HL Deb 17 December 1973 vol 348 cc29-55

2.59 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Draft Grenada Termination of Association Order 1973, which was laid before this House on November 22, be approved. The Order will be made under Section 10(2) of the West Indies Act 1967. It will terminate the status of Association of Grenada with the United Kingdom. Grenada will then be an independent sovereign State. My Lords, it is proposed that the Order should come into effect on February 7, 1974. The Act requires that any Order made under this section must be laid in draft before Parliament and approved by Resolution of each House. It was approved in another place on Tuesday, December 11.

I cannot of course escape noticing that on the Order Paper is an Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. Perhaps, although he has not yet moved it, it might at a later stage in my remarks be convenient to the House if I commented in some respects on its substance.

Grenada is the first of the Associated States to move to Independence. I am sure the House will wish the Government and the people of Grenada well. The West Indies Act 1967 gave full internal self-government to a number of our dependencies in the West Indies, while Her Majesty's Government retained responsibility only for external affairs and defence. The Associated States, as these dependencies became known, were given the power to terminate this relationship unilaterally in two ways. First, they could do so in association with another Commonwealth Caribbean State by a two-thirds majority vote of the elect Members of the Legislature or, secondly, on their own by a similar vote followed by a two-thirds majority in a referendum. This was the procedure under Section 10(1) of the Act. By subsection (2), Her Majesty's Government also had the right unilaterally to terminate association, but undertook not to do so without first giving six months' notice.

The special status of the Associated States was recognised by the creation of these unique procedures for Achieving Independence. The intention was that it should be easier for an Associated State to take this constitutional step, but at the same time there could surely have been no intention to inhibit Her Majesty's Government from granting Independence to an Associated State in the circumstances in which Independence would be granted to a dependency. Those circumstances are these: first, that the Government of a dependency should request Independence; secondly, that Her Majesty's Government should be satisfied that there is adequate support locally for the request, and thirdly, that the Independence Constitution properly protects the rights of minorities. At the present time, Grenada satisfies all these conditions. The premier, Mr. Gairy, fought the February, 1972, Election with early Independence as the first item on his programme. His Party won 13 out of 15 seats in the House of Representatives. Subsequently, he informed the British Government that he did not wish to go to Independence unilaterally under the procedure open to him under Section 10(1) of the West Indies Act, but would prefer to do so in agreement with the British Government's normal procedure for a dependency. Therefore, he asked the British Government to grant Independence to Grenada under Section 10(2) of the Act. We convened a meeting in London in October 1972 attended by the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, at which it was agreed that a Constitutional Conference be held in London in May 1973.

This Conference was attended by Mr. Gairy, the Leader of the Opposition and their reporting delegations, and was held in London between May 14th and 18th 1973. There was general agreement on the terms of a constitution for an independent Grenada which were not markedly different from the present one, which was drafted with a view to Independence. It retains all the entrenched safeguards for human rights and the protection of minorities. Having considered the Report of the Conference, which was signed by all the delegates and published in Command 5379, the Government decided that it was right and proper to grant Independence to Grenada. They subsequently agreed with the Premier, subject to the approval of Parliament, that Grenada should become independent on February 7th, 1974, as I have already said.

My Lords, when I observed the terms of the Amendment. I expected that the House might ask why the procedure involving an Order in Council under Section 10(2) of the West Indies Act was being used instead of the alternative method under Section 10(1), which would require legislation by the Grenada Legislature in conjunction with a referendum as laid down in Schedule 2 to that Act. There are several reasons for doing it this way. First, while power was given by the 1967 Act to the British Government and to each Associated State to terminate association unilaterally, there can be no question that it would be improper to terminate association by mutual agreement. Secondly, there is no obligation under the Act for an Associated State to choose to move to Independence under the Section 10(1) procedure. Therefore the legality of the Section 10(2) procedure is beyond question. Thirdly, Mr. Gairy won an overwhelming election victory on the question of Independence. Copies of the Draft Order in Council embodying the Independence Constitution were laid before the Grenada Legislature on August 24; 250 copies were made available to interested parties by September 26, and a further 1,000 copies were printed for sale by the Grenada Chamber of Commerce.

My Lords, the Resolution requesting and consenting to the Order in Council incorporating the Independence Constitution was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives on October 12, and by the Senate on October 15. Twenty-seven Amendments to the Draft Order were accepted by the Grenada Council. Copies of the Resolution passed in the Grenada Legislature and of the Draft Independence Order in Council are in the Library of the House. I believe that the Government of Grenada have the support of the people of Grenada in this move to Independence and therefore that it is right that we should accede to their request to terminate that country's association with this country. I therefore seek the approval of the House to the Draft Order in Council terminating the association with the United Kingdom which is now laid before it. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Grenada Termination of Association Order 1973, laid before the House on November 22, 1973, be approved.—(Baroness Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie.)

3.9 p.m.

