§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
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 West Indies 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.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS (LORD BESWICK)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. It may be recalled that it fell to me last year to speak for Her Majesty's Government on four Bills conferring independence on former colonial territories. Though some of these territories were large in point of area, none had as many as a million inhabitants and one had only some 250,000. Some Members of the House, notably I recall, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, questioned the wisdom of giving independent nationhood to such small populations. The majority of us agreed, however, that it was not for us to deny self-government and independent status for a viable and definable community against the declared wishes of that community, and accordingly those Bills are now law. But there remained, I think, a question in all our minds: where was this process leading us? On how small a community of peoples can be set the full, and expensive, panoply of statehood?
During this period, while the other Bills were under discussion, the then Colonial Secretaries, my noble friend the Leader of this House in the early part of the year, and my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from April onwards, together with their devoted officials, were at that very time engaged in a series of negotiations with the Governments of six small island territories in the Caribbean and facing constructively this very question. I hope your Lordships will indicate this afternoon that in this Bill a wise solution has been found. The territories are, 1486 going down the Leeward and Windward chain from North to South, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lücia, St. Vincent and Grenada. None of them is more than 20 miles square, the population of the largest is only a little over 100,000, and their economies are heavily dependent on the outside world for markets, for aid and for tourism.
I know there are many, in both Houses and outside Parliament, who hoped that some federal pattern would be possible for these islands. A series of efforts to bring them together, first with other larger territories in the Caribbean and later in a Federation of the smaller islands, ended in failure. It became clear that, for the time being at least, no solution was to be found along the federal path. The island Governments, however, pressed for further constitutional advance and greater control over their own affairs. We naturally felt sympathy for this demand—the peoples of these islands have a long connection with Britain, long experience of democratic Government and a long-established culture of their own. Man for man, they are no less worthy of independence than others whose countries became independent long ago. The truth is that the sheer expense of completely independent sovereign statehood makes disproportionate demands on the resources of such small communities—the more so because the Caribbean is a sensitive area in international affairs, and the islands themselves are so vitally concerned with international trade and communications.
In 1965, therefore—and here I am going back to before the negotiations began—my right honourable friend the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, who was then Colonial Secretary, began to look for a quite new status that might be offered to these territories. The general problem of the "smaller territories" had by that time become a sort of ritual ordeal to which Ministers were subjected from time to time. On each occasion, after exhaustive discussion, it had eventually to be set aside when some urgent problem supervened; six months' later, in an interval between constitutional conferences, one would turn to it again. Fresh complexities would have been discovered, but we should be no nearer a solution.
1487 My right honourable friend devised a new approach to the problem. In July, 1965, he invited a small number of people who had expert knowledge of the smaller territories and the Colonies generally to a week-end conference in an Oxford College. They included private individuals as well as officials from the territories and from Government Departments. No report was published, and no recommendations were made about the future of any one territory. Not long afterwards, however, the proposals which eventually took shape in the Bill we are now considering were roughed out. The proposals are modelled on the association—at that time newly established—between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, an association which gives the islanders full control of their internal affairs and a standing option to proceed to separate independence, in a legal way, if they should so desire. These and other features of the Cook Islands arrangements were incorporated in our proposals. But, of course, the Cook Islands are some 2,000 miles from New Zealand and their international relations are uncomplicated. I am sure your Lordships will understand that to work out similar arrangements for the relationship between ourselves and these Caribbean Dependencies was not a matter of simply copying what had been done there. Nevertheless, we gratefully acknowledge the value of the New Zealand Government's pioneering work.
I want to emphasise that Her Majesty's Government do not look upon the Associated States to be set up under the Bill as temporary or transitional. Their inauguration marks the end of the colonial era for these islands and substitutes for the colonial relationship one that will genuinely satisfy the aspirations of the island communities. The option of independence which they will retain is an essential part of the new relationship. We should be sorry to see that option invoked, not because we see material advantage for ourselves in the continuance of the association, but because its disappearance would mean that all our efforts to find a satisfactory and satisfying place in the world for these island communities had failed.
