HL Deb 14 July 1981 vol 422 cc1171-83

7.1 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 24th June be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the order will be made under Section 10(2) of the West Indies Act 1967, which requires that any order made under that section be laid in draft before Parliament and approved by Resolution of each House. The order will terminate the status of association between the United Kingdom and Antigua. It is proposed that it should take effect on 1st November this year. Antigua will then become a fully independent sovereign state. I am glad to inform the House that the Antigua Government intend to apply for membership of the Commonwealth.

Antigua and Barbuda, as the independent state is to be known, is the fifth associated state to seek to move to full independence. Grenada became independent in 1974, Dominica in 1978, and St. Lucia and St. Vincent in 1979. Under the terms of the West Indies Act 1967, associated statehood ended the colonial relationship and Antigua assumed full internal self-government. The British Government retained responsibility for defence and external affairs only. The concept of associated statehood was to provide an intermediate stage before the assumption by the islands of full independence.

In 1978 the then Antigua Government indicated that they wished to move forward to independence. They were reminded of the two main criteria which needed to be satisfied; namely, that the change should be clearly shown to be the wish of the majority of the people of the associated state, and that there should be a constitution protecting fundamental rights and freedoms. A general election was held in April 1980. The manifestoes of all three major parties included a commitment to early independence. The Antigua Labour Party won 13 seats at the election, to the main opposition party's three seats. The remaining seat went to the independent member for Barbuda. The election result thus satisfied our first criterion for independence.

A draft independence constitution was debated in the Antigua Legislature in July 1980. It was subsequently published and widely distributed throughout the state. A resolution was then passed requesting that the British Government convene a constitutional conference. The conference met at Lancaster House from 4th to 16th December 1980. A report on the proceedings is contained in Cmnd. 8142. The conference considered in depth the draft from Antigua and accepted certain changes proposed by the Opposition. The revised draft emerging from the conference satisfied the British Government's second criterion by providing the necessary safeguards for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in an independent state. That document was approved by the Antigua Parliament in April and May 1981. A copy is available in the Library of your Lordships' House.

I must explain the special attention which has been given to Barbuda in the preparations for independence. Barbuda is an island of some 62 square miles, which is 25 miles north of Antigua. There is a population of about 1,200 souls, some 400 of whom are adults. In recent years the Barbudans have raised complaints about the inadequate level of their economic development under Antigua and, generally, about the unsatisfactory working of the relationship between the Barbuda (Local Government) Council and central Government. The Antigua Government's decision in 1978 to seek independence intensified those complaints and led to demands from the island for secession. The Minister of State, with the agreement of the Antigua Government, invited a Barbudan delegation to participate in the Lancaster House Conference and to air their grievances again there. Accordingly, nearly half the time of the conference last December was devoted to the special problems of Barbuda. The Barbudan delegation were able to achieve very substantial advantages for their island, including substantially increased devolution to the local Barbuda Council of responsibility for the running of the island's affairs and much greater financial autonomy.

This year the Antigua Government have taken steps to implement the conference decisions. A revision of the 1976 Barbuda Local Government Act of the Antigua Parliament has been introduced to give effect to the new provisions, and safeguards for Barbuda's future have been provided by entrenched clauses in the new constitution. Although every effort is being made by the British Government, and will continue to be made, to urge the Antigua Government to maintain a constructive dialogue with the Barbuda Council on points which remain at issue, we are satisfied that the future social and economic development of Barbuda has now been properly and constitutionally provided for. Meanwhile, the measures which have been taken this year will confer on the tiny adult population on the island of Barbuda a unique degree of devolution of authority to allow them to conduct their own affairs within the state. This does not exist anywhere else in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

The British Government have, of course, given very full consideration to various Barbudan requests for separation from the associated state before Antigua becomes independent. We are satisfied, however, that separation would not be justified for a tiny island of 1,200 people, which was an integral part of the colony for over 100 years, and which has been an integral part of the internally self-governing associated state for the past 14 years.

The general election of April 1980 was a clear demonstration of the wish of the large majority of the people of this associated state for independence. A constitution has been prepared which protects the basic rights and freedoms of all the people of the independent state. It now falls to Britain to complete the process towards independence which was started in 1967, and to terminate the status of association with the United Kingdom. I am sure that I speak for all Members of the House when I say that we wish her people well as they take this final step into full nationhood, and that we look forward to a relationship of continuing close co-operation within the Commonwealth. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 24th June be approved.—(Lord Skelmersdale.)

