was being requested to make amendments to the Legislative and governmental provisions. I think to-day that in these countries (and I have said this often to your Lordships over the years) the Government and the Administration should be simple and inexpensive. Glittering, costly harness is far too expensive for the small horse upon which it is usually put.
1019 What about the overseas representation? One remembers that Barbados is slightly larger than the Isle of Wight, with a population of about two-thirds of that of the Borough of Croydon. The thought of them having Ambassadors and High Commissioners and delegations to the United Nations becomes of great importance. How can they afford this expense? The people who have to afford it are generally the peasants, or the people in Barbados who are the equivalent of peasants—the ordinary workers, who have to provide the funds from taxation and so on. I should hope—it is high time—that in many of these countries a system could be devised by which these costly superfluities are cut out altogether, or at any rate largely reduced.
On one matter about which I was going to ask a question, Lord Beswick said something which cheered me. We have never given any budgetary assistance to Barbados; any aid given to them has been in the same form as that given to any other territory, and this aid will continue under the new dispensation, although they do not qualify for grant under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. That I understand to be the case. Is this understanding correct? Are we, as we have done with so many other countries, going to give them assistance to run their budgets? That is all I have to say, and those are the only questions I want to ask. May I just repeat that we on these Benches wish Barbados and its people well. We wish them every success. We are particularly glad that an association which has lasted for over 300 years is going to continue in the Commonwealth.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD HAILES
My Lords, I should like to add a few words to those of noble Lords on both sides of the House who have already spoken, to express my own warm best wishes to Barbados and her people who are soon to go forward with us in full partnership in our Commonwealth. As noble Lords are aware, and as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said to-day, events in the West Indies during the last few years have not taken the course which was originally planned. After all, it was only just over four years ago that the Federation of the West Indies, of which Barbados was an 1020 honoured partner, was dissolved within a few months of full achievement. Many were the thousands of West Indians who grieved, and I, as their then Governor General, grieved with them.
But this does not affect in any way my feelings of great warmth towards Barbados, to-day and in the future. Indeed, I have noticed with special pleasure the words which appear in the Preamble to the Barbados House of Assembly's Resolutions of last January requesting Independence, and I quote:The Government of Barbados, reaffirming its dedication to the principle of regional association, will continue after Independence to work in close co-operation with the Government and peoples of other Commonwealth Caribbean countries to promote a joint endeavour for the complete political, social and economic emancipation of all classes in all territories.These statesmanlike words are already beginning to take practical shape in the strenuous efforts now being made, so I am informed, by the Prime Ministers of Barbados and Guyana and the Chief Minister of Antigua to establish a free trade area between their territories. This is indeed a step in the right direction. I wish them every good fortune and I hope it will be a case of "wider still and wider!"
I do not want to dwell on the disappointments of the past years. That would be quite out of place to-day. But as I had experience of the West Indies in the years of Federation, 1958–62, I may be permitted, looking only to the future, to say that I am confident that much closer association in the West Indies must come again in some form as time goes on. I am confident, first, because of the strong feeling—instinct, if you like to call it that—of the West Indian people, physically divided by great expanses of sea (it is truly a case here of "blood is thicker than water"), that they are one people, ethnically, in their way of life and in the sunlight and shadows—the often very bitter shadows—of their past. This was vividly brought home to me in my journeys through the Islands when so many of all sorts and conditions spoke to me, often in moving terms, of their hopes for their "new nation", which was not to be. Secondly, as regards closer union, it stands to reason that if a wide Customs Union between the territories could be 1021 achieved in due course, not only would a much greater single market offer itself to the world, but also individual territories, relying as most of them do on a single crop—and none more than Barbados on sugar—could in a combined operation achieve a much more varied and balanced economy, bringing with it a greater prosperity and a diminution of the curse of poverty.
Soon all the West Indian territories, although we must always give them all the help we can, will have their destinies in their own hands. I have often felt, arid I began to feel this at the end of my time in the West Indies when the dream was fading, that it would be from that point onwards, when their destinies were in their own hands, that there would grow again of its own free will a movement towards the ideal of West Indian union, in whatever form that might come about. There are already signs of this coming together, and I have already quoted one example of it.
