§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR COLONIAL AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF PERTH)
My Lords, I have it in Command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty. having been informed of the purport of the Sierra Leone Independence Bill, has consented to place Her Majesty's prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of this Bill. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
When I first came to occupy a place on the Front Bench in your Lordships' House I had to move the Second Reading of the Ghana Independence Bill. I remember that I ran into quite a lot of trouble on that Bill. Subsequently I had the honour to introduce the Federation of Nigeria Independence Bill. Now we are considering the independence of the third of the West African Territories, leaving only Gambia which has not yet become independent in the whole of that area.
Sierra Leone is the oldest of our Territories there. It was nearly 200 years ago, in l787, when we first assumed an interest in the Colony. Many of your Lordships will remember that the occasion for that was the existence of many homeless Africans in London and elsewhere as the outcome of changes in the slave trade. We find a reminder of this in the name of the country's chief port and capital—Freetown. About 100 years later the jurisdiction of Her 24 Majesty was extended to the hinterland of the country, to the Protectorate as a whole.
A year ago the Constitutional Conference took place at which the decision was taken that April 27, 1961, should be the date on which Sierra Leone would become independent. The account of that Conference is to be found in the White Paper, Cmnd. 1029. Since the Conference an immense amount of work has been done to give effect to the decisions then reached. I would make only one comment—namely, that during the past year we have been very much confirmed in our belief that the people of Sierra Leone and their Government are ready to run their own affairs, under their eminent Prime Minister, Sir Milton Margai.
Last November the House of Representatives of Sierra Leone passed a Resolution calling for independence, on April 27, 1961, within the Commonwealth. As your Lordships will recall, this Resolution was considered at the recent Prime Ministers' Conference, which gave a welcome to Sierra Leone as a member of the Commonwealth, once the necessary legislative process had been completed. This Bill is one of the main instruments of that process. I would apologise to your Lordships because we have not had much time to consider the Bill, but I think that your Lordships will realise the circumstances. As the entitlement of the Bill shows, it isto make provision for…the attainment by Sierra Leone of fully responsible status within the Commonwealth.It was not possible to draw up the Bill until it was known that the Prime Ministers' Conference, which took place such a short time ago, had approved the Resolution passed by the Sierra Leone House of Representatives. While I regret that the presentation of the Bill has had to be rather hurried, I think that it does not contain anything that is controversial. The Bill follows the usual pattern of Independence Bills.
The White Paper which set out the background to the independence of Sierra Leone was published in May of last year. As your Lordships will know, Sierra Leone will be one of the smallest of the Commonwealth countries: in size, it will be about the same as Scotland, and in population about the same as New Zealand. Sierra Leone will be able 25 to stand on its own feet economically. It will not be a very rich country. Its main economic development lies in agriculture, and must always lie in agriculture, but there are several other important sources of wealth. In particular there are the diamond mines. Last year no less than £15 million worth of diamonds were exported from Sierra Leone. There is also an important and growing export of iron ore.
We are most anxious of course to do all that we can to help Sierra Leone in her future development. Shortly after the Constitutional Conference we announced our intention of giving aid, at the moment of Sierra Leone's independence, to the tune of £7. million; about half under Commonwealth Assistance Loans and the other half as a gift to take care of Colonial Development and Welfare schemes not yet completed. And we are only too ready to give what help we can in the way of technical assistance. Only last month the Director of Technical Assistance of the Commonwealth Relations Office went out to discuss with the Government of Sierra Leone what more we might be able to do to help them in this way. Again, since the announcement of our help, the Overseas Service Bill has been passed, and if Sierra Leone 'wished, we should be able to help her in meeting the expenses of civil servants who wish, as we hope they will, to continue to serve in that country.
We have had the Commonwealth Development Finance Corporation working on the Guma Valley hydro-electric scheme, which is very important for the country's development. But we want to help Sierra Leone not only on the economic side but also in the development of her educational facilities. Your Lordships will know of the Fourah Bay College, the establishment of which was so generously helped by Durham University. We want to do all we can to help on the educational side, in so far as Sierra Leone may wish it. So much for the background, my Lords.