7.7 p.m.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, while we on this side of the House warmly welcome the independence of Antigua and respect the rights of the Antiguans to self-determination and wish them well, unhappily the rosy picture that the noble Lord has painted of the contentment prevailing in Barbuda does not correspond with the facts as those of us who have been in recent touch with those who have just returned from there have reason to believe. Our welcome for the order is highly qualified by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Barbudans at any rate are strongly opposed to a Whitehall-imposed association with Antigua.

In this context I cannot help recalling my memories of the unhappy events in Anguilla when I was Attorney-General. We sent out there a Minister to try to maintain the involvement of Anguilla with St. Kitts and he had to make a somewhat indecorous departure from the island. I remember that during that period it became necessary for us to land several hundred paratroopers, marines and London policemen to try to terminate the rebellion. The matter ended ultimately by Anguilla being established as de facto separate from St. Kitts, and that was confirmed in the Anguilla Act 1980. What we fear is that to impose a shot-gun wedding on Barbuda and Antigua might well have equally unhappy consequences.

The Barbudans themselves are descended from the slaves who were transported there to provide food and crops for the Antigua plantations. They are a peaceful agricultural and village community—as yet they are not in any sense bellicose—and as such a community they are capable of being self-sufficient, They have been left alone there for many years indeed, and they survived the last war without any help.

What is complained of now is that what was promised by the Antiguan Government before and after the constitutional conference simply has not been fulfilled. They have apparently not allowed the Barbuda Council to exercise the powers given to it under the 1976 and 1981 local government ordinances; the Barbudans have not been given the money which was voted to them—apparently they have had no money since June 1980—the promised flying doctor has not arrived; and so there is an acute sense of discontent and dissatisfaction with the arrangements that are to be made permanent by the terms of the order we are now considering.

What I have to ask is this. What is the United Kingdom's interest in compelling the Barbudans to become part of Antigua, or to be directly involved with them as part of one state? The Barbudans have tried their best to prevent this coming to pass, and they have done so peacefully. They strongly opposed what was proposed at the constitutional conference; and the members of the Barbuda Council favour a separate Barbuda. Most of its inhabitants have signed the so-called Barbuda Declaration, giving notice of their intention to establish a separate territory if and when Antigua becomes independent. The Antigua Opposition now supports the Barbudans in their resistance.

Barbuda is by no means essential to Antigua itself, and it surely cannot be good for either of these communities to be forced (so far as the smaller of them, at any rate, is concerned) into an unwanted marriage imposed from Whitehall. Therefore, even at this late stage we greatly hope that further assurances can be given by the Government to resolve the anxieties and fears of the people of Barbuda, and that perhaps even at this stage they will think again over the whole transaction.

7.13 p.m.

Viscount Thurso

My Lords, this evening we are being asked to approve the Antigua Termination of Association Order. This, when it has been approved, will give independence to Antigua, and to that no one will object. But, as we have seen, the Government are also asking Parliament and this House (although it does not specifically say so in the order which lies before your Lordships) to approve the inclusion of the island of Barbuda as part of the new state. This inclusion is passionately opposed by the vast majority of Barbudans—as we have heard, a peaceful agricultural community who want to remain British.

The present draft Order in Council follows closely on the heels of the Antigua constitutional conference, which we have been told about, which took place at Lancaster House in December 1980, where there were four-sided negotiations involving the United Kingdom Government, the Antiguan Government, the Antiguan Opposition (the Progressive Labour Movement, or the PLM, who were the governing party until the 1976 election) and the Barbuda delegation. At that conference the Barbuda delegation sought a separate future for its people. Their position was broadly supported by the Opposition, the PLM.

The conference itself ended without resolving this question, though the Minister of State said that nothing had been finally determined and that the parties were engaged in "an on-going negotiation"—and those were his words. The talks have not been resumed since last December, so the on-going negotiation did not go on very long, unless, as indeed I hope, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, also hopes, there may yet be a change of heart on the Government's part.

The Barbudans' ancestors were brought from Africa as slaves, and most people have heard of Barbuda only because Sir Simon Codrington, whose ancestors used to own the Barbudans, sold his family's papers, which trace the Barbudans' roots back to the 17th century, at Sotheby's last December. But if the United Kingdom were to retain Barbuda, or were to allow the Barbudans to remain British, the Barbudans would in fact look after themselves, as they have done for 200 years, at insignificant cost to the British taxpayer. The Antiguans would lose nothing in real terms; indeed, the Opposition party, the PLM, which formed the last Government, supports that position.