I am not suggesting that this device of Associated Statehood will prove to be applicable to all our other small overseas 1488 territories. Every one of these territories is a special case and there are no stock answers to the problems they pose for us. It is, of course, important that, when the time comes, the people of each territory should choose for themselves between independence and some other post-colonial relationship with the United Kingdom. We were immensely concerned in this case to make certain that there was an informed choice. The outline proposals published in Cmnd. 2865 were discussed at constitutional conferences with delegations from each of the islands —including not only the Chief Ministers and other members of the governing Parties, but also members of all the Parties represented in each Legislature.
Altogether three conferences were held between February and May last year: the first with Antigua alone, the second with the four Windward Islands territories, and the third with St. Kitts. Separate outline Constitutions were worked out for each territory with its representatives, and our proposals were revised to take full account of their wishes. All the delegates signed the Conference Reports, which were published as Cmnds. 2963, 3021 and 3031. The Opposition Parties in two of the Windward Islands territories made certain reservations, almost entirely concerned with the internal Constitutions of their territories. The proposals as a whole have since then been approved by each of the territorial Legislatures.
My Lords, it is customary to explain each clause on Second Reading, but I have in mind the other special calls on our time this afternoon and I hope it will be for the general convenience if I do not follow the procedure of going through the Bill clause by clause on this occasion. I shall of course, be glad to answer any questions, and we shall have a Committee stage. However, I must mention certain essential features of the Bill. Clause 2 divests the United Kingdom Government of all responsibility for the government of an Associated State, with certain specified exceptions. The principal exceptions are defence and external affairs. Her Majesty's Government is the arbiter of the extent in detail of these continuing responsibilities.
The salient feature of associated status which distinguishes it from other constitutional arrangements previously made for colonial 1489 territories is that the Associated State may unilaterally terminate the association by a law made in accordance with a special procedure. Clause 10, read with Schedule 2, makes provision for this carefully designed procedure. Provision is made in Clause 9 for possible changes in units of government, including changes in which an Associated State and another British dependent territory in the area are involved, and in Clause 10 there are simplified procedures under which an Associated State may legislate for federation, or unification or association with an independent Commonwealth country in the Caribbean area. This indicates the way we should look for future development in that area.
If Parliament provides, as I hope and expect it will, the necessary statutory authority, St. Kitts and Antigua will celebrate the assumption of Associated Statehood on February 27, Dominica and St. Lucia on March 1, and Grenada on March 3. There is no significance in the different dates: it is simply to enable various social functions to be carried out and for a Minister to be at each of these celebrations. St. Vincent is also included in the Bill but, as the House will recall, there were certain difficulties which arose from the closeness of the result of their Parliamentary elections. These difficulties happily are resolved, and St. Vincent will be able to have her celebration by June 1.
I must make mention of the economics involved. We recognise that these States will still need financial assistance. They will need help with their development expenditure and some of them with their budgetary expenditure as well. At all the Conferences we gave assurances which were recorded in the respective Reports. We confirmed that the British Government would carry out in full the undertakings already given in connection with the Overseas Development and Services Act 1965. We confirmed that they would be prepared to provide budgetary aid when the need for this was established. As for the level of aid, the British Government representatives pointed out that during the last financial year British aid to the Windward Islands had been increased compared with previous allocations and represented roughly £6 each year for every man, woman and child in the islands. Although we could not promise any increase in the allocation already made, 1490 we had plans in mind which would help to ensure that the aid was spent more effectively.
These plans are now coming into operation. The British Development Division in the Caribbean was set up by the Minister of Overseas Development in February, 1966. It is now much more fully staffed. In addition to the head of the Division there are advisers in the fields of economics, agriculture, education, engineering and finance. The Division advises the British Government on the scope and content of its aid programme to the area. It also provides technical advice to the local Governments, and this will be available particularly in connection with the formulation and co-ordination of development projects.
In addition, in 1966 Britain took part, along with the United States and Canada, in sponsoring the tripartite economic survey which covered the Associated States and, in addition, Barbados and Mont-serrat. The survey was carried out by independent economists from the three sponsoring countries. It recommended the establishment of a Regional Development Agency which would provide technical services on a regional basis and also establish a development bank for the area. The Report of the mission has been under discussion, and it is very much hoped that as a result the United Nations Development Programme will undertake a study of a Regional Development Bank which would, of course, have a wider area of operation than these six small Associated States. For their part, the island Governments have agreed to form a Regional Development Committee with which the sponsoring Governments would be associated.
