HL Deb 11 July 1968 vol 294 cc1175-99

8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I have it in command from The Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the 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.

By introducing this Bill Her Majesty's Government are giving effect at once to their general policy for the constitutional advancement of the dependent territories, and to an undertaking which they were glad to give to the Government of Swaziland last November. They had been asked, and they had readily agreed, to take the action necessary to enable Swaziland to become independent on September 6, 1968. The Bill provides for Swaziland's independence from that date. The Constitution will be provided for by Order in Council.

My Lords, I think it fitting to refer tonight to the services during the period of our administration of the many officers who have gone to Swaziland from this country and from other parts and made their contribution to the administration, development and welfare of the country. Sir Francis Loyd will have had the distinction of serving as Her Majesty's Commissioner from the time that the first Constitution of Swaziland came into operation until the moment of independence. We are grateful for his loyal and devoted services and wish him well where-ever his future may lie. He and all his predecessors have had the unflagging support of all branches of the public services. For some of them it is the end of this particular road, but I am happy to say that for many more there are continued opportunities for service in Swaziland, which the Government of Swaziland have invited them to follow. Our good wishes go also with those who will be leaving and with those who will stay.

The country which will now be achieving independence in the constitutional field is at a most interesting stage of economic development. Everyone who visits Swaziland seems to be impressed with the beauty of the scenery, the charm and sincerity of its people, and the vigour of the economic expansion over the past few years. Certainly, the country is bleassed with a fortunate variety of climate, with good and varied types of soil, and with mineral resources beneath it.

We recognise that Swaziland, which has stood in need of support for the budget and aid for capital development for a number of years, will continue for some years to come to need external aid. We have already been able to settle what we can provide for the whole of the financial year 1968–69, so that, in effect, we have provided for the first six months of independence. Although we have no commitment beyond that date, we have agreed to talks on post-independence aid towards the end of the year, and preparations for these talks include the visit of a team from the Overseas Department of Aid to Swaziland this month.

The foundations of this country have been truly laid. Without undue disturbance of his traditional position and powers as leader of the Swazi people, the King is in a special position and, as Head of State, is also the constitutional Monarch. His Government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, is well established and enjoys very wide popular support in a country where by good fortune, and I think I may say good sense, race relations have not aroused antagonisms and their attendant problems. The state of the economy gives reasonable grounds for hope of continued development. The auguries are, it seems to me, favourable, for the grant of independence for which the Bill provides.

I do not know whether your Lordships wish me to deal with the clauses of the Bill. They will be familiar to many of your Lordships who have sat in this House over the years, in the sense that the Bill is very much like those presented in the past for the granting of independence. Perhaps I may mention only Clauses 3 and 4, which are concerned with citizenship. Swaziland already has a citizenship and those who possess it are British protected persons. The Bill will withdraw that status from them on Independence Day. The Bill will also withdraw citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies from any person who is a citizen of Swaziland on that day, with the normal exception of those with close connections with the United Kingdom and its remaining territories.

I feel sure that your Lordships will wish to join me in expressing to the King of Swaziland, the Prime Minister, the Government and the people of Swaziland our heartfelt good wishes as Swaziland achieves her independence. If this speech is short, its shortness only adds to our sincerity. This is not the parting of the ways but the beginning of a new stage of our journey in which we shall walk together—the United Kingdom and Swaziland—in continuing friendship as members of the Commonwealth, since Swaziland has already been accepted into the Commonwealth.

My Lords, with those few short words I commend this Bill to you; and I trust and believe that Swaziland has a great and happy future. I beg to move.

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

8.8 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for having clearly and concisely explained to us the provisions of this Bill. I should like to say at the outset that we who sit on these Benches warmly welcome it, and are delighted that the long and fruitful association between our two countries should end in agreed independence. We would also associate ourselves with what the noble Lord said and congratulate, with respect. His Majesty King Sobhuza II and all those who serve the people of this kingdom well, especially, as the noble Lord mentioned, Her Majesty's Commissioner, Sir Francis Loyd. Swaziland is the last British colonial territory in Africa to receive independence, and this Bill therefore has a particular significance.

British policy on independence, which has in general been accepted by all Parties in this country, is that it should be granted when it is clear that the colonial territory can stand on its own feet and when independence is requested by the majority of the inhabitants. It is quite clear in this case that the majority have overwhelmingly approved the request for independence; and, as regards the capacity of the country to stand on its own feet, Swaziland, as the noble Lord mentioned, is blessed with diverse and rich deposits of mineral wealth. She has, moreover, a political stability rare on the African Continent. She is blessed with wise and realistic leaders. It is true that the country will require aid from Britain after independence, but this need is not confined to colonial territories. The move to independence is taking place in an orderly manner, with full consultation at every stage, and I think that both Swaziland and Britain should be proud of the civilised way in which this very difficult process has been achieved.