What will be the form of the new Constitution? That, of course, is not contained in the Bill itself but will be the subject of an Order in Council, as is the usual practice in such cases. The White Paper giving an account of what happened at the Constitutional Conference last year (Cmnd. 1029) sets out in 26 considerable detail the lines which we are going to follow for the Constitutional Instrument. For example, and importantly, there will be protection of fundamental rights, and that will be in a form similar to that which was followed in the case of Nigeria. Then one will find that the independence of the Judiciary, the independence of the Civil Service, the life of Parliament and so forth will all be prescribed in the Constitution; and they will be, and importantly, entrenched clauses in the Constitution. The entrenched clauses are, if I may put it that way, really entrenched, in the sense that it is going to be very difficult to change them, save if there is an overwhelming desire on the part of the country itself for a change. The procedure laid down is that for any change one must start by getting a two-thirds majority in the Sierra Leone Parliament, the House of Representatives. Once that has been done, then there has to be a General Election, fought, presumably, if it is a controversial matter, on the subject of change. Then there will be the need for passing the same change again by a two-thirds majority. So I think your Lordships will agree that the entrenchment is a fairly strong one; and that is of great importance.
May I now turn to the Bill itself? In Clause 1 we see that Sierra Leone is to be part of Her Majesty's Dominions on April 27, 1961, and that after that date she will no longer be subject to the laws passed in the United Kingdom: her laws will prevail. That is, of course, the essence of independence. Clause 2 deals with the question of nationality. Like all these nationality clauses, it is very complicated, but I think the result is that there is to be established a. Sierra Leone citizenship, in the same way as there is a citizenship of Ghana, and of Nigeria. That citizenship will cover both the Colony and the Protectorate. The citizen of Sierra Leone will become a British subject or Commonwealth citizen under the laws of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Clause 3 is consequential, and Clause 4 is the Short Title to the Bill. Then we have the Schedules, which I hope and feel explain themselves.
My Lords, there is only one other item on which I would touch, and that 27 is the question of defence. Again referring to the White Paper (Cmnd. 1029), in paragraphs 23, 24 and 25 your Lordships will see that the question of defence was considered at our meetings. It was agreed that, while a defence agreement between the two countries would be highly appropriate and desirable, none the less it would not be appropriate to try to work out any details until after Sierra Leone was entirely independent and on her own, so that nobody could possibly say that this was in some way a condition of the agreement for independence. We are doing it in the right way; that is, once Sierra Leone is independent, we will enter into discussions, if they so wish, and together, as equal parties, hammer out what is appropriate in the way of a defence agreement.
It is nearly 200 years, as I have said, since we first went into Sierra Leone. One has some sorrow, in a sense, that an association of 200 years is coming to an end. But that sorrow is quickly replaced by happiness, because, after all, it is the end of a purpose which we set out to achieve—for Sierra Leone to be independent. I think the balance is on the side of pride and of thanks to all those who have made this achievement possible—to the missionaries, to the traders and to the civil servants. Generally it is invidious to pick out names, but I do want to mention the present Governor, Sir Maurice Dorman, and the great compliment that has been paid to him by the people and Government of Sierra Leone in that they have asked Her Majesty whether it will be possible for him to be the first Governor-General of Sierra Leone. But, as always, the real tribute is due to the people of Sierra Leone themselves, because if they were not as they are, and if they had not had the leaders they have, we should never have reached this stage.
Above all, one recalls "the Doctor", as he is known to all the people of Sierra Leone—the Prime Minister, Sir Milton Margai. I remember well how I first had the occasion to meet him four years ago at the Independence celebrations for Ghana. Quite naturally, at that time we had a talk, and in some degree it turned to the prospects for his own country. I was very much struck not only by his moderation and his charm, but also by his wisdom, which had in it 28 a certain firmness of purpose. We have seen that firmness of purpose over the years as he has been leading his country to this end, which will be finally given effect to on April 27 next when Sierra Leone is to become independent. I feel that it is a country which will be well launched under his guidance and the guidance of others of his Cabinet. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Perth.)