If there is anyone who feels that in setting these territories on their own feet we are really only trying to shift our former responsibilities, I hope that these new initiatives in the sphere of economic development on the eve of the new status will provide convincing evidence to the contrary. In fact, the constitutional change does not of itself entail a change in our wish to assist so far as we are able in the continued economic development of the territories. Their main exports will continue to benefit under the existing arrangements; we have given them the best assurance we could of 1491 continued aid; and we are ready to play our full part in the new machinery for helping them to make better use of all the assistance that is available to them. At the same time our willingness to retain responsibility for their defence and external affairs will relieve them of any unnecessary costs of representation overseas. There is, it seems to me, no question here of shuffling off responsibilities, but a readiness to help in every way within our means so that they can enjoy the full internal self-government without the intolerable trappings of sovereignty. I trust that noble Lords will agree that an enlightened and imaginative solution has been found for the future of these island communities, and will accordingly agree to the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ 4.1 p.m.
My Lords, I personally view this Second Reading as a happy event. We are marking a decisive stage in the constitutional progress of some lovely islands which have been closely linked to us in history and by bonds of affection. We are also giving effect, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has pointed out, to an agreed solution—a solution agreed not only between Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Governments of the islands but also by all the Parties concerned in these island communities; and it is an occasion happily not marred, as seemed possible only a week or so ago, by St. Vincent being the odd island out.
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for the way in which he has explained the purposes of this Bill to your Lordships' House, and to say I am also grateful to him for not having taken us through it clause by clause. Of course, a great many cooks have been involved in concocting this particular and, I would agree with the noble Lord, very ingenious constitutional broth. If I may, I should like to recall from these Benches that I think it was the noble Lord's colleague, the noble Earl the Leader of the House, who, as Secretary of State for the Colonies, presided over the first of these Constitutional Conferences, and to pay my tribute to the work which the noble Earl did in that important respect.
1492 I view this not only as a happy event but also as a very interesting one, for much the same reasons as the noble Lord: that this Bill marks the birth of a new form of relationship—that of association within the Commonwealth. That is interesting in itself; and it is also interesting in that this new principle of association (with, of course, wide differences in practice) may well be applicable to some of the other at present colonial territories.
That said, I feel I must make it clear that this is not the solution which many of us would have preferred as first choice. Most of us had high hopes that a full West Indies Federation would be created and would survive: that a Commonwealth grouping would re-awake in the Caribbean; or, failing that, that a smaller East Caribbean Federation would be created. That was not to be, at least for the time being. Yet, as I understand it, nothing in this Bill stands in the way either of a federation among the islands themselves or among some of the islands, or of one or all of the islands and some of their larger Commonwealth neighbours in the Caribbean, or a larger Federation as a whole. I hope that within the limits of the new relationship which has been established, and with tact and with due regard to the very different personalities of these island communities, we shall continue to do all we can to foster the wider approach. This is desirable, if only for economic reasons—and a glance at the Tripartite Economic Survey, to which the noble Lord referred, makes it quite clear that these islands would gain immeasurably if their economies, at least in certain fields, could be dealt with on a collective basis.
I should like very briefly to explore one or two possibilities here. On the political plain, clearly, we should do all we can to foster this wider approach; and I wonder, in that connection, whether it is really sensible to envisage, as I understand is envisaged under the present arrangements, separate Governors for each of these six islands. I wonder whether it would not be possible to have one Governor or a Commissioner, with Deputy Governors for the separate islands. I apologise for dwelling on this question of governorship, which may not be strictly relevant to the Bill itself, but I have a certain hereditary interest in 1493 this matter as a grandfather of mine, as a young cadet, had the misfortune to "dunk" one of the Governors of these islands in the surf, as a result of which there were two debates on the Ajournment in another place. But that is another story.
