§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, before we were interrupted by the interesting and historic ceremony which we have just witnessed, we were devoting ourselves to the affairs of the 18 remaining dependent territories in the Commonwealth, and I felt impelled to take a brief part in this debate because I was the last Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in—I was about to say the independent Colonial Office, but perhaps the separate Colonial Office would be more strictly 53 accurate. I think we must all of us have felt the disadvantage of trying to discuss the affairs of 18 territories which are so entirely disparate in their size, problems and economic, social and political conditions, and I hope very much that the Government may take very seriously into account the suggestion which was made by my noble friend Lord Shepherd that we should consider possibly having a Select Committee of persons who could pay much closer attention to the individual problems of all these separate, small dependencies.
I am sure that those of us who had the pleasure of listening to the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, felt what a breath of fresh air he brought into your Lordships' House—someone who has immediate, first-hand and very thorough and detailed knowledge of one particular territory, in his case Berumuda—and how valuable it would be if, in the course of debates in both this and the other place, one could rely upon more immediate and up-to-date knowledge than I am afraid very often is the case with regard to places so many of which are far distant and not easy to reach, particularly by those who may not have the means in either time or money to make their way there. When I was Parliamentary Under-Secretary I had the privilege of going to a number of the then dependent territories, many of which, I am happy to say, are now independent; but I know enough of those which have not yet reached that stage, or which may never do so, to realise how very often they feel that their affairs are somewhat neglected. In saying that, I cast no reflection whatever either on the Ministers or on the officials concerned; it is just that, in the nature of things, when you are small arid very far away you feel that those concerned here in Whitehall or in Westminster do not always know accurately and comprehensively just what your problems may be.
I referred to those territories which may possibly never reach the status of full independence because I think we have now reached a point where very few of the 18 are likely to wish for that status. I thought it was a little odd, frankly, that the noble Marquess did not explain to the House the circumstances in which, as I understand it, the United Kingdom has withdrawn from the Committee of 24. I heard only a brief news report of 54 this, but as we are discussing dependent territories I very much hope that if by leave he speaks again the noble Marquess will enlighten us as to the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the Committee of 24 and the circumstances in which it was decided that we should withdraw. I am not for one moment criticising this decision, because I have always felt that the Committee of 24 has been one of the most unreasonable and unrealistic bodies attached to the United Nations, and I have always found it extremely irritating, quite frankly, to have ourselves belaboured and preached at by those whose intimate knowledge of the territories for whose welfare they presume to speak has often been notable by its absence.
I think we have suffered in the international sphere by some, at least, of the activities of this Committee. I would not suggest for one moment, of course, that it has been without its uses, hut, for example, the way in which it has entirely refused to take account of the circumstances of the Associated States is a case in point; and I would warmly agree with those who say that, while we have had a particular local difficulty over St. Kitts and Anguilla, this does not mean that the concept of an Associated State is not one which is sensible and fruitful in certain circumstances. As your Lordships will know, an Associated State is one for whose external affairs and defence the United Kingdom takes responsibility but which is independent in its own internal arrangements, and that this relationship is one which can be terminated at will by the State if it so wishes and thinks it is in its own interests.
But the attitude of the Committee of 24 has been that some of these small dependencies should be attached to the nearest large geographical unit regardless of whether this would be consonant with their wishes, their history or their interest. There are some obvious cases where this simply is not practical; there are others where I think most of us in this House would surely regard it as undesirable. I feel that it is quite right that successive Governments in the United Kingdom should stand very firmly by the principles which were enunciated by the last Administration, which are that we would not force any dependent territory into independence against its will, nor would we force any territory into an association 55 with some other country which it did not desire. This seems to me to be a perfectly proper line of policy, and I am glad to feel that Her Majesty's present Government will follow the lines which we laid down.
There are a number of matters which have already been discussed in this debate, and I would not wish to weary your Lordships by going over them again. However, I should like to pay my own tribute to the devoted service of those who were in the Colonial Service and in Her Majesty's Overseas Service serving in the Colonies, and to echo what was said by my noble friend Lord Shepherd; that is, that if there should be opportunity, with the various reorganisations now taking place in the combined Office, those who were at one time on the staff of the Colonial Office (who were, as I know, dispersed throughout Whitehall because, very often for family reasons, they were not able to undertake unrestricted overseas service) should at least be offered a chance, where appropriate, to return if they wish. I can think of several people I had the pleasure of working with in the Colonial Office who had to go to what was then the Board of Trade or the Department of Education and Science, and so on, and I felt at the time that a great deal of valuable experience was being dissipated. I hope also that we shall have assurances from the noble Marquess about the position of the dependent territories when it comes to legislation on immigration. I appreciate that he is not in a position at this moment to go into details; but I think he should know that many of us who have a longstanding interest in the dependent territories feel that they have a very particular claim upon this country and that we expect it to be taken into account in any legislation which may subsequently be put before us.
There is also the question of their position in relation to the negotiations for entry into E.E.C. We have had this afternoon some powerful speeches on the subject of Hong Kong. I have no doubt that there may be difficulties in relation to Hong Kong; but many of us are concerned about those territories which are dependent upon sugar or other particular crops which may be affected—although most of the "sugar countries", 56 if I may call them that, are now independent, among the most recent being Fiji. I had the pleasure of lunching to-day with the High Commissioner for Fiji, who assured me that the negotiations on their constitutional problems that I had to conduct were very much more difficult than those which my noble friend conducted prior to independence—and I feel a certain gratification in that.
My Lords, looking at the position of the various remaining territories, but without going into the details of too many of them, I appreciate the point made by the noble Marquess that nobody likes budgetary aid if it can be avoided. As he said, it is apt to distort the relationship between the Government here and the Government in the territory concerned and it limits the range and scope of local decisions. I was very pleased to hear the noble Marquess say that surveillance from Whitehall is somewhat less detailed than it used to be. I was always horrified at the amount of detail determined in Whitehall for far off territories whose problems were not always fully appreciated here.
While admitting that one wants to reach the point of financial independence for current expenditure as soon as possible, this leaves on one side expenditure for capital development aid and so forth. Nevertheless, one must be careful not to encourage a territory to go in for those types of development which may be remunerative but which can bring the most serious problems in their train. I refer particularly to tourism, because while the noble Marquess referred, in rather cheerful voice, to the exciting prospects for tourist development, those who have been to these territories will appreciate that while tourist development is all very well it sometimes brings in its train the most appalling social tensions and political tensions. Unfortunately, in many of these territories the social and political tensions are also racial—as the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, said about Bermuda. Jamaica is not one of the countries that we are now discussing; but I shall not forget my own shock when I went to Jamaica years ago and saw the palatial hotels, too expensive to breathe in, on the North shore and compared them with the abject poverty, not only in the slums of Kingston but in many rural areas. That is the kind of change which one would 57 not wish to see repeated in some of the smaller territories.