LORD SHEPHERD rose to move, That the debate be adjourned until such time as a referendum has been held as provided for in Schedule 2 to the West Indies Act 1967. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, for her explanation of this Motion. If the Government Chief Whip had been present I had intended to thank him for having rearranged Business in order that this constitutional matter should be taken at the beginning of our Business. Without in any way wishing to be critical of another place, I think it is quite wrong that a constitutional matter which affects the lives of very many people should be taken so late at night that clearly one cannot have a satisfactory debate and, if necessary, a vote upon it. I formally beg to move the Motion that stands in my name on the Order Paper: that this debate be now adjourned until such time as a referendum is held in Grenada as required and provided for under Schedule 2 of the West Indies Act 1967. I do so with the greatest reluctance, and only after the most careful consideration.

My Lords, we on this side of the House are in no way opposed to the new Constitution to which the noble Baroness has referred, nor do we oppose in principle the granting of Independence to Grenada, or to any other of the five Associated States in the Windward and Leeward Islands. I recognise that in the 1967 Act provision was made that if these territories wished to come to Independence the opportunity should be available to them. I move this Motion not in any way as a consequence of representations that were made to me last week. I had intended to be critical of the method adopted by Her Majesty's Government in this respect, but it was only in the light of representations that were made that I hardened my view and felt the House should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion at the end of the debate.

I fully accept that what the Government are doing is quite lawful. They have the power under Section 10(2) for Grenada to be moved into Independence, but I have to say in the firmest possible terms that the way in which this is done is contrary to the spirit of the 1967 Act and to the spirit and understanding of those who negotiated the Associated status position in 1967. My noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, who was Secretary of State for the Colonies at that time, will be speaking at the end of this debate. The Associated States was a very interesting experiment. The object was that the peoples of the Leeward and the Windward Islands should in fact be decolonised. We recognised, however, that these groups were made up of many small islands, all very highly individual, but for economic and financial reasons they were highly vulnerable. Clearly, however, they had the capacity to govern themselves, and I believe that, despite Anguilla, the experiment has worked very well indeed.

These territories have full internal self-government and the United Kingdom responsibility only falls in three parts. First, that of defence; secondly, foreign affairs and thirdly—which is of very great significance—the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor for the appointment of the President of the High Courts of the territories concerned. Those who had any connection with the Associated States could express some criticism. I think that undoubtedly the size of their Parliaments is far too small. It is quite ridiculous that the governing party of a territory should be made up entirely of Ministers. In St. Vincent, again because of the size of the Parliament, a case arose where an independent member who was a Minister in a Government that has a majority of the votes, transferred his allegiance to the Opposition, and the Opposition minority Party, because of his switch, has now become the Party in power. But, having said that, I recognise that the Associated States have done extra-ordinarily well.

In regard to Grenada, this is one of the most beautiful islands one can imagine and the people are extremely friendly, but I have always felt great concern in regard to this island. Certainly financially they have been on a knife's edge. I saw in to-day's Guardian—and the noble Baroness may confirm this—that the Government had given an undertaking of some £750,000 to Grenada in the first few years of its independence. I should like to know what part of that sum represents budgetary assistance and what represents aid and development. Moreover, the Government in Grenada, under Mr. Gairy, have shown little tolerance to the minority and to the Opposition Parties: but politics is a harsh game in the Caribbean. One of the major factors that halve always given me concern is the role of the police. I do not know whether the noble Baroness can say anything about the position of what are called the "police aids". These are men who have been enlisted—some of them with criminal records—and who have been under active patrol with the police for a number of years. They have been banded, they have been disbanded, they have been brought together and there is no doubt at all that they have created a feeling of grave uncertainty and insecurity in Grenada. I do not wish to say much in regard to recent reports of brutality. There have been some quite horrifying pictures, not only in the British Press but also in the Press in the Caribbean, particularly in Barbados, and I am glad to see that a commission of inquiry has been set up, made up of men of great distinction. I have no doubt that if this commission is permitted to do its work the truth will come out.

In granting Independence there is always a degree of risk: a risk in granting it and a risk in not granting it. I believe that the speech made by the noble Baroness was more forthcoming than that of Lord Balniel in another place, but I hope she will say a little more about the internal situation in Grenada and whether the advice that she receives from the police adviser in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is such that if this were a colonial territory the Government would be willing to proceed to Independence in the present circumstances.

At the outset I said that I was more concerned with the method adopted by Her Majesty's Government in granting independence to Grenada. The noble Baroness referred to the West Indies Act 1967, Section 10(2). This provides that Her Majesty may at any time, by Order in Council made in respect of any associated state, terminate the status of association of that state with the United Kingdom as from such date as may be specified in the Order. That Order is now in front of us. My understanding of that subsection is that it provides for a unilateral act by the British Government, and the reasons were clearly set out in paragraph 13 of the White Paper, Cmnd. 2865, which lays down that an Order could be made which would not require the request or the consent of the territory concerned. The reason for that was that since one of these Associated States had full internal self-government it could well arise that the actions of that Government might be of such an embarrassing character, so contrary to the general policy of Her Majesty's Government, that the British Government felt that they had to terminate the association. Reading the White Paper I have no doubt at all that that was its intention, and no other.