It seems that the United Kingdom Government have learned nothing from the Anguillan crisis in 1969. Then, 5,000 Anguillans refused to accept a similar package to that now being proposed in this order. As we have heard, they expelled their police in a boat and sent them out to sea. The Government had to send paratroops and London policemen to restore order. The Barbudans are in exactly the same position as the Anguillans except that they have not resorted to force.

The Barbudan people have never been asked if they wanted to become part of Antigua—this was just foisted upon them without any form of referendum or sounding of opinion being taken—although Barbuda has been separately administered since 1900. Furthermore, the present Antiguan Cabinet has made a mockery of local government since it was introduced into Barbuda in 1976 by interfering in Barbudan affairs, and has not kept the promises which it made to the Barbudans.

The Antigua Parliament passed the 1980 financial estimates for Barbuda which contained a provision for 400,000 dollars for the Barbuda Council under the heading, "Contribution from central Government". Out of this sum, only 90,000 dollars has been received by the Barbuda Council; and the last time any part of it was paid to the Barbuda Council was in June 1980, when the Council received 20,000 dollars, according to the information which I have.

Responsibilities that were supposedly allocated to the Barbuda Council, such as agriculture and the maintenance of Government buildings and equipment, are carried out by Antiguan officials without local council consultation or supervision, contrary to the Barbuda Local Government Act 1976. Tools, materials, equipment and personnel for public works and services authorised for Barbudan projects fail to reach the island, prove defective on arrival or are removed episodically for private Antiguan ventures. Vital and long overdue public works remain unfinished. Barbuda still has no public electricity, sewerage or water supply systems. All of this is a perfect echo of the Anguillan complaints of 14 years ago.

The Antiguan police presence in Barbuda carries out no normal constabulary functions. It appears to be there solely for the purpose of harassment and intimidation. It can be seen, therefore, that the Antiguan Government has not allowed local government to work under the Barbuda Local Government Act 1976. So how can Barbudans expect anything better after the passing of this order, even with entrenched clauses to protect their interests? What guarantees would ensure that local government powers would be respected and local government costs defrayed after independence in November 1981, when we know the past history of relationships between Barbuda and Antigua?

Barbudans fear that the Antiguan Government want their island principally in order to use its resources for their own benefit. They fear that this would ruin the island, which has been their home for three centuries, and they have good reason to fear that the constitutional guarantees which they are offered will not afford them any real protection; that they will be condemned to the status of third-class citizens.

When one sees a story like that, and when one realises that we are taking a firm hand in forcing this upon these islanders, one feels a deep sense of shame at being unable to do more than plead with the Government over a matter like this. I feel a deep sense of shame that my Government involves me in this type of high-handed imposition upon these people, and I feel a sense of shame that our Foreign Office cannot do a better job of looking after the small independent communities and a more humane job in seeing to their future. I therefore hope, along with the noble and learned Lord who spoke from the Labour Benches, that indeed the Government may be able to give us better assurances than we fear exist or indeed the Government may be able to show a change of heart.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships and in particular to the noble Lord sitting on the Government Front Bench that I missed his speech as I have been at a memorial service at Westminster Abbey. Nevertheless, I feel strongly about this matter and I should very much like to support the viewpoint put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and by my noble friend Lord Thurso. Mr. John Macdonald, the Queen's Counsel who appeared for the Barbudans at the constitutional conference, used words like this in his final address: that it was inconceivable that either the Government or Parliament would impose upon the Barbudans the constitutional settlement with Antigua against their will.

That address was followed almost immediately afterwards by the final address of the chairman of the conference who was of course the Minister of State. He used the words which have been quoted by my noble friend Lord Thurso saying this was an ongoing-conference and no final decision had been taken. May I ask the question: When was the final decision taken and upon what grounds was it taken? If the Barbudans were led to believe, as other participants in the conference were led to believe, that this was an on-going negotiation, when was the final decision taken?

It seems to me very odd that a country with our heavy responsibilities takes a decision without apparently recalling the participants to negotiate further and without satisfying them about the doubts that they had raised. Here we are in this House facing the prospect of putting 1,500 people in a distant island into an alliance which they do not want and for the reasons which they have expressed without any of their doubts and the questions they have raised being satisfactorily answered.