My Lords, on the economic plane there is, as the noble Lord remarked, perhaps even more that can be done to foster the wide approach; and I would echo what he has said—and I am very glad he said it—about the recognition by Her Majesty's Government of their continuing economic responsibility towards these islands. I was glad to hear the unequivocal words which the noble Lord used there. There are clearly very big tasks ahead here still for the Ministry of Overseas Development, for agencies like the Commonwealth Development Corporation and for institutions like the new British Development Division in the Caribbean. I was particularly glad to hear what the noble Lord had to say about the British Development Division in the Caribbean, as this particular agency, as I see it, can do a great deal to foster the wider economic approach.
In that connection, I wonder whether the noble Lord can tell us what has happened to the recommendations of the Tripartite Economic Survey. He will recall that it was recommended there that a Regional Development Agency should be set up, presumably wider than the Development Division, and that there should be a Regional Development Bank. That would have the important advantage, if these schemes could be dealt with regionally, that they would be eligible for assistance from the International Development Agency. I understand there was a conference in November to discuss the recommendations of the Survey, and I personally should be grateful for anything which the noble Lord may be able to say about Her Majesty's Government's conclusions following that conference, which I understood recommended that a Regional Development Committee composed of the three Powers—the United States, Canada and ourselves—should be set up to work in close relationship with the islands themselves. I should be glad to learn from the noble Lord how those recommendations are being implemented.
I do not wish to dwell on the details of the Bill—we shall have a chance of 1494 raising one or two points of relative detail at the Committee stage—nor, in view of a forthcoming event, do I wish to trespass on your Lordships' time now. I would confirm from these Benches that we support the Bill and that we wish these islands, with which we have been so closely linked in the past, all possible good fortune in the future.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, we on these Benches welcome this Bill, as in fact there is no alternative to it. We had all hoped that there would be some sort of Federation, but that went by the board. This is the only practicable solution to the problem. I am very glad that the Government have not agreed—although the proposal was put to them—to make independent nation States of these tiny islands. In my view we have had far too many lately. They become full members of the United Nations; they impose on themselves the obligations to have Ambassadors and High Commissioners about the world. Many of the new States with the population of a small English town, are no larger than, if as large as, the Isle of Wight. It is absurd that these countries should in addition have a vote in the United Nations which, on the surface, is equal to that of the Soviet Union, the United States or ourselves; although of course, the position is nothing like that in reality.
This is not the case in this Bill. I am very glad that the Government have arrived at this solution. I hope it will form a precedent for other countries who are in the same position. We shall watch the experiment with interest; but we must realise that the system which the Government are adopting is a very difficult one. Those of us who have memories of the1920s and 1930s in South-East Asia and the Far East will remember the old system of diarchy in India and Ceylon, and also a similar system in Malta. It is not at all easy; the opportunities for strains and difficulties are numerous. To a large extent its success depends on the good will of those who are operating the United Kingdom responsibility and of those who are operating the responsibility of the Island Government itself.
I hope that there will evolve a large number of common services between the 1495 various islands. In Clause 6 of the Bill there is a provision for common courts. It would be absurd for the whole panoply of the courts to be imposed on a little island which in this country would not have even a county court. But I think that this important proposal for a common system of courts for all six territories could be expanded. I was glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that there is a proposal for a Regional Bank. It would, of course, cover a much wider area than these territories. That, too, is a good idea. I should like to ask the noble Lord—and perhaps he could answer now or, if not now, later—what, if any, proposals there are for a customs union, for a joint communications system and the like; and whether, under this Bill—it is not apparent on the face of it—there is any provision for that sort of common service.
I should also like to ask the noble Lord whether, if there is a desire in the islands to join with other territories not "Associate-States" in a system of this kind—say, a customs union—there is provision by which that can be carried out. On reading the Bill, that seems to have been missed out. So far as I can see, there is no provision of that kind. That would be a matter for the United Kingdom Government, because the United Kingdom Government are responsible for external affairs. This is just the sort of problem which might give rise to tension and disagreement. Local Ministers might wish to have an association with some other territory—perhaps not even a British one —in the area; and the United Kingdom Government, for one reason or another, might not want that. I could imagine that it might not be too popular in certain circumstances if they wished, for example, to combine with Cuba—not that I hope or believe that they would so wish.
