HL Deb 27 July 1981 vol 423 cc553-88

3 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Skelmersdale.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

Clause 1 [Fully responsible status of Belize]:

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

Before the amendment is called, I should like to ask the Minister a question. As some of the amendments to this Bill refer to the date of independence, what is the justification for declaring on television last night and in the newspapers this morning a specific date for independence before this House has agreed the date?

Lord Skelmersdale

As I am about to say, this was agreed between my honourable friend the Minister of State, Mr. Ridley, and the Belizean Prime Minister, Mr. Price, at discussions last week. At this stage, I would not want to anticipate that statement. if the noble Lord wants me to, of course I would be prepared to do so.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

I accept that it was an agreement between the Minister of State and the Prime Minister of Belize, but this Bill is before the House and has to be approved before independence is granted and an appropriate date fixed in accordance with the decision of this House. Does that not anticipate a decision of this House before the decision is taken?

Lord Skelmersdale

No; I understand that in independence Bills this is perfectly normal. I believe that one of the most recent to come before your Lordships' House was the Zimbabwe Independence Bill. This matter is not included in the Bill, but is in the special procedure which goes before Her Majesty in Council. We are not doing anything different in this Bill from what we have done in the past.

Lord Avebury

In view of what the Minister has said, would he be prepared to accept a manuscript amendment to write the actual date into the Bill, instead of this charade of an Order in Council?

Lord Skelmersdale

I should have thought that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we discussed this with the appropriate amendments, rather than at this point. However, I am in the Committee's hands on this matter.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I think that there is some point in the noble Lord's question. Whether it is done by agreement behind a chair, or in any other way, it means that it is anticipating Parliament's decision before that decision has been made. If there are strong reasons for that—outside needs that could be explained—it might well be that one could overlook it. But without those reasons, I think that we ought jealously to guard the fact that we still have the power to oppose this date if there are good reasons for doing so, and the anticipation could therefore be an embarrassment.

3.4 p.m.

Baroness Vickers moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 7, at end insert ("but will continue to take appropriate measures to protect the integrity of Belize").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move this amend- ment, which stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham. I had hoped that we would have had a statement before debating this Bill, because that would have made matters very much easier. I think that it must be agreed that this independence Bill must be regarded as unique in the matter of procedure. It went through all its stages in the House of Commons in fewer than two hours late at night. When, as was reported in The Times, the talks between Guatemala and Belize in New York, failed, this put everything in jeopardy. I understand that the United Kingdom therefore decided to go ahead and give independence to end colonial rule under the terms of the United Nations resolution that requires Belize to achieve full independence by the end of 1981.

So, this amendment is a probing amendment to find out how, and for how long, the Government intend to protect the integrity of Belize, in view of the fact that President Lucas Garcia has said that if Britain were to grant independence unilaterally—which appears to be what we intend to do—Guatemala would regard that independence as illegitimate and would not recognise the sovereignty of the Belizean régime headed by the present Prime Minister, Mr. George Price.

During the Second Reading debate, I mentioned that Belize is an oasis of democracy in South America and I continue to consider that point. Democracy is very important to Belize, and I want to discuss the future of Belize when it becomes independent, and whether this democracy can be guaranteed. It was stated that there was a list of heads of agreement. I now understand that it is unsigned, and that, if it had been signed, it would not have been a legal document and, therefore, would have no standing.

In 1971, Britain sent troops to prevent a possible invasion by Guatemala. Can the noble Lord give an assurance that the present situation is different? In view of the fact that the Belize defence force is little more than two years old and numbers only 600 men, I gather that it would be impossible to train more than 1,000 a year in the next two years. Guatemala has 16,000 of the best trained soldiers in Central America, and I understand that it is also being supplied with arms by the United States of America.

The main worry is that many nations are waiting to exploit the vast untapped oil reserves and also the hundreds of thousands of acres of very fertile and uncultivated land. It is stated that in the off-shore Cays, the waters are teeming with fish. If seismic reports are accurate, Belize floats on a sea of oil, which has attracted the attention of oilmen from America, Holland and West Germany. Speaking in the capital of Belmopan, the Prime Minister, Mr. Price, revealed on 23rd June 1981 that Guatemalan dictatorship was seeking to establish a naval base in the strategic island of Sapodilla. I gather that the Prime Minister is willing to co-operate with Guatemala in trade and agriculture but that he objects to any military installations.

I want to know how Belize will be defended after the Union Jack is hauled down. I do not agree with the Foreign Office spokesman who, as reported in the Morning Star on 23rd June, 1981, stated that: After independence, Belize becomes part of the American sphere of influence. After all, it is in Uncle Sam's back yard". I do not want to think that any Commonwealth country will be in Uncle Sam's back yard.

The strategic pickings for the United States of America in Belize, where there is an airbase which lies only 250 miles from the capitals of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, would be very useful to the Americans. The opportunities to train in anti-guerrilla warfare would also be useful. As far back as 1968 the Daily Express warned that there was a secret plan, drawn up under powerful American influences, which would, in effect, hand over Belize to Guatemala. I gather that Mr. Bethad Webster was the mediator. It was stated that after independence Belize should not be allowed to become a member of the British Commonwealth. This was stated by President Johnson, who made it plain in 1968 that: There was no room for the British Commonwealth on the South American Continent ". President Kennedy gave a strong assurance to the Guatemalans that Britain would be seen off double quick ". In October 1980 a document entitled Free Belize Now stated: Our independence is not negotiable". It is a question of how the United Kingdom might satisfy Guatemala regarding the alleged breach of the 19th century treaty, which was signed in 1859, to look after the country itself. In 1940 Guatemala repudiated this treaty on the ground that the cart road had not been made. In October 1979 the Belize Prime Minister informed the United Nations that the Government of Guatemala agents were actively engaged in the internal affairs of Belize.

Several times during the negotiations the Guatemalans have threatened with military force, once even as we sat at the negotiating table in Washington DC. Belize is accorded special status by the non-aligned movement which has pledged its unconditional support of Belizean independence. Mexico has also offered its full support. But what guarantee is Britain going to give to Belize? Will it remain a fully independent country of the Commonwealth? This is the reason I am moving this amendment today. I beg to move.

3.11 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am grateful to my noble friend for having moved this amendment. Since there have been changes in the position since I spoke to you on this matter on Second Reading I welcome the opportunity now to give the Committee details of what has been agreed with the Government of Belize. Premier Price of Belize and my honourable friend the Minister of State have, as I told the House a few minutes ago, discussed on 22nd July the arrangements to be made after independence on 21st September for the defence of Belize.

Recognising their responsibility to bring Belize to secure independence Her Majesty's Government have agreed with the Government of Belize appropriate measures to ensure a sound basis for the future security of Belize from any external threat. It was agreed that British forces would remain in Belize after independence for an appropriate period under arrangements to be made in an exchange of notes between the two Governments on the attainment of independence by Belize. At the same time the British Government would provide military training, aid and assistance including the provision of training teams, and lend service personnel to assist in the development and growth of the Belize defence force. The Belize Government, for its part, would make available training areas for use by British forces as required.

It was further agreed that certain countries in the region would be invited to participate in arrangements with the United Kingdom under which, in the event of armed attack against Belize, externally organised or supported, or the threat of such an attack, they would consult together to consider what measures should be taken in relation to such an attack. These arrangements should be viewed in the context of Belize's membership of the United Nations and of the Commonwealth and against the background of the international support already expressed for Belize's independence within its traditional and existing borders. Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Belize consider that these measures provide a sound basis for the future security and territorial integrity of Belize.

The Government therefore recognise their responsibility to bring Belize to secure independence, but I do not feel that this amendment is necessary since security will, as I have said, be the subject of a specific agreement between the Governments of Belize and the United Kingdom which will set out in detail the measures to be taken. The amendment is therefore, I am afraid, not acceptable to the Government. My noble friend Lady Vickers expressed reservations on the Guatemalan position in this matter, and I am happy to be able to tell the Committee that newspapers of 23rd July in Guatemala City report a statement made the day before by President Lucas Garcia in reply to journalists' questions about Premier Price's reported attempts to obtain defence guarantees from Britain, Mexico, and Canada.

The President of Guatemala said: Guatemala will never invade Belize. Guatemala is not an aggressor and we have no interest in destroying the Belizeans. They are our brothers, even though we have differences. We would never come to the point of invading that territory, for to do so rather than benefiting us would bring upon us the revenge of the world. The United Nations wants independence to be given to the Belizeans and we shall keep silent. If they could reach a good understanding with us this would suit them because we could co-operate with them. It is always a good idea to live in accord with one's neighbour, and I consider that it would serve them well to sign the heads of agreement and stay friends with Guatemala". I hope this gives added point to my earlier remarks.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

I think it has been helpful that the noble Minister has been able to make this statement. I am not sure that it follows from what he says that the amendment is unnecessary. We have certainly travelled further than we have before both in the terms of the statement of the President of Guatemala and in the degree of explicitness in the Government's commitment to the defence of Belize. We are glad to hear that the forces are to remain there.

They are to remain there—I think this is the Govern- ment's own phrase—while it is appropriate that they should, and that term indeed appears in the amendment, as well. It is evident that the Government regard it as appropriate that the forces should be there now. I take it they regard it as appropriate because it has not been possible to reach agreement with Guatemala. It is that fact which makes it appropriate that the forces should remain. I hope we can assume from that, therefore, that the forces will remain until an agreement has been reached with Guatemala, and we may have more confidence of the future safety of Belize from attack, because that is really what is in issue.