I see that there is discussion of tourism even in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands; and we have had the Seychelles mentioned, with its new international airport. It can bring the most acute problems. More than that, it may mean that certain territories, in their anxiety to increase their economic affluence, may enter into agreements that they subsequently regret deeply. My noble friend referred to the British Virgin Islands. We should like to know just where matters now stand; because here we have an almost classic example of a very small territory possibly impelled, or partly impelled, by the American Virgin Islands—which, as we know, are rather better equipped than the British ones—to enter into agreements with the developers, which have since been regarded as being against the true interests of the inhabitants of the British Virgin Islands. They have been seeking the assistance of Her Majesty's Government to get them out of this difficulty—and this is not something which happened in the distant past; it happened in 1967.
So, with all our enthusiasm for tourist exploitation and with all our dislike of budgetary aid, I implore Her Majesty's Government not to encourage development of a nature or at a speed which can bring into territories that have not hitherto suffered from them some great social and perhaps racial difficulties. Nor should there be any encouragement for them to enter into arrangements such as we have heard of in Bermuda, agreements which do not bring very much benefit in the long run to the territory concerned but which can be of great benefit to exploiters who come from without. I trust that we may have some further reassurances on these matters.
Finally, my Lords, while I do not intend to go into the detailed affairs of all those territories in which I am very interested, it may be known to your Lordships that I have a long-standing interest in Gibraltar; and I should like to know from the noble Marquess where matters now stand. We heard a great deal last year about the "honeymoon" period; and it was suggested, I think, in October, that the honeymoon was at an end. I should be happy to know how matters now stand in Gibraltar. I should 58 also like to know how Her Majesty's Government view the developments of the economic affairs of Gibraltar. There was a Beeching Plan for Gibraltar—not quite so drastic as that for British Railways but a plan which suggested that Gibraltar could within a measurable time be self-sufficient. From what I have heard, this appears not to be entirely acceptable to the people of Gibraltar—particularly in relation to the need for workers from outside the territory to be brought in to help the tourist industry. The President of the Chamber of Commerce, who is in the United Kingdom, not long ago said that the dream had developed into chaos. Perhaps he thought that it was really a nightmare. I hardly suppose it to be as serious as that; but it would be interesting and useful to know something of the present position in this particularly sensitive part of the world. If Spanish pressure has been reduced because of pressures on their own territories in North Africa, I can only say that it is time that that happened.
I should not wish to press the noble Marquess to say anything more about the Falkland Islands, but that also is a difficult area and one which has given rise to considerable headaches. I should be glad to know about the rate of progress in the New Hebrides; because the effects of the condominion in earlier days were that was the least developed and almost the least cherished of all our dependent territories. I hope very much that we have been able to resolve some of the difficulties of that rather peculiarly difficult form of government and that now we may be slightly less ashamed than, frankly, I always was, at the way in which we handled—or failed to handle—the problems of the New Hebrides. I shall be interested to hear what the noble Marquess may say about some of these matters, and I would reiterate our gratitude to my noble friend Lord Shepherd for having given us the chance to discuss them.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
My Lords, I have looked forward to this debate, and with particular interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. He always speaks with the greatest sincerity, and this afternoon has certainly spoken with sincerity and ability. As a former Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the previous Government, the 59 noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, made many visits overseas. He travelled extensively, but the great experience which must have come his way as a Minister is reinforced by other experiences perhaps nearly as important. For a time the noble Lord lived and worked overseas. I am sure that he found the experience and the knowledge gained through his first-hand association with people in overseas territories of value to him when he became a Minister. It is certainly of value to your Lordships' House that we should have noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who are able to speak with such experience.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, sought a good deal of information about the present policies of Her Majesty's Government, particularly for the betterment and well-being of the inhabitants of our remaining colonies. This I expected from the noble Lord, bearing in mind the way he conducted himself as a Minister. I am sure that the noble Lord is deeply concerned for the welfare of peoples overseas. He covered a wide canvas, referring to the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert Islands, Gibraltar and so on. I particularly liked his idea of a comprehensive five-year plan for the development of our remaining colonial territories with an opportunity to debate this in Parliament. I hope that the Government will give the most careful consideration to the noble Lord's proposals.
In the context of Hong Kong, and referring to an incident which I cannot now recall, the noble Lord spoke of the removal of the "colonial stigma". This is the only point on which I disagree with what Lord Shepherd had to say. As a former member of the Colonial Service I cannot accept that there was any stigma attached to the colonial era, but I will deal with that at the conclusion of my speech. Similarly. I did not like the words used by my noble friend Lord Lothian when he referred to the disappearance of the Empire without referring to the Commonwealth which evolved from the Empire. It may be that I am rather over-sensitive in these matters, but I feel that in this context the words used are of the utmost importance.
To put the matter in its proper perspective, I should like to touch briefly 60 on the subject of aid to and development of the dependent and independent nations, because this has an important bearing economically in the terms of the noble Lord's Motion. As regards the scale of development and assistance to colonial territories, in the ten years from 1945 this amounted to £120 million. To assure the continuation of this assistance after independence, the new policy, announced in 1958, provided for making loans available for independent Commonwealth countries as well as for the colonies. Under the aid legislation enacted since the Second World War, Britain has disbursed a total of £2,400 million in aid. This is no mean achievement; but in addition, my Lords, Britain is also a major contributor to the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations. As well as providing funds, Britain provides more experts and advisers to the United Nations programme than any other member country. I understand that all this is to continue under the new Overseas Development administration. We have progressively reduced the conditions upon which development loans were originally granted, and in appropriate cases we have halved all interest due. In some cases we have dispensed with interest altogether.
