HL Deb 22 May 1974 vol 351 cc1433-5

2.55 p.m.


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 decision has been reached on the draft constitution for Anguilla presented by Mr. Ronald Webster and representative Anguillans.


My Lords, in March this year the Anguilla Council appointed a Special Committee to seek the views of the Anguillan people on the direction that constitutional evolution should take. Mr. Ronald Webster produced a draft Constitution as a working paper for this Committee. The Committee has not yet reported, but its Report will be given careful study and consideration by Her Majesty's Government when it has been received.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether it is not now rather urgent that a decision should be reached? Is it not the case that Her Majesty's Government promised two years ago to present their decision and that nothing has since been done? Is not the urgency shown by the way in which Mr. Bradshaw, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts, walked out of the Caribbean Common Market? Cannot a solution be expedited?


My Lords, as to the urgency of the review, the previous Administration undertook to complete the review some time this year. The present Government have this matter very much under consideration, but no date has so far been fixed for the review. We await the document to which the noble Lord referred in his Question and which has been prepared by Mr. Webster.

As to the position in regard to the Caribbean Community Treaty, we delegated authority for the signing of this Treaty to the St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla Associated State, but flowing from the Anguilla Act of 1971, we made a reservation in our delegation so that the Associated States might sign but without extending the signature to Anguilla for the time being. Mr. Bradshaw, the Premier of the Associated States, resented this and did not sign the Treaty.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for his full reply, which I appreciate, may I ask him whether it would not now be desirable to hold a conference of the Associated States of the Windward and Leeward Islands to consider the whole question of the relationship of the Islands one to another, possibly by confederation?—because the problem extends beyond St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla.


My Lords, consultations will certainly be held with the Associated States and with the Anguillan people and Government.


My Lords, does not the Minister agree that the failure of the federation of the West Indies some years ago was a catastrophe? Furthermore, is it not better to wait until this Report has been put before the Council of Anguilla before we make a decision as to its future?


My Lords, we certainly await the receipt of that document and shall study it very carefully in due course, because that study will form part of our consultation regarding the wishes of the people of Anguilla.


My Lords, is the noble Lord able to give the House the assurance which was given by the previous Government: that if St. Kitts decides to terminate its associated status, Anguilla will no longer be required to form part of its territory, against the wishes of the Anguillans?


My Lords, I can give that assurance. It flows from the Statute and Order of 1971.