I should like to know what the financial arrangements are, for how long we are expected to pay, not by way of aid, but by way of balancing their budgets; for I would guarantee that not many of them will be able to balance their budgets every year without some subvention from this country. But that is to be expected; I make no complaint about that. We must remember that all these territories were at one time rich; and that they considerably enriched this country. Many 1496 of our leading families were enriched by them; and that of Mr. Gladstone was one. Many of your Lordships' forbears, too, were enriched by these little islands. Their riches have gone; they were based to a large extent on slave labour. But other sources of investment are coming up in their place, and the Commonwealth Development Corporation, among other Agencies, has been and is trying to develop tourism, the hotel industry, a better strain of cocoa and matters of that kind.
Finally, I should like to support what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said about Governors. Some years ago, when we discussed the problems of these islands in this House, I suggested, as he did, that to load on these islands a Governor with all his aides, an Executive Council and Authority, a Prime Minister, other Ministers and a Legislative Council with all the Members of Parliament, is rather too much harness for a very small horse. I suggested that perhaps in an island of this kind there could be an Honorary Lord Lieutenant, a distinguished Islander, who might undertake the task. Many of the islands are the size of a small English county. I suggest that a Lord Lieutenant could undertake that office and obviate the expense of sending out a Governor from here. I think that we ought to cut the coat according to the cloth available. There is a great deal of expense to be borne, either by the British taxpayer or the islander, or both And the unfortunate islander often has a very low standard of living. Anything that we can do in this way to limit the costs of the Government is all to the good. With those few words, I should like to support the Bill and wish the Associated States every happiness and prosperity.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ LORD HAILES
My Lords, in view of my former close association with these six West Indian Territories which I know so well, I felt I could not let the Second Reading of this Bill pass without saying a few words. I believe this Bill, in view of the failure to form even a lesser Federation in the Eastern Caribbean, is the best which can be devised. Indeed, I hope so; because the people of these islands, rich as they are in so many qualities, are extremely poor in worldly goods; and it is certainly not their fault 1497 that the Federation, which would have meant so much to them, came to an end. With the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, I should like to pay tribute to the careful thought and ingenuity which has been put into this Bill, both here and in the West Indies.
My Lords, while welcoming this Bill, it would be idle to deny a nostalgic feeling of regret because this Bill does, after all, represent a further fragmentation in the West Indies. During the last few years your Lordships have passed three separate Independence Bills for the West Indies; and although this Bill proposes, as the noble Lord said, a very interesting new procedure, a modified and unique form of freer association with us, one could call it the "fourth" West Indian Bill. I do not want to spell out at length what has been so often said before—although, perhaps, it cannot be said enough—which is that no one who knows the West Indies well has any doubt for a moment that closer association between these far-flung Territories, which was once within an ace of achievement, is not the best, indeed the only, answer in the long run to West Indies problems. Not just because it would be tidy; not only—though this is very important—because everyone would like to see the West Indian people take their proper place on the world stage, which their high qualities of heart and mind entitle them to; but, above all, because of the grim economic facts of life out there, and the great advantages which a wider and more varied economy would bring to them.
My Lords, I am quite sure that in the long run, or perhaps even in the shorter run, closer association will come. The former Federation may have been the wrong blueprint, and there may be an even wider association in the Caribbean, but there will be a closer association; and not the least agreeable part of this Bill is that it leaves the way open for such association to come in the future, and lays down, I think I am right in saying, a simple machinery by which this could be achieved. Therefore, while wishing all my old friends in these Territories Godspeed when the Bill becomes an Act, I ask them, as indeed I ask all West Indians, not to begin looking more and more inwards within their own Territories—which is, I am afraid, rather a 1498 well-known old West Indian custom—but to keep their eyes always fixed towards wider horizons.
Although the constitutional changes which have come have not been what we expected, we should count our blessings. It has often been said that the ending of the West Indies Federation was a tragedy. It was certainly a heart-break. Things happened that were hardly known about in this country, but which were very terrible for those who were closely involved—such things as the break-up of the splended West Indian Regiment with men drawn from all the Territories of the West Indies serving happily together; likewise the Federation Civil Service working in unison for their new nation to be. But, as we know, it is what happens at the political level that counts. Books might be written about all that, but this is not the occasion to dwell.