There is nothing which those devoted to the West Indies want to see more than that. With prosperity and contentment at home, West Indians as a united people could step with confidence on to the world stage, where their outstanding qualities and the example which they can set of the best truly non-racial community you could find anywhere, would earn them a place in the Commonwealth and world out of all proportion to their numbers. If that day comes, and it will be entirely a matter of free choice for the West Indians themselves, and if Barbados chooses, as I hope she would, to join in a greater community, I predict that she, like her sister territories, would find that with her ancient traditions and her fine people, she would have a greater and not a lesser part to play in the world, without surrendering one iota of her own cherished characteristics and traditions. But first things come first, and in this case it is to send my heartfelt best wishes to the Government and people of Barbados as she moves into full Independence.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, as the noble Lord finished so I begin, because I feel that the main purpose of anybody who takes part in this short debate this afternoon must be to extend good wishes to Barbados on reaching her independence. 1022 I say this with great pleasure indeed because I have a little more experience than the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, in the matter of visiting Barbados. I have been there only three times, but I have accepted an invitation by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to be one of their representatives at the Independence celebrations in three weeks' time.
I am looking forward to this tremendously, and I can imagine what a wonderful week we are going to have. Therefore I am in the advantageous position that not only am I able to say these things in your Lordships' House but I shall soon be carrying your good wishes right to the island. In conveying our good wishes, one thinks of all kinds of things. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, spoke of the fascinating history of this beautiful island. There are many stories that could be told, and the one I like best of all, which I hope is true, is that on August 6, 1914, the Colonial Office in London received a telegram:Carry on, England. Barbados is behind you.In the conditions of that small island, which even to-day has a population of only a quarter of a million, that story proves conclusively that Barbados is an island which is a little England in every sense of the word. They believe that, right to the bottom of their hearts.
The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, referred to cricket, and I cannot possibly ignore such a subject. One of the things I am looking forward to in a week or two is renewing my friendship with Gary Sobers. I shall be happy if we can see some cricket while we are out there, but the great match against the Rest of the World does not take place until March. I will tell another story about Barbados and cricket. I once remember being taken by the then Speaker of the House of Commons of Barbados to see a school. As we left the school he pointed to the cricket pitch, and said, with a voice almost of reverence, "See that wicket there? That's where Everton Weekes learned his cricket". That is the spirit of the island and is indicative of the joy which permeates it.
When I was thinking about what I should say this afternoon, I thought I 1023 would say something about the noble Lord, Lord Hailes. The very fact that he has preceded me to-day in this debate helps me in this pleasant task, and I pay my tribute to him for his great endeavours whilst he was Governor General of the Federation of the West Indies. It was in no sense his fault, and in fact was in spite of him, that the Federation of the West Indies fell down. As a Socialist Member of your Lordships' House, I should like to put on record my appreciation of the great endeavours of the one and only Governor General of the Federation of the West Indies and of the work which he did during that time and the distinction he attained during those years. I know from my conversations with him out there how deeply disappointed he was that the Federation collapsed. I had an enormous amount of sympathy for him, because of the great efforts which he had put in, and I should like him to know that.
This brings me to what is perhaps the one point of disappointment this afternoon, the disappointment that the Federation of the whole of the West Indies collapsed, and the secondary disappointment that it was not found possible for Barbados and the Leeward and Windward Islands to come together in the form of a small Federation. Like the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, my concern at this happy moment is with regard to the viability of the island. As I say, it is an island with 250,000 people living in 166 square miles, and it must have great limitations so far as viability is concerned.
As has been so often and well said this afternoon, there is a limitation with regard to industries, and I am one of those who feel that there cannot be a viable country if it is dependent upon sugar and the tourist industry. I feel that secondary industries must come, if only from the point of view of saving a great deal of their exchange and currency which is expended on imports. In 1965 there was a trading deficit of £12½ million—50 million West Indian dollars —and this is a leeway which will take a great deal of making up in an island of that size with that limitation of industry.
I would at this moment pay tribute to the Colonial Development Corporation, who built that wonderful harbour in Barbados which has greatly assisted shipping so far as the island is concerned. 1024 It is a very beautiful harbour, but when I first went there everything had to be brought from the larger ships by lighter. To-day, big vessels can tie-up in the harbour and it is a credit to the activities of the Colonial Development Corporation that this has been made possible.
I was relieved when my noble friend Lord Beswick said that we will to some extent continue our help in Colonial Development and Welfare funds. I would have hoped that it might have been more than he said, and that as the days go by we may do something more about putting them on their feet so far as education, medical and hospital assistance is concerned.