Surely this House—as indeed the other place—has a duty as a trustee to these people. We are after all their trustees. Who else can they look to if they cannot look to this House? If as a matter of simple convenience we are brushing the problem under the carpet and say that it would be administratively convenient to make sure that Barbuda goes together with Antigua, and to turn a blind eye to what is going on at the present time, then I think that this House would be failing in its duty. Anguilla had a problem which was different in degree from the problem that has been raised here. Eventually the Anguilans resorted to force and eventually we had the Anguilla Act which as it were reversed the Government policy, granted an association under this country to the inhabitants of Anguilla. After all, it is only an island the same size of the island that we are considering here. It is 5,000 people as opposed to 1,500, but otherwise the situation is very similar. I think that we are right in this House to express extreme disquiet at what is happening. I think that the people of Barbuda can look to this House and should be able to look to us for some protection. I hope that the Government will pay heed to what has been said here this evening.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, I rise with some diffidence on this particular order because I have never been to Antigua or still less to Barbuda—and I apologise for saying that that is a name that was not familar to me until fairly recently. However, I have been to other Caribbean Islands, including St. Lucia, Barbados and Jamaica. It may well be that part of the problem here is the granting of independence to these islands, many of which have relatively small populations. I am thinking particularly of an island such as Dominica with a population of about 60,000 which has had considerable problems due to hurricanes, and so on, since this happened.

In this case I would content myself by wishing Antigua well. From what I hear of it as an island it is a particularly beautiful spot with a great tourist potential. I hope that becoming a member of the Commonwealth it will continue to get all the support from this country possible. So far as Barbuda is concerned, of course somebody like myself and many other people who do not know these people must obviously be disturbed that a situation of this kind arises. Although 1,500 people is a small number, they are people who matter. It is the duty of the British Government to do all that they can in these circumstances. The problem seems to me to arise that if they do not go in with Antigua and there may well be—and I have studied the debate in the other place—that there are problems if they do, who else will take them on?

Having said that, I hope that my noble friend—as I am sure he will—will take note of what has been happening. The Caribbean is the subject of much discussion at the present time, as this House knows, much of it misrepresented I may say. I believe that they are charming people, lovely islands with a great potential. I wish Antigua well for the future. It deserves every success in its new venture and I hope that the problem of Barbuda can be overcome very soon.

7.28 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, may I welcome this order and thank the Government for at long last stopping a fragmentation of the Caribbean. I have had to live through all this. We started out with a federation. Then a Secretary of State for the Colonies allowed Jamaica to vote to get out of the federation. The federation was still in existence but that Secretary of State agreed to allow Trinidad to leave it. Subsequently, there was an attempt to keep the other islands together. I must say that I have more sympathy with Barbados than the previous two and the Barbadians became fed up with the degree of negotiations that were taking place. Then they too went. We have had these islands one after the other becoming independent.

Every time we have had becoming independent an island which has another island attached to it we have this talk about the little island wanting to be independent on its own. The Trinidadians have the problem with Tobago. They found a way in that they have given Tobago a great deal of devolved power—much as the Antiguan Government has done with Barbuda. But if we go on with this fragmentation, we shall create little micro-states—this time it involves 1,200 people. We have the Union Island, which has about 100 people on it, talking about independence. Where do we stop? I must congratulate the Government on calling a halt to the fragmentation, and tonight I want to appeal to the Government to start to reverse the process.

The little islands I am worried about that have been becoming independent one after the other—microstates—have begun to try to come together. There is what is now called the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. It is an attempt to bring all these states together, and if Her Majesty's Government will give maximum support to that attempt it will be a movement in the right direction, because Her Majesty's Government can play a part in that, because one state is Montserrat, which is still a colony. Another state is St. Kitts Nevis, which is an associated state. Therefore Her Majesty's Government have some part they can play in this matter.

What I should like to see—I am sorry to have to disagree with my noble friend on the Front Bench and other speakers—is something quite opposite from what is being demanded. I want to see an attempt by Her Majesty's Government to try to bring about a union of these little islands so that together they can become a state. If an island of 1,200 people can brief an eminent Queen's Counsel to put its case, one has to ask where the finance is coming from. I have lived in the Caribbean: it was my home until I came here and I am still in touch. There are elements that are anxious to have a base somewhere in the Caribbean, and those elements are encouraging every little territory to try to become independent on its own so that they can control it. It is for Her Majesty's Government to recognise that fact and to stop fragmenting the Caribbean. We have suffered much too long from this fragmentation.