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, when your Lordships pass from the domestic policy of the Government to their colonial policy, as we have done this afternoon, there is usually a perceptible drop in the wind of controversy. That may not be so in all cases, but it is certainly true in the case of this Bill. We are all equally delighted that our oldest African Colony will achieve its independence next month, and that this transition from colonial to independent status has, thanks to the goodwill and co-operation that has existed on both sides, been brought about very smoothly and without any after-taste of bitterness. It is most gratifying that Sierra Leone has chosen to stay with us as a member of the Commonwealth, as the noble Earl pointed out, and that this wish has been endorsed by the other Commonwealth countries at the recent Prime Ministers' Conference. Though we may regret that the Bill had to be hurried, I am sure we should all agree that it was vital to have the endorsement of the Commonwealth countries for Sierra Leone Commonwealth membership before the Bill was introduced.
It is also most satisfactory that Sierra Leone intends to remain one of the Queen's realms. As somebody who knows from personal experience the enormous affection and respect felt for the Royal Family in West Africa, I am certain that Her Majesty The Queen will have a tremendous welcome when she goes there this autumn; and the Duke of Kent will have a no less happy time when he represents Her Majesty at the Independence celebrations in April. His mother's charm is well remembered in Ghana; and his sister had a great success in Nigeria. So he will find his family already established in the affections of West Africans.
29 It is certainly a compliment to this country—and I am glad the noble Earl mentioned it—as well as to the personality of Sir Maurice Dorman, that the Government of Sierra Leone have chosen him as their first Governor-General. I heard a great deal about Sir Maurice Dorman before I had even met him, because he had served as head of the Welfare Department in Ghana, and during his time in that service had given the Gold Coast, as it then was, the most advanced system of community development in the Colonies —something of which we were all very proud. When, subsequently, I did meet him, and he was kind enough to ask me to stay with him in Freetown, I realised that administrative ability was not his only quality and that he was universally liked, both in the Colony and in the Protectorate. I should like to join with the noble Earl in offering him our congratulations and wishing him all success in his new office.
I was also glad that the noble Earl referred to that great figure, Sir Milton Margai. I think Sierra Leone is particularly fortunate to have in Sir Milton one of the wisest political leaders in Africa. I know that that judgment is one which would be shared by all who know him. He belongs to the old school of African statesman, both in years and in chiefly descent. As a doctor he has travelled all over the country, he has delivered babies almost everywhere, and he had become a popular, if not a national, figure long before he made his mark in politics.
There is, of course, still a certain amount of suspicion and distrust between the Colony and the Protectorate. Sir Miles himself is liked and trusted by everyone, and he is therefore in the best possible position to bring about a better understanding and to create that sort of loyalty to the nation that a new country, still divided by tribal and local loyalties, has gradually to acquire. Sir Milton has also established extremely satisfactory relations with his neighbours in Liberia and Guinea, and that is not always an easy thing to do in Africa, because national boundaries cut across tribes, and you find members of the same tribe living on different sides of these boundaries. But he has acted with great statesmanship in forming the happiest possible relationship with the political leaders in both these countries.
30 Sierra Leone, as the noble Earl has said, is not a wealthy country. Indeed, I am afraid it would be true to say that it is a poor country, and needs a great deal of assistance. It is not merely essential to give Sierra Leone technical and capital aid; it is also essential to avoid saddling the country with a heavy additional burden of public expenditure with the coming of independence. Defence and diplomatic representation are the two most expensive items in the budget of a new country, and I hope Her Majesty's Government will do their best to help Sierra Leone in both these respects. The noble Earl mentioned that an agreement about defence will be negotiated after independence. I am glad that it is being done in that way, so that Sierra Leone can negotiate as an equal.