If your Lordships will look at other White Papers for the period of the negotiations, you will find that the Associated States were concerned about this unilateral act and put pressure upon, I think it was my noble friend, Lord Greenwood, that the British Government should have to give six months' notice and also hold a conference in regard to economic aid. It is quite clear, and I am fully satisfied, that all the Associated States accept the view that subsection (2) was the way out—the escape—for Her Majesty's Government and the British Parliament if they themselves wished to break the association. Section 10(1) and Schedule 2 were the provisions that were put in the West Indies Act when an Associated State itself wished to achieve full independence.

Why were there these safeguards? I think because of a recognition that when a territory had full internal self-government the British Government needed some way of knowing what were the wishes of the people concerned; and, as the noble Baroness herself mentioned in her speech, it was provided that there should be a two-thirds majority in the Parliament in the State concerned and a two-thirds majority in a referendum. I think the spirit and intention is set out in the White Paper, Cmnd. 2865, first of all in paragraph 10. I would ask the noble Baroness to put her mind to these words in the White Paper: The Constitution will initially be established by Order of Her Majesty in Council. I ask the noble Baroness to bear these words in mind: Thereafter there will be two methods by which the Constitution may be altered as follows:"— first of all, under sub-paragraph (a) and then under sub-paragraph (b).

It states in sub-paragraph (a): this will be the normal method"— that is, the provision of a two-thirds majority and a referendum. Because paragraph 11—I ask the noble Baroness to read these words with care—says: Following practices commonly adopted in independent countries which have autonomy in matters of constitutional alteration, there will be special procedures for the amendment of the Constitution; for this purpose certain basic clauses will be distinguished as enshrining the arrangements for democratic government and for the relationship between Britain and the territory and the procedure for alteration of these clauses will involve approval of the electorate. I think it is quite clear here that where a territory itself wishes to proceed to Independence as a constitutional advance the spirit of the White Paper is that it would require a two-thirds majority and a referendum. There was never any question of any way in which a territory would proceed to Independence other than by a decision unilaterally taken by Her Majesty's Government, and, secondly, by the proper procedures of the territory itself. There were those two methods—and "this will be the normal" one.

I feel now that I must say this. For some years I had the privilege of serving in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and I had special responsibilities for the Caribbean and the Associated States. In the light of what the noble Baroness has said this afternoon I must tell her and the House that this is not the first occasion when Mr. Gairy has sought Independence. The last occasion as far as I am concerned was in Grenada at his home, where we were having a conference in 1969. Mr. Gairy asked for the second time whether the Labour Government were willing for Grenada to move to Independence under Section 10(2), that now suggested by Her Majesty's Government. I explained to Mr. Gairy, not for the first time, that so far as Her Majesty's Government were concerned we would not stand in the way of Grenada proceeding to Independence but we believed that she should go through the provisions of Section 10(1) of the West Indies Act. I had also been approached by the Opposition and by the Chamber of Commerce and I gave them similar undertakings. I have no doubt at all that the other Associated States had received similar advice. I rested my position, my argument with Mr. Gairy, on the spirit and intention of the White Papers and the Constitutions that flowed from them, and to which Mr. Gairy himself was a signatory.

The noble Baroness knows me well enough to know that I would not have taken such a strong position on a constitional matter without having taken advice. I certainly took advice, and the advice was very clear. So Grenada has now approached Her Majesty's Government, as they approached the Labour Government, to proceed to Independence under Paragraph 11. One might well ask why Mr. Gairy, who had the oppor- tunity of going to Independence from 1968, never took the openings that were available to him. I think the reason is quite clear: that Mr. Gairy and the Government in Grenada could never have achieved the limitations that were imposed under the West Indies Act but which he himself had undertaken to abide by.

I accept that no Government is bound by the decisions of its predecessors, but I suggest that in matters of constitutional importance these are not lightly ignored of circumvented. I would ask the noble Baroness what was the position of Her Majesty's Government when Mr. Gairy came to London in October, 1972. Will she deny that the position of Her Majesty's Government at that time was identical to the position taken by myself in Grenada; that if Grenada wished its Independenece it ought to proceed under Section 10(1), the referendum? Certainly for the Constitutional Conference in May 1973, the position was still not clear, because it was only after the Government were willing to make up their mind as to how they would proceed, although they acknowledge that subsection (2) was a possible way out of the difficulty. But in May, 1973, the Government had not made up their mind that Grenada could achieve its Independence through subsection (2).

The noble Baroness rested her case, I thought, on the General Election It is true that Independence was in the Manifesto, but I am advised that that was distributed in Grenada only seven days prior to the Election and in practice it was not a major issue in the Election. But be that as it may, it is true that Mr. Gairy's Party achieved 13 seats out of 15, an overwhelming vote on the fare of it. But the noble Baroness, I am sure, will confirm that Mr. Gairy obtained 59 per cent. of votes whereas the Opposition achieved 41 per cent. of the votes cast and obtained only two seats. So when one looks at the total vote the landslide victory claimed is not substantiated.