Perhaps the simplest answer to the complex story of the Federation is that, added to vast distances of sea, there was not the will, and perhaps not always the good will, at that time to carry through such a very courageous plan. Knowing, as I did, all the stresses and strains—and the personalities—I often used to wonder, even before the blow of Jamaica's departure, whether the Federation could possibly last, even if it had survived until Independence. The more I have thought of this since, the less sure I am that it could have. It gives us cause for thought when we consider that since 1962 there has been no chance of forming either a smaller Federation or any combination of territories at all.
If the dissolution of the Federation before Independence was a heartbreak, dissolution of the Federation after Independence would have been a tragedy, and not least for the very Territories we are talking about; because it would have meant they would have been cast adrift, and, I presume irrevocably, without any hope of our giving them the economic aid and comfort which we can give them through this Bill. Therefore, counting our blessings once again, we can say that, in spite of the waste and heartbreak, nothing in the West Indies scene is irrevocably lost. Nor are there any obstacles to closer association once the West Indians themselves wish it.
1499 I have often felt that it would be only when the West Indians, who are a very independent-minded people, gained control of their own affairs that things would begin to move again towards closer union. I am glad to say one can see that happening in small ways, such as the provision of common services, attempts to get areas of free trade, and so on.
The role of this country in the West Indies from now on will be to give all the practical aid we possibly can, and, apart from the economic aid which we must continue to give them, to offer help and understanding whenever it is called for. In this way, I am sure that when closer association comes we can play our part in the creation of a strong, democratic, non-racial force within the Commonwealth whose influence could be vital, in a part of the world where there has not always been great stability.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
So the noble Viscount wishes to speak later. My Lords, in those circumstances I think this would be a proper moment to adjourn. I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ House resumed.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I assure your Lordships that my speech will not be so long as Mr. Kosygin's. I will try to confine my remarks to about five minutes. My reason for saying a few words on this Bill is that I have a long experience of the West Indies. I used to have a property there, a farm in Jamaica, and I know the people very well. I am inclined to take a quotation from Shakespeare when I look at this Bill:So call a rose by any other name …1500 On the whole, I support the Bill. It takes away the name of "colony" from these Territories, but leaves them with the majority of advantages of being a colony. There is no harm in that. Where the Bill is important is that it lays down a completely new constitutional principle. These Territories, which are to have this new form of association with this country, can break that association if they wish. Personally, I think that they would be unwise to do so. But they can federate among themselves, or with some other territory outside the British Commonwealth. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who suggested that they could federate with Cuba—but I think that that is a rather far-fetched idea.
We are all sorry. I think, and I am particularly sorry, that the greater West Indian Federation fell through, but this is not surprising. The distances are so vast. Some of these islands are a thousand miles from each other. But when the means of transport and communication improve, as they will eventually, I hope that the whole of the former British West Indies, and perhaps some islands outside, will come together in a federation.
The only thing that frightens me is that I cannot see these island Territories ever being economically viable on their own. There is also one danger that I should like to point out to your Lordships. I found that I became extraordinarily lazy in the West Indian climate. Probably I am rather lazy, but I found that out there I became much lazier. I am worried that, when European technical assistance and management gradually leaves the islands, they will go back, their economy will suffer. I have known instances of estates out there which have been divided up into smallholdings, and when the driving force of the management of the estate has gone, the people have been inclined to sit back with their holdings and wait for a coconut to fall off a tree or pick a breadfruit or acki—wild food is so abundant in some of these areas. The land is inclined to revert quickly to the jungle.
Provided that we can have assurances that there is no danger of these islands drifting away from this country and from the help of this country, I have no great quarrel with the Bill. We have had a rather nasty incident lately—I do not 1501 want to elaborate on it—of the corruption in St. Vincent. It may happen, of course, in one or two of the other islands, but I am sure that it will eventually become a thing of the past. We have seen the democratic principle come to nought in Africa. But in the West Indies, where they have a long association with democratic principles, I feel that there is far more hope of this system of Government succeeding and of having stable Governments in all these islands.