I mentioned what happened after the federation. But there was another occasion when we could have created an even better unity than the federation, because Trinidad offered unitary state to any of the territories willing to join her. Grenada offered to do that, and then Her Majesty's Government failed to agree with the Trinidadian Government as to how it should be done, simply on grounds of finance. So an opportunity for creating a unitary state in the Eastern Caribbean was lost, because I would ask your Lordships not to forget that if Grenada had joined Trinidad at that stage the chances are that St. Vincent and St. Lucia would also have joined, and perhaps even Antigua and St. Kitts, and there would have been created a unitary state in the Eastern Caribbean.

I mentioned here once before that what is required is some programme, some plan for knitting the Eastern Caribbean countries together, but all we are ever get is some talk. With an island of 100 or 200 people, it is the easiest thing on earth for a demagogue to influence those few people; and this is what happens in these territories. After all, in the election 35 per cent. of the people in Barbuda voted for the Antigua Labour Party anyway. No, we must try to think differently in these areas. We have an area comprising a lot of little islands. Even the Bahamas had a problem the other day. On one of its little islands there was some movement to try to extricate it from the rest of the Bahamas. That is a danger in that territory. It is a real danger and it is a danger which will grow and become a monster unless we recognise it for what it is. Therefore I appeal to the Government to stick to their guns.

I have listened to speeches suggesting that the present Government of Antigua is not in fact implementing the Local Government Act, but it is the present Government of Antigua which passed the Local Government Act for Barbuda: it had never had one before. The council did not exist before this present Government passed a Bill in 1976 to establish it. You hear all this talk about the fact that the people who have established this council bear it ill will. The contrary is the case. I have a copy of the Government of Antigua's proposal for development and a great deal of it is devoted to the development of Barbuda. It is really nonsensical to talk as though the Government of Antigua in fact has this ill will. Of course, Barbuda is not well developed. Most of Caribbean islands are not well developed—and this is after how many hundred years of British rule? For 14 years Antigua has been ruling Barbuda and Barbuda has not been developed; but for a couple of hundred years Britain was ruling Barbuda and did nothing about it.

Let us be clear as to what we are talking about in these matters, because I am afraid we are in danger of doing a tremendous amount of harm to the Caribbean—an area which needs unity. Because there are a lot of small islands it is easy for demagogues to have influence in an individual little island. If matters continue as they are I can assure your Lordships that we will have created a monster in that area and I beg the Government not to pay heed to these petitions, because they will get them all the time. That is why some time ago I raised with the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, the question of the promise the Minister of State gave to Nevis, because I think that was a bad promise. I hope the Government do not give a similar promise to Barbuda. We want to encourage the maximum amount of unity. Again, I say that Britain can play a major role in uniting this area. For Christ's sake! stop attempting to divide it. I personally welcome this order and I also want to congratulate the Government on at last saying "No more fragmentation."

7.39 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, that was a very powerful speech from the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, which has ended our debate. I must say I agree with him: most certainly we welcome the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. I would not go quite so far as the noble Lord as to see in the future a single country, a single state. But I see it as a trading and political bloc and force in that particular area, so I would certainly go that far with the noble Lord.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, would not the continuance of Barbuda as a colony, as British within an association of the kind that is being talked about, be practicable and possible?

Lord Skelmersdale

Give me a chance, my Lords. The noble and learned Lord was pre-empting me by about 500 words which I am about to say. First, are the British Government casting Antigua adrift? This is not so. As I said, associated statehood was conceived as a stepping-stone to independence. A majority of people of the territory have voted for full sovereign independence. This new status will enable Antigua and Barbuda to obtain aid and technical assistance from a wider range of international sources, yet will permit an even wider participation in the regional fora, such as the new organisation which the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, mentioned. The British Government's relationship with Antigua and Barbuda will not, of course, end with the termination of association, but will continue to be a close one.

We have been accused tonight of brushing the problem under the carpet, of a high-handed attitude and of imposing a shot-gun wedding. We are doing absolutely nothing of the kind. What we are doing is continuing an association—again, as the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, said—between the two islands, which has been going on for a considerable time, and was recognised as such by the British Parliament when it passed the 1967 West Indies Act. We see absolutely no justification for the separation of Barbuda from the associated state. In any event, separation could be effected only at the request and with the consent of the state Government, which is firmly opposed to such an event.

This Government would not think it right to introduce in this Parliament a Bill for a new Act to effect separation. Let me explain why. Relationships between the central Government and the island council are solely an internal matter. Britain has not had any responsibility for this since the colonial link was severed in 1967. Any attempt now by the British Government to intervene unilaterally would be rightly resented and opposed by the Antigua Government and by other Governments in the Caribbean which look to Britain to behave honourably in such matters.