The noble Earl did not mention this question of diplomatic representation, but I hope that both the United Kingdom and, indeed, other Commonwealth countries, will put at the disposal of Sierra Leone any services that may be required from their missions overseas and in that way, of course, save this country a very large additional expenditure. That is the other side of the picture—the provision of more aid from this country. The noble Earl mentioned the capital aid of £7½ million in the form of loans and grants which Her Majesty's Government have decided to give. Of course, that will not be a net gain to Sierra Leone, because it will be losing Colonial Development and Welfare Funds, and it will also lose fresh investment from the Colonial Development Corporation. So that will set off what Sierra Leone would otherwise lose as a result of independence, I do not know to what extent, but the noble Earl may be able to give us some information in that regard, although I did not give him notice of this point.
I am still not at all satisfied—and this is my only criticism—that the Government are doing enough to help these new Commonwealth countries., especially the poor ones like Sierra Leone, in the early years of independence, when their need is most urgent and when they are deprived of funds they have had during the period of time when they were a Colony. In regard to assistance from public funds to independent Commonwealth countries our record compares badly with the record of France, 31 and I hope that is something we shall not continue to accept for any considerable length of time.
I was delighted to hear what the noble Earl said about a new Constitution for Sierra Leone. It certainly sounds as though it was extremely well drafted, and I think everyone will welcome the inclusion of the Bill of Rights and the entrenchment of certain provisions basic to the Parliamentary system of government and for preservation of freedom of the individual citizen. These things are taken for granted in this country, but they are not so easily retained in Africa, and it certainly shows wisdom and prevision to entrench provisions of this kind and to make them difficult to alter. I am sure we would all join with what the noble Earl said in wishing the people of Sierra Leone the utmost success in this great adventure in freedom.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to associate my Party and myself with the welcome which the two noble Earls who have spoken have given to this Bill, and also, of course, to the new member of the Commonwealth who will take her place with the others on April 27. As the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, we in this country have had a long association with Sierra Leone, the longest of any with the West African Territories. As your Lordships know, our first association with West Africa was in the reign of the first Elizabeth, when we went there for the purpose of slave trading. Although it is quite true that we put down slave trading, it is equally true that we started it. It was started in the reign of the first Elizabeth, and I am happy to-day that in the reign of the second Elizabeth we have been making amends to the people of the West Coast for the activities of our forbears.
As the noble Earl has said, this is the fourth (I think he said the third; but it is the fourth, for there are the Cameroons) Territory on the West Coast which will no longer be under our guidance and supervision. In the course of the last few years, these vast Territories, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Cameroons have become, or will shortly become, independent, leaving us only with Gambia, which stretches along the Gambia River, a distance of some 200 miles, 10 miles in width, as our sole 32 remaining Colonial Territory. Not only is Sierra Leone the oldest Territory, but it also happens that this Colony was created in an intimate and curious way, so far as this country was concerned. It really arose out of the great and historic judgment of the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield—not the present one, of course, but his ancestor—who was Chief Justice in the eighteenth century. Lord Mansfield made the celebrated and historic judgment that everyone who arrives at these shores and lays his foot on the soil becomes free.
As your Lordships can imagine, a great number of people tried to do that —a very estimable thing to do. So much so that in the course of time, with the activities of the Royal Navy, which was also scouring the seas to stop the slave trade, a large number of former slaves arrived in this country, and with a combination of shrewd judgment and philanthropy it was possible to establish the Colony, a philanthropic Colony and a religious Colony to some extent, on the shores of West Africa.