I do not want to speak for too long, as this is not the occasion, but I will finish where I began. The people of Barbados step out from this Bill into a completely new life. I believe that they have a first-class Prime Minister in Mr. Barrow, but I do not think it would be in any way an insult to him if I said that in my view the father of Barbados is Sir Grantley Adams. He is a man for whom I have a very deep regard indeed. He became Prime Minister of the Federation of the West Indies. He is an old man to-day, but the island of Barbados owes a great deal to Grantley Adams. I believe that, in spite of the fact that his Party were ultimately defeated, those in the island still regard him as their true father, and certainly as one of the greatest leaders they will ever have. So we wish them well. They will have a struggle, but I would end by saying to Barbados, "Godspeed!".
§ 4.45 p.m.
My Lords, may I join with your Lordships in wishing the best of luck to Barbados on its Independence? Also, may I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Royle, on being selected to go on the Parliamentary Delegation, and ask him to take all our good wishes from your Lordships' House? I should like to confirm every word that he said.
I have been only a very short time in Barbados, but it really is a small England in the tropics. The little boys go to school dressed as Boy Scouts, and the girls are all dressed as Girl Guides in their little hats. They have magnificent schools and a magnificent hospital. But it is perfectly true that the economy is based 1025 on sugar, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the noble Lord, Lord Royle, have said. I wish I could say that during my very short stay I heard much of that about which the noble Lord, Lord Hailes, has been talking, but I am afraid I found very little of it. Certainly there was talk of cricket, but above all the talk was of sugar and employment.
I regret that when I was there I did not know that this debate was coming up in your Lordships' House. I have given notice to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that I have not been able to check my facts, but I understand that the United Kingdom Sugar Agreement is due to run out within the foreseeable future; at any rate, it will run out in due course. if anything should happen when the new Agreement is made—and I have no interest whatsoever to declare—to lower the price of sugar to Barbados to somewhere near that of the world price—and we heard something about the Common Market a moment or two ago—this will cause very great and, in fact, untold hardship to Barbados. I beg the noble Lord and Her Majesty's Government, when they are considering what aid and so forth can be given, to give special consideration to what will happen when the Sugar Agreement is re-negotiated, and to what can be done meanwhile if—and, as I say, I know nothing about the subject—the price should go very seriously against the Barbados people. I felt it my duty to say those words. Possibly there is nothing to be feared, but this was the subject that everybody in Barbados talked about in the very short space of time that I was there, nearly seven months ago. I, too, beg to give them my good wishes, and to say "Godspeed!" to the newly independent Barbados.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, before the noble Lord replies for Her Majesty's Government, may I be permitted to add two sentences? It was my great good fortune to spend some weeks in Barbados two years ago, and I do not think I have ever known a happier island or a happier community. There is no racial problem of any sort, and in this respect it is an example which the rest of the world would do well to follow at this time. The children are happy, everybody is happy, and we wish them the very best of luck.
1026 It is, I agree, rather a tragedy that the Federation did not come off, but I think the reason for that is that there were too many miles of ocean between the component parts. Not even my noble friend Lord Hailes can prevail against the Atlantic Ocean in combination with the Caribbean. I think the difficulty was simply a question of distance. But now Barbados is launched on independence. We can only wish her the very best of luck and, as the noble Lord said, "Godspeed!". I would just ask Her Majesty's Government to keep an eye on the economic aspect of the situation and to help when they can, because there is no question but that they will have a pretty hard struggle.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am sure that the good will which has been extended from all sides towards the people of Barbados and their country will be greatly appreciated. Certainly, for my part, I should like to say "Thank you" for the welcome that has been given to this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Bess-borough, far from coming in with a "googly", extended his arms so widely in welcome that the cricket-conscious Barbadians may well have thought he was signalling a "wide." I should like to join with him and other noble Lords in extending congratulations to all those, including the Governor, whom we are very pleased to see has been invited to remain as Governor-General, for the work which they have done to bring about this day.