The noble Baroness referred to colonial procedure. There is one basic difference between a country that has full internal self-government and a colonial territory proceeding to Independence: while it is a Colony, the British Government and Parliament have all the power, through their Governor and officials, to be able to ascertain what are the wishes of the people; but in an internal self-government position, clearly those facilities and opportunities are not available. But even with a colonial possession moving to Independence, any Government would send a Minister to the territory and would carry out the most careful review of the position. I would ask the noble Baroness when did a Minister last go to Grenada. When did a Minister last go to ascertain, so far as he may, what were the wishes of the people of Grenada in terms of Independence? My information is that no Minister has been to Grenada for this purpose since October, 1972. If Parliament is to have any reassurance on this matter, I consider that we should not rely upon views and opinions taken by officials; we should look to a Minister to be able to come to Parliament to say that he was satisfied. Certainly during the period of the Labour Government we always took precautions—perhaps too many—and I have a feeling that in this respect the Government have themselves failed.

In a Constitution there are certain enshrined clauses. In the Constitution that we are now dealing with there are enshrined clauses, but they are being swept away or circumvented, not by collusion but by a decision by Her Majesty's Government after a Constitutional Conference with Mr. Gairy on the government of Grenada. The Opposition are firmly against not Independence but the very timing of it. If the noble Baroness will look again at all the White Papers she will see that the spirit of them was that if a territory was to proceed to Independence the views of the people were to be ascertained by a referendum. I suggest to the noble Baroness that this House would not be doing its duty if it allowed this Order to proceed without pursuing the spirit of the negotiators for the Associated States, which was the referendum procedure. If the noble Baroness arranged this and then this country had its referendum and we saw what was the majority in support, then would be the time for this House to approve the move to Independence. I hope that the House will support the Amendment that I have moved. It does not go against the principle of Independence; it merely requires the territory to go through the constitutional and agreed procedures for a territory to achieve Independence,

Amendment moved, That the debate be adjourned until such time as a referendum has been held as provided for in Schedule 2 to the West Indies Act 1967.—(Lord Shepherd.)

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, I never expected that I should rise to support a Motion which would delay Independence to a colonial territory. It is quite true that on one occasion, in order to avoid civil war, I negotiated between the Government of a territory and the Colonial Office for a general election before Independence was acceded, but on that occasion in Ghana there was no delay.

The real principle of the liberty of colonial territories is the principle of self-determination. I think that there is very great doubt whether, under present conditions—and I emphasise "present conditions"—in Grenada there is the desire for Independence. The noble Baroness delivered a persuasive and convincing speech, but I think in one respect she was wrong. That was when she said that there is evidence in Grenada that there is this desire. I base that view on what has happened since the negotiations with the Government in May. There was a general strike not only by the trade unionists but also supported by the leaders of the Churches, the professional organisation of doctors, by the teachers and by the academics. All schools were closed, and 80 per cent. of the business in Grenada was stopped. That there should have been such opposition to the conclusions of the May discussions in such a small population indicates that the noble Baroness may have been wrong in suggesting that the majority of the population now support what has been done.

This was followed by the most oppressive political repression. The leaders of the opposing New Jewel Movement were arrested, and there are allegations, with considerable evidence, that they were treated with extreme brutality. I do not propose to go into details because there now is operating this Commission of Inquiry, and I hope, with my noble friend, that that Commission of Inquiry will elucidate the facts. Another important fact is that not only are there these indications of opposition in Grenada itself but that there is great uneasiness in other Caribbean countries. That has been reflected by the speech recently delivered by Mr. Errol Barrow, the Prime Minister of Trinidad.




My Lords, I welcome that correction. I think that it would probably be expressed by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the Prime Minister of Barbados. I ought not to have made that mistake because I was his guest at the time of Barbados Independence.

I think that undoubtedly this feeling in Grenada is due to the dictatorial administration of Mr. Gairy, the Prime Minister. Under him there has been almost a Police State through his own secret police, the "Police Aid". While, under pressure, this particular police organisation has now been disbanded, there is great fear indeed of the new force that has been instituted. There has been political repression. Four leaders of the Opposition have been killed. There is little freedom for political expression. There are many political prisoners—how many I do not know.

I welcome the fact that in the new proposed Constitution freedom of expression is guaranteed; but one has in mind, in the case of both the Republic of South Africa and of Rhodesia, how entrenched clauses may afterwards be abrogated once a territory has its independence. My Lords, the proposal in the Amendment is for a referendum, and that proposal is part of past constitutional practices. I hope that if a referendum took place it would refer not only to the right of independence but to the conditions under which that independence would be observed, because I have no doubt at all—and in this the noble Baroness was correct—that the majority of people in Grenada desire independence; the qualification is that they do not desire independence while present conditions apply. I hope therefore that in the event of a referendum taking place there would be a qualification in that respect.

I have in my hands a statement made on behalf of Grenadian people who are resident in Britain and it emphasises this point. The statement reads: we wish to declare our firm support for independence for Grenada. We see independence as the inalienable right of all peoples. However, independence must mean a new political, economic and social life for our people. It must assist in providing jobs, adequate housing, medical and health facilities, food, clothing and education for Grenadians, and it must involve our people in the process of participating in the affairs of their island. It is because, under the present Administration of Mr. Gairy's domination, those opportunities are not allowed that the people of Grenada themselves are asking that Independence shall be deferred until they have the opportunity to make clear their views on the Administration.