There are just two matters that I should like to raise: they were brought up in another place but were not fully clarified, and if I may I should like to ask the noble Lord about them again. First of all, there is the matter of land alienation. In response to questions, the Under-Secretary admitted that on this matter the British and Swaziland Governments were still at odds. This is likely to cause grave difficulties in the future and could lead to racial trouble. The ownership of land arouses deep emotion everywhere, not only in Africa, and I should like to ask the noble Lord what is to happen after independence. Is this issue to be a running sore, souring relations between our two countries for the foreseeable future? When Swaziland becomes independent she will be so in all senses, and there must he a danger, therefore, that she will take unilateral action in this matter. If she were to do so, it would be unfortunate. Is it too late to ask the Government whether they cannot conclude an agreement on this subject with the Swaziland Government before independence, rather than leaving this very complex matter to be sorted out later?

My second question concerns citizenship, which was mentioned by the noble Lord. As I understand it, all the citizens of the present protected State of Swaziland will become citizens of independent Swaziland from the date of independence. But what will be the position of the 200 or so South Africans who took up Government posts in the Protectorate and for that purpose registered as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, so automatically losing their South African citizenship? These people have the right to acquire Swaziland citizenship if they apply not later than August 15 this year, but presumably if they do not apply they will retain their United Kingdom citizenship. I would ask the noble Lord, if he is able to answer, how many of these people have in fact applied for Swazi citizenship; and are there any other categories in the same boat?

I also understand from what he said that there is no danger that anybody in Swaziland will be left Stateless. There was a point in the White Paper (Cmnd. 3568) saying that the Swaziland Government proposed that births in Swaziland after independence should confer citizenship only if the father was a citizen, but I understand that this has now been overcome and that the Independence Constitution will ensure that no citizen is left Stateless.

The noble Lord told us of the budgetary and development aid to Swaziland which is agreed until March 31 1969, and that new negotiations to cover the three-year development period 1969 to 1971 will not take place until after independence. This is not very satisfactory, but I can see that there are difficulties, and I hope that a satisfactory agreement will be reached.

Finally, I am delighted to hear that Swaziland is to apply for membership of the Commonwealth and that the members of the Commonwealth have agreed to accept her. It would be idle to deny that Swaziland, dependent as she is on South Africa, and I suppose to some extent on the Portuguese Port of Lourenco Marques, might perhaps run into some difficulties with the more militant African States to the North. However, I am sure that the wise statesmanship of her leaders will solve any such difficulties with moderation and good sense. I am delighted that Swaziland is to join the ever-growing throng of independent nations, and that she is to keep her special relationship with this country and the Commonwealth.

8.14 p.m.


My Lords, I have spent a good deal of my life in championing the cause of Asian and African nations to independence. But I have some reservations about the Bill which we are considering to-night. Yesterday I was with a great educationist who has experience in Southern Africa. I will not identify him because I want to quote him in private conversation; he remarked that we ought to have regarded the High Commission Territories in South Africa as "West Berlins". Just as we regard West Berlin as a surrounded outpost in Communist Eastern Germany, so the three High Commission Territories have been outposts in apartheid South Africa. And if we had recognised them as that, then we should have done very much more for their development than we have done in past years.

Looking over that history, during the time of both Conservative and Labour Governments, I have the very strong impression that there has been an attitude of defeatism which has taken the view that sooner or later those High Commission Territories would become part of South Africa. Because of our neglect, those three territories—Lesotho, Botswana and, now, Swaziland—despite their political independence, are dependent upon the Government of South Africa with its apartheid system. There has been shocking economic neglect in aid over these years; there has been also neglect in providing educational opportunities. It should be in our minds when we pass this Bill to-night that the 300,000 Swazis are among the most illiterate of all the African peoples.

I recognise that Swaziland has greater opportunities than Lesotho or Botswana. It has greater opportunities because it has rich mineral deposits, considerable economic development; and if these were used for the independence of their country they could bring much happier results than in either Basutoland, renamed Lesotho, or Bechuanaland, renamed Botswana. In Swaziland, however, we have a situation where the Administration is under the control of African traditionalists, the Chiefs and their circle, and of the minority of 10,000 white settlers, many of whom are South African. I admit at once that they represent at the present time the majority view in Swaziland. But I also say this: the African population of Swaziland will, as the years go by, become responsive to the mood which is now passing through all African peoples: the belief in self-reliance, the belief in democracy and the strong resentment of the system of apartheid in the neighbouring territory of South Africa. My Lords, the Constitution of Swaziland which will be endorsed by this Bill, was determined by three British representatives in negotiation with the African traditionalists about whom I have spoken and the white settler minority.