Many points have been raised about this Bill and we know that there are differences of opinion among the Belizean people on many aspects of it; on the form of the constitution, and many other matters. Those are not necessarily matters with which this House can deal very well. They are matters for the Belizeans to settle. But this question of the security and integrity of Belize is something that this House ought to be satisfied with before we proceed further with the Bill.

I do not know that I need to press the point further than to say that I hope the Government will take an opportunity before we part with this amendment of making it clear that "appropriate" means as long as there are any reasonable grounds to fear a possible danger from Guatemala, or indeed anywhere else, to Belize. Not that I think that there is anywhere else. One encouraging sign in the whole business has been the understanding attitude of other countries on the American continent. If the Government are able to say anything further about the attitude of the United States to the whole matter, that also might be able to give encouragement to the Committee. There are then a few more things that the Government need to say, and in the meantime the amendment is still on the Marshalled List and we might vote for it.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

I should like to support what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart. While these reassuring statements have been made from Guatemala in the last few days, may I recall that on 1st July Guatemala's president, General Romeo Lucas Garcia, voiced the hope that there would be a conclusion of a treaty, but declared that meanwhile his Government maintained all its claims and it would not recognise an independent Belize created by unilateral British action. General Rodrigues, the head of the defence department, said that a unilateral declaration of independence would be opposed by the Guatemalans.

They have built up very considerable military capacity since the Americans are now delivering weapons to Guatemala. The people in charge of Guatemala seem to be the military rather than political leaders, and this creates a danger. American arms were refused to Guatemala, in view of their bad record on human rights, since 1977. But now the United States has started to deliver large quantities of arms to that country. While it can be said that the British will train officers and a defence force in Belize, I would point out that the total population of Belize is 150,000 while the total population of Guatemala, which has a very considerable army, is 40 times that, and the possibility of the Belizeans ever building up a sufficient defence force is remote.

The Minister said that there would be support from other countries involved in the area. Nevertheless, the present situation in Guatemala is dangerous because there is severe economic strain with the Government under a good deal of pressure—it is not uncommon for countries to embark on military enterprises to relieve the concerns of their domestic situation. I should have thought it was extremely dangerous to grant independence to Belize without the assurances which the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, has sought.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

While we welcome the explanation given by the Minister and his statement that, in anticipation of the Bill being approved, appropriate action had been taken in the form of agreements which he thought would meet the problems which had been outlined by noble Lords on both sides of the House—and it seems as though those agreements will work out all right—why should that mean that we cannot accept the amendment? I should have thought that the amendment being written into the Bill would strengthen those arrangements, which I gather will be agreed to once the Bill has gone through its parliamentary procedures and received the Royal Assent.

At the end of the day the agreements about which my noble friend spoke, like all agreements, can be broken or there can be moves to amend them for all sorts of new reasons that may arise between now and the effectiveness of this legislation. Like my noble friend and noble Lords opposite, I should like to feel that we are committed under the Bill to ensure that appropriate action is possible, so that we can look upon the preparations that have been made as a sensible anticipation of what might happen. However, I believe that in no way relieves us of our responsibility, in the words of the amendment, to ensure that we are obliged under statute, to take appropriate measures to protect the integrity of Belize", and I hope that in the circumstances, without in any way weakening the agreements that have been made, those words can form part of the Bill.

Lord Avebury

It is said that if you sup with the devil you must have a long spoon, and that certainly applies to the assurances that have been given by General Lucas Garcia, the dictator of Guatemala. It is proper that the Government should have made, as they have, a Statement promising that the military support for Belize should continue after independence and that we should assist the Belizean defence forces in building up their own strength. However, it was well put by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, that it will be impossible for Belize ever to compete with Guatemala in the scale of its military effort because of the huge disparity between populations and resources. Even if we were prepared to station troops there for the purpose of training Belizean defence forces more or less indefinitely and build them up at the rate of 1,000 a year, as the noble Baroness suggested, so that after 16 years the Belizean forces would equal those of Guatemala, that would bankrupt the Belizean economy. Therefore it is not conceivable that in the last resort the integrity of Belizean independence could depend on the strength of its own military forces.

I was glad, therefore, to hear the Minister say that certain countries in the region would be invited to participate in the guarantees of the security of Belize's boundaries. However, he went on to say that if there were any threat to the integrity of Belize, those nations would consult together to consider what measures should be taken. It seems to me that that falls short of the sort of absolute guarantees to which they are entitled. So long as the British are there and Belize is a dependency of this country, presumably we are committed in some absolute sense to sending reinforcements if there should be a threat of a Belizean invasion; but now, with the Americans building up the Guatemalan armed forces and, as the noble Lord said, supplying them with weapons, there could be threats in the future which would be the subject of consultation between the countries in the region but the might of the Guatemalan armed forces might be such that it would be impossible to take action within the time necessary to protect Belizean independence.

I therefore believe that if we were to write the words of the amendment into the Bill, even though the Minister says we intend to do what the amendment says, it would have an enormous effect on the morale of the people of Belize. It would show them that not only by the Statement which the Government issued over the weekend but also by writing it into the statute, we are determined not to back down through any threats that may be made by the Guatemalan dictators but will ensure that for all time the arrangements made are such as to safeguard the security of the Belizean people.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

I am not sure about the advice given to the Committee by my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls. He can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that if we were to amend the Bill in the way proposed we should lose the Bill until the autumn Session; it would have to go back to the Commons.

Lord Avebury

They could be recalled.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

That is a technical reason why I should think it would be unwise to press the amendment now. But it is on the merits of the matter that I feel that the arrangement between the Minister of State and the Prime Minister of Belize is better than the amendment, which, as I understand it, would commit the British Government to support Belize with military forces in perpetuity, whatever arrangements might be made in the meantime by countries which border on Belize for Belize's security. Again, at a later stage we should have to amend the Bill, I take it, if any other arrangements were made. I prefer the agreement made between the Minister in this country and the Prime Minister of Belize, which I believe will serve the interests of Belize rather better than something more rigid such as the wording of the amendment.

3.29 p.m.

Baroness Jeger

I, too, hope that the Government will accept the amendment, because we should try to look at this from the point of view of the people of Belize. I have been receiving messages and telegrams right up to today from people there who are nervous because they do not accept that arrangements made between Ministers have the force of a statutory undertaking. Ministers come and go, in the same way as noble Lords come and go. For how much longer will Mr. Price be in office? Arrangements made in this way do not give confidence and support, and unless we have a mood of confidence in Belize we shall not have the happy end to colonial rule to which we should be looking forward. The Minister said British troops would remain for an appropriate period, but "appropriate" is a very subjective word; what may seem appropriate to your Lordships may not seem appropriate to the people of Belize, especially if Guatemalan troops should be gathering on their borders.

I was puzzled that the Minister should seem to be giving such credence to a statement made at a press conference by the dictator of Guatemala. If he means what he says, why has the treaty not gone ahead? Why have negotiations broken down? If the Guatemalan Government want the British Government to give credence to a statement made at a press conference at the same time that the Guatemalan Government are refusing to sign a treaty, one cannot wonder at the fact that the people of Belize are alarmed and surprised. There is no earthly reason why the people of Belize should believe something that the President of Guatemala happens to say at a press conference, and there is no reason why our Government should feel that such a statement represents sufficient grounds. In fact I consider it be to be something of an insult to Her Majesty's Ministers, who have worked hard on the negotiations with Guatemala, that these people should prefer to set out a new policy at a press conference while having broken off discussions on the treaty.

I want to support what has been said by other noble Lords about the disparity between the two countries—not only between the Belizean population of some 150,000 compared with 7 million Guatemalans; but of Belize's population of 150,000, half are aged under 15 years of age and a quarter are aged over 60. That does not provide much of a basis for a population to be trained up into an army over the years, even given the excellent standards of training which British officers can offer. I feel that we should at least put this amendment into the Bill so that we have an absolutely clear situation, and thus give the people of Belize more confidence in their future.

Lord Derwent

I do not quite understand what this amendment means. My noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel says that as drafted this amendment means that we would give an undertaking to Belize in perpetuity.

Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe

The amendment does not mean that.

Lord Derwent

One cannot enter an agreement in perpetuity. Some future Government will say, "This amendment is in the Bill but there is nothing to say that it is in perpetuity, and, as far as we are concerned, we do not want to go on with it." A future Government are much more likely to abide by an undertaking given by the Government in the past than by referring back to an amendment in a Bill which, in my view, means absolutely nothing in practice.

Lord Shepherd

In 1969 to 1970, when I was a Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I was in close negotiation with Mr. Price, the Chief Minister of Belize, and with the Foreign Minister of Guatemala. It is a very involved story and one that goes back many years. I should be less than frank if I said to your Lordships that the Guatemalans were very clear that Belize belonged to them. This goes back to a period when South America was Spanish and when the British had a particular position there.

I undertook those negotiations together with my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham, who moved this amendment, who was then my Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. I negotiated on a very clear basis: that there was no defence treaty—that there was no defence commitment. I have to say to your Lordships that under those terms and conditions there was no way that the Government or the people of Belize would have contemplated independence. I have nothing but praise for the way in which the Government have sought to bring the two sides together; but I do wonder—and this is why I believe the first amendment has some relation to the following amendment—whether there should be a referendum and whether the people of Belize should be allowed to decide whether their country should become independent or not. I must admit that with the Bill now before your Lordships' House, I was very surprised to hear on the radio that the date of independence had already been declared.