My Lords, I believe that an election under Government supervision would be preferable to a referendum, but I accept the fact that constitutionally the referendum is the possible procedure. All of us desire that this lovely island and its people shall have a happy and prosperous future. We are asking the Government in extending Independence to Grenada to give the people the opportunity to realise that destiny.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships' House for a few moments because I know Grenada very well. I have friends on the island, I have visited it often and know the flamboyant Mr. Gairy—I have met him several times. He is a very interesting subject. He has a very unhealthy lust for power and great skill, but questionable methods of attaining his ends. I question very much the size of his continued support to-day. There has been a getting together of trade unionists and churchmen as well as his political opponents. It may not be very diplomatic to say some of the things that I am going to say, but there are occasions in my opinion when truth should take priority over diplomacy.

Anybody who has been to the island knows perfectly well that corruption in high places is frequently spoken of and examples of it have come to my knowledge. The secret police of "toughs" has been referred to by my noble friend Lord Brockway; also the fact of cruel assault on political opponents. My concern is for the hundred thousand odd people on that island. With all my admiration for the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, quite frankly is it good enough to say that we wish the people of the island well? I believe that we have governed that island for so long that we have a residual responsibility to the people there, and that having regard to what has already happened there and the threat of another general strike, there is grave danger of a breakdown of law and order. I would go so far as to predict a likelihood, knowing Gairy as I do, that he will appoint himself, soon after Independence, as a life President. He will nominate his own Premier and it will not be long before Britain and the other islands of the Caribbean are faced with a Haiti-type dictatorship. It has been said to me that the world is such a troubled place, we have so much trouble in these islands at the present time, why concern ourselves with 116,000 people of the lovely island of Grenada? I am one of those soft-hearted old people who believe that numbers are not the only concern. As I said earlier, these are people to whom we have a residual responsibility, and I believe with the utmost sincerity that we should support this Amendment and afford the chance of a referendum, as is provided for in the West Indies Act of 1967.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, I share some of the element of surprise experienced by my noble friend Lord Brockway that he and I should be seeking to slow down the advance of a country to independence. He was the chairman of the Movement for Colonial Freedom when I was the treasurer, and I hope that your Lordships will acquit either of us of having colonialist or imperialist tendencies. I am deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Shepherd for having moved this Amendment this afternoon.

When I was Secretary of State for the Colonies, and when I had the great advantage of my noble friend Lady White as Under-Secretary, one of my main preoccupations was the future of the smaller dependent territories. It was quite clear that in many cases independence would create serious political and economic problems for them. It was also apparent that to have a large number of nonviable independent countries scattered around the world would not conduce to the political stability of the international scene. After much thought and consultation, in which we were greatly helped by Sir Stephen Luke, I evolved the proposals for the Associated States which were influenced by the Cook Islands experiment but were, I thought, more sophisticated. Those proposals were embodied in the White Paper to which my noble friend Lord Shepherd referred: it was published in December, 1965, a week after I had left the Colonial Office, but at the request of my noble friend Lord Longford I took the Press Conference on the White Paper.

The object of the Government at that time, my Lords, and the object of the White Paper, was to enable colonies to go into independence if they really wished and if they could show that their public and Parliament genuinely wanted that independence. To this end safeguards—the safeguards referred to by my noble friend Lord Shepherd—were carefully drawn up, they were generally accepted and they were incorporated by the Government in the West Indies Act of 1967. I am very sad, my Lords, that Her Majesty's Government, in their unseemly anxiety to disencumber themselves of their imperial legacy, have not honoured the spirit and the intention of the White Paper and of the Act; and having been the parent of the White Paper there is not the slightest doubt in my own mind that the Government are acting in breach of what was understood, and what was intended, at that time.

It is really not good enough for the noble Baroness to try to persuade the House that we should agree in a course which we believe to be wrong because Mr. Gairy, with all the forces that he has at his disposal, should have won 13 out of 15 seats in a gerrymandered election in which the constituency boundaries were, I should suspect, at least open to criticism. If Mr. Gairy really has popular support behind him, why should not Mr. Gairy have a referendum upon this very issue? For the noble Baroness to say that she believes the people are behind the Government is, I think, not being wholly frank with the House. May I quote from to-day's Guardian an article which is headed, Opposition demands Gairy's resignation."? It begins: A powerful opposition front, including civil servants, dockers, utility workers, businessmen, schoolteachers, shopkeepers, professional groups, and church leaders … have told their strong-arm premier, Mr. Eric Gairy, that he must resign on December 27 or face another general strike … As your Lordships have been told, there has already been concerted action against Mr. Gairy, and demands that he should disband his secret police. Although he promised to do so, he has not in fact kept the promises that he made at that time. When one remembers the long and distinguished record of Mr. Errol Barrow, the Prime Minister of Barbados, and contrasts it with the somewhat chequered career of Mr. Gairy, it is interesting to find that Mr. Barrow has referred (in what the Guardian calls "thinly veiled terms") to Mr. Gairy as "a political bandit", and has said that he, Mr. Barrow, makes a distinction between independence for Gairy and independence for Grenada. What we are asking for to-day, my Lords, is independence for Grenada and not independence for Mr. Gairy. We want to know that the people of Grenada feel that Mr. Gairy's intentions do meet their own wishes. That is why we are asking that the House should support the Amendment proposed by my noble friend.