I was very interested that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, spoke about the alienation of land. More important is the alienation of mineral rights. In the first draft of the Constitution it was suggested that the mineral rights should be the property of the King. I pay tribute to my friend Mr. John Stonehouse, who was then Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office and who declined to accept that provision. Like the noble Lord who spoke for the Opposition, I am concerned about the future in this matter. The decision not to regard mineral rights as the property of the King was accepted only temporarily, and just as in the case of land alienation it could be reimposed after independence. I think a difficult and perhaps even a dangerous situation may arise in Swaziland when these issues of aristocratic ownership of land and of minerals come into conflict with the inevitably increasing democractic pressures.

The other issue I wish to raise about the Constitution is the distribution of the constituencies from which the Parliament will be elected. There were complaints, and I went into them in some detail, at the last election that practices were carried out against the Ngwame National Libertary Congress, the Opposition, representing the more modern views among the African population. They polled over 12 per cent. of the votes. I recognise at once that the other Farties had the vast majority of the electors, but the interesting fact is that the votes which went to the National Libertary Congress were cast in the towns. They were the Africans who were responding to modern conditions and who were most educated. They were the Africans who most represent the developing forces in ideas, industry and employment.

Under the new Constitution there are to be only eight constituencies in the whole of Swaziland. They are to be three-member constituencies. They are not even to be under proportional representation, and they will include not only the populations of the towns but of large rural areas around. Inevitably a constitution of this character will tell against minority interests and minority parties. If there were single member constituencies separately representing towns as well as country areas, the minorities would have some representation. Because I am so concerned that the future of Swaziland should be enabled to develop by democratic means, by education and persuasion rather than by conflict I feel I must give a warning to-night that a constitution which will prevent the democratic expression of minority views, and the views of the more dynamic Africans who are living in the towns, might bring about a conflict outside the normal challenge of parties within a democracy.

The other point I want to mention on the constitution is that the King of Swaziland is given the power to prevent constitutional change. This means that if new democratic elements are arising in Swaziland, as they inevitably will, and are pressing for changes, a constitution which gives the King power to prevent any changes will also contribute to the danger of conflict.

I appreciate that it is now too late to alter these decisions. But because I am so concerned about the democratic future of Swaziland, I would appeal to my friends there who belong to the parties of the Opposition to accept the fact that Swaziland becomes independent and to build up their parties on the basis of education and reason and the conversion of the majority now against them, so that there may be effective pressure in Swaziland for the changes which I believe are necessary, and without the conflict which I fear the present constitution may otherwise arouse.

8.28 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lord Brockway will forgive me if I do not express complete approval of the details of his speech though I would like to assure him that on the broad issues he and I are in complete agreement. I would like to add from these Benches a warm welcome to this Bill and to extend to the young nation of Swaziland all our good wishes for its future happiness and prosperity.

Many of us must feel a slight pang at the ending of a notable chapter of 80 years of close political ties between Swaziland and this country. These years have been marked by an outstanding record of service by generations of British civil servants and officials who have every reason to feel proud of their services to Swaziland. But these old relations are now being founded on a new and more secure basis involving total political independence for the people of Swaziland. Here it is a source of pride to note the active part being played by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (as I am sure will be emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Howick of Glendale, when he comes to speak) in the economic prosperity of Swaziland. That, I feel, is the best way that we can show our absolute confidence in the future of Swaziland, and the wisdom and foresight of its rulers.

My other concern in intervening in this Second Reading debate is to emphasise one point on which many of us feel very deeply indeed. It is to express the hope that in future all political issues will be subordinated to the one urgent vital issue, and that is the material prosperity of the majority of the inhabitants of Swaziland. Although independence is being achieved under the most hopeful omens, this little country faces very grave immediate problems. Internally, she has to maintain the unity of her people within her present tribal system, the one great cohesive force that can maintain the prosperity of the country, despite its out-ward Parliamentary structure. Here, internal political tensions must be restrained. They can only be divisive in their effects. The results of the recent elections should now bring all minority factions to work together, and under Swaziland's acknowledged rulers, for the benefit of the mass of the people, and not for the personal benefit of the few.