If we are giving thanks and expressing appreciation, I certainly should like to add my word to what has been said so very well by my noble friend Lord Royle, about the work of the noble Lord, Lord Hailes. I fully appreciate his disappointment about the failure to consolidate the idea of a federation, but, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, said about the enduring quality of the ocean, I do not think all is lost. Although the ocean will remain, the distances can still be diminished by new forms of transport. There are various things being done which could bring the countries close together again, and one will watch with interest and with sympathy any efforts that are made to build upon the foundation which Lord Hailes and others endeavoured to lay some time ago.
1027 The noble Earl called attention to the fact that Barbados will take its place among the members of the Commonwealth. I am sure we all noted with great pleasure that at the Constitutional Conference held earlier this year all the political Parties from Barbados expressed the hope that Barbados would be accepted as a member of the Commonwealth; and that at their last meeting the Commonwealth Prime Ministers agreed that Barbados would be welcome as a member of the Commonwealth. I should also add—I did not mention it in my opening speech, although I should have done—that my right honourable friend has confirmed in another place that Her Majesty has agreed to become Queen of Barbados as from November 30.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked questions about the economic future of this country, as did other noble Lords. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, thought that my spectacles were a little too rosily tinted. It is not that I intended to be complacent about the undoubted problems that could arise, especially if there was any great fall in the price of this one crop on which so much of the economy of the country depends. Nevertheless, I would say that there is no reason why we should be too pessimistic. There is no reason to anticipate any early danger to the present comparative prosperity of the island.
Barbados is, of course, a party to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement—it is not the United Kingdom Sugar Agreement, but the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement—and I agree about the value of that Agreement to some of these countries. Indeed, when we are assessing aid we tend to overlook completely the fact that very valuable economic assistance is given through the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement—as indeed there is also through certain other commodity agreements—which is not taken into account when we are talking about the volume of economic aid given by this country. Through the Sugar Agreement there is a reasonable guarantee of remunerative prices for a large proportion of its sugar production until, at least, the end of 1973. In addition, there is absolutely no reason to think that there will be any diminution in the recent rapid progress in the development of the tourist industry, 1028 to which I and other noble Lords have referred.
Something was said about the desirability of diversifying the economy of the country. I understand—other noble Lords will probably be able to confirm this—that there are some very useful natural gas deposits to be found on the island, that they are being exploited and that there are hopes of marketable oil deposits. There is a small refinery there already. Over recent years the number of light industries has expanded considerably, and I believe the Barbados Government have extended tax concessions to these industries by way of encouragement. So, although I quite understand the concern that has been expressed, I feel there is every reason to believe there should be continued prosperity, when one considers the careful sort of husbandry that the Barbadians have so far displayed.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to representation of this country overseas—and I usually congratulate him upon the way in which he gives this useful little lecture (if I may so put it) to all these new countries. I do not know whether it is because he has so clearly and forcefully brought home the dangers of a small country endeavouring to spend too much on representation overseas, but certainly there have been indications in several cases—not that they are taking note of this criticism, because it is not criticism, but that they are well aware of the factors involved. Of course, it is entirely a matter for the individual country itself to decide what representation it should have overseas, but I know that their policy is so far as possible to keep down their expenditure. What they have done, very usefully, is to share certain of these burdens with countries placed in similar positions. For example, Barbados has already announced her intention, with the agreement of the Government of Guyana. to appoint the present Guyana High Commissioner in London concurrently as the High Commissioner for Barbados; I think I am also right in saying that they will have a common representation at the United Nations. Certainly this practice is being considered.
I was asked a question by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about defence, and on this I hope I can be at any rate a little more forthcoming than apparently 1029 was the late Queen Anne. The Barbados Government have not sought any assurances from us, and we have not made any arrangements with them, about post-independence defence. There is no reason at all—and I think the noble Lord agreed with this—to envisage that Barbados will suffer from any threat of external aggression; and, of course, in this respect her position is similar to that of other independent Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean area. If a situation should ever arise in which Barbados felt it necessary to seek our assistance, we should naturally expect to consider any request sympathetically in the light of the circumstances. The noble Lord spoke about the militia of Queen Anne's time. If there is any request made now for training aid for the Barbados Regiment—the local volunteer defence force—then, again, we should consider that request with all possible sympathy.
My Lords, I think that covers the questions that I was asked. I would simply say again, in agreement with what was said by the noble Earl, that we regard the people of Barbados as our friends. The fact that they will be assuming an independent status diminishes not at all the quality of their friendship, and we look forward to a happy and prosperous association with them as equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.