I have touched briefly on the subject of aid which has been and still is a contribution to the social and economic welfare of the colonial peoples. But if aid is to succeed and to be sustained, and even increased in future, it must be understood that the provision of aid as a policy of any British Government has the support of the British people; that is to say, of the taxpayer. It is an unfortunate fact—this is my personal view—that over the past twenty years or so the British people have on occasions been the recipients of irresponsible attacks at a time when aid was being disbursed and when there were social problems in Britain which needed financial aid and which were crying out for a solution. Housing is but one of the many examples which could be quoted. I am of opinion that attacks made on us by some coloured leaders of emergent nations, their distortion of our past association with them and the questioning of our motives during the colonial era have been triggered off in many cases by extreme Left-wing speeches made in this country.
61 My Lords, after serving for thirty years in the Colonial Service I must say that I never thought I should see that happen. If during that time there had been any question in my mind about the sincerity of British policies, or the justification for them, I could never have been as happy among people overseas as I was; and to-day I should not have the privilege of the friendship of many of those people. Of course we have to understand that speeches attacking us and which are made on occasion by coloured leaders from overseas are possibly for home consumption and do not necessarily reflect the private opinions of the speakers. And so, my Lords, I would make a plea for tolerance: that we should understand the position of the overseas leaders in this connection. But I cannot be tolerant about irresponsible speeches made in this country impugning former motives and policies to which I have given a lifetime of service. I say this to-day because the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, refers in his Motion tothe need for a full review of policy …As sincere as I believe the noble Lord to be, I think that if there were to be any review great care would have to be exercised; and certainly we should proceed on the record of our past and not allow it to be distorted. If we are to get matters into the right perspective we must stop, or at least answer, such distortions when we meet them. If we do that, and I believe it is right that we should do so, we shall regain not only respect at home but also something which is of equal importance, respect overseas. With this established and for the reasons I have given, I venture to see not only a better future for the colonial territories and emergent nations but also a strengthening of the ties which all of us wish to see.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ LORD REAY
My Lords, this Motion unites two fundamentally distinct propositions, each with fundamentally different arguments, into one argument to increase our aid to the dependent territories. Supporters of this Motion believe that we should maintain our links with the dependent territories for the same reason as they argue for the maintenance of the Commonwealth. They start with that proposition. They then argue in favour of an aid policy with the same 62 reasons as they would argue for an aid policy for the emergent countries. I would argue that the proposition that we should maintain our existing links with dependent territories just as they are is no longer a correct policy, and that the aid to them should not be considered outside the total aid policy to all emergent countries. Therefore, I shall devote my speech to attacking one of the assumptions on which the terms of this Motion is based.
I shall make only one remark on the question of giving aid to a special degree to dependent territories. I think that we should look at what is happening in other fields. In the field of Commonwealth trade, undoubtedly the tendency is towards the establishment of an equal footing for Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries. In the last part of the 1960s we supported at Geneva, at UNCTAD, a move for what was rather clumsily called the non-discriminatory preferential treatment for developing countries. The Commonwealth is also likely to lose preferential treatment in immigration. I believe that, in keeping with these tendencies, aid to Commonwealth dependent territories should be considered according to whatever general principles are used with regard to developing countries as a whole and should not be accorded priority for the simple reason alone of their dependent relationship to us. Therefore, the arguments for aid, the amount, the form it takes and the distribution of it, would better be advanced and opposed in a debate on our policy of aid alone. I do not propose to say anything more about aid, but since some of my arguments would apply equally to the Associated States as well as to the dependent territories, I shall be drawing some examples from those territories, even though they are not explicitly mentioned in the terms of the Motion.
I should like to recall a recent occasion when the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was speaking in this House. In the Defence debate on November 5, he was arguing against the Government's proposals to have a permanent base in Singapore. He used a convincing argument. It was an argument of principle. It was a radical argument. He sought to undermine the whole basis of the Government's 63 policy. It was also an intelligent argument—indeed, it was one of the most intelligent arguments I can remember from the noble Lord. He said two things. He asked, in the first place, whether the Government could be really sure that in the event of their being needed, British troops would not become involved in internal security operations; and he argued, in the second place, that if an attack had to be met from outside, the relatively small force would either have to be withdrawn or be reinforced on a massive scale.
Now what is the difference between that situation, where we assume peace-keeping responsibility in a part of Asia, and the situation we are discussing to-day, where we assume responsibility for in some cases defence and external affairs only and in other cases internal affairs as well, in a host of islands and territories scattered throughout the world? How is it possible to base the argument for opposing a British presence in Singapore on the arguments which the noble Lord used and yet continue to support the arrangements we have with these dependent and Associated Territories? The assumption of responsibility in both cases is the same. Even the token show of force is the same, though in this case the force has often perforce to be a travelling show.
There is a small Army garrison in Honduras. There are Royal Engineers and aircraft in Anguilla. There are two frigates, some helicopters and a detachment of Royal Marines "operating" (in the words of the 1970 Statement on the Defence Estimates) in the Caribbean. There is an ice patrol ship which goes down for the summer season to the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic. There are some Royal Engineers on the Gilbert and Ellice Islands and on the Solomon Islands. And so on.
It would be a mistake to assume that our intention to defend them is only formal. In 1968, in a debate in this House on the Falkland Islands, one of the Ministers then responsible, who happened by a coincidence to be the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said this:I did in fact say that so long as the sovereignty of the Falklands resided with Britain their defence was our responsibility and that responsibility we should discharge.64 So we are apparently ready to go to war—or so some people believe, or at least some people say in public that they believe for territories some thousands of miles away from us, when the territories are without value to us and might, without our support, be without value to their present inhabitants.
If one believed that there was less likely to be a need for defence in these territories than in the case of the Far East of Asia, I think this would be a dangerous belief. Régimes change, and change even drastically. Power shifts from one group to another in a country, and relative power changes between one country and another. New groupings are attempted; secessions are attempted. Even the mood of the same Government may change. All these things can be expected to happen. It is impossible to predict the variety of situations in which we could feel obliged to defend other countries.
Let us remember the curious situation of Anguilla. In that case, we were responsible only for defence and external affairs. I should like to quote paragraph 146 of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry which says:Associated States, it is said, are in exclusive charge of their internal affairs and Britain's responsibility for their defence and external affairs does not extend to intervention in any controversy over a domestic political issue. This raises the delicate question—when, if ever, does an internal affair cease to be exclusively an internal affair and become an external affair or partially so? What if a change of Government is promoted by subversion from abroad? What if the Government is overthrown by force of arms imported by a small but resolute group? Are external affairs involved if action is taken which threatens or breaks up the integrity of an Associated State? The permutations are many. And they give rise to serious issues.Involvement, even where we have only external responsibility, goes deeper than the matter of defence or of dealing with the problems of federation. We stretch our imagination beyond the point of realism in order to try to believe that the territories may become more self-supporting. We are made to look ridiculous; as we were made to look ridiculous in the case of Anguilla precisely because this was an imperial action without relation this time to any need of our own.