The economy of Swaziland is not geared to face the dangers of political upheaval. The problems of land tenure must be settled eventually in the interests of the poorest elements of the population, and not to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The great mineral and agicultural resources of the country must be harnessed to raise the material standards of the people. By that factor mainly should the policies of the Government of Swaziland be judged in the immediate future.

In the wider economic field it is to be hoped that Britain will continue her help to Swaziland, both through the Government, and for a time, also, by continuing the magnificent projects already so well rendered by the C.D.C. But there is nothing to be gained by deceiving ourselves and failing to recognise the fact that the whole future of Swaziland must inevitably be closely linked with South Africa. Not only is she surrounded entirely by South African territory, but the whole field of her economic development in the future must depend not only upon the good will, but upon the active investment of capital by her powerful neighbour. One can only hope that South Africa will interpret her great opportunities in Swaziland, not for the advancement of her own material wealth (for that can be increased relatively only very little in Swaziland) but to assert the right of Swaziland to full economic and political co-existence.

We all profoundly trust that this great little country will, by the disinterested help of South Africa, become an example to the whole of Independent Africa of what Africans can achieve in material prosperity and in asserting the dignity of man. With these few remarks, my Lords, I should like to endorse all that has been said from these Benches, and to give my warmest support to the Bill.

8.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am very happy to-day to join in congratulations to the Swazi nation on the state of their country and in good wishes to Swaziland for its future as an independent country. I was particularly happy to listen to the speech the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, made and to hear him, very rightly, pay a tribute to the work that Sir Francis Loyd has done in Swaziland in recent years. I can assure him that in the past, when I was closely associated with Sir Francis in Kenya, he did equally good work there.

In 1968, anyone who looks with an impartial and discerning eye at Swaziland must be struck by one feature of the country and that is that, compared with other small countries in the African continent, there is a remarkable economic development. There are important and well-diversified projects for economic development. There is a large asbestos mine producing very high quality asbestos and run by term renewal with security of tenure, which was not the case in the past. There is an iron ore mine and, as a result of the construction of that mine, there has now been built a railway right across the country to join up with the Portuguese railway in Mozambique—a thing which everyone associated with Swaziland, and I was very closely associated with Swaziland in the past, has always dreamed of happening. There is in the high country just South of the capital, a large pulp mill and 100,000 acres of pine trees, both owned jointly by the Commonwealth Development Corporation and by Courtaulds. In that undertaking now there are employed about 3,800 men; many of them earn what by African standards are certainly very high industrial wages, and there is a good and expanding scheme for artisan training—the sort of thing that was quite unknown in the past in Swaziland.

In the low country of Swaziland there has been a big development of irrigation. Irrigation twenty years ago had not come to Swaziland at all. There are two large sugar mills, one very successfully run by a private company, one also managed and financed by the Commonwealth Development Corporation, each producing over 80,000 tons of sugar a year. And about 5,000 families—that too low a figure; I think perhaps rather more than 5,000 families—of Swazi now gain their living in security with irrigated agriculture, far more secure than dry-land agriculture in a dry country. With that security in the low country of Swaziland, with the series of agricultural developments that have follower—the building of a big diversional weir on the Komati River by the Commonwealth Development Corporation—the number will go up in the future, since there is now also a large dam. There is a particularly interesting development—and this I think is the future of many African countries. There is run by that Corporation, of which I must say I am the chairman, a large estate growing citrus and sugar and rice, and all round it now there are a number of small farmers. This is a scheme known as the Uchrus Estate, or plantations, and the whole idea is that the benefits of up-to-date management and up-to-date scientific ideas should spread from the large estate to the surrounding small farmers. And it has done very well for Swaziland. It has proved what many people doubted in the past, that Swazis can become very efficient and active and successful individual farmers.

There are several other important economic developments in Swaziland. As the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd has mentioned, Swaziland still does not pay its way. On the other hand, I think one should say that Swaziland currency is inexplicably tied to that of South Africa; yet its exports come mainly to Great Britain. I think it is a fair guess that, if it had not been for the situation in which we devalued and South Africa did not, which therefore hit Swaziland very heavily, Swaziland probably would be on the threshold of paying its way. Anyway, whether that is so or not, the picture of Swaziland in 1968 is that of a flourishing country with plenty of jobs offering to its people, and plenty of chances of further economic development.