Fourteen years ago Parliament conferred associated statehood on Antigua, recognising that it created a new relationship in which Britain retained only very limited responsibilities, and which was intended eventually to lead to independence. To suggest that we should seek to put back the clock and to renege on arrangements which were freely entered into at that time, and which have been honoured in full by the Antigua Government, is irresponsible and I am surprised that noble Lords should lend their support to such a dubious proposition. I cannot reject it more totally.

We have been asked to compare Barbuda to the island of Anguilla, but that is a completely different situation. We simply cannot accept that what happened in Anguilla is, in any way, a precedent for Barbuda. Anguillan demands for separation in 1967 represented resistance to the change from colonial status to associated statehood—that is, the stage before this. Barbuda has been part of the associated state of Antigua for 14 years.

It should be noted that the then MP for Barbuda participated as a central Government Minister in the 1966 constitutional conference, which settled the arrangements for Antigua, including Barbuda, to move to associated statehood. The question of a separate status for Barbuda was not raised, despite the clear understanding at the time that associated statehood represented an entirely new, non-colonial relationship which was intended to lead eventually to full independence. Formal recognition of the Anguilla case in the form of the Anguilla Act, and the subsequent separation, had the support of the St. Kitts-Nevis Government. There are, therefore, no comparisons to be made between Anguilla and Barbuda, either on these grounds or on grounds of size, population, economic or political viability or physical distance from central Government.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, asked about the financial arrangements between Antigua and Barbuda. I can say that following the constitutional conference a British financial expert was sent to the associated state in March, at the Antigua Government's request, to consider with the central Government and the Barbuda Council what changes were necessary in the existing financial arrangements between the two bodies, to take account of the council's newly devolved responsibilities.

The Antigua Government accepted all the recommendations in the expert's report, and these were duly reflected in the 1981 Barbuda Local Government Act and in other administrative action by the central Government. The Barbuda Council, although reported as being satisfied with the expert's work, have never commented on his report or on his recommendations. These recommendations were designed to achieve a balancing of the budget between the recurrent expenditure required for maintaining a proper level of services or Barbuda, and the revenue derived from trading and other activities. To meet the shortfall, the Antigua Government have agreed to subsidise the council to the extent of 44 per cent. of the hospital's running costs, and 56 per cent. of the costs of other public health, medical and sanitary services.

I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, referred to the paper Comments on the Barbuda Memorandum, although he did not refer to it as such, in which it was stated that Barbuda can manage its own affairs: it has done so for many years and has no need of Antiguan help. The facts simply do not support this claim, nor does it sit well with Barbudan protests about alleged Antiguan failure to pay over moneys due. The plain fact is that Barbuda would not be viable on its own and needs Antiguan support, which has been promised through the medium of the constitutional conference and subsequently.

Another point raised in that paper was that considerations of fragmentation and colonial devolution are no more compelling today than they were in 1967. This is, I must admit, a matter of opinion. We think that they are. But, more importantly, the majority of Caribbean Governments hold the view that fragmentation is a destabilising factor. I am not aware of any single Government which supports the Barbudan claim. The underlying suggestion that Barbudans are a race apart from the Antiguans, with nothing in common, is not the case. Many Barbudans live and work in Antigua. Many Barbudans and Antiguans are related, and many Barbudans—

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I am sorry to interrupt, my Lords. Will the noble Lord confirm that the wife of the Prime Minister of Antigua is from Barbuda and that, therefore, his sons are half-Barbudans?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am unable to confirm that without notice. But I know that a member of the Antigua Government—I think their equivalent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—was born in Barbuda. So that bears out what I was saying.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, he is a son of the Prime Minister.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. The link, therefore, between the two islands is not simply a matter of history. It involves people, many of whom in Barbuda have shown that they do not wish to sever this link.

Finally, perhaps I should turn to the matter of the Antigua police and defence force. The force is competent to deal with small-scale disturbances in its public order role. During the Antigua constitutional conference in London in December 1980, the strength of the force in Barbuda was increased from eight to 16, but has since been reduced to 11. The strength has not been increased in the past week, as was alleged recently—not in your Lordships' House, but elsewhere—and it is not, I am told, armed with machine guns. It really cannot be said that we are doing anything improper in this matter, and I hope I have said enough to prove it to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.