The Foreign Minister with whom I was negotiating was assassinated shortly afterwards, and no one could say that the political structure of Guatemala is very secure. Therefore, without in any way wishing to cast doubts on the good faith of the present Ministers, I wonder how much good faith the people of Belize should place on future Ministers and future Governments. In my case I made it very clear that there was no defence treaty. The Ministers say we have a military commitment but they do not specify the length of that commitment, and I can fully appreciate their difficulties.

I believe that the people of Belize, if they want independence and knowing the past, ought to have a very clear view of the future. Are Her Majesty's Government going to stand by them if they go to independence? If the Government are not clear and cannot give the specific assurance asked for in this amendment, then I consider that the people of Belize ought to know this before they have a referendum. If the people of Belize do not have a very clear statement enshrined in this piece of legislation, then, when the referendum is held, I believe that the views of the Prime Minister of Belize may not perhaps be upheld.

I fully understand the Government's difficulties in this respect, but I believe that Belize, like some of the Windward and Leeward Islands, may be sent into independence under some degree of pressure. The pressure is on Belize to become independent, perhaps without full knowledge and certainty of its future. With regard to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, the Bill will not be lost. There is still time available—there would be time even in October. It may mean that independence is delayed, but I would prefer independence to be delayed if only to ensure that if Belize does become independent, it may be reasonably certain that its integrity will be not only acknowledged but will also continue. I believe it would be wrong to send any territory into independence unless we are sure of its future. If we are not sure, then within our limitations we should say in our statute: "If you become independent, we will support you."

The Lord Bishop of Oxford

I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will take into account not only the feelings which have been expressed on both sides of the Committee in favour of this amendment, but also the concern of some of those who have served the Church in Belize and who have given many years' service to the people of that country. One of their causes for concern is the record of the Guatemalan Government in relation to the Church and to the attempts of churchmen to defend the rights of the poor people in that country. Amnesty International has given details of eight cases in which priests or pastors have been killed in the past 15 months, and as one looks to the future this cannot give one very great confidence—particularly not the church people of Belize. It seems therefore that the more this Bill can be strengthened and can show the determination of Britain to assure the integrity of Belize, the better.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is right when he says that this matter has behind it a very long history of negotiations. We have never been able to come to an agreement before now as to how independence should be approached. The Government have succeeded in doing this with the Guatemalan Ministers. I shall not repeat what I have already said about the merits of the case and the demerits of this particular amendment, but on the question of the Bill going back to another place, let me suppose that the Bill has to be reintroduced in October, or it might be delayed in order to take the remaining stages. I would hesitate to accept that responsibility, I must say. There have taken place successful negotiations, which no one has previously been able to achieve. It is a pretty tricky situation, and sending back the Bill to another place for another three months or so would be to accept a very heavy responsibility which I would not care to undertake.

Lord Shepherd

Is it not a fact that there is to be a spillover period into the middle of October? Bearing in mind that the Government have control of the business in another place, I should not have thought that if your Lordships' Committee were to pass the amendment, that would necessarily delay the Bill. There is one point I should like to put to the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel—I might have made it in my earlier speech. While Belize was a dependent territory, have we not from time to time in recent years found it necessary to have added reinforcements to protect the boundaries of Belize? That must have been because of uncertainties as to what might have been Guatemala's attitude to Belize even as a dependent territory.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

Of course that can be done under the Ministers' formula. We are to protect them for an appropriate period, which presumably means a period to be agreed between the two Governments in the light of outside events.

Lord Avebury

Would not the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, agree that if the amendment were passed and the Government still considered it absolutely vital to adhere to the timetable, they could in theory bring back another place to deal with it during the recess?

Lord Beswick

I wonder whether we can have a little more information from the noble Lord the Chief Whip. A statement has been made that if the amendment were passed the Bill would be lost, but I must say that I feel quite strongly that that is not the case; certainly one could consider it until October. I have had a little experience of these matters. We passed two Bills through all their stages on Friday morning. I cannot believe that if this one amendment were made to the Bill, it could not go back to the other place, come back here by Friday, and be passed.

Lord Denham

I rather hesitate to come in because I have not heard the whole of the argument, but what I understood my noble friend Lord Home to say was that, after the immense amount of effort that there has been to get a solution to the problem, for this House to delay the Bill, even slightly, by sending it back to another place would be unwise. I thought that that was what my noble friend said.

Lord Beswick

On the one particular and narrow point, it is physically possible to send back the Bill to the other place with one amendment and then get it back before the House rises on Friday.

Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe

It might be appropriate if I confirm that. If the Government accepted the amendment and the Bill went back to the other House, they could easily find time for it to reach us by Friday.

Lord Denham

I would hesite to pontificate with so many of your Lordships who have come from another place. The noble Baroness opposite shares with me the disadvantage of not having done so, but there are difficulties with their procedure in another place that we in this House do not have. For instance, if we receive an amendment back from the Commons, we can debate it almost immediately upon receipt, but that is not possible so far as another place is concerned; they have to have it down on the Order Paper. I think it important that we should get away from these procedural minutiae. Personally I was very much convinced by what my noble friend Lord Home said, and I hope that the Committee was.

Baroness Jeger

May I remind the noble Lord, who never pontificates, that we are having to spend more time on the Bill today because Government business managers brought it on in the House of Commons between 10 o'clock and 12 o'clock at night for Second Reading, Committee, Report, and Third Reading, all in two hours. It does not lie in the mouths of Govern- ment managers to blame us if there are now some timetable difficulties.

3.44 p.m.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The noble Baroness is spoiling a good case by bringing in that kind of argument. If one has followed the Bill through all the stages in another place, one will know that there is no question at all that the Government have done nothing other than genuinely try to bring about a solution to a very difficult problem. They have used all the machinery of government, with all the skill and advice that they have, to bring that about. So I am rather sorry that the noble Baroness wanted to inject a comment of bad faith into what has gone before; that is not the case.

The point of my noble friend Lord Home is a very real one. I believe that the amendment would strengthen the Bill, and I should like to see it included, if procedure so allows. I would want to support it in the Lobbies if need be, but I would not want to delay the Bill. If we could get the Bill through by Friday, I should like to support the amendment. If it is to be delayed beyond that, I believe that there would be a risk of creating a new atmosphere which would completely undermine the successful negotiations that have already taken place. It is not a question of detail.

If the Bill could be brought back to us on Friday, I believe that your Lordships' House would be carrying out its proper function by inserting an amendment which it believes would strengthen the Bill and would achieve the general principle lying behind what clearly the Government want to achieve. So information on whether the matter can be handled by Friday is rather important. If it cannot be brought back by then, I would say let it go, because there are safeguards in the agreement that has already been entered into. But if the Bill can be brought back by Friday, I believe that it would be strengthened by the amendment. I believe, too, that it would mean that the people involved would be more likely to adhere to the agreements that they have made if this provision were written into the Bill. It would then be possible to fall back on the provision.

However, having weighed all the points and compared one against another, I think that speed is of the essence to some extent. If the matter can be handled by Friday, I would certainly support the amendment. If it cannot be done by Friday, I would not wish to risk upsetting the very sensitive negotiations by letting the matter go on until October. I should like clear advice on whether the Bill can be brought back by Friday, if the Government want it. Judging from my knowledge of government, which goes back 30 years, if the Government want it back by Friday, they can get it back. There is no doubt about that. But if there are reasons that I have not foreseen and they cannot get it back, I should like to know about them.

Lord Denham

If you Lordships will forgive me for just half a minute, I would say that my noble friend is to reply to the debate. What worries me is that we are getting away from the point of the amendment and into the question of procedure. Would it not be right for my noble friend to reply? If noble Lords are then not happy, they can always ask him questions.

Lord Avebury

The noble Lord, Lord Denham, might not have been aware that over the weekend there took place major developments which created certain military obligations for this country, to continue after the independence of Belize, and the question before us is whether or not we should write that point into the independence Bill. It was the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, not a member of the Opposition, who raised the question of whether or not this could be done procedurally this side of the Summer Recess. I wanted only to tell the noble Lord, Lord Denham, that I served as a Whip in the other place and I would venture to express the opinion that it could be done: if your Lordships were to pass the amendment, it could be sent back to another place, and it could be completed in another place in time for them to rise when previously planned.

Lord Shinwell

Since I know nothing about this subject perhaps I may offer an observation. I think we should get rather more clarification on one point which concerns me in particular and which might concern other members of the Committee. In the course of the debate a reference has been made to the United Kingdom guaranteeing the security of Belize in perpetuity. I am bound to say that it amazes me that we can guarantee anybody's security in perpetuity. We cannot even guarantee our own. When I recall the controversies that have occurred in recent years over whether we could guarantee the security of the countries associated with NATO and could make our contribution to that effect in perpetuity, I do not believe that any member of your Lordships' Committee will accept this particular point. We have not got the strength, neither are we likely to have it in the foreseeable or the remote future.

If we could have some clarification on that I should be obliged, because I would like to vote one way or the other. I do not want to abstain. I do not like sitting on the fence because I know what the result is likely to be. By that I mean that a reference was made many years ago by Lloyd George about Sir John Simon that he had sat on the fence so long that the iron had entered his soul. I do not want to do that, therefore I should like a little clarification. If there is anything in the Bill or the amendment which guarantees in perpetuity the security of Belize, I am voting against it.

3.50 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

For some considerable time I have been trying like a fish slice to get a word in edgeways. May I first say to the Committee that in the statement the phrase" appropriate measures" was used as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, rightly recognised, and the same phrase is in the amendment. From that point of view, there is nothing in the statement or in the amendment which contradicts each other. But—and it is a big but—I am advised by my legal department that this amendment is open-ended in time. There have been various arguments backwards and forwards as to whether it is open-ended or not, and I am advised that it is. Furthermore, it casts fundamental doubts on the scope of the executive and legislative powers of the United Kingdom Parliament, as to whether it is within our constitutional capabilities to do this. But I think probably the first reason is sufficient in itself.