My Lords, what I want to say to-night is that it was not always like this. In 1944, when I first visited that beautiful country, scenic beauty was about all there was to encourage those in Swaziland. There were a number of European farmers, it is true. There was an asbestos mine still not completely developed, since there was not security of tenure for the company. For many years the country received an annual grant-in-aid from the British Government, and that was stopped during the war simply because there was not the wherewithal to maintain either the roads or the Government houses and both were in a very bad condition indeed. After the war the grant was resumed. In those days there was hardly any new development in Swaziland. There was a general air of decay, and there was ill-feeling and constant bickering between the leaders of the Swazi nation and the Colonial Government. There was a crying need for some large wealth-producing unit to put the country on its feet.

How did the change take place between the gloomy prospect of 1944 and the encouraging one we see in 1968? As usual in a developing country, it was the first step that was by far the most difficult, and equally, I believe, the most important. That came primarily through the bringing of first-class technical brains from a large developed country into a developing country, and those brains belonged to a man named Dr. Craib, who at that time was the chief research officer of the South African Forestry Department. He left that Department and came to Swaziland, where he found that it was possible to grow pine trees with great success in the high mountains which pre- viously had only been grazed by sheep. He established there two forests, one of which I have already mentioned and which had the pulp mill in the middle.

With the first forest—that is, with the first big economic enterprise in the country except for the asbestos mine—everything at once began to change. The velocity of circulation rose, as in the economic textbooks. I was there at the time, and I remember it extremely well. New people came in, and there was a small housing boom. The shops made higher taxable profits; people began to buy lorries, and new licence fees were paid. Land was bought and sold, and the Government received higher transfer fees. Postal revenue rose; and, above all, this first big enterprise brought Swaziland to the notice of the outside world, with its money for investment and its know-how for management. And from it there flowed other enterprises, of which I have tried to describe one or two.

It was a most happy transformation and, as usual, several people contributed to this. One was Dr. Craib; another was Sir Edward Beetham, a fine administrator and afterwards a successful Governor of Trinidad. During his period of office in Swaziland the relationship between the Swazi nation and the Government was completely changed; and for the better. But above all—and this is the point I want to emphasise to-night; and it is important after listening to the sincere speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, because it explains the attitude of the Swazi people—there was the part played by the Paramount Chief, who is now King Sobhuza II.

In the early days, particularly in the establishment of the two big forests and the expansion of the asbestos mine, land exchanges were required, since Swaziland was then a patchwork quilt of small Swazi areas and European farms, and it was impossible to have a big land development which was any use to anybody without there being an exchange which affected the economic benefit of the Swazi. Yet, given the past history of the country, such an exchange, seen through Swazi eyes, appeared at first to be an appalling prospect. The exchanges which were made, either for the forests or for the mines, or for anything else, looked at through a Western and economic eye were to the benefit of good land use. Yet, given the past history of land use, the land grievance was not unjustified. That land problem is still not completely resolved, and if a solution could be found, if possible before independence, great benefit would flow from such a development.

The story goes right back to 1907 when a very bad partition was made in which the Swazi received only one-third of their own country on a calculation of the growth of population which proved entirely wrong. Later, in the 1930's, an attempt was made to get more land for them, and, rightly or wrongly, the Swazi thought they had been cheated. In any case there was a very deep feeling about land. I think, again with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that it is much deeper than the feeling about minerals.

It follows that any agreement about exchange of land—and such exchange was necessary for development—was extremely difficult for the Swazi to accept. I had always thought this was so even in the late 'forties. This view was confirmed when I visited Swaziland in February this year and had the most interesting conversion with the Prime Minister, Prince Makhosini Dlamini. He told me that when the first land exchange was proposed, I think in 1946 or 1947, the then Paramount Chief put it to the Inner Council, of which he himself was a member, and there was very strong opposition indeed. They attacked the Paramount Chief more strongly than ever, and the words they said to him were, "You love the trees more than the people,"—a very telling phrase in those circumstances.

But in spite of this he had become convinced that his people needed this development, and he stuck to the point. He persisted with great courage and foresight and carried the day. It was a very courageous action. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that from that action of the man who is now King Sobhuza II has flowed nearly all the prosperity of Swaziland, because without that action it would have been impossible to get the early land development, and without that none of the subsequent investment, which has given jobs, the modern outlook, would have occurred. In fact when one looks at this action of his one can say: hence the other de- velopments, and hence the reverence with which he is regarded by the Swazi to-day. They think that he has led his people into prosperity; and they are right.