Why do we run these risks? Is it for economic or for commercial reasons? 65 These territories, as we have heard this afternoon, are perpetually expensive. In virtually no case do we have vital or substantial trade with them. We shall hardly benefit from the economic prosperity to which some of them may finally attain. Do we do it to have them in the sterling area?—perhaps one day for our middle class to have a British holiday in the sun, from a country still beset by balance of payments problems? Plainly not, it is not essential for a member of the sterling area to be a member of the Commonwealth. Is it for strategic reasons? Though some of these islands may be well placed now, deterrent warfare lies surely with submarines, with longer range missiles, or even with the use of space, not with strategic islands. Even those that are well placed will become quickly useless, as some others once did when sail gave way to steam. Defence will become a neighbourhood matter, or in the case of world defence, for groups of Powers or for giant Powers. At any rate, our lingering pretension to a global role must, I believe, be absolutely abandoned, for in reality we have almost abandoned the readiness to make the commitment that the role demanded.
These reasons are not the answer. We maintain this relationship because we simply do not know how to get rid of the problem; and we do not know how to get rid of the problem because we dare not do anything which the inhabitants of those places say they do not want us to do. That is the long and the short of it. Do they want independence? If they want independence, they can have it, because it is our policy to give them what they say they want. If they want us to continue a pledge to protect them, and support them to an economic level which they will never otherwise be able to reach in the places that they inhabit, we will agree to this because it is our policy to do whatever they ask us to do.
If our policy was to become, as I believe it should become, one of disengagement, then it would make some sense to start with commitments from which it is easiest to disengage, in particular those to the Associated States where we are responsible for the external affairs only. As the noble Baroness, Lady White, made plain, the agreements are terminable freely by either party. So why should we interpret that to mean that 66 we should wait for the other party to wish to terminate it? I would certainly not suggest that this is a policy which should be adopted with brutal suddenness, nor that it should necessarily be applied in all cases at the same time; and perhaps there may even be good reasons for not disengaging at all in some cases. I do not suggest that this should be done without consulting the wishes of the inhabitants: merely that their wishes should cease to be paramount. I suggest only that we should have a general goal, and that that should be disengagement.
In the cases of clearly dependent territories it is more necessary to distinguish between different examples. The most familiar perhaps are Hong Kong, the Falklands and Gibraltar. They have in common the unfortunate fact that they belong geographically—I repeat, geographically—to other countries. Of the three., Hong Kong I believe alone will solve itself. I believe that Hong Kong continues to exist by virtue of the tolerance of China, a tolerance which is based partly on usefulness; that its connotation to the British people is primarily as an economic and commercial unit, and that its economic future must belong to Asia.
The Falklands and Gibraltar are the most difficult of all the cases. They are difficult because unquestionably there exists an emotional claim on them by the people of this country. On the face of it, it is difficult to understand this emotional solidarity in face of the different characteristics of the peoples of these two territories as between each other, and as between the peoples of the territories and the people of this country. I believe that the explanation lies in the identity of the two countries that lay claim to them. Both of them are Catholic and Spanish speaking. There has been a tradition of imperial enmity between us and the old Spanish bloc which is almost as it comprehensible to our traditions as China, and I believe that our support for these two territories is only explicable in terms of a continuance of this political polarity. Our powerful demands for sovereignty over Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands are the last concrete expressions of a cultural protest.
I would respect these emotional demands. I think that we must simply bide time. The picture will change if Spain wishes to become a modern country 67 and a partner in a modern Europe. The picture will change if we join Europe, and if they join Europe. The picture will change if Argentina establishes a Government that in time we are able to accept as being a popular Government. In the meantime, a policy of combining negotiations with Spain and Argentina with an obstinacy over principles of sovereignty seems to me correct, provided that in the process we do not persuade ourselves that our present position has to be the final solution.
I should not like it to be inferred from the arguments that I have used that in my opinion all the territories should be shed from us. Perhaps there may be reasons of proximity for maintaining our ties with Bermuda, if Bermuda wants them; there may be reasons of history for keeping St. Helena, and of profit for keeping the British Antarctic Territory. I only argue that the selection should depend on the political facts of the present and not those of the past.
There will be protests that an abandonment of the principle of choice by the inhabitants is inhumane. But this principle of humanity that will be invoked is simply a mask for our inhibition from taking the initiative. There are desperate areas ignored in other developing countries in order that areas within the Commonwealth should be considered simply because they are within the Commonwealth area. It will be protested that some of the communities may not survive. Well, I doubt whether we can force communities to survive if modern conditions make it unrealistic for them to do so. I strongly doubt if the Gilbert and Ellice Islands can be integrated as a single community into a modern world with our help alone.
There will be protests that some will be defenceless. Well, there are other countries which are realistically defenceless from their neighbours, yet are independent, or are forced by a recognition of this defencelessness into pacts or groupings that are more dependable or realistic than any that we can offer. We must discover that by commanding that tradition be observed we may be forcing others (even if only by the bribery of economic aid) into being the victims of our own illusions.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I propose to refer entirely to Gibraltar, for, like the noble Baroness, Lady White. I have a long-standing interest in and affection for the Rock and its people. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in his interesting opening speech made two important points. One was that the Minister responsible for Spain should not also be responsible for Gibraltar. The other excellent suggestion, as I thought, which was supported by the noble Baroness, Lady White, was that a Select Committee should be set up with regard to colonial matters. I think that such a Select Committee could provide a most desirable form of direct political access to Westminster and its Members, for elected members of dependent territories such as Gibraltar and others.
Now I should like to turn to the Constitution of Gibraltar. If I may call it such, I would term it "the 1969 Shepherd Constitution". I would say to the noble Lord opposite that, on the whole, I think it is a reasonable Constitution, though perhaps not so reasonable or workable as the Lansdowne Constitution; but I will leave it at that. I think, though, that friction could—I repeat "could"—arise from the anomalies which are created by the Dispatch of May 23, 1969, which accompanied the Constitution, and which may be found in the Gibraltar Gazette. It is interesting that this Dispatch is not included in the Gibraltar Constitution Order 1969 which is available in this country. I am wondering why it is not, because it is an interesting document. At this point I should like to stress very much indeed that remarks that I make are in no way intended as a criticism of the present Governor, Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Varyl Begg, who is certainly doing his best to interpret the Constitution as liberally as possible.