However, I can assure the Committee that, as my honourable friend the Minister of State has said several times, not only will appropriate measures be taken in the light of the circumstances pertaining at any particular time in the future, but we are determined to see them right. I. think, if my memory serves me correctly, that when I was about to wind up the Second Reading debate in your Lordships' House about a fortnight ago I was, incidentally, asked to put the strongest pressure on my noble friend the Chief Whip to make sure there was no hurry in bulldozing this Bill through, as the allegations were that it was bulldozed through all three stages late at night in another place. Your Lordships really cannot expect to have it both ways. I have delayed it on the one hand and used my good offices to do so, and now I am accused of rushing it through. I really think that is a little unfair.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

May I say a few words first about the apparent difficulty raised that we should delay independence if we accept this amendment? The argument is that if this amendment is made here it must go to another place, which will delay the Bill and delay independence. If that argument were valid at all, it would be an argument against making any amendment whatever at this stage in the Bill. I really do not think the Committee can allow itself to be put in that position.

But it is not correct to say that it would delay independence. The Standing Orders of another place provide that if the House sees fit it can require amendments from this House to be considered forthwith. There is really no doubt at all. May I draw to the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, that if we make the amendment in this House and the Government accept it and recommend it to another place, we can have it back by Friday. Of course, if that were not true, one might have to consider the terrifying possibility of another place having to sit during the following week. But possibly, so far as the goodwill and security of the people of Belize is concerned, we might even in both Houses be prepared to endure that; but it might not be necessary. There is really nothing in that argument and it will not stand up.

Secondly, on the question of perpetuity, the nature of the guarantee this amendment contains would continue as long as it remains on the statute book and it is up to Parliament. If at any future time any Government felt that they could not continue this commitment, or that for any reason whatever it was sensible to divest ourselves of it, they would have to come to Parliament and ask for the Act to be altered. That is quite a reasonable proposition. Of course, in the nature of the case you cannot pass Acts of Parliament saying that things shall last forever; they last for as long as the Act of Parliament lasts. The point of putting this in an Act of Parliament is that if any future Government want to alter it they must get the permission of Parliament to do so. We maintain that in the circumstances that is a reasonable request.

It has been argued also that what is in the amendment is not as good as the guarantee that Britain has already given. But we are asking not that the amendment should be a substitute for the guarantee but that it should be an addition to it. Our suggestion is that this, as it were, seals the thing still further and makes it more emphatic. It might be said that it is unnecessary to do that, but I do not think the people of Belize take that view. The Government have not been able to show that the acceptance of this amendment will in any way damage the situation in Belize, or that it would make some future agreement with Guatemala harder to reach, or that it would upset the constitution and delay independence. They have not been able to show that this amendment in any way damages the situation. The most they can say is that they do not think it is necessary.

In the circumstances, that does not seem to me a sufficient reason for resisting the amendment. Indeed, even if they were right in saying it was not necessary, I repeat that I am sure that is not the view that the people of Belize take; it would be of considerable value in strengthening their moral in what by any count must be a difficult situation. I am sorry the Government have not so far expressed their willingness to accept the amendment. I would suggest to my noble friends that we ought to test the opinion of your Lordships on this matter.

3.57 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

Before the noble Lord goes as far as that, may I ask him to look at the Bill? He will see that under Clause 2 the constitution has to be presented in the form of an Order in Council. This also refers to the definitive date of independence day. My understanding is that the present plan is that a single combined order for these two facts will be made on Friday, 31st July, assuming Royal Assent by this time. Friday is the last Privy Council of this Session and I am told that, if we miss it, it will be necessary to have a special sitting of the Privy Council to do this, and it would then be likely that we would miss the Belizeans' preferred date for independence, 21st September.

Lord Swinfen

Before the noble Lord decides what to do with this amendment, there is one small point that comes to mind on reading his amendment. I wonder what the position would be if Belize was attacked and damage was done. Would not the Belizeans, if this amendment is passed, have a claim in the British courts against Britain for any damage done?—because we would have to continue to take appropriate measures to protect the integrity of Belize. By passing this amendment should we not possibly be damaging this country?

Lord Stewart of Fulham

I should like to say two things. If by any ill fortune Belize should be attacked and great damage be done there, I would hope this country would in any circumstances be prepared to give whatever help suitable to the Belizean people. I do not think the amendment puts on us in law anything more than lies on us in honour, anyhow.

I must say that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, does his valiant best with one defence after another. Heavens! we shall have to have a special session of the Privy Council. I believe that when the Privy Council meets it is not normal for all Privy Counsellors to turn up; but if those who are members of the Government are going to find it inconvenient, there are a number of my noble friends here who will be happy to take their places. It really will not do. The issue is a serious one, and if it is going to cause a minor inconvenience to another place and some inconvenience to the Privy Council, that is worth it. The thing can be done, keeping to the present promulgated independence date. It can be done and it ought to be done.

Lord Shinwell

I am not wholly satisfied by what my noble friend Lord Stewart has said, much as I admire his skill and his knowledge in matters of this sort, but what I am concerned about is this: If Belize is attacked—that is a simple point—is there a guarantee that we are going to furnish military assistance on behalf of Belize against Guatemala? Is that the position? Because when I consider the turbulence and the volatile attitude of South American states, I am not at all sure that we are in a position to guarantee anybody's security there.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Could my noble friend clear up the one point in this debate which troubles me? On the merits of the matter I think I am with him, but I am less than clear on the argument as to whether or not the carrying of this or any other amendment would prevent the achievement of the agreed independence date of 21st September, because if that is so then, as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, has said, no amendment can be made without causing a degree of disruption at the initiation of an independent state which many of us would not wish to see. But if that is so, then surely this Committee, as the revising Chamber, is being put in a position of some difficulty. If we are taking a Committee stage at a time when we are told that, though we may be right on merits to make this or any other amendment, we cannot do it without doing considerable public mischief by delaying the date, then this does not seem to me—I say it with great diffidence—the right way to treat your Lordships' Committee.

Lord Skelmersdale

It was not ever my intention to come into this Chamber this afternoon and treat your Lordships' Committee, or indeed any other proceedings in your Lordships' House, with any sort of disparagement. I would never intend to do that, I can tell my noble friend. But regarding the first part of his argument, I am advised very strongly that any amendment would mean that the Bill would have to go back to another place—and we have all accepted that—and there is then great danger in missing the Belizeans' own preferred date for independence. I should perhaps point out to the Committee that the Belize Government have been elected consistently on an independence platform. This was reaffirmed in the general election of 1979, and again, I understand, this was backed up by the local council elections in Belize City, where approximately half the population live, where the Government party was returned with an overwhelming majority.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I think this is a point which ought to be pursued. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and most noble Lords who have spoken, have held high office, so when they come to your Lordships' Committee, which is a revising Chamber, they come with a lot of experience. Their experience often tells them, when they are producing legislation to be considered, that you have to read between the lines, quite apart from the actual words being discussed. The part that interests me and worries me a little bit is the fact that the Government are resisting this amendment. Ought we to be reading between the lines? Are the Government in a position to give, by a hint or a blink, even if they cannot use words, an indication that agreements that they have entered into, which in the long term are in the interests of Belize, would be injured if, for some reason, these words were put in?

That would be a reason to cause me to have second thoughts; certainly not the timetable, or having to call the Privy Council together, which could easily be done. Perhaps we could have some indication, if that is their reason—and they are the ones who have been negotiating; they are the ones who have been meeting the Ministers in the various Governments involved, and they know the atmosphere. If they feel that they have arrived at an agreement which is a good agreement and which, in the present atmosphere, if it is given effect to, will achieve what they all want, and if they feel for some reason—we know atmospheres, and this is where I come to reading between the lines—that this is likely to affect that, then let us know about it. Nobody wants to be difficult, or even to keep rigidly to the proprieties of the two Houses, if bigger things are likely to be interfered with.

If there is something like that I should like a hint, and I would take the hint from the Government. If they cannot give that sort of hint then I think that we ought to insist upon our right as a revising Chamber to have our say as to what we think would make the Bill a better Bill.

Lord Skelmersdale

If my noble friend were to do that and the Committee were to follow his advice, I must advise your Lordships that what I said originally still stands. This amendent is legally defective, and these words could not be enforced by any court of law. As a matter of law they add practically nothing to the Bill which is not added by an exchange of Notes, which de facto becomes a treaty obligation. The Government really must stand on that particular case.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

I have never before spoken so much in my life on one morning, and I hope never to again, but the issue here has been rather side-tracked by the procedure, I think. The issue here is whether we can give an open-ended commitment in this case. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that this is really undesirable. I think this is the centre of the issue, and that the agreement made between the Ministers of our two countries is really preferable to that.

Lord Gore-Booth

I have nothing to say on the legal side of this matter at all, but I will give your Lordships, with apologies, a piece of history. When I first joined the Foreign Office, one of the first files I had was the long-delayed consideration of this question. I should like to put that into the argument as an element, but that is all. In terms of diplomats and their political masters talking to each other, there is always a feeling that, somehow, it is not quite worthy of us to have failed to arrive at a solution for so long. I am afraid that is not very helpful, but it is a fact.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

Perhaps I may just say this—I am sorry to speak so often. There has been talk about open-ended commitment. The nature of the commitment described in this amendment is the commitment the Government say they have already entered into and by which they are bound.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 86: Not-Contents, 118.