I would finally remind your Lordships of the wider implications in other Associated States—those implications of which my noble friend Lord Brockway has reminded us. If we go ahead as the Government are proposing, it could have repercussions in other places and on those people to whom we have deep obligations and with whom we have long-standing ties of affection. I shall always remember, my Lords, the speech of my old friend, my late noble friend Lord Constantine, when he said: What are the people of the West Indies but black Englishmen?". My Lords, we have a very special obligation to people who are in no position to protect their own interests.

The noble Baroness wished the people of Grenada well. If the noble Baroness and the Government really wish the people of Grenada well, they will give them the opportunity to speak for them- selves and not simply take at face value what Mr. Gairy, already discredited in the eyes of almost everybody in the Caribbean, says to be the views of the people of Grenada. As we approach the end of Empire, let us conduct ourselves with honour and with honesty, and not be party to dubious deals which appear to be designed to circumvent and frustrate public opinion rather than to implement it. I therefore ask your Lordships to accept my noble friend's Amendment.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, it is surprissing that this particular proposal to grant independence to Grenada has aroused, certainly in the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, such a degree of vehemence about the personality of the Premier of Grenada and also such a degree of distrust, if I may say so, of Her Majesty's Government. I must entirely repudiate everything that he said on that count.

I should like to begin by referring to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in his usual careful way, if I may so put it, and of course with very great knowledge and experience behind him. Now under this Amendment he has asked that the debate on the Order granting independence shall be adjourned, until such time as a referendum has been held as provided for in Schedule 2 to the West Indies Act 1967". I should like to recall again to the House, if I may, that Schedule 2 to the Act lays down certain conditions and constitutional processes which must be complied with if an Associated State wishes to become independent by unilateral action in accordance with Section 10(1) of the Act; and as I have explained we are proposing to use Section 10(2) of the Act. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, quite rightly, that there is no legal impediment to doing so, and it is a fact that Her Majesty's Government could not initiate proceedings under Section 10(1) of the Act: the request would have to come from the territory concerned. What the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is really saying is that to try to bring Grenada to independence under Section 10(2) of the Act is contrary to the spirit of the Act. But in that case I must ask: why did Parliament see fit to include Section 10(2) in the Act at all if it was not to be used? I think it is relevant, because I can quite understand the concern of noble Lords who have spoken about the attitude of the people of Grenada to the question of Independence. Therefore, I should like to list the steps which have been taken to consult them.


My Lords, may I intervene? The noble Baroness said that I did not explain why Section 10(2) was put into the Act. I went into great detail about why the Government put Section 10(2) into the Act; it was the way out for the Government if a situation of embarrassment arose as a consequence of having granted full internal self-government to an Associated State.


My Lords, I think that perhaps I did not make myself clear, or that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, misheard me. I did not say that he did not explain; I asked why Parliament thought fit to include in the Act Section 10(2) if it were not to be used. We are not here suggesting that we should break off our association with Grenada unilaterally; that we are not doing. As I have already said, it is not possible for us to initiate proceedings under Section 10(1). There has to be a request from the country concerned. I think I ought to go into more detail about how Section 10(2) has come to be used in this case.

It was in 1971 that Mr. Gairy informed the British Government that he wanted independence for Grenada, and that he did not want to go through the procedures required under Section 10(1) which, as has been said, involve not only a majority of two-thirds of the elected members of the Grenada Legislature but also a two-thirds majority in a public referendum. He argued that it was not justifiable to ask an Associated State to go through the more elaborate procedure that would be required for a dependent territory seeking independence. He asked that the British Government should confer independence on Grenada as they would on such a territory. Noble Lords asked what the British Government said in reply. Mr. Gairy was told that if he won a General Election in which independence for Grenada was the principal issue, the British Government would, without prior commitment, be prepared to discuss his request.

Mr. Gairy won his Election in 1972 and the British Government agreed to hold a Constitutional Conference in May, 1973, making it clear that they would take a decision on his request only after consulting the proceedings of that Conference. The British Government would never have agreed to hold such a Conference had they not been certain that they were legally entitled to terminate association with Grenada under Section 10(2), and that in the right circumstances it would be proper to do so. It was therefore after having considered the outcome of the Conference and all the other information available to them that they decided that this was the right thing to do.

I was about to remind the House of the various ways in which the people of Grenada were consulted on this issue. I was interested to see the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in the ranks of those who wished to postpone independence; it is a very unusual role for him. But I think it is the concern of the House whether the people of Grenada in fact want independence. That is one point. The second is whether, if they get it, it would be a genuine independence and whether Mr. Gairy would be a Prime Minister with true responsibility. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, rightly pointed out that although Mr. Gairy won his Election by winning 13 out of the 15 seats, his Party polled 59 per cent. of the total votes cast and the Opposition polled 41 per cent.