And that is why, my Lords, whether you like to think of him as a traditionalist or anything else (I do not think labels matter very much), King Sobhuza has a very powerful position in Swaziland today, and will always have it so long as he is alive. I felt that on this happy occasion this should be said. It happened a long time ago, but it is very important to this country and as a result I think it is a story of a small African country and of very good happy co-operation between the British people, both in Government service and in business. Finally, let me add that most of my life has been spent in African development. To develop a small country is infinitely harder Clan to develop a big one. It is very much easier to get development in Nigeria than in a little West Indian island like Montsarrat or St. Lucia. Swaziland is a small country but it has been developed, and I believe that its prospects for the future are good. It has a pretty stable Government. The Swazis are not, it is true, the most sophisticated people, but they have a remarkable degree of common sense.

8.48 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to join in the universal welcome and good wishes which we all feel and offer to the King of Swaziland, his Parliament and his people. I have listened with the deepest interest to the noble Lord, Lord Howick, because he has a knowledge of the country which none of the rest of us is fortunate enough to possess, and I think it is a great privilege on an occasion like this to be able to have a sketch from somebody of his knowledge and experience. I do not propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, partly because I do not think this is the occasion for airing certain views, and I do regard his speech as having been a mixture of false impressions and bad advice. I should be only too pleased, in another debate when it would be a suitable subject, to argue that matter further with him.

To return to Swaziland, it is true that the natural resources of this country, both mineral and agricultural, added to the absence of any grave racial and tribal problems, and also the mature national character, provide a sound basis for successful independence and that cannot be said so easily of many other countries which have attained independence.

It is also true that for some time Swaziland will need outside help, in capital and technical skills, for developing the diversified economy which will give her genuine freedom. A glance at the map shows that much must hinge upon amicable relations with the Republic of South Africa and it would seem that there is every prospect, under the wise guidance of the traditional leaders of Swaziland, that she will achieve friendly co-operation which the interests of both countries demand.

After all, the declared policy of the South African Government is that of the good neighbour; and she has repeatedly emphasised that her help, scientific, educational, and financial, will not unreasonably be denied to any of her African neighbours who care to ask her for it. She has also explicitly declared that her interests are in fair trade and development of all kinds for the mutual advantage of both of the countries concerned. She has also said most emphatically that she wishes to interfere in no way with the domestic affairs of her neighbours.

I should be the last to underrate the immense benefits derived by Swaziland from the operations and the assistance of the C.D.C., and also from the guidance and the financial help given to her by the British Government; and for the assistance, of course, and the great work done (to which Lord Howick has paid tribute) of the British officers who work there.

Now that she will stand alone on her own feet, the maintenance of good relations with the great republic next door to her must be a predominant factor in making a real success of independence. So we all wish for Swaziland and its people the happy future which wise guidance will so ensure.

8.53 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to speak for more than a short time to-night, because we have already heard a series of eloquent and informative speeches, and I certainly feel that this is not an occasion for contentious debate, otherwise I might have entered into a discussion with the noble Lord who spoke last, particularly having regard to his apparently unqualified admiration of the Republic of South Africa.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord, he really is out of order speaking from the Bishops' Bench. If he would just move back one row, he would bring himself within the custom in your Lordships' House.


I am grateful to my noble friend the Leader of the House. A certain ecclesiastical trait must have directed me to the wrong Bench. I think I should certainly say that I am not a member of the Established Church.

To return to the matter under discussion, since the days when India became free and independent, we have seen a number of portions of the British Empire steadily pass out through the gates into freedom and responsibility. At first many of us had good will, confidence, and hope regarding the development of those countries. Part of that has been justified by subsequent events; part has not. We deplore the fact that so many countries secured their independence only in course of time to adulterate it, and instead to pass away from the full freedom we believed they would exercise into some kind of dictatorship or, on the other hand, into internal disruption. But this is in the nature of things, and it is no excuse whatever for us to deny the right, the inevitable right of all peoples who were once within our Imperial domain to achieve their freedom and independence and work out their own salvation.

Swaziland is in a peculiar position territorially and otherwise, but that is no reason why we should not recognise that this High Commission territory must, like the other territories, march forward and work out its own salvation. All we can do, I am sure, is express our good will to that country and hope that in the days to come it will avoid some of the errors, failures and disappointments that have accompanied other territories and other peoples when they first secured their freedom.

This is probably the last time we shall be discussing Swaziland, and that is why I am very glad we have not allowed this historic occasion to pass by simply with the excellent speeches made by my noble friend Lord Shepherd, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. I am glad that others have participated because at least that will leave the impression among the Swazi people that we are deeply concerned about them, and as they go forward we are not merely saying "Good riddance" but we are saying "Good will".