Airedale, L. John-Mackie, L.
Amherst, E. Kennet, L.
Ardwick, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Avebury, L. Leatherland, L.
Banks, L. Lee of Newton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Listowel, E.
Beswick, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]
Bishopston, L.
Blyton, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Briginshaw, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Brockway, L. McCarthy, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Milverton, L.
Byers, L. Noel-Baker, L.
Caradon, L. Northfield, L.
Chitnis, L. Oram, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Oxford, Bp.
Clwyd, L. Phillips, B.
Collison, L. Plant, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
David, B. Porritt, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Robbins, L.
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B. Rochester, L.
Seear, B.
Denington, B. Shepherd, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Spens, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Stamp, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Gaitskell, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Garner, L. Stone, L.
Gladwyn, L Strabolgi, L.
Glenamara, L. Strauss, L.
Grey, E. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Hale, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Halsbury, E. Tordoff, L.
Hampton, L. Underbill, L.
Hankey, L. Vickers, B. [Teller.]
Hanworth, V. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Hughes, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hunt, L. White, B.
Jacques, L. Wigoder, L.
Janner, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Jeger, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Young of Dartington, L.
Birey of Abingdon, B. Bellwin, L.
Allerton, L. Belstead, L.
Alport, L. Bessborough, E.
Ampthill, L. Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Atholl, D. Boyle of Handsworth, L.
Auckland, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Avon, E. Chelwood, L.
Aalfour of Inchrye, L. Clitheroe, L.
Cockfield, L. Lyell, L.
Cottesloe, L. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Craigavon, V. McFadzean, L.
Crawshaw, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Daventry, V. Mansfield, E.
Davidson, V. Margadale, L.
DeFreyne, L. Marley, L.
DeLaWarr, E. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Derwent, L. Maybray-King, L.
Donegall, M. Middleton, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Dundee, E. Mottistone, L.
Eccles, V. Newall, L.
Effingham, E. Norfolk, D.
Ellenborough, L. Northchurch, B.
Elles, B. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Energlyn, L. Onslow, E.
Exeter, M. Orkney, E.
Fairfax of Cameron, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Gainford, L. Pender, L.
George-Brown, L. Portland, D.
Glenkinglas, L. Rankeillour, L.
Gore-Booth, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Gormanston, V. Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Gowrie, E. Reigate, L.
Grey of Naunton, L. Reilly, L.
Gridley, L. Romney, E.
Grimston of Westbury, L. St.Aldwyn, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. St.Davids, V.
Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Hayter, L. Sempill, Ly.
Henley, L. Sharples, B.
Holderness, L. Sherfield, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Shinwell, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Ilchester, E. Somers, L.
Jessel, L. Stradbroke, E.
Killearn, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Kilmany, L. Swinfen, L.
Kimberley, E. Teviot, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Trefgarne, L.
Kinnaird, L. Trenchard, V.
Lane-Fox, B. Trumpington, B.
Lauderdale, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Lawrence, L. Vivian, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Long, V. Ward of Witley, L.
Loudoun, C. Westbury, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Retention of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies in certain cases.]:

4.16 p.m.

Lord Stewart of Fulham moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 4, line 36, at end insert— ("(8) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that any person who—

  1. (a) immediately before Independence Day is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies; and
  2. (b) does not, on that day, become a citizen of Belize shall continue to be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies.").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment which is, as it says, for the avoidance of doubt. I think it would be agreed, from the discussions we had on Second Reading, that when one studies the Bill it is genuinely difficult to be certain that the situation described in this amendment is the situation that results from the Bill. The purpose of the amendment is solely this: to make sure that nobody who is now a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, who enjoys the citizenship we here do, shall find himself as a result of this Bill with no citizenship at all. I think the amendment produces the effect we want. It is not clear from the Bill as at present drafted that that would be the effect. For that reason, we move the amendment.

4.18 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

The nationality clauses of this Bill follow generally the pattern of previous independence legislation. They provide that people deriving their citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies from a connection with Belize should lose that citizenship unless they have a close connection with the United Kingdom or a remaining dependency. Under the Belize independence constitution people closely connected with Belize through their own or a parent's birth, naturalisation or registration in Belize, will become citizens of that country. Those whose connection is through a grandparent will also become citizens of Belize provided that they have no other citizenship; for example, that of neighbouring Guatemala or Honduras.

Clause 4 provides that those who become citizens of Belize under the constitution and those who have a close connection with Belize through a grandparent but who do not become citizens of Belize because they are citizens of another country should, unless excepted by Clause 5, lose their citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. As your Lordships will be aware, Clause 5 saves from loss of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies those who have a close connection with the United Kingdom or a remaining dependency.

The net result of all this is that everyone will have a citizenship of one kind or another. As I assured the House on Second Reading, no one will become stateless. Those who have close links with the United Kingdom or a remaining dependency will remain citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Those who have close links with Belize will be citizens of that country except for a very limited category of people who are citizens of another country such as, as I said previously, Guatemala or Honduras. This amendment would force us to take this last category of people as our citizens. They are people who belong essentially to another country and have no links with the United Kingdom or a remaining Colony. Therefore I hope the Committee will understand that the Government is unable to accept this amendment, and that in view of what I have said the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, will not seek to press it.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

In view of what the noble Lord the Minister has said, and since it appears that nobody will be left stateless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Interpretation]:

4.20 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe moved Amendment No. 3: Page 4, line 42, after ("appoint") insert ("such Order shall only become effective after a referendum of the electors of Belize have decided by majority vote in favour of Independence.").

The noble Lord said: I hope that discussion on this amendment will not become a discussion on procedure. The fact that the Government have announced an independence date should not complicate consideration of this amendment.

This amendment seeks to assess the support of the people of Belize for independence. The Committee will remember that, when we had a discussion on Second Reading, and on earlier discussions on the Belize question, it was assumed that there would be an agreement with Guatemala. In these discussions a number of headings were announced as being the terms of an agreement with Guatemala. We have not reached an agreement with Guatemala.

I am not minimising the efforts of the Ministers who have been engaged in these negotiations. I think that it is an extremely difficult problem. But at that time Mr. Price, the Prime Minister of Belize, said that the terms of the agreement with Guatemala would be submitted to a referendum of the people of Belize. We do not have the terms of an agreement with Guatemala and I am suggesting therefore that the referendum should be about independence and should be submitted to the people of Belize because of that changed situation.

It was assumed by Mr. Price that if he had a firm agreement with the Government of Guatemala, that would be the basis of independence. That agreement assumed certain things: it assumed the cession of access to the Caribbean and it assumed other things. As I say, it has not been achieved. Therefore I am suggesting that this is a changed situation for the people of Belize, who must now be extremely nervous about their future in the light of the failure to secure agreement with their powerful neighbour with 40 times their population, with an army being supplied by the United States and with a regime that is busily engaged in liquidating its own internal opposition. I do not place a great deal of faith in a press statement by a general from Guatemala. The people of Belize must be equally nervous and apprehensive in the absence any firm agreement.

I suggest that the issue should be placed before the people of Belize. It will be said that Mr. Price was elected on an independence ticket. That is true. An independence ticket in Belize, like an independence ticket anywhere in that kind of environment, is bound to be a popular item in the party programme. It is a very different situation when the terms of the agreement and the terms of independence are understood by the people. Mr. Price has accepted that the Guatemalan arrangement should be submitted to a referendum: but it is much less complicated and much more easily understood by the people of Belize if the straight issue of whether they want independence or not is put before them. That is what the amendment seeks to do.

We have many precendents for referenda. I recall when it was on everyone's lips in Scotland that we ought to have devolution. That was until the terms of devolution were spelt out to the people of Scotland, and they did not accept those proposals. Equal opportunity should be given to the people of Belize to recognise what is implied in the new situation, and that the date for independence should follow that decision.

I happen to be secretary of the Anglo-Belizean all-party parliamentary committee. I have taken a reasonable interest in that country. I have received representations from Church organisations as well as from people in Belize not to hasten this decision and not to push it through without due consideration. It is in response to those representations that I am asking the Committee to support my amendment.

How much better it would be if the Belizean people agreed by a free referendum to have independence in the new circumstances. I hope that independence is accompanied by some celebration of national unity within the country, and we ought to test that before we proceed. It is a very sad thought if we read in today's papers, following the announcements over the weekend, that British troops have had to be used in Belize in order to suppress disturbances in Belize City.

I recall going way up to the Guatemalan frontier, visiting some of the Scottish troops there. They were invited to ask me questions. The first question one soldier from Glasgow asked was: "Lord Taylor, what the hell are we doing here?" I assured him that they were there to defend the integrity of Belize against Guatemala. Never did I imagine that they would be used as troops within Belize in order to quell disturbances in Belize City or the country of Belize.

I mention that simply to indicate that there is not necessarily national unity in the new circumstances in this case and it would be well and to our credit if we gave the Belizean people the opportunity of testing that. I beg to move.

4.27 p.m.

Lord Avebury

We are facing a changed situation. It is not true to claim, as the Minister does, that the people of Belize voted in 1979 for independence on the terms which are now being offered to them. At that time they had no knowledge of the heads of agreement. May I quote from a pro-Government paper which is entitled "Supercream" of Friday 20th March. It said: The voting on 21st November 1979 was not for the heads o agreement. Any editorialist which suggests that the 52 per cent. plus people who voted PUP on 21st November 1979 were voting for the heads of agreement of 1981 is patently dishonest". Therefore, what we are suggesting is that the people should have some opportunity of expressing an opinion on these matters.

