HL Deb 12 April 1978 vol 390 cc625-6

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 is now the most likely date for the granting of independence to St. Lucia.


My Lords, no date for St. Lucia's independence has yet been agreed. At talks with the St. Lucia Government and Opposition last month it was agreed that the process of consultation would be consolidated and, as part of this, that the Government of St. Lucia would publish for public discussion a draft constitution for an independent St. Lucia.

My honourable friend in another place has stated that, subject to his being satisfied that all these processes had been completed, he would be prepared to call a constitutional conference within the next four months.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Would he not agree that the present situation in St. Lucia, under the wise premiership of Mr. John Compton, would justify giving a high priority to its plea for independence, whereas in the case of other Caribbean Islands some degree of greater delay might be justified?


My Lords, I would not wish, even in that oblique way, to interfere in the bipartisan politics of St. Lucia or any other country, but I have no doubt that both Government and Opposition in St. Lucia have the best interests of that country at heart and we shall co-operate through Section 10(2)—if that proves to be the right process—of the 1967 Act.


My Lords, as the granting of independence to St. Lucia is likely to benefit all sections of the population, including the very poorest, could not the date of independence be advanced somewhat ahead of the programme outlined by my noble friend, so that the period of uncertainty could be minimised?


My Lords, I do not think that any serious uncertainty accrues from the timetable which is implicit in the substantive Answer I have given. I have said that my honourable friend who deals with these matters is prepared, within the next four months, if certain reasonable conditions of consensus are obtained, to convene a constitutional conference leading to independence.


My Lords, would my noble friend agree that this has been going on for a long time now, and that there is a widespread desire among all types of the population in St. Lucia that it be speedily resolved?


Yes, my Lords; indeed, there is a general consensus in St. Lucia, and constructive consensus almost always takes a long time to reach.


My Lords, will an independent St. Lucia be dependent on the British taxpayer for subsistence?


No, my Lords. Independence means what it says. Friendship, of course, leads us to assist newly independent members of the Commonwealth, as I have no doubt an independent St. Lucia, like 35 other newly independent States, has decided to be. The present position is that this Associated State is totally responsible for its internal affairs. At the moment we are only responsible for external affairs and defence, but in independence we would seek ways and means of co-operating further with an independent St. Lucia.

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