One other point and then I will close. Reference has been made to the inner conflict between what has been called "the traditionalists" and the incipient democratic movement of Swaziland. It is, of course, a little paradoxical for us to decry "traditionalism" in a House which itself is the repository of past traditions. We ourselves stand open, of course, to the criticism that we had better put our own house in order before we decide what shall be done elsewhere. But just as in this House we are transforming the House so that it becomes more and more essentially democratic—through the advent of, I will not say people like myself, but many others in this House —so also one would hope that the traditionalism of Swaziland will also be peacefully transformed, given good will on the part of those who are traditionalists, on the part of the King, and on the part of the paramount chiefs. I see no reason why, just as many noble Lords in this House through their enlightenment gradually transform the nature of this House, so also the traditions of Swaziland cannot be similarly peacefully transformed.

For that reason I trust, with a full appreciation of the anomalous position that Swaziland is in at the present time, with the recognition that inevitably there will be this conflict between those who rely largely on the past and those who look to the future, and also with the recognition that still we must give friendly assistance whenever we can to this country, nevertheless we ask Swaziland to go forward and give an example to her neighbours of what a small, democratic, free country can do.

8.59 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Segal reminded us that we are now coming to the end of an 80 year old association between Swaziland and this country. It is right that we should look back and see the fruits of that association. Clearly we cannot look back and say we made no mistakes, or that we have done everything we could have done that we should have. I do not think any country, any government, any individual can ever be so complacent as to say that about the past. My noble friend Lord Brockway was right, I think, to point out some of our failures, and I certainly share his view that Swaziland and the other former High Commission territories should have been regarded, and still should be regarded, as showplaces, the showplaces of what tolerance and multiracialism can be in a part of the world which is singularly and unhappily lacking in those attitudes.

The noble Lord, Lord Howick, was right to point out what had been achieved by co-operation between our two countries. It is an impressive record and the Swazi people, the Swazi leaders, this country, and the noble Lord, Lord Howick, personally, have every reason to be proud. We have also helped in a fantastically rapid transition from what one can describe as tribal feudalism into a form which is approaching Western democracy. I do not hold up Western democracy as the ideal for any country, especially the African countries, but there has been remarkable progress over that period and we can take some pride in it. We must now look to the suture and to the movement forward of Swaziland, under wise leadership, so that under democratic processes it may advance towards a still more democratic form of government which will be fast and, I hope, smooth. This will include its advance towards greater economic wellbeing and eventual economic independence, in so far as any country to-day can ever be economically independent.

There is one further point which has not been mentioned, which gives me the greatest grounds for confidence in the future of Swaziland and the greatest reason for looking at that country with such interest and sympathy. It is the feeling of tolerance which exists in Swaziland itself. It is a country in which black and white, Africans and Europeans, live and work together. God knows, we need examples of that throughout the world. We need it in this country and we need it, above all, in the Continent of Africa. For that reason, if for no other, I have enormous hopes for the development of Swaziland, not only within its own territorial frontiers, but within the whole ambit of the southern tip of Africa.

I believe that the example which was set by Swaziland during its colonial days will now gather momentum so that they may advance economically and politically and, above all, show that a multiracial society can work for the mutual benefit of all the people of that country and the surrounding areas. To that end I hope and believe that Her Majesty's Government will continue to give all the moral, economic and financial support of which it is capable. Although Swaziland is to become an independent country in its own right, it will still be able to gain from us, so far as it wishes to do so, material help and any other things of which it may stand in need. I join with other noble Lords in wishing it well in the future.

9.4 p.m.


My Lords, this is a debate in which we can all speak in unison. Even though my noble friend Lord Brockway had several reservations to make about the Constitution (which, of course, will be a separate instrument quite separate from the Bill itself), he expressed the good wishes and the great hopes which we all have for the Swazi people. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Howick of Glendale, could speak with greater authority than any of us, in the sense that he was at one time a British High Commissioner for that territory, with others. Certainly, while he is Chairman of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which has itself played a very great part in the development of this territory, I am sure that in the Corporation there will be a special affection and a great deal of sympathy for this territory, so long as it is viable.

I accept from my noble friend Lord Brockway that the accusation of neglect might stick. But I do not know of any British territory where that might not apply, if we go back far enough. However, much has been done during the short period for which we have been directly responsible in Swaziland, and much should be developed for the benefit of its people from the base that is there now.