The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, did not explain properly why the Opposition declined to attend the constitutional conference which took place earlier this year. I shall tell him and inform the Committee now that the UDP was only one of several opposing groups in Belize which supported the unanimous decision to remain there during the crisis which followed the announcement of the heads of argreement. They asked for a postponement, but it was refused, even though it was pointed out that the Prime Minister, Mr. George Price, felt that it was necessary to stay away in view of the rioting, arson and shootings of members of the public who were people in opposition to the terms that they thought they were being offered. That is the situation.

When the Government asked us a few weeks ago to give a Second Reading to the Belize Bill it was still on categorical assurances—it was not just assumed, we had it in black and white—that the treaty with Guatemala based on the heads of agreement of 11th March would be concluded and submitted to the referendum before independence day. I can quote Mr. Nicholas Ridley, who gave a press conference in Belize. This was dealt with in the Reporter, a newspaper of Belize on 10th May. He said: I am quite sure that the essential and most important thing to do next is to conclude the negotiations for the treaty with Guatemala. Secondly, on the assumption that we do get a treaty signed, it will clear the way to hold the referendum which the Prime Minister has promised, and that should come the sooner the better". Even the other day the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, used words indicating that the treaty would be signed and the referendum held in all probability before independence. I am referring to his speech on the Second Reading. The noble Lord shakes his head, but let me remind your Lordships of what he said in column 948 of Hansard on 10th July: The date of independence is not specified there"— that means in the Bill— because it is considered undesirable to fix it until the negotiations with Guatemala have been completed and a referendum held on the terms of any treaty based on the heads of agreement". That is what the noble Lord said: he could not fix the date of independence because these things have to happen first. Was not that a clear indication to the House of the sequence of events which would lead up to independence being prefaced by the conclusion of the treaty and the submission of its terms to a referendum of the people?

Now we read in the papers, and we have heard it again from the noble Lord earlier this afternoon, that Mr. Price, the Prime Minister of Belize, was in London last week putting the finishing touches to the arrangements for the transfer of power to be effected on 23rd September. That is said to be because Mr. Price is very keen to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Australia at the end of the month: if one is to believe what was said by Mr. Patrick Keatley in the Guardian. There may be another reason for the timing, which I shall refer to in a few minutes. Yet the talks between Britain and Guatemala on Belize broke up without having reached any agreement on 10th July and I think it has been tacitly agreed on the previous amendment to be inconceivable that in the two months which remain before the date which has now been set the negotiations could be concluded, the treaty signed and the referendum held.

Therefore, one is bound to say that the Government have misled Parliament, no doubt unintentionally, and have put your Lordships and the people of Belize in an impossible position. It was difficult enough to imagine what would have happened if the people of Belize had rejected the treaty before independence, but they might as well not bother to come out and vote at all if it is held afterwards, because of course there would be no way for Belize—which is not going to be a party to the treaty—either to revoke or vary it after the event.

Why might the people of Belize not be very happy about giving Guatemala a blank cheque? The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, spoke on Second Reading (col. 950) about the Government's being, and I quote: aware from a variety of reports of the disquieting situation in Guatemala". I should like to ask the noble Lord: is he aware that the regime of President Garcia has been responsible for murdering thousands of his own citizens since he took office in July 1978? Has the noble Lord seen the reports mentioned by the right reverend Prelate opposite of the murders of churchmen in Guatemala? Does he know that Fr. Marco Tulio Maruzzo, an Italian priest, who on 1st July was machine-gunned to death by government agents in Quirigua was the eighth priest to be assassinated or to disappear during the last 15 months?

Is it any wonder that in dealing with a regime like that the people of Belize should have doubts about its good faith in abandoning the claims it has pursued over the territory of Belize ever since the beginning of the century? Although President Lucas Garcia did speak recently of his earnest desire to be friendly with the people of Belize and the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, just a moment ago quoted him as saying at a press conference that, Guatemala will never invade Belize", this is not compatible with the statement made to Congress in Guatemala on 1st July, when President Lucas Garcia said that "unilateral independence" would not be recognised. In addition, the Guatemalan Ambassador to the United Nations, Señor Eduardo Castillo, said in a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, which was released in Guatemala only on Saturday, that Britain—and I should like the noble Lord to note particularly what was said—was acting in violation of Article 33 of the United Nations Charter, which calls on parties to any conflict to reach solutions through negotiation. Also he says in the letter that Guatemala maintains its claim over the territory of Belize on the ground they have always quoted, that the 1859 Treaty was null and void because Britain had never constructed the road that was mentioned therein. So the president may have made a statement at the press conference but it is quite different from what he said to the Congress and exactly opposite to what their ambassador to the United Nations has said in the letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations which was published early on Saturday.

It is in the light of these ambiguities and their knowledge of what happens to opponents of the régime just across the border that the Belizeans have grave doubts about certain aspects of the heads of agreement, and they want to see exactly what is meant before they give their opinion, as they are perfectly entitled to do, in this referendum. We know that there is difficulty about the interpretation of Article 3, which allows Guatemala, the use and enjoyment of the Ranguana and Sapodilla cays, and rights in those areas of the sea adjacent to the cays". I asked about this on Second Reading. I want to know: is it true that Guatemala has already moved in and occupied these cays? Will they be allowed to station military forces on them, or police or paramilitary forces? I did ask, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, will recall, whether Belize would retian sovereignty over these cays. I should still like a reply because, if she does, surely it would be possible for the Government in Belize to forbid the entry of armed men, whether they be soldiers or paramilitary forces, to the territory of an independent Belize.

Also, I think we should know what is meant by Article 11, which says: Belize and Guatemala shall sign a treaty of co-operation in matters of security of mutual concern, and neither shall permit its territory to be used to support subversion against the other". The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, said there was nothing in the heads of agreement which would allow Guatemalan troops on Belizean soil. Is that going to be spelled out in the treaty? I should also like to ask him, if whether, on independence, Belize signs the United Nations Conventions on Refugees, as I hope she will, it will be made clear in the treaty that political opponents of the Lucas Garcia régime who flee across the border into Belize will be safe from illegal refoulement.

The constitution of Guatemala states that Belize is part of the motherland and there are only two ways in which this provision can be altered. One is by plebiscite and the other is by a two-thirds majority in the legislature. Does the noble Lord think that President Lucas can deliver, after the decades of brainwashing the Guatemalan people have been subjected to that Belize is still part of the motherland? His sudden change of heart, if indeed it has taken place at all, seems to have been prompted by offers of military aid from the United States and, as the noble Lord says, supplies have already begun to flow. But the more weapons the Americans put into the hands of criminals who murder, the more likely it becomes that ultimately these weapons will be used for an anschluss in which Guatemala will absorb Belize into its own territory.

Guatemala undertakes in the heads of agreement to recognise Belize, but only after completion of the treaty; so, if there is no treaty because if proves impossible to construe the heads of agreement in a way that is mutually acceptable, Belize will attain independence with the shadow of Guatemalan agression still hanging over it. We have heard earlier today that, whether or not it is written into the Bill, we are morally obliged to maintain military forces there virtually indefinitely, and we have no cards left to play in our negotiations with Guatemala. And, my Lords, all this has occurred, it seems to me, because Mr. Price has decided that by hook or by crook he is going to stage his independence day celebrations on 23rd September so that he can attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference at the end of the month on 30th September, and so that he can continue the celebrations of the 31st anniversary of the founding of his party, the PUP, on 30th September. The Government must have known all along that that was the intention, so what was the meaning of all this charade about the Order in Council, and the remarks made on Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, about the uncertainty of the timetable?

There is no doubt, as has been said, that the over- whelming majority of the people of Belize want independence. The UDP had 47 per cent. of the votes in the general election of 1979, but only 29 per cent. of the seats, because Belize has been given a copy of the undemocratic election system which operates here. The Opposition there also favours independence. I do not really see why the noble Lord opposite should think that so very funny.

But a growing number of the inhabitants of Belize reject the deal which they are being offered. When the heads of agreement were announced, 1,000 people spontaneously demonstrated against them in the Belize Central Park. The civil servants and the teachers went on strike. The Belize Action Movement, which is portrayed by Mr. Ian Mather in the Observer of 12th July as a dangerous group of violent black power extremists, expresses, in my view, a legitimate anxiety that the stage is being set for occupation by Guatemala, the submergence of black people and what they call "cultural genocide".

So what is to be done now? In my opinion, the Government have played a shabby three-card trick on the people of Belize, promising that nothing would be done without their consent, offering them a simulacrum of democracy, and then snatching even that away from them at the last moment. We may have an, inescapable moral obligation to bring the nation to independence and we may have voluntarily accepted, before the United Nations, that we shall do it by the end of the year. But nothing obliges us to arrange it on a date which will gratify Mr. George Price's personal vanity, or enable him to turn what should be a national celebration into a party political rally. I hope that this amendment will be passed by your Lordships, and that we shall enable the people of Belize to express their opinions, as we promised them all along.

4.42 p.m.

Baroness Vickers

This is a problem that we want to put before your Lordships. I received many telegrams this morning, including one from the Belize Newspaper Association, which reads: Congratulate you on insight into the problem facing the silent majority of Belize. We think a referendum would avoid more"— and I want to emphasize the word "more"— civil unrest and that your timely intervention would save the lives and property of many people in Belize". What worries me is that so many people in Belize have had no real knowledge for about 25 years of what has been happening. In fact, I have a note here saying: It might interest you to know that the people of Belize have been blindfolded, gagged and ear-plugged by the radio of Belize. They have successfully sealed off all information and discussion of their own fate for over 25 years". We know perfectly well that the Opposition did not wish to attend the conference in London and, also, that they were not very happy about the constitution, of which I have a copy, which was written in April 1981.