To return to the Dispatch which, in effect, represents instructions to "a Governor" on how to interpret or implement the Constitution, certain anomalies exist. For instance, Section 49(1) says, under the heading "Consultation with Gibraltar Council":Subject to the provisions of this section the Governor shall consult with the Gibraltar Council in the formulation of policy and in the exercise of all powers conferred upon him by this Constitution or any other law.69 Then, on page 3 of the Dispatch, referring to the Governor's responsibilities, one reads:Although the Governor has this responsibility, Section 49 of the new Constitution provides machinery under which such matters may continue to be discussed as appropriate with Ministers in the Gibraltar Council.Do not the words "as appropriate" mean that the Governor has the power to debar any discussion on any topic?
At page 4 of the Agreed Communiqu. on the Gibraltar Constitutional talks of July 24, 1968, we find the following words:Decisions of the Council of Ministers will take effect unless the Governor requires that any particular decision should be referred to the Gibraltar Council on the grounds that it is within the scope of the matters for which he is executively responsible or closely concerns those matters.Does this not mean, in effect, that a Governor can forbid any discussion in the Council of Ministers?—for any matter (if so required) can be deemed to be closely concerned with, or to overlap or to appear to overlap. I am referring to domestic and non-domestic matters.
I turn now to page 4 of the Dispatch which reads as follows:Civil servants will work to the Deputy Governor in respect of matters which remain within the direct responsibility of the Governor. In respect of defined domestic matters, which are the responsibility of Ministers, the civil servants concerned will work direct to the Ministers responsible. But when and where matters arise which overlap or appear to overlap both fields, there will need to be direct contact between the civil servants concerned and the Deputy Governor.Does this provision not place a civil servant in an invidious position? Is the civil servant required to go through the Minister concerned regarding matters which overlap or appear to overlap; or does "direct contact" in effect mean that whatever a Minister may discuss with him can cause the civil servant to report to the Deputy Governor?
I think it is an important point because it can debar (shall we say?) discussion on certain important matters between a Minister and his civil servants. The Minister may feel: "Here is a matter on which I should like to seek his advice", but he may hesitate to do so because the civil servant could find himself in a position whereby he would have to report directly and immediately to the Deputy Governor.
70 Turning now to page 5, we find that the Communiqu. says:The Commonwealth Office shall arrange for an expert team to visit Gibraltar to advise on the administrative arrangements needed to implement the merger of the legislative council and the city council.Would my noble friend not agree that possibly the time has come for some management consultants to be sent out to Gibraltar for a few days with a view to bringing about a high wage and high productivity society on the Rock? For instance, they could consider the streamlining of the departmental structures in the processes of government for greater speed and effectiveness. They could also consider the improvement of productivity in administrative services, public works and municipal services. Perhaps they could also consider the question of the raising of the level of managerial skills. I believe I am right in saying that the Conservative Party in 1969–70 engaged a firm called P.A. International Management Consultants Limited to conduct research into the mechanisms of government and ways of streamlining the Civil Service structure. I am wondering, my Lords, whether, in effect, a similar survey could not be undertaken in Gibraltar.
Regarding economic development, I believe Ministry of Defence expenditure represents 60 per cent. of the economic structure of Gibraltar, while the private sector represents the balance of 40 per cent. As one cannot foresee that the Ministry of Defence expenditure will increase over the years, I therefore feel that there is a strong case for doing what we can to assist the private sector if one wishes to see an increasingly self-sufficient and self-supporting economic future for Gibraltar. This private sector lives mainly off the port, tourism and trade. Therefore, for Gibraltar's wealth to increase it has to become a communication centre by sea and by air, since by land it is now isolated by the Spanish frontier blockade, as was stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. As at the moment air communications or civil aviation is not a defined domestic matter under Section 55 of the Constitution, would it not be desirable to have in Gibraltar a committee or council similar to the regional advisory committees which are referred to in the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960, Section 5(2)(h), which would be consulted by the Air Transport Licensing Board, as required?
71 I should like to quote from this Act, which says:Without prejudice as aforesaid, the Minister may by regulations make provision …for the setting up of regional advisory committees for the purpose of advising the Board on matters relating to their functions under this Act with particular regard to the circumstances and requirements of particular areas, …As Gibraltar is in a cabotage area, I think there may be grounds for setting up a committee which would be consulted by the A.T.L.B.
On March 26 last, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, speaking for Her Majesty's Government (I am quoting from col. 1498 in Hansard) said:New services by a United Kingdom airline that were duly licensed by the Air Transport Licensing Board would be welcomed by Her Majesty's Government, who would also be pleased to see new services in Gibraltar by foreign airlines that were operated within the ambit of the United Kingdom's various bilateral air service agreements.That, I think, is encouraging. That was said on March 26 last year. I should like to ask my noble friend what is the present position, and whether Her Majesty's Government have had any talks with the Portuguese Government with a view to implementing the possibilities as laid down in the Treaty series, Cmd. 8597 of 1952, which allows for an air service to operate between Gibraltar and Lisbon. I would say that I consider that Gibair could very usefully operate their Viscount, especially with a view to filling in hours on a yearly basis, between Gibraltar and Lisbon. I should like to remind the House, if I may, that the Dispatch to which I have referred considers, generally speaking (on page 3), matters which clearly affect the economy of Gibraltar, as matters of domestic concern.
However, Gibraltar Ministers would thus appear to be responsible for the ends (shall we say?), yet not the means of achieving these ends, for they cannot either determine or control the pattern of air communications on which so much of the economic growth of Gibraltar depends. This question of Gibraltar is a highly important one. I am sure that the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, will feel, as did the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that we must sustain the people of Gibraltar to the utmost.
72 Finally, I should like to ask him this. As the last time an official Ministerial delegation came over from Gibraltar was in December, 1969, I believe, to have discussion on matters concerning Gibraltar and this country, are Her Majesty's Government in effect considering inviting the Chief Minister and other colleagues over here, or will a Minister from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office be visiting Gibraltar in the not too distant future?
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I appreciate the debating character of this House and therefore I should have liked to respond to the speech to which we have just listened, but I am going to ask the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, to forgive me if I do not. He raised important points, which I am perfectly sure the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, will consider. In concluding this debate, before the official speech, I think the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, will understand if I take a rather broader picture than that of dealing with the important problems of Gibraltar which he has raised.