One point I should like to make is that we owe a special responsibility to these people, and far more, I may say, than we owe to any other people in the Commonwealth. After all, we brought the people there in the days of slavery; they were uprooted from Africa, completely out of their environment and away from their tribal customs. So we owe them a duty to see that they do not fall on evil times. There are many other races there, of course, because of the indentured Indian and other labour that came in afterwards; the islands are really a multiracial society, and there is hardly any colour bar that I have seen. They have been able to absorb British culture and British customs far more widely than the Africans. We have only to hear in mind the game of cricket. I feel that there is hope in these areas to build something really stable. However, I repeat that I am slightly unhappy about the Bill, because I fear that territories may drift apart.
Under the Bill we have these 90 days (I am talking of the position if one of the Territories desires to terminate) before the Bill can be read in the Parliament of the territory, and there are other safeguards, such as a two-thirds majority in the Senate and the Referendum. But I wonder whether (this may seem to be a committee point) the 90 days' period might not be made longer? Could it not be perhaps six months? In these areas passions often run high. Funny things can happen and you might get people in power who might be rather difficult to dislodge. On the surface they may seem to have been democratically elected, but it may not be so in fact. As I say, funny things can happen. Therefore, I think that any extra safeguard to make sure that the mass of the people in these islands are not "taken for a ride" (that is perhaps not the right expression) 1502 should be used. I stress this point because we have had such unfortunate experiences in other parts of the Commonwealth.
I will not detain your Lordships further. I should like to wish the Bill success, and I hope that any fears that I have expressed will never come to fruition.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, in view of the opening words uttered by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, may I first say that I am sure the overwhelming majority of us did not find the speech from Mr. Kosygin to which we listened in the Royal Gallery at all long. It was a fascinating speech from a world figure, and I am sure that we all consider ourselves fortunate indeed to have had the opportunity of listening to what he had to say.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, the last thing I meant was any disrepect to Mr. Kosygin. I was enthralled with his speech and, so far as I am concerned, Mr. Kosygin has the right to speak for three hours if he wishes. I was making a rather poor pun, and I certainly meant no disrespect.
§ LORD BESWICK
I am obliged to the noble Viscount. I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Hailes, for the way in which they welcomed the Bill, and for the words of congratulation they offered to those who have been responsible for devising this new constitutional formula. I am not too clear whether the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, was welcoming it or not, but in so far as, in parts of his speech at any rate, I detected a word of welcome, I should like to say, too, that I appreciate what he had to say in those parts.
It is understandable that in the speeches made by noble Lords, and indeed in my own speech in opening, a note of sadness was struck because we have not contrived to help the communities in that part of the world to get together in some form of federation. It has already been said in connection with other Bills granting independence, notably in the case of Barbados, that it would have been a source of some satisfaction, not least to 1503 those who, like the noble Lord, Lord Hailes, strove so hard to bring it about, if we could have seen all the islands in the Caribbean brought together with other territories in the area. However, that was not to be, at that time at any rate. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Hailes, said a word about the personalities involved, and undoubtedly that is one of the factors in the situation. I am inclined to agree with him that in the long run it may work out that, if we start this way and then move together again in one form of association such as economic co-operation, we may find that the peoples there will ultimately achieve a more durable federation.