At the same time, the Government information office, through Reuters and through a publication called New Belize, has laboured for years to present abroad a portrait of Belize and of attitudes within that country that bears little relation to the real situa- tion, and which takes little account of the hopes and fears of the majority of the people there. We must take into consideration—I have been to Belize more than once, and have had representations made to me on many occasions—the fact that they do not get the full information that they wish. We have already had some riots and strikes and British troops have had to be used. This is very unfortunate.

Therefore, I should like to support the point of view that we have a referendum, so that there can be no doubt about what the people of Belize want. I do not know whether it can be done immediately; I can see no reason why it could not be done before independence day. It was very unfortunate to announce independence day over the radio at seven o'clock on a Sunday, and we have little time to consider the details. So I hope that the noble Lord will at least accept this amendment or, if he does not want to put it in the Bill, will suggest that there shall be a referendum before independence is declared.

Baroness Jeger

I intervene only briefly to say that there are some difficulties about this amendment. I do not see that it is for this Committee or for another place to insist that the people of Belize must have a referendum. Equally, I maintain that we should take no action which prevents them from having a referendum if they want one. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, I have received many telegrams such as this, saying: Postpone independence pending referendum requested". That summarises the message from the people there. Many of them feel that they have been led up a very long garden path.

I must remind the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, that in col. 932 of the Official Report for 10th July 1981, he said: We believe that independence for Belize should not be conditional on the successful outcome of negotiations for a treaty based on the heads of agreement, but we also believe that it is not desirable to decide the actual date unless these are completed and a referendum has been held". That has been quoted in the Belize papers and now, today, they hear that that undertaking which was given in this House has been thrown on one side. They expected to have a referendum. The messages that I get express shock and dismay because, apparently, that is not to happen.

Having said that I do not think it is for us to impose a referendum on these people, but it should be held if they wish it, I just want to ask the noble Lord—if I may do so, without straying beyond the bounds of his confidences with Mr. George Price—whether Mr. Price went back from the most recent talks having agreed that he would scrub the referendum idea, because, certainly, his own people are going to ask questions about that. I very much hope that we can have some information on that. By making the date so early that a referendum is not possible, we deprive all these people of something which they may wish, but which it is not for us to impose upon them.

4.47 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I should like to support this amendment. That may surprise the Committee. Many years ago—he probably would not remember—when I had interests in the West Indies, I met Mr. Price. That is rather beside the point, but Mr. Price is a very ambitious man and any Government that makes agreements with Guatemala, and imagines it is 100 per cent. certain that the Guatemalan Government will honour them, is not a very wise Government. I cannot see why the people of Belize cannot be allowed to have a referendum on the question of independence, because it has been promised them. As my noble friend Lady Vickers and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, the people of Belize are kept in the dark. We have not been very good during the last 15 or 20 years in shouldering our responsibilities, and we ought to allow a referendum in the present case. I hope that the Government will take notice of what has been said by your Lordships who have asked them to allow the people to have a referendum on the question of independence.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

I, also, should like to intervene very briefly. I go back to the original introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, when he said that the question of the independence of Belize had been accompanied by scuffles. I think he would agree that this country has brought independence to many nations and they have rarely not been accompanied by scuffles of one kind or another. That does not seem to me to be a very good reason to delay the independence of Belize.

It is my belief that the Minister of State in another place has negotiated an agreement over the independence of Belize, against very considerable odds and in very difficult circumstances. If we passed this amendment we should put the clock right back to the beginning and these negotiations would have to start all over again. Furthermore, these agreements on an international scale have received overwhelming support from the international community—in the United Nations and elsewhere. Anything that we in this House did to delay the matter at this stage would be detrimental to the interests of the people of Belize. Therefore I would urge your Lordships to reject the amendment.

4.50 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

The question of a referendum has aroused tremendous interest both in this House and outside it, and in Belize, and it is quite right that it should. However, what the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, said in her very helpful and constructive speech is absolutely right. It is not for the British Government, the British Parliament or for anybody else to impose upon the Government of Belize or the people of Belize a referendum in the way suggested by this amendment. I am able to tell your Lordships, because I had the opportunity to meet Premier Price last week, that he is sticking by what he has always said: that there will be a referendum in Belize on the terms of a treaty when a treaty is to be signed. He has never promised a referendum on the independence issue because he feels—this is his political judgment—that in two general elections, to which I have already referred, he had a mandate from the people of Belize. The first was well before the heads of agreement were even thought of. For all I know, it may not even have been an idea in the mind of God.

Lord Avebury

Before the noble Lord sits down, is he suggesting that Mr. Price had a mandate for the heads of agreement when the general election was in 1979 and the heads of agreement were in 1981?

Lord Skelmersdale

No. What I am suggesting to the Committee is that Mr. Price had a mandate on independence, irrespective of the heads of agreement. We now know, though I did not know when I made my Second Reading speech to your Lordships, that the discussions on a treaty following the heads of agreement were at that stage not in any way postponed. That, I am afraid, is the situation we are in today. Nevertheless, when there is a treaty there will be a referendum. That is the referendum which Mr. Price has consistently talked about.

Lord Avebury

Are we going to finish this debate without answers to any of the questions which have been put? Are we not going to have answers to any of the questions about the heads of agreement?

Lord Skelmersdale

We are discussing an amendment. I will certainly speak to the noble Lord on the heads of agreement. One of the questions which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked me was about human rights in Guatemala. Of course the Government are very much aware from a variety of reports of the disquieting situation that pertains so far as human rights are concerned in Guatemala. And of course we very strongly support the observance of full human and democratic rights there. However, as the Guatemalan Government broke off diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom in 1963 over Belize we are not usually in a position to make direct representations to them. Nevertheless, we have consistently pressed at the United Nations and in other international fora for the adequate protection of human rights throughout the world, and will continue to do so.

The noble Lord wanted me to talk about the heads of agreement. The point is, what exactly do they contain? The noble Lord mentioned item 11: that Belize and Guatemala shall sign a treaty of co-operation in matters of security of mutual concern, and neither shall permit its territory to be used to support subversion against the other. That means exactly what it says. When a treaty is agreed on the heads of agreement, this I am sure will be one of the things which will be in it.

The noble Lord also asked whether it is true that there is already a Guatemalan presence on the cays. The answer is, most certainly no, this is not true. I recall that I said in my Second Reading speech that such a presence, unless invited by the Belizeans who are all-powerful in this matter, would be an act of war. There is no such thing going on in Belize at the moment.

The heads of agreement were made available to your Lordships. From what the noble Lord said, I believe that he has a copy. The essential feature for Belize was that, subject to negotiation of a full treaty, Guatemala would recognise Belizean independence and territorial integrity within its existing frontiers. The treaty would thus have involved no surrender of Belizean territory or the restriction of sovereignty.

Lord Avebury

All that that means is that if no treaty is signed, then Guatemala never recognises Belize.

Lord Skelmersdale

No, it does not mean that, because the heads of agreement are still on the table and have not yet been broken off.

Lord Avebury

But there is no treaty.

Lord Skelmersdale

I accept that at present there is no treaty, but the heads of agreement are still on the table and I have no doubt that discussions upon them will be resumed. I should certainly hate to use the expression: the discussions in New York have broken down over this particular treaty. In return, Guatemala would have received guaranteed access to the high seas through its own territorial waters, the use and enjoyment of the two southernmost cays on the Belizean barrier reef, as well as free port facilities in Belize and transit facilities through Belizean territory for imports and exports. Belize and Guatemala were to collaborate on a range of matters of mutual concern.

I do not think that this is anything which should worry the people of Belize. If they had riots upon the heads of agreement in early April, surely it is rather odd that we should hear reports, which I have not had confirmed, that they should be rioting now about exactly the opposite?

Lord Avebury

No, that is not true. If the noble Lord is relying upon the BBC's "World Today" which spoke of Belizeans celebrating the news of independence, he may like to know that a friend of mine who telephoned Belize this morning was told that the riot squads were out, that tear gas was being used and that disturbances were occurring.

Lord Skelmersdale

This may well happen, but I personally have not had confirmed reports of it. All I said was that, standing here in your Lordships' Committee, it seemed to me that the situation was a little bit strange, to say the least, though this is something which happens in various parts of the world. I said that it is odd that they should have rioted against the heads of agreement and that now they are apparently rioting when there is no treaty on the heads of agreement. I really do not understand it.

Be that as it may, if I can go back to what I said originally about this amendment, there has never been any promise in Belize from the Belizean Prime Minister that there should be a referendum on the pure question of independence. I agree with the support which I have had from behind me, and also from the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, that this is a matter for the Belizeans, not for this House.

Baroness Jeger

As the noble Lord referred to something which I said, I do not want to be misrepresented. The situation is obviously very complicated and has been complicated by some statements made in another place. I take the noble Lord's point that the referendum was to be about the treaty and not about independence, but on 30th June in col. 815 Mr. Ridley said: It would be difficult to conceive of an agreement between Britain and Guatemala, if it were rejected by Belize, having any chance of being in force when Belize goes independent, because nearly all the provisions of the agreement relate to Belizean territory. I therefore cannot see how that could be. If the Belizeans prefer to go to independence without a treaty, that is their decision. I think all honourable members would agree that to do that would be to proceed upon a reckless and unnecessarily dangerous course".—[Official Report, Commons; 30/6/81, col. 815.] That seems to be exactly what the Government are telling Belize to do today, to proceed on this reckless and unnecessarily dangerous course because they have been told to go to independence without a treaty and without a referendum.