I first want very sincerely to thank my noble friend Lord Shepherd for having initiated this debate. He was Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and I know that during that period he was deeply concerned with the people of these dependent countries. I know on his last visit to them how he felt that the most constructive contribution which we must make must be in their social and economic sphere, and raising the standard of life of their people. The speech with which he opened this debate was characteristically constructive. I hope therefore that Her Majesty's Government will consider very seriously that there should be a five-year comprehensive plan to look at this whole problem.
The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, gave us a very clear picture of the development in this area. May I say just this to him: I was a little surprised that he limited the number of the dependencies to 19; my own list is longer. But perhaps in limiting it to 19 he grouped together many of the scattered islands which I have regarded separately. I was particularly interested in his indication that the intention is to set up a special department for dealing with this 73 problem, and I wish it well. If we look at the remaining dependencies, the total population of which is only 5 million, compared with the 500 million at the end of the last war, we are inclined to think that the problem is small. Numerically it is, but the difficulties are very complex indeed.
There are three large, or comparatively large, areas within the remaining dependencies: Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Hong Kong. Perhaps I should add Honduras, about which I will say something later. I think we can accept the fact that, as with other large islands in the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Bahamas will pass to their independence, though we have to recognise that problems will be involved in the election by the majority of non-whites to control of their Legislatures, in relation to those who have economic and social domination.
I have not been able to listen to every speech in this debate, but I was a little surprised in the references which have been made to Hong Kong that it was assumed that our responsibility for those islands is to be long continued. Is it not the case that our lease to Hong Kong very shortly comes to an end, and then the problem of her future will have to be considered? At present Hong Kong is useful to us and useful to China. It is useful to us for trade and as a military base; it is useful to China as a continued outlet and communication with the rest of the world. What its future will be will largely depend on the development within China itself. There are now some signs that China is moving towards a more constructive policy of association with the rest of the world. And may I say that, while I disagreed with nearly everything else that the Prime Minister said in his speech at Delhi, I welcomed his strong advocacy that China should be brought into the United Nations. What happens in Hong Kong will largely depend upon what happens in China itself.
When we turn to the other dependencies, we see that there are economic problems and political problems. They are scattered in the Caribbean; they are scattered over the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are islands of extraordinary beauty, and they are being made the sunshine playgrounds of the rich in the 74 world. Bungalows which are bought are occupied for three months of the year during the wintry season of the homelands; and then let during the rest of the year to visitors. These palatial hotels, to which my noble friend Lady White referred, the private beaches for the visitors, the casinos, the night clubs, the stream of shops whose goods are almost solely within the reach of the visiting rich, are creating in those islands an artificial, a class and a colour division.
I was in Barbados at Independence by the generosity of the State, which placed me in one of those bungalows, owned, curiously enough, by a leading member of the opposite Party, where he dwelt for three months and which he leased for the rest of the year, and I know the extraordinary charge which the Barbados Government had to bear for me to be with my wife in that bungalow for one week. Tourism is necessary for these islands—it is one of the sources of their economy—but the contrast which one sees in the islands between the luxury of the rich who come from America, from Canada and from this country, and the lives of the people of the territory is a contrast which cannot continue if there is to be solution in those islands of their economic problems.
I see two ways in which we can begin to deal with this problem. The first is this: as the leases for properties which are owned externally by citizens of America, Canada, or Britain come to an end those leases should revert to the people of the islands, so that the wealth which comes from the visitors may pass to the people themselves. The second proposal is this. I have seen the prices which are charged, and honestly I am amazed that there are any people in the world so rich as to be able to afford to live in those hotels. The hotels, the casinos, and the shops are often externally owned—owned by Americans, by British people and by Canadians. Sometimes they are owned by the rich elite of the islands themselves. In that situation, if the wealth which comes from tourism is to pass to the people there must be the heaviest possible taxation of the extortionate profits and riches which result from the system of tourism as it exists in those places at the present time. The whole emphasis must be placed on giving the peoples of the islands the 75 opportunity to rise to a higher social standard, which will primarily be by education: and the people from the rich countries of the earth who enjoy the sunshine and the beaches should contribute to the advancement of the people in that social sphere.
My Lords, the second subject to which I want to refer on the economic side is the manner in which the land, the raw materials and the industries of those islands are now becoming possessed by financial interests outside. In the past, British colonial economic policy regarded those islands only as a source of foodstuffs, principally sugar and bananas. Then bauxite was discovered, phosphates were discovered and financial interests came in to exploit them. Those countries, many of them obtaining their independence, understanding that they must correct the imbalance, give all kinds of privileges to financiers and capitalists to exploit their natural resources.
During this debate two references have been made, one by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who opened our debate, and the other by the noble Baroness, Lady White, to what has recently been revealed in this respect in the British Virgin Islands. I want to make a full reference to that subject. There was a developers' agreement in 1967. The peoples of the island wanted industrial development, they were prepared to pay almost any price for it, and the price they paid was almost incredible. The Anegada Development Corporation was given a 199 years lease on four-fifths of the total territory of the island and it was promised exemption for all persons and companies living or operating within the leased area—that is, four-fifths of the island. It was promised that there should be, for persons or companies, no taxes on income, no taxes on profits, no taxes on capital and no death duties. Wickham's Cay Limited, were given exemption from customs duty for all the materials used in land reclamation on the island. With knowledge of some of these contracts, I do not think I have ever read a contract which was so unfair as that.
Those who are practising certain self-government within the British Virgin Islands are now challenging. Their Chief Minister, Mr. Stoutt, has been in 76 this country recently. He has offered 4.8 million dollars in compensation. That has been rejected by the developers. I understand that Mr. Joseph Godber, the Minister of State, is shortly going to the British Virgin Islands and seeking some solution of this problem. I do not know whether the noble Marquess is able to say anything about that matter. I only express the hope that Mr. Godber will find a basis of solution which will mean no continuing burden on the people of the island. My Lords, I sound this warning—it was intimated in that objective speech which we had from the noble Earl, Lord Cowley. Inevitably, under the conditions which I have described, there is now arising in these islands a militant movement; one can hardly go to a Caribbean island to-day without seeing Black Panther emerging. And unless we are able to deal generously and justly with this problem of the exploitation of these peoples by these external financial corporations, there will be movements arising where compensation will not be considered at all.