I should like to deal with the land problem, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Of course, that does not come within the Constitution. But if I know the Swazis as well as the noble Lord, Lord Howick, I am sure that over a considerable period we shall be discussing this subject from time to time. It is not a very easy matter. There is a long history behind it, and I know that the Swazis take a very strong view. For our part, we took over an appalling mess, as one of my officials described it. So there are points on both sides. But I made it very clear to the Swazi delegation at the Constitutional Conference, that if they would consider their land problem within a development plan for Swaziland, we would consider all proposals with the greatest sympathy. For the object is surely to see that the available land is developed quickly and to the best advantage of the country.

With regard to the question of mineral rights, which my noble friend Lord Brockway raised, I agree with him that what is now proposed is not what we in the British Government would have wished. We feel that the arrangements made by Mr. John Stonehouse were right. As my noble friend will appreciate, both Houses of Parliament there, after an election, made it clear that they wished the mineral rights to be dealt with according to the Constitution. We expressed our view very strongly at the Constitutional Conference, but, in the light of their very strong views and what we in this country would regard as a mandate, we felt it was right to concede the point and to make the present provisions.

I accept the concern of my noble friend about the political structure, the size of the constituencies and the result of the votes. I think it should be recognised that some 80 per cent. of those who voted at the last election voted for those who are now in the present Parliament. However, I very much share the view of my noble friend, that the political Parties in Swaziland will use education and the normal good sense of the Swazi people to see that politics are discussed, and I do not have the slightest doubt that in due course the varying views of the Swazi people will be represented in their Lower Chamber.

When we looked at this question in terms of the Upper House, we found a way of making it possible for the King to nominate individuals who may have been in a political Party, and who may have fought in the last campaign. Under the previous Constitution this had not been possible, and when we put this point of view to the Swazi delegation they were very ready to accept an amendment to ensure that a candidate who had fought in a previous election would not he precluded from being nominated by the King to the other House. Clearly this gives some leeway, some flexibility, for (shall we say?) a minority political interest to be represented.


My Lords. I appreciate very much what my noble friend has said. Could he make some reference to what I regard as the most doubtful item in the Constitution, and that is the power of the King to block changes in the Constitution even if there is a democratic demand for such changes?


My noble friend did not really permit me to develop that, but I took note of what he said. Here I speak with slight diffidence. As I understand it, the Swazi people wished to ensure that the Constitution should not be changed too readily, and they provided what I am bound to say we in the Commonwealth Office felt were too rigorous or too limited powers. But this was the view which was expressed by the elected members who attended the conference, and I am bound to say—and I am sure they would understand if they were to read my words in Hansard—we accepted this with the greatest reluctance. We felt that this was something which one day, perhaps, they would wish they had not imposed upon themselves—too tight a control, too limited a provision for change in the Constitution. But this is what they waned. And as my noble friend will appreciate, when you are at a Constitutional Conference and you have elected representatives in front of you, genuinely elected representatives clearly representing the people of the territory, it is rather difficult to impose your will upon them, although we made our views very clear at this Conference.


Before my noble friend continues on that point, can he say very briefly whether in fact the regal power to block is determined by the King on the advice of his Ministers? If that is so, does than not provide some democratic connection?


My Lords, the Swazis are democratic, although, as my noble friend Lord Brockway has said, they are very much traditionalists. There is Parliamentary control: it requires Parliamentary consent for change.

My Lords, citizenship, to which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, referred, is one of these very difficult problems, particularly in Africa. We were absolutely determined that by this Act or this Constitution there should be no Stateless persons. We were under the impression that this had been achieved. I am bound to say that I have received a letter from a Member in another place; and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, himself raised the question of some 200 persons (I think it was) who may be ill difficult circumstances. The briefing that I received before I came here, although not in regard to the 200, was that we had dealt with this problem, and certainly that if there were exceptions these could be dealt with by administrative action. However, in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has said, and in view of the letter that. I have received, I am asking that this matter should be very carefully considered by the Department, although I say again that I am advised at this particular stage that if there were difficulties these could be dealt with by administrative action. Certainly there was no intention, either by Her Majesty's Government or by the Swazi people, that by this grant of independence anyone should be made Stateless.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Segal, spoke for us all when he said that we should warmly welcome the independence of the Swazi people but with a slight pang of regret that someone who has been so close to us should now be going alone into the outer world. I share this feeling for a people who have the courage to go out alone in a difficult world. I am sure that this small country with their confidence, the economic and political stability, and, I hope, their political growth, have a good future in front of them. I believe and hope, despite all, that they will be able to live in peace and find economic sustenance and development from their neighbours on each side. With these few words, I hope the House will approve this Bill and send a message to the Swazi people of good hope and of the everlasting friendship of the British people.

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