This, it seems to me, is a rather familiar refrain in a different context. I can remember it being said often in another place that although a certain political Party had become the Government of the day, having won a sufficient number of seats, nevertheless they did not represent the country because, perhaps from the way in which the votes had been cast, they did not have a majority of those votes. So long as we in this country do not have proportional representation—nor does Grenada—that will always be the case. The point is that on the issue of independence, which was the primary point before the electorate, Mr. Gairy won 13 out of the 15 seats. It is also interesting to recall that the Bahamas were given independence when the Government Party won the votes of exactly the same proportion of the electorate, 59 per cent. Therefore I do not think that this is a very strong argument.

Of course, as I said in my opening speech, after the Constitutional Conference in which both Government and Opposition took part, the people of Grenada were given a full opportunity to study and comment on the Independence Constitution. I have no evidence that, despite the undoubted protests about the internal situation, the people of Grenada are opposed to independence. Therefore I should like to turn to the security situation.


My Lords, will the noble Baroness put that round the other way? Has she any evidence that the people of Grenada in fact support independence? And does she think that if there was a referendum the Government would get a two-thirds majority, as is required in Schedule 2 to the West Indies Act?


My Lords, I would never forecast the result of a General Election in this country. I have visited Grenada only once, and it would be quite impossible for me to forecast the result of a Referendum or a General Election there. But as I have said, on the Independence issue, out of 15 seats Mr. Gairy won 13. There is now only one member of the Opposition, because one afterwards joined the independents. The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, in particular—I understand he knows Grenada well—talked with some heat about what he called Mr. Gairy's autocratic régime. I should like to make clear that the Independence Constitution, which I think was accepted on behalf of the Opposition, contains all the guarantees for human rights and the rights of minorities, and these are entrenched in the same manner as in the existing Constitution which was drafted and brought into force by the previous Government, with the possibility in mind that it might become an independence Constitution. Entrenched provisions can be amended only by a two-thirds vote of all the elected members of the Legislature followed by a two-thirds majority in a Referendum.

I can quite understand the concern expressed about the troubles which were widely publicised in Grenada and I should like to refer to them. Grenada has had full internal self-Government since 1967. I mention this again only because it means that Her Majesty's Government have no responsibility for her internal affairs and no right to intervene. But I understand that a public meeting was held on November 4 by the new JEWEL movement, which stands for Joint Endeavour for Welfare Education Liberation. It is not the official Opposition led by Mr. Blaize of the Grenada National Party. As I said before, he is the only one now in the House. At this meeting the Premier was called on to resign or face a general strike. The strike was not widely supported and on November 18, six leaders of the new JEWEL movement were arrested for illegal possession of arms and for obstructing the police. About this time allegations were made in Grenada that the police had behaved in a brutal manner. The six men arrested were later released on bail. In reply to this expression of public opinion, the Premier broadcast on November 23 that he was going to appoint a Commission of Inquiry and that the police aides, all 200 of them, would be disbanded. This has taken place. I understand that four of them have joined the regular police, but the 200 police aides have been disbanded. I should like to say that I am glad of the expressions of support from the Benches opposite for the composition of the Commission of Inquiry which, without doubt, has very distinguished people serving on it.

After the meetings on November 26 and 27, representatives of various organisations, including the professional associations, trades unions, Churches and the Chamber of Commerce, who later came to be known as the "Committee of 22"—not to be confused with the 1922 Committee—issued statements that they would advise their members to withdraw their labour and services until certain measures were carried out, including the arrest and charging of persons who allegedly committed acts of brutality, the suspension of a particular police officer, the disarming of police aides and the stopping and searching of persons and properties. This was followed by some strike action. The latest reports show that the situation at this moment is greatly improved. The strike was called off on November 30. I think the fact that the Commission are expected to begin, or about to begin their hearings on December 17, has given a certain amount of confidence to Grenada. But I should like to tell the House that recently we have heard that members of the 22 organisations are not satisfied with the action taken by the Government to meet all their requests, and they are now threatening a general strike on December 27, which they intend to continue indefinitely unless the Government or the Premier resigns. I think noble Lords will have noted that all the demands of the Committee of 22 are concerned with internal affairs, particularly law and order, and there is no suggestion whatever that the Committee are opposed to independence, which is what we are discussing to-day.

My Lords, I can understand those who feel that it is difficult for an island of this size, with a population of, I think, about 94.000, to ask for independence and to be in a viable situation once independence is granted. The Government of Grenada, having been responsible for their internal affairs since 1967, have decided that their economy can sustain independence. Therefore it is not for us to decide that we should try to impose our own opinion, which might be a contrary view. The most we could properly do, if we thought the situation justified it, would be to warn and to advise. However, the facts do not show that we should attempt to dissuade Grenada from independence on economic grounds. The economy is broadly based, and therefore a good deal less unstable than those of the other Associated States. It is not just based on one crop. It has bananas, nutmegs, maize, cocoa and other crops where the market will not be affected by independence. It also has a flourishing tourist trade.

As for aid from Britain in the future, about which I was asked a specific question, Grenada will certainly not suffer any disadvantages, so far as aid is concerned, after independence. In order to help the Government to adjust to their new status, we have said that, subject to Parliamentary approval, we are prepared to make available a total of £2.25 million over the next three years, 1974–75 to 1976–77, in order to enable the Government to plan ahead. This sum compares with capital aid amounting to £2.8 million over the five years 1968–69 to 1972–73. This will not be budgetary aid. We have offered to make £1 million of the £2.25 million available as a grant, and the remaining £1.25 million as an interest-free loan, although in fact independent countries normally achieve development by loans which are not necessarily free. Her Majesty's Government are also making a special gift to Grenada of £100,000 on the occasion of independence, for them to choose some aid project with which they feel they would most like to be associated.