Anybody who may think we have had difficulties in our time with colonial development might read the experiences of those early colonial developers headed by the Reverend Zachary Macaulay, who was the father of Thomas Babington Macaulay, the historian. Not only did they meet great hostility, as can be imagined, from the people already there, but they also ran into a sort of backwash of the French Revolution. Shortly after the Colony had been established, a cruiser squadron of revolutionary Frenchmen arrived, and proceeded, in the way in which revolutionary armies and navies are inclined to, to wreck the Colony; so much so that they destroyed poor Mr. Macaulay's chickens, cut the throats of his pigs, took away the grain and left him and the Colony in very poor shape. But of course the Colony survived; and from that day to this it has had a particularly strong and intimate association with our country and with the religious life of this country. Your Lordships will remember the missionary college at Fourah Bay. This College long supplied educated people right down West Africa. If a clerk or a station master or some officer of that kind was wanted in other parts of West Africa, one generally went to Sierra Leone to get him.
33 Now Sierra Leone has almost completed, and next month will complete, her full stature in the Commonwealth, and I join with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in welcoming the fact. The Queen is to be the Queen of Sierra Leone as well as Head of the Commonwealth. I hope to have the honour of being present on April 27 in Freetown, when His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent is to perform the ceremony of Independence, and it will be for me a great joy to be there on that occasion.
There are just one or two points that I should like to ask the noble Earl. The first concerns the Privy Council. I take it that the Privy Council will be the ultimate, authority, so far as appeals from Sierra Leone are concerned. As your Lordships know, many of us in this House have regretted from time to time that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has net felt inclined to be a little more mobile, so far as these Territories are concerned. Some of the members, I am quite sure, would be more mobile if their colleagues would allow them. I feel that if they are not prepared to travel and hold Count occasionally in West Africa, particularly, and maybe in East Africa too, we shall lose that very important link that we have with them; and, far more important, they will lose the benefit of this most eminent Court, one of the most eminent Courts in the world, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, to supervise their legal life.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, has said that there will be in the Constitution entrenched clauses relating to these matters of humanity. This point is never very clear to United Kingdom people, because we, not having a Written Constitution, and not having a Supreme Court, as there is in the United States, do not see the need for it. But if you have entrenched clauses, if you have human rights clauses entrenched in your Constitution, it is very important to have the most eminent Court, if necessary, to interpret them arid enforce them. That is another reason why, especially in a comparatively small Territory like Sierra Leone, it is very important that anyone aggrieved should have the opportunity of carrying his case to the Privy Council.
I do not think that the Privy Council will be able to sustain these links with 34 Nigeria and Sierra Leone—the links have gone, unhappily, with Ghana—unless occasionally the Privy Council goes there. I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has sat in Sierra Leone. He took part in an interesting innovation there, because he sat in a Peer's robes. That was, I think, an interesting circumstance, because, of course, members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and the Law Lords of this House, have no robes as such. The only robes they can wear are Peers' robes. That is one way, I believe, in which we can overcome this difficulty of robes. Of course, if the Privy Council does sit in these Territories, the members will have to sit robed; they cannot sit, as they do here, in lounge suits. With that one query and one hope, may I most warmly support this Bill, and say that I hope the Territory of Sierra Leone, the new independent member State of Sierra Leone, will have every possible good fortune in the future.
§ 4.27 p.m.
My Lords, last Thursday in this Chamber we had rather a sad debate, but to-day it is a happy one. I would rise from these Benches just to welcome the Bill and the fact that Sierra Leone next month will become a fully independent member of the Commonwealth. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in the name of noble Lords opposite has welcomed the Bill. In passing, I would say how glad I am to see the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, back in his seat. I hope he is now well on the way to complete recovery. The Bill has also been welcomed from the Liberal Benches by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. I must say that I feel that if the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, went in for television competitions on the matter of history, he would be sure to make a great deal of money. He has really a great knowledge of it.