I pass from that economic survey to the political. The age of colonialism is passing. Britain, according to the Minister, has only 19 dependencies remaining. Yet I have the impression, listening to the debate to-day, that most of the minds of those who have spoken are still thinking in terms of our responsibility for colonies remaining for quite a long period. I do not believe that that is going to be true. I except Lord Reay's thoughtful speech, provocative in some ways; one agrees and one disagrees. I think we have to face the fact to-day that the responsibility of particular Powers for particular parts of the world is now ending. It is no longer a matter of certain British dependencies; these islands, scattered over the world, are possessed by many ex-colonial Powers, and we must face the fact that control by a particular Power of other territories is now obsolete, and that if any protection is to be given at all it must be under an international authority.
In recent years, and with some reason, the United Nations has lost some of its image. There is the war in Vietnam; it cannot intervene. There is Nigeria-Biafra; it has to stand aside. There is the Middle East—indeterminate efforts, 77 decisions made which it cannot implement, even though those decisions are good in principle. The United Nations has decreased in international stature. We must recreate it. I believe there must be an international authority. And I suggest that one way in which we might recreate it would be to pass over all the dependent territories, not only of the old British Colonial Empire but of the other empires, to the direct trusteeship of the United Nations. And under that trusteeship I would give three alternative decisions for the people themselves to make. Some of them might group as new independent countries; some of them might associate more nearly with the mainland territory; some of them might have self-government under the continued protection of the United Nations.
My Lords, I conclude with one point which I feel will bring a response. We are now greatly concerned about environment. These islands in the Caribbean, in the Pacific, with their beauty, with their palm groves and their coral waves sweeping over the sands, these islands are nature's reserve for plants and birds and animal life which otherwise might so easily be destroyed. There is an island in the Pacific: phosphate is discovered there; a company takes over; the whole population is evicted; they return as labourers in a cement-machine, ugly island, where before there had been beauty. My Lords, I suggest that if we are looking at the problem of these small islands from a world point of view, we have to hope that there may be certain retreats of this natural beauty and of this simple life which may even correct in our own minds and our own spirits something of the deformation which comes from our materialistic and industrialised age. If that is to be done, I believe also it must be done on an international scale and not by one Power. I should like to see within a reconstructed United Nations an environmental conservation unit which would have the duty, in this utilitarian, industrialised environment in which we exist, at least to reserve some places of beauty and of retreat for our minds and for our spirits.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, I am sure that all your Lordships will agree that we have had a very useful 78 and interesting debate this afternoon. It has ranged very widely indeed, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, can have no complaints to-day that this matter has not been properly considered by Parliament, and that we have not taken the greatest interest in it. Before attempting to wind up the debate, I can assure noble Lords that Her Majesty's Government feel that they can do nothing but benefit from the views that have been expressed to-day and the advice that we have received, and I can assure the House that it will receive every attention.
I have been asked a great many questions and I have been interested in a great many of the things that have been put to me. Before attempting to answer some of the questions I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, on his very interesting maiden speech. When he started his speech and said that he had lived for the past eight years in Bermuda, and then went on to describe the joys of so doing, I thought that we were very fortunate that we had managed to extract him at all to come to London at this time of the year. If I may say so, I hope that this process will long continue, and that we may continue to have the benefit of his special knowledge on this subject as and when it is needed.
The noble Earl asked me two or three questions which perhaps I may deal with at this stage. The first was the question of what the Government feel would be the effect on trade with Bermuda, and on Bermuda with the Commonwealth and EFTA countries if Britain joins the E.E.C. The position is that the Six have agreed in principle to the association of Bermuda with the enlarged Community under Part IV of the Treaty of Rome. Provided that the rest of our negotiations are successful, this will mean that, by and large, our trading relations with Bermuda will remain unchanged after enlargement. Any preference now extended to the United Kingdom will of course then have to apply to all members of the enlarged Community. Bermuda's relations with EFTA countries who join the Community along with the United Kingdom would be conducted along the same lines as those with ourselves, and relations with those EFTA countries who did not join the Community would be governed by the 79 provision of whatever agreements these countries concluded with the enlarged E.E.C. I hope that when the noble Earl comes to read that in the morning it may be comprehensible to him.
His second question concerned Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards the split accounts and investments in Bermudan banks with regard to U.S. dollar accounts, Bermudan sterling, dollar accounts, et cetera. The answer is very simple; the Government have, and can have, no attitude towards arrangements made by the banks in Bermuda in the interests of their own customers, provided, of course, that they do not infringe Bermudan law in any way.
The third point he raised was as to the constitutional position. Bermuda has an advanced constitution under which the Governor retains direct responsibility only for defence, external affairs, and the maintenance of internal security and public order. In this last field he keeps the elected Ministers very closely informed of his thinking. I hope that the noble Earl will come again and ask us a great many more questions.
I shall try to answer some of the questions that have been put to me, but I hope I shall be acquitted of discourtesy if I do not answer them all. What I shall undertake to do, as is normal in these proceedings, is to write to any noble Lord whom I have not been able to satisfy. I was very interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and especially his survey of the future in so far as Hong Kong is concerned, and particularly in possible relationships with the E.E.C. I can assure him that this matter is receiving close attention by our negotiators and, as he will be aware, we are having a debate on the E.E.C. next week and possibly this matter, and other related matters which have cropped up this afternoon, may well be discussed then. I will take note of what he said about the question of an Ombudsman in Hong Kong—indeed, I think he thought there should be one in every colony. However, that is something that perhaps requires a little more consideration.
On the subject of Hong Kong, the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was good enough to warn me of some of the questions she was going to raise, and she 80 was also good enough to say that she quite understood if I could not get the answers in time to reply this evening. I shall certainly write to her on most of those matters. I have not been able to get the information she requires. Some of it is fairly statistical, and it would be easier to follow in writing. What I can say at this stage is that certain of the matters that she raised—I am thinking of the primary education question, which I agree is important—are at the moment the subject of correspondence between the Government and the Governor of Hong Kong. I recognise her sincerity on this problem of Hong Kong, and I think the whole House shares in her worries about the situation. Although we must recognise that they have special problems which, to my mind, they have been overcoming extremely satisfactorily, of course there is a lot yet to be done.
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Garner, for his most interesting remarks. I shall certainly take note of what he said about encouraging home-based staff to visit the territories whose interests they are looking after. I am sure that this is very important indeed, and I will certainly do my best to encourage this as far as I possibly can. He said one thing with which I think we all agree, and which is perhaps the most important point of this whole debate; that is, that what we must do so far as the dependent territories are concerned is to show that we care. I think that the remarks made by noble Lords this afternoon go a long way to proving that this House does care, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for making the point.