Lord Skelmersdale

It is not anything of the sort. The Government are giving force to the wishes of Belize, which is what I said in the beginning.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

Your Lordships have been treated badly today. We have been treated badly, first, by the Government, before this Bill has been approved by the House, making an announcement that there would be independence to Belize on a certain date while a Committee of this House, by this amendment, is discussing whether we should have a specific date for independence. To that extent I think this House is entitled to protect its authority, and if for no other reason I would welcome support in the Division Lobbies on this amendment.

Secondly, I must say with all charity that I have not found the noble Lord's explanations of the situation at all convincing. The discussion on the first amendment was complicated by a discussion on procedure: the second one has been complicated a good deal by a discussion on the terms of the heads of agreement. Now the heads of agreement have not been agreed; it was simply a document on which the Government sought agreement and hoped to get agreement when they produced the independence Bill. But in fact, the heads of agreement have now been discarded by Guatemala and there is nothing in their place; there is neither guarantee nor treaty, with the people of Belize or with this country which protects the integrity of Belize and the democratic rights of the Belizean people.

Belize is rather special in this part of the world. If your Lordships consider what is going on round about Belize, you will realise how uncertain and how ominous is the situation. Belize has reasonable democracy and some of the cays which might be ceded to Gautemala under the proposed heads of agreement—and now I am falling into the same mistake of discussing the heads of agreement, but on these cays is one of the most effective demonstrations of co-operative activity in any part of the world. The fishermen of the cays of Belize are used as an example and for training by the United Nations on the organisation of fishermen in the third world, and how they can combine for their mutual advantage. Because they have built up co-operatives they are living happily and prosperously together; in co-operatives these people have given an example which is much copied in other parts of the world.

It is this which is dangerous today. There is no guarantee with Guatemala, with a population forty times the population of Belize. There is no protection whatsoever and with no guarantees with Guatemala, we are being asked now to grant independence next month. In those circumstances, the people of Belize are entitled to express their view. Someone has said, "It is not enough simply to accept the view of the Prime Minister of the country". Someone has said, "We have no right to insist on referendum in Belize". Do we not? We have responsibility for Belize until this moment and we certainly have responsibility in any country or any part of the old colonial empire to which we are granting independence, to ensure a smooth and happy transition. Unless that is provided, opposition can go underground; there will be undercurrents of dissatisfaction. But think of the advantage of granting to the people of Belize the right to decide whether or not they want independence. That is a much less complicated issue, than the issue of the Guatemalan treaty, which Mr. Price has said he will submit to the people—presumably post-independence, or whenever that is agreed.

So I suggest to your Lordships' House that we have a simple decision to make. Here are 150,000 people in a very troubled part of Central America for which at present we have responsibility: have we no responsibility to consult those people now, before the final act? I suggest that your Lordships should support the amendment in order to give that opportunity.

5.6 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 70; Not-Contents, 120.

Airedale, L. John-Mackie, L.
Amherst, E. Kennet, L.
Avebury, L. [Teller.] Kilmarnock, L.
Banks, L. Leatherland, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Lee of Newton, L.
Beswick, L. Listowel, E.
Birk, B. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Briginshaw, L. Longford, E.
Byers, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Caradon. L. McCarthy, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Milverton, L.
Collison, L. Mishcon L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Oram, L.
David, B. Oxford, Bp.
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B. Phillips, B.
Rochester, L.
Denington, B. Ross of Marnock, L.
Diamond, L. Seear, B.
Evans of Claughton, L. Shepherd, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Shinwell, L.
Gregson, L. Stamp, L.
Grey, E. Stone, L.
Hale, L. Strabolgi, L.
Hampton, L, Taylor of Gryfe, L. [Teller.]
Hanworth, V. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Tordoff, L.
Hooson, L. Underhill, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Vickers, B.
Hughes, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Hunt, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Jacques, L. Wigoder, L.
Janner, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Jeger, B. Young of Dartington, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Ailesbury, M. Ironside, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Killearn, L.
Allerton, L. Kilmany, L,
Alport, L. Kimberley, E.
Ampthill, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Atholl, D. Kinnaird, L.
Avon, E. Lane-Fox, B.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Lawrence, L.
Bellwin, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Belstead, L. Long, V.
Bessborough, E. Loudoun, C.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Lyell, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Cathcart, E. McFadzean, L.
Chelwood, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Cockfield, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cottesloe, L. Mansfield, E.
Craigavon, V. Margadale, L.
Craigmyle, L Marley, L.
Crawshaw, L. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Maybray-King, L.
Daventry, V. Middleton, L.
Davidson, V. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
de Clifford, L. Mottistone, L.
De La Warr, E. Mountevans, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Newall, L.
Dilhorne, V. Norfolk, D.
Donegall, M. Northchurch, B.
Drumalbyn, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Eccles, V. Onslow, E.
Ellenborough, L. Orkney, E.
Elles, B. Orr-Ewing, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. pender, L.
Exeter, M. Portland, D.
Fairfax of Cameron, L. Rankeillour, L.
Ferrers, E. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Fortescue, E. Reigate, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Romney, E.
Gainford, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B. St. Davids, V.
Garner, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Glenkinglas, L. Sempill, Ly.
Gore-Booth, L. Sharples, B.
Gormanston, V. Sherfield, L.
Gowrie, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Gridley, L. Soames, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Stradbroke, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Strathspey, L.
Swinfen, L.
Halsbury, E. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Hankey, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Trefgarne, L.
Henley, L. Trenchard, V.
Holderness, L. Trumpington, B.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Vivian, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Ilchester, E. Ward of Witley, V.
Inglewood, L.

Resolved in the negative and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

The Chairman of Committee

The Question is that Clause 6 stand part of the Bill?

Lord Stewart of Fulham

Before we leave this clause, I may say with regard to the amendment we have just discussed that a number of us on these Benches were very doubtful of the wisdom of the amendment and could not support it in the Lobby. We felt that this was a matter affecting disagreement among the people of Belize on which no useful purpose would be served by this House pronouncing judgment, particularly as not long ago there had been a general election in Belize. On the other hand, we had very much in mind what one is obliged to regard as the very ill handling of this issue and of the Bill in general by the Government, and particularly this premature and preempting announcement of the date of independence while the Bill was still before this House. I think, therefore, that the Government should not construe the fact that some of us did not feel able to vote for the amendment as any general approval of their handling of this matter.

Lord Skelmersdale

I appreciate the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, but again may I be allowed to tell the Committee that it was the Belize Government's intention to have independence on 21st September. I did in a way forewarn the House on Second Reading, when I said that this may be as soon as mid-September; the words are there in black and white. So I do not think I have added much to misleading the House. If I have I apologise.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Schedules agreed to.

Title agreed to.

5.16 p.m.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

Then, Standing Order No. 43 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 21st July), Report received. Bill read 3a.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, in moving that the Bill do now pass, I appreciate that while certain reservations have understandably been expressed today in relation to Belize's transition to independence in what we must all acknowledge are less than ideal circumstances, I hope that the replies I have given have been sufficient to reassure the House that Belize's long overdue independence should not be any longer delayed. Despite the fact that the dispute with Guatemala remains unresolved and that Guatemala has reserved its position, we are confident that the understanding and goodwill established during negotiations over the past year or so will survive the transition and will provide the basis for successful negotiations in due course. In the meantime Belize will join the United Nations Organisation and the Commonwealth and will become an established member of the international community of nations. This in itself will give Belize a very considerable measure of security, and the measures which we shall be taking, in agreement with the Government of Belize, will underpin this.

We are sure that in passing this legislation and in proceeding firmly down the road to independence in September we shall be satisfying the wishes of the majority of Belizeans. It only remains for me to record the Government's congratulations to the Government and people of Belize and our good wishes for their future well-being and prosperity.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Skelmersdale.)

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, during these discussions misgivings have been expressed and criticisms made, but I think we are all of us at one in wishing well to the Belizean people in the adventure of independence that lies before them.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, I should like to make it absolutely clear that we, while going through the Division Lobby on the previous amendment, are in no way opposed to the independence of Belize, and we fully support the Government's move towards decolonisation. Our only reservations were on the timing, as I think the noble Lord will agree. We express our warmest good wishes to the people of Belize for their future happiness and prosperity, and we hope that the protection of their sovereignty will be fully assured and that they will take their place as a member of the Commonwealth, as a member of the United Nations and as a member of the OAS in full security for the future.

Baroness Vickers

My Lords, I should like to join in congratulating Belize on obtaining its independence. I should also like to ask my noble friend—and I raised this point with him on Second Reading—about the aid that we shall give them in future. I know that they have very bad conditions, particularly as regards the hospital in Belize—there is absolute need for a new one. The mental hospital is also in a bad state and housing is not very good. I should like to know whether we shall continue support for not just the armed services while they are there, but also for the country itself.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am grateful to all Members of the House who have spoken on this Motion. I am sure that the people of Belize will be very pleased to receive their good wishes for their forthcoming independence. My noble friend Lady Vickers has asked me about British aid. I am afraid that I am unable at this moment to give precise figures on this matter. Figures for British aid following independence have yet to be decided, but aid will continue for a number of years and we are considering a suitable package. This was discussed in general terms with Mr. Price during his visit last week. There will be further detailed discussions with the Belize Government. I should add that there will be no difference in this aid package from similar aid packages which we have given in similar circumstances in the past. I beg to move.

On Question, Bill passed.