I am glad that Her Majesty's Government are going to give all the help they can., in the way both of direct and indirect finance and also of technical help, to Sierra Leone when she becomes fully independent. As to defence, I am glad that the defence solution is going to be made after the date of her independence, because, as has already been said, she can then make it as a fully fledged member of the Commonwealth. I congratulate all the people of the country 35 itself, and the Government and all the helpers behind the scenes who have made this independence possible at this time. My great hope is that Sierra Leone will enjoy being a member of the Commonwealth as much as we shall enjoy having her as one.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, as an old Colonial Secretary and as a Resident Minister who spent many days in Sierra Leone during the last war, I should like—and I know my noble friend, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who succeeded me, would wish to be associated with this—to extend our best congratulations and the warmest welcome to Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone played an important, indeed an indispensable, part in the last war in winning victory for us. Of all the ports in the world Freetown was perhaps the most important. Certainly, without Freetown it would have been almost impossible to carry on the war. It was the assembly point on which converged all the convoys coming from the South and North. All the independent tankers and food ships coming across the Atlantic concentrated in the port of Freetown which, happily, remained to them a free port all through the war.
I well recall four or five critical days when I happened to be in Sierra Leone, when we had 70 or more ships at risk coming from all over, and little to defend them with. The little M.Ls, which were meant really for river traffic, were going far out to sea, and there were, for certain, as we saw on the chart in the War Room, fifteen enemy submarines—there may have been more. Many attacks were made. Three certainly, four probably, of those submarines were sunk. One was sunk by a Wellington bomber with a young New Zealand pilot in charge. I well recall this because it was a Commonwealth episode in every sense of the word. The plane was lost. There was a little rubber dinghy afloat and we hoped that this contained some of the airmen, but it did not; it turned out to have aboard the German commander of the submarine which the aircraft had sunk.
When he came ashore he told the story of how his submarine had been sunk. His was one of the largest new 36 German submarines. It was surfaced, and he said that this aeroplane came over and dropped a stick of bombs but missed him. He "opened up" at it with everything that he had got—and he had quite a number of guns. He said that the aeroplane was not only badly hit but was blazing from stem to stern. It managed to turn, to come back again and to drop a final stick of bombs on the submarine, which sank, and the plane crashed into the sea just in front of the submarine. That German commander said that if ever any man deserved the Victoria Cross it was the captain of that aeroplane. The Admiral and I were able to send that story home. The only evidence was that of the German submarine commander and, on the strength of that evidence, the young New Zealander was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
That is the sort of Commonwealth story that one likes to remember on an occasion like this, and I am quite sure that if ever—pray God it may not be!—the need came again, that port, the free port of Freetown, would be freely at the disposal of the forces of freedom. Not only did Sierra Leone provide that port and the men—tens of thousands of them, who did an enormous amount of work at the docks, on installations and in regard to water supply, because every ship has to be watered there, and on the airfields which were vitally important —and many of them enlisted freely in the forces of the Crown, and not a few served with the Army in Burma.
I am happy to think that Sierra Leone has other assets. Certainly it has its agriculture, but there are considerable assets besides. There are the diamonds, which are of enormous value. I recall that when I was Colonial Secretary I made the agreement with the Selection Trust for the exploitation of the diamond mines, I must say with great credit to the company, on extremely favourable terms. They did all the exploration and the Sierra Leone Government got 27½ per cent. of the profits. I think that was a pretty good deal. I remember that when Lord Balfour of Inchrye and I were in Africa the Government's diamond share then, in the war, was bringing in something between £350,000 and £400,000 a year. Then I remember—I do not suppose it is exhausted 37 —the considerable iron ore supply, with a railway to get it. I imagine that iron ore is still coming from it. There was quite valuable timber as well.
The Prime Minister of Sierra Leone has, as has been said, shown himself an able and responsible man. I believe that these people will be able to discharge the great responsibility as well as the rights which now devolve upon them; and they will start with the warmest good wishes, not only of both Houses of Parliament but of all the people of this country.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ LORD DENNING
My Lords, it was my privilege last year to go to Sierra Leone to open the new Court of Appeal, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said, I attended the sitting of the Court wearing a Peer's robes together with a full-bottomed wig. Indeed, it was a great occasion to see that the people of Sierra Leone are perhaps in advance of the other countries, because the people there have trained up their own lawyers, and from those lawyers have produced their own judges; so that in Sierra Leone you now have judges and magistrates of the country very much attached to the Common Law which they have inherited from this country, and at one in upholding the fundamental human rights which are now to be in their Constitution. Their attachment to the appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is to be ensured, and the independence of the judges, which also is to be ensured by the fact that a judge cannot be removed except after inquiry there and eventually on an appeal to the Privy Council, means that they are carrying through the principles which they have inherited from this country. With that strong bulwark, I am confident that they will play their full part among the emergent countries, and I would add my word of welcome to this Bill.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I am not surprised at the welcome which has been given by so many of your Lordships to this Bill, for it is a Bill in which we all rejoice, and this is a very happy occasion. I was particularly glad to hear, and I am sure the House welcomed. the words of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, for not only had he been Colonial Secretary but—more to the 38 point on this occasion—he was for a long time Resident Minister during a critical period. The noble Earl recalled the great service that the people of Sierra Leone gave, particularly those around the port of Freetown, and that so many of them volunteered to serve in our common cause at that time. It was a pleasure, also, to see the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, here, for as your Lordships will know, he succeeded the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, as Resident Minister.
Then we heard words of welcome from the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who mentioned particularly how fortunate it was that His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent should be going out to represent Her Majesty at the Independence celebrations. I know we all rejoice at that and feel it is very appropriate, in that there is this, as it were, special relationship with that family, in the link between Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent and Ghana and Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra and Nigeria. That is particularly happy. One can express no higher expectation than that he will perform that duty as well as other members of his family have done.
The noble Earl asked me a question on economic assistance, and, in particular, whether we would help in such matters as diplomatic representation. I have no doubt that the answer is: if we can help on the diplomatic side, as we have done on other occasions, we shall be only too pleased to do so. No doubt, so will other members of the Commonwealth, if that should be appropriate and in accordance with the wishes of the people of Sierra Leone. It is true that, to some degree, in comparison with the aid given by France to her overseas territories our aid may be somewhat less; but it certainly does not warrant any unfavourable comparison being made, for I believe that it stands out as second in the world in relation to the wealth of a country. And, after all, it has to be borne in mind that, besides the help given by the Government, there is help given by private individuals.
As your Lordships will know, from those two sources together, something 1¼ over per cent. of our gross national product is now being invested abroad; and we have to be careful not to do 39 more than that, for a reason of which your Lordships all know; namely, that we must avoid strain on our foreign exchange. There has, therefore, been some limit to what we are able to do. I can assure your Lordships, however, that we will continue, under technical assistance or otherwise, to give all the help we can. For example, £3½ million of the £7½ million I mentioned will be in the form of Commonwealth assistance loans which will replace, and may perhaps more than replace, aid which might have been given to Sierra Leone as a Colony.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore gave us some interesting historical comments on Sierra Leone. In particular, he asked —very appropriately and properly, I thought—whether the right of appeal to the Privy Council would remain. In Command Paper 1029, to which I have referred several times this afternoon, it is stated in paragraph 20 (j), on page 8, that:The rights of appeal to the. Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in matters concerning the interpretation of the constitution, and also the existing rights of appeal to the Judicial Committee…should be "entrenched" and remain. The noble Lord was very right in stressing the importance of that right remaining. It was good to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, speaking of his experience last year, and making the important point that the people of Sierra Leone are well served in judicial matters, having both their own lawyers and judges—for which, I suspect, Fourah Bay College is largely responsible. We heard from the noble Viscount, Lord 40 Goschen, that after last week this was a happy occurrence; and I very much agree with him.
My Lords, I think there is nothing more for me to do except join with other noble Lords who have spoken in wishing the people of Sierra Leone every happiness and prosperity in their new venture into independence.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.
§ Then Standing Order Number 41 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of March 23), Bill read 3a, and passed.