§ 4.40 p.m.
§ House again in Committee.
§ LORD OGMORE
I have a good deal of sympathy for what lies behind the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, and his colleagues, because I think that the whole proposal in Clauses 2 and 5 is vague. It leaves a blank cheque of uncertain dimensions in the hands of the Government, and I think that we ought to have a little more information than we have had up to now. This Amendment is the usual peg on which to hang our arguments. I understand that the Government intend that the authority under Clause 2 is merely to tide over the transitional period. That 341 was the answer which the noble Earl gave me when we debated the Bill on Second Reading on March 12. The noble Earl added that if at a later stage the various component parts of any Federation that might be set up wanted to carry on, they could do so. I think that that is sensible enough. We do not know what the shape of any new Federation will be. Naturally, we assume that Jamaica and Trinidad will not be in it, and the rest is a huge question mark—or, rather, nine question marks, because there are nine island territories concerned in the future of this area who will be affected by this Bill.
I should like to ask the noble Earl whether in the interim stage—that is, before any final authority is set up—it will be possible to have an authority which will deal not only with the nine territories which will remain as Colonies but also with the two territories which will become independent—namely, Jamaica and Trinidad. I think that the structure of even the authority which the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, proposes will be different if the two comparatively large territories of Jamaica and Trinidad are to remain and have some part and say in the interim authority.
It is very important for us all to realise what sort of area we are concerned with here. I gave some figures on Second Reading and your Lordships may recall that these islands are very small indeed—some 1,392 square miles with 677,500 souls. To give your Lordships some idea what that means, I may say that Wales, which the Government are firmly convinced is not capable of having one Government for itself, is 8,006 square miles, so that we are now dealing with an area about one-eighth or one-sixth the size of Wales, cut into nine separate parts. We are concerned to develop an elaborate system of government for these nine little islands, and one Federal Government.
We have to face the fact that the British taxpayer is going to pay for all this. We have already heard what the taxpayer is going to pay the farmers, and if we take this, too, the taxpayer will be even more handicapped and harassed than he is at the moment. Everybody is putting something on the British taxpayer. Of course, we bear 342 the economic responsibility of these islands, but I want every penny which is devoted to them to go where it is needed, and the people who need it are the poor people who are struggling to make a living on the land. I do not want to give it to the people who are creating a structure of government which not only will be entirely unnecessary but in all probability will destroy the very objective we hope to achieve—that is, to have a realistic Government in these islands.
Recently, I put down a Question to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, to elucidate the position, and as it was a Written Answer and some of your Lordships may not have seen it, I will repeat what the noble Earl said. I asked which of the islands were "Treasury controlled"—that is, which of the islands get a grant to make up the costs of administration, because that is what "Treasury control" means. The answer was [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 238 (No. 47), col. 104]:Only the Virgin Islands are 'Treasury controlled', because it is only to the Virgin Islands that grants in aid of administration are made direct by Her Majesty's Government.However, under the provisions of the British Caribbean Federation Act, 1956, grants in aid of the Administration can be made to the Governments of the individual territories of the Federation of the West Indies; they would be issued out of grants made by Her Majesty's Government to the Federal Government for the purpose. Control over the budgets of such grant-aided territories in the West Indies is exercised by the Federal Government and not by Her Majesty's Government.The Federal Government provided such aid last year for Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. No grant in aid was made to Barbados.To put it shortly and, I hope, to make it much clearer to your Lordships than the noble Earl, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, was able to make clear to me why food in the shops costs so much, I would point out that every single one of these nine territories except Barbados is getting a subvention from the British taxpayer now and will continue to do so in future. That is the situation; so that, if neither Jamaica nor Trinidad is going to form part of this authority, it will mean that the British Government not only will be making any provision that has to be made for the administration of these islands by way of Treasury subvention, 343 but would also have to pay a considerable amount of the costs of this authority to be set up under Clause 2. So I would say that, while I entirely agree with the spirit of the noble Earl's Amendment, I doubt whether it would be proper in the circumstances if only the nine territories concerned in this authority should have representatives on the council or governing body of the authority.
It appears, from what the Amendment provides, that the only person who could in fact be assigned, allocated or selected by the British Government would be the chairman. Therefore, there would be nine representatives of the territories on the authority and one chairman, and it would be only the chairman who would be selected by the British Government. There would thus be the extraordinary position that only the chairman could be selected by the British Government, and the other nine members would all be selected by people who would have little responsibility for paying the cost of the authority. As I have said, all of them, except Barbados, are getting subventions from the British Exchequer. I do not think the noble Earl meant that at all, but that, I am sure, is the effect of this particular Amendment.
