§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made towards recognising the independence of the Bahamas and Grenada.
My Lords, a General Election was held in the Bahamas in September when early independence was the main issue. It resulted in a substantial victory for Mr. Pindling's Progressive Liberal Party. At the request of the Bahamas Government, it has been agreed to hold a constitutional conference in London in December. It is expected that the Bahamas will become independent in July, 1973. As regards Grenada, it has been agreed that a constitutional conference should be held in early May, 1973, to review the provisions of a possible independence Constitution.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that full reply, and welcoming the rights of these people to self-determination, may I ask whether the Government have taken into consideration their difficulties and their economic validity? While Bahamas may be safer because of her American associations with tourism and as an anchorage for tankers, is not the case of Grenada very difficult because of the deterioration of plantation economy? Is it not desirable now that the Government should call a conference, perhaps through the Commonwealth Secretariat, to consider 590 co-ordination of all these small islands, possibly in a confederation?
My Lords, it has of course been the policy, and is the policy, of Her Majesty's Government to consider sympathetically requests for independence from dependent territories provided that they have local support. I know that the problem to which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, refers is a complicated one and I can assure him that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has fully in mind the difficulties which the noble Lord has mentioned.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, is there any way in which Her Majesty's Government can warn the Pindling Government of the Bahamas of the irreparable harm being done to the economic future of that country by their anti-white actions which are ruining the off-shore business and driving the tourist trade away? Could Her Majesty's Government let the Bahamas Government know that those of us whose families have done quite a lot to help build up their country are more than sad to see them cut off their nose to spite their face?
My Lords, while I understand the view which the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, has put forward I really think that that goes somewhat further than the original Question on the Order Paper, which referred to the possibility of independence for these countries.
§ LORD TREFGARNE
My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether the Government have made any proposals to the Bahamas Government in respect of the defence of that country after they have become independent?
Of course, my Lords, when they are independent they will be responsible for their own defence in the same way as all other independent countries are, subject to the normal safeguards which Commonwealth countries have.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, while thanking the Minister for his response, and perhaps trespassing on the actual nature of the Question, may I ask whether the Government would pay very great consideration to the desirability in the 591 Caribbean of bringing about some coordination between these nations—in the case of the Bahamas large, but in the case of Grenada small—which are becoming independent? The situation is now becoming complicated by Nevis and Anguilla in the St. Kitts group. Is it not desirable that there should be an early conference to try to bring about co-ordination and economic validity?
My Lords, I appreciate the point which the noble Lord has mentioned and I will certainly ensure that his observations are drawn to the attention of my right hoonurable friend.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, while wishing to support my noble friend in the importance that he lays on getting these small islands joined together, may I ask whether the noble Earl will not confirm that the real difficulty in this is that all these islands produce much the same sort of commodities and therefore in joining together they do not in fact complement each other but only add to each other's problems? If they are to be joined together—and it is important that they should be so—would he not agree that we should try to get some areas whose products are different, such as Canada which has a cold climate, to join them and strengthen them? In that way they are far more likely to be able to stand independent than they are if left purely on their own.
My Lords, there have in the past been many views expressed of a similar nature to the view that the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, has just expressed. There have been efforts to try to get some co-ordination in this area. Of course, the only possibility of real success is if the people involved wish to co-operate and, for want of a better word, to amalgamate in such an organisation. If this desire is not forthcoming, then it is difficult for Her Majesty's Government to do something specific on the lines the noble Viscount has suggested.