I have already stated, and reference to it has been made by other noble Lords, that within the constitutional framework the least possible legal obstacles have been raised to any movement towards union between one Associated State and another, or between one or more Associated States and other Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean. It will be interesting to see how this facility, for which provision has been made in the various Constitutions to be adopted, will be used.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, thought it was probably a mistake to have appointed a Governor for each of the Associated States. It would certainly have been more economic to have had one Governor, and a Deputy Governor in each of the other States, but when we start to consider where we should site the one Governor we realise that there are obstacles. After all, we are creating Associated States, each equal with the other and each entitled to say that it wishes to have a separate Governor. This they have stated, and it is not for us to argue against the proposition which they have advanced.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked about common services. This is a most important aspect of future co-operation. He himself called attention to the fact that each of the States has agreed to accept a common court. The appeal court serves not only the six territories there but also Montserrat and one other country. It is also interesting to note that at the three conferences to which I made reference, all six territories expressed the wish that appeals to the 1504 Privy Council should continue and that the Constitutions should prescribe in which cases an appeal would lie, and in which only with the leave of the Court of Appeal. So this is another binding factor. The noble Lord asked about the possibility of some form of customs union. This will be a matter entirely for the States themselves. No provision has been made, or needs to be made, within the Constitutions, but it is a matter which I have no doubt will be considered by the States themselves. Indeed it is interesting to note that there has already been a movement towards a free trade area as between Antigua Barbados and Guyana, and there is no reason why this Caribbean free trade area set-up of those three States should not be widened by the inclusion of others.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Is it entirely so? He said it was a matter entirely for the States, but in fact it is a matter of external affairs so far as each Associated State is concerned, and that, of course, comes not under the Government of the Associated State, as I understand it, but under Her Majesty's Government.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, as the noble Lord will see, if he reads the Constitutions and agreements, and as I indicated in my opening speech, it is a matter for the United Kingdom Government to determine by certificate what matters relate to external affairs. I am advised that the question of a customs union or otherwise would be one entirely for the Governments of the different States and, as I have indicated, something along those lines has already been initiated in the one case which I gave.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, also asked about communications. I certainly agree with him that some common organisation would be a great advantage. If the noble Lord will recall some of the efforts which we made in this area when we worked together in the field of civil aviation, he will know the service rendered by B.O.A.C. The British West Indies Airways and the Leeward Islands air transport system provide inter-island air transport which, in a sense, is a common service, established as a federal form of operation, which I should have thought he would welcome. It is also 1505 a fact that there still is in operation a sea transport company, operating two ships which were donated, I believe, by the Canadian Government. These are operated by the organisation set up under the old federal system serving the islands from Jamaica through the six islands to Trinidad.
I was also asked by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, about the developments following the tripartite economic survey. I am not able to give him any details of any concrete development. The Mission itself provided an outline for the economic growth strategy for the islands. It indicated the main restraints on their development and how these may be overcome, and commented upon certain individual projects in the different islands. Its main recommendation was that significant development could be achieved only if there was this full regional economic co-operation.
The machinery is being worked out, but again it is machinery which must be devised by the Governments themselves, and the more they can be seen to be initiating this themselves, the better it will be for future development. I understand that they have already set up their inter-Governmental committee. They have agreed on the formation of machinery. This provides for the kind of consultation which is an essential prerequisite, and the machinery of economic working on which they agree will be one for their decision, although in this connection I would again stress that we have in our own Overseas Development regional office the technical assistance which will be readily at the disposal of this committee when they really get down to the work indicated by the report of the Mission.
I was asked about the Regional Development Bank, and whether there had been any further progress there. I understand this project is still being considered by the United Nations Development Programme, and one hopes that, as a result of the consideration being given by that Organisation, it will be possible to make some progress; but at the moment I am not able to say more about that.
1506 The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, asked if I could give undertakings about the future behaviour of the people in these Associated States. I cannot give him any undertakings. I cannot here speak about the future political wisdom of these people. I cannot even say from this Box that the people of this country will not be so ill-advised in the future as to return a Conservative Administration. I referred in my opening speech to the fact that these people, man for man, are entitled to have their future within their own hands, and although they will make mistakes I think they have to be given the opportunity to make those mistakes. We, for our part, will give them all possible assistance, political advice if they wish it, economic and technical advice when required and, in addition, we shall make available to them development aid.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked about budgetary aid. I am not able to give any figures for the future, because it will be a matter for discussion between the different governments and the United Kingdom Government. All I can say is that in each of the last two years the amount made available has been of the order of £900,000. That is the figure which may well be found, on discussion and examination, to be the sort of amount on which we might be able to agree in the future.
As all noble Lords have said, in this new prototype form of independence we have an undertaking which is new, which has the advantages of independence, and which has the political status of independence without some of the economic disadvantages. We have all expressed the hope that the future of these small islands will be bright, and it would be nice to think that, when my right honourable friend the Minister of Overseas Development takes part in the independence celebrations there, he will be able to say that all Parties in both Houses of this Parliament wish them well for the future. With that I trust we can now agree to the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.