The noble Baroness, Lady White, asked me a number of questions, about one or two of which I can give her some information. I should prefer not to discuss the immigration question this evening, because, as your Lordships know, this is something which is still under discussion. She asked me about the Committee of Twenty-four. I was glad that she did, because I had intended to raise the matter if nobody had asked me about it. However, she has given me an excuse for doing so. The position is roughly as has been stated in the newspapers; that the United Kingdom has played a full part in the work of the Committee of Twenty-four since it was established in 1962. However, our own process of 81 decolonisation has now reached a stage where experience of the Committee's work has led us to question whether we, or even the Committee, can really offer any constructive help in resolving the remaining problems. Our doubts on this point have been reinforced by the recent adoption by the General Assembly of a thoroughly unrealistic programme of action, which is intended as a guide to the Committee's future activities. While we continue to observe the provisions of the Charter relating to non-self-governing territories, Her Majesty's Government have thought it best to withdraw from membership of the Committee with immediate effect, as was seen in the newspapers this morning. The Secretary-General of the United Nations was informed of this yesterday. The noble Baroness also asked me about—
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, before the noble Marquess leaves that point, may I ask whether we shall continue to provide information as to our administration of dependent territories? That is a different matter from that of the Committee of Twenty-four, but I should like it made quite clear that we shall continue to provide information about our administration.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
I take the point, my Lords. On the question of the New Hebrides, the noble Baroness may like to know that a recent constructive achievement, which we all welcome, is the drawing up by the local French and British administrations of a joint development plan for the years 1971–73. This is now under consideration by the two Governments, and if I have any more information about it I will let the noble Baroness know. I understand that the working relationship on the ground between the two Resident Commissioners is very harmonious. The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, did not ask me many questions, but he gave the House some most interesting technical information regarding Gibraltar and its constitution. I will read his speech very carefully, and I undertake to investigate his point about the position of the airline and to write to him about it in due course.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, made some points which I covered in my opening remarks, and I will let him know 82 about some of his other points. But he may like to have an answer about one or two other matters which he raised, the first of which—and this was touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, his very interesting speech—is the position of the Virgin Islands and Mr. Stoutt's recent visit to London. The discussions related exactly to one of the difficult situations about which anxiety has rightly been expressed this afternoon. The position is that Her Majesty's Government were able to offer aid funds to the Government of the B.V.I., with the help of which an offer was then made to buy out the developer. I understand that it has not yet been accepted, but Ministers both here and there take the view that it is a reasonable offer and is something on which a settlement might be based. I have no doubt that my right honourable friend, Mr. Godber, will be doing his best on his forthcoming visit to use his good offices to try for a solution, but I am afraid that at the moment I cannot give the House any more information than that.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I very much welcome that statement, but may I ask whether it means that the British Government are supporting the proposal which Mr. Stoutt has made, that compensation of £4.8 million should be paid?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, I should not like to give the noble Lord an answer to-night about the details. I will let him know the answer in the very near future, but I hope he will forgive me for not having the information with me now.
Gibraltar was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Baroness, Lady White. The noble Lord asked me about the housing problem there and I can gladly assure him on that point. The work on the hostel for temporary immigrant labour is well under way and should be completed quite soon, early this year. On the viaduct reclamation housing project, the consultants' preliminary proposals have been received and preparation for the next stage is in hand. Planning for the implementation of various other smaller schemes, including new medical and recreational facilities and hotel development, is also at an 83 advanced stage. I may add, in general, that Her Majesty's Government intend to stand by the people of Gibraltar and to support them in the difficult circumstances brought about by the restrictions which are in force between Gibraltar and Spain. I am afraid I cannot say that the so-called "new climate" has been reflected in a very positive way by any action on the part of Spain to improve the atmosphere between Spain and Gibraltar, but, as the House will probably know, there has been a welcome reduction in the hostile publicity which was formerly directed against Gibraltar from Spain, and I feel that we must be thankful for small mercies in this regard.
Other noble Lords made most interesting speeches and I was interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said, was controversial. I did not accept a good deal of his reasoning, but I shall read his speech to-morrow and will certainly take into account what he said. I do not want to keep the House any longer, though I should like to say again how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for raising this subject. I hope he will agree that Her Majesty's Government, like the late Government, have the interests of the dependencies very much at heart, and that we are continuing to provide very substantial assistance in a variety of forms for all the dependent territories, with the aim of improving both living standards and economic and social conditions. I have been asked whether our policy on the political side has been changed. I can assure the House that our policy remains the same so far as the dependent territories are concerned. I should like to thank other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and I undertake, if I have missed out anything, to write to all concerned and, I hope, to satisfy them.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, before withdrawing my Motion, may I add my own congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Cowley? I enjoyed his speech very much, and as he spoke I remembered with great pleasure the sunshine, the roads and the white houses of Bermuda. I suggest only that perhaps he should 84 have made his maiden speech to-morrow, on road safety, because Bermuda is the only place, so far as I know, which has been able to put the motor car in its correct place. My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, for the two speeches that he has made. There were a number of questions which I fully understand he was not able to answer, but I hope that in due course he will do so by letter, which will give us an opportunity, if need be, to put down a Question for Question Time.
Am I satisfied with the debate? May I say that when I expressed disquiet about Parliament's concern for dependent territories it was quite genuine. I really wondered, when I put this Motion on the No Day Named list, whether it would sustain a Wednesday debate. I therefore suggested to the Government Chief Whip that we might have it on a normal working day, perhaps in conjunction with other business. As it is, twelve Members of your Lordships' House have taken part and have, I think, made outstanding contributions to this debate concerning those people for whom we in this Parliament are directly responsible. I thought that there was a general welcome for the idea of a Select Committee. I would not press it, but I hope that ways and means will be found to enable this Parliament to develop closer and more intimate connections with these distant and isolated countries for which we have a responsibility. If the noble Marquess will remember—and I hope the House will remember it, too—that the people in the Solomons and the people in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands look to us as much as the Highlanders and Lowlanders of Scotland do, then I think he will have got the matter in its proper context.
My Lords, I hope the noble Marquess will give careful thought to all the helpful suggestions which have been made this afternoon. He should not let his officials turn him down flat but should press on, examining and examining, if necessary coming back to us and letting us have another look at it. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.