My Lords, there is perhaps only one other point that I should like to make, and it is this. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, argued that the position of the British Government representative in relation to Associated States is very different from that of a British Governor in a colony immediately before independence; that the British Government representative is not in a position to assess quite so well the internal situation and, in particular, the attitude of people to independence. I should like to ask the House, if I may, whether the opportunities to assess the situation of representatives of Her Majesty's Government are really so very different in the two different cases; because most colonies which have become independent in the last 20 years have usually had advanced Constitutions in the period immediately before independence, and these have, as in this case, included full internal self-government. Internal affairs, including in most cases internal security and the police, were the responsibility of local ministers. This was certainly the case in the Bahamas which became independent earlier this year. Therefore in most colonies the British Governor had no responsibility for internal affairs, or powers to intervene, short of an emergency. In that way—a very important way which has concerned the House—I would suggest that the position is hardly very different from the present position in the Associated States.

To sum up, my Lords, I can understand the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, feeling concerned if he himself gave a particular undertaking that advance to independence should not be undertaken unless it was under the provisions of Section 10(1) of the West Indies Act. But we are proceeding under Section 10(2), with the agreement of Grenada, after general elections which have been won on this issue, and after a full examination of the circumstances surrounding the granting of independence and the feeling in Grenada about independence.


My Lords, this is most important, and I wonder whether the noble Baroness can answer the question that I put to her as to when a Minister was last in Grenada.


My Lords, speaking from memory, I do not think a Minister has been in Grenada since about October, 1972—and I mean by that a Minister responsible for this type of Constitution. But the fact remains that we feel that the representatives of Her Majesty's Government are quite capable, a Minister having been there once, of fully assessing the situation and keeping us fully informed—and of course visiting this country from time to time. We have, as I said at the start, no power as a Government to start proceedings under Section 10(1) of the West Indies Act. This has to be requested by the Government of the territory concerned. Under Section 10(2) we could have ended our association with Grenada: we could have done it unilaterally

for the many reasons which have been given. But we are doing it by agreement. We have done it after constitutional conferences, after elections have been won in the territory concerned with this issue, and I therefore suggest to the House that it is right and proper to approve this Order before your Lordships.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, would she say whether Her Majesty's Government believe that under its present administration Grenada would qualify for membership of the United Nations?


My Lords, if this Order is approved and Grenada is granted independence, she would qualify for membership of the United Nations and also of the Commonwealth, and we shall be glad to support both.

4.18 p.m.

On Question: Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 55; Not-Contents, 80.

Airedale, L. Faringdon, L. Phillips, B.
Amherst, E. Fiske, L. Platt, L.
Amulree, L. Foot, L. Popplewell, L.
Avebury, L. Gaitskell, B. Sainsbury, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Gardiner, L. St. Davids, V.
Birk, B. George-Brown, L. Shackleton, L.
Blackett, L. Gladwyn, L. Shepherd, L.
Blyton, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Shinwell, L.
Brayley, L. Hale, L. Slater, L.
Brockway, L. Henderson, L. Snow, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Hoy, L. Somers, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Jacques, L. [Teller.] Soper, L.
Champion, L. Janner, L. Stocks, B.
Chorley, L. Kennet, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Davies of Leek, L. Leatherland, L. Tanlaw, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Lee of Asheridge, B. Wells-Pestell, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. White, B.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Ogmore, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Falkland, V.
Aberdare, L. Cole, L. Exeter, M.
Amory, V. Colville of Culross, V. Ferrers, E.
Auckland, L. Cottesloe, L. Gainford, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Courtown, E. Garner, L.
Barnby, L. Craigavon, V. Goschen, V.
Berkeley, B. Daventry, V. Gowrie, E.
Boothby, L. Denham, L. [Teller.] Grenfell, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Drumalbyn, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Ebbisham, L. Hacking, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Eccles, V. Hailes, L.
Carrington, L. Effingham, E. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (Lord Chancellor.)
Chesham, L. Emmet of Amberley, B.
Clwyd, L. Erskine of Rerrick, L. Hanworth, V.
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Montagu of Beaulieu, L. St. Helens, L.
Hayter, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Sandford, L.
Howe, E. Northchurch, B. Sempill, Ly.
Hylton-Foster, B. Nugent of Guildford, L. Shannon, E.
Jessel, L. Onslow, E. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Lauderdale, E. Pender, L. Strathspey, L.
London, Bp. Porritt, L. Sudeley, L.
Loudoun, C. Rankeillour, L. Teviot, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Rathcavan, L. Thomas, L.
Mansfield, E. Redesdale, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.
Merrivale, L. Roberthall, L. Vivian, L.
Middleton, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly. Windlesham, L. (L. Privy Seal.)
Monck, V. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.] Young, B.
Monckton of Brenchley, V.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.