Therefore, as I say, I feel it would be better in the interim stages not to have any representative of the various islands on the authority, because it may well be that the British taxpayer will have to pay the lot, in which case it is better for the British Government to appoint the authority on the basis that "he who pays the piper calls the tune". What may happen in the future, in the second stage when it develops into a full-blown authority, with perhaps Jamaica, Trinidad, British Guiana, British Honduras and other islands entering into the picture, is another problem; but those are my reasons for suggesting that this Amendment is really premature at this moment and that it would be better to leave the situation in the hands of the United Kingdom Government who will have to pay the piper.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, quite frankly said that he was using this Amendment as a peg on which to hang a rather voluminous 344 cloak. I will not follow him in his arguments for or against expensive local administrations, other than to say that I have considerable sympathy with a lot that he said about it. I think, however, the noble Lord has perhaps wandered a little wide from this Amendment, the object of which is threefold. There are at the moment a certain number of services common to the original Federation. We are all a little vague as to just what those services are, and I hope that the noble Earl when he comes to reply will be able to tell us exactly what they are. We know that two ships have been presented to the Federation by the Canadians, and they are undoubtedly a valuable service of communication between the islands. There is also a common meteorological service. I think—although I am not certain—that there may be a common statistical service. It is a most important question as to whether the University of the West Indies is included in these common services. Undoubtedly, it is a service for the whole of the former Federal area, and a most important one; and some steps must be taken to make sure that the University of the West Indies continues in its present form as a service to the whole of the Caribbean area. I would suggest that it should be included in this general blanket of common services unless specific and separate arrangements are made to ensure its continuance.
But, whatever these services may be, there are three things that I think we should all like to see ensured. First—and I grant that this may be the most important—we must see that the services are efficiently carried on and that the fact that the Federation has broken up is no reason or excuse for allowing them to disintegrate or to be inefficiently organised. I am perfectly willing to concede that to have one commissioner appointed by the Colonial Office to ensure that this is done would be a quite satisfactory way of doing it, because he would, without doubt, be an able and efficient gentleman who could see, purely from the point of view of efficiency, that there was no interference when federation came to an end. But we want more; and I rather think from remarks made during the Second Reading debate that noble Lords opposite want more, too. 345 It is clear that on both sides of the Committee we want to do our best to keep the little remnants of federation that remain still alive. We do not want any great barriers or gulfs to grow up between Jamaica and Trinidad and the eight, rather than the nine to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred.
§ LORD WALSTON
Yes; which was not in the Federation, but which apparently is to be included in the scope of the Bill. But whether it is eight or nine, we want them to keep as much contact as possible with Jamaica and Trinidad. These common services, whatever they may be, are clearly a useful way of ensuring that this is done. What could be better than to ensure that there are representatives from these different territories, who, at least on functional grounds—the organisation of the common transport services; the organisation of the meteorological service; the running of the great and important University of the West Indies—can from time to time meet together with a common interest to see that these things are properly done, rather than that they should be efficiently administered by one individual, who no doubt chooses his helpers and advisers, sitting wherever it may be in one central place? There you have the opportunity not only to keep together a little bit of federation, but to make sure that it grows still wider and that you get mutual confidence among these people; because in these cases they will be working for a common purpose, with out any individual island antagonisms, and out of that we hope will grow once more an effective and wider Federation—or a getting together, if you do not like the word "federation". That is the second object that we should have in mind in deciding how we are going to organise these common services.
The third is quite simply our desire and our responsibility to build up in these areas a growing feeling, not only of responsibility but of having a say in their own destinies. They will no longer be simply a Colony, told what to do by Whitehall, told what to do by a Governor, a Commissioner or whoever it may be. At least in certain functions which are important to them they would have their own representatives with their own voices, saying how these things 346 should be run. I suggest to your Lordships that, without in any way running away from what this Bill is setting out to do, without in any way adding to the costs, and without in any way derogating from the ultimate responsibility of the Colonial Office to see that these things are done without ill-effects of any kind, it will be possible, by allowing, as our Amendment suggests, that there should be representatives of these territories there as of right to help run these common services, to achieve these three things which noble Lords on all sides of the Committee feel to be important. I hope that when the noble Earl comes to reply he will tell us he is able to accept, if not the actual wording of the Amendment at least the spirit of it.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR COLONIAL AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF PERTH)
I am very glad of this Amendment—not, I fear, because I am going to be able to accept it, but because it enables me to clear up a misunderstanding which has arisen in relation to this clause. But before I embark on that, let me make just one general point. As your Lordships know, Jamaica has said that she wants to be out of the present Federation; so has the Government of Trinidad, and so have the other eight. They have all said that they no longer want to be part of this Federation. That being the case, clearly the sooner we can dissolve this Federation, and perhaps create something new, the better. Therefore, there is a great need for speed in this matter, and to get on with the solution quickly. I think it is important for us to keep this in mind all the way through when we are discussing the various points on this Bill.
Having said that, let me take this particular clause and what is involved in it. To begin with, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, it is to provide for an interim or transitional authority. What is this interim or transitional authority to cover? Several noble Lords have asked this question, and I can tell them that the present common services which this authority is intended to cover are: the West Indies Meteorological Service, the University College of the West Indies, the Federal Shipping Service, the West India Regiment, the Federal 347 Supreme Court, Advisory Services in Agriculture, Marketing, Fisheries, Livestock, Forestry, Medicine, Education, Maritime Services, Telecommunications, Civil Aviation and the Postal Services.
All the common services, all of that list, which at the present time are administered by the Federation, must go on. We are all extremely anxious that they should go on; and such territories as Jamaica and, I believe, Trinidad also, have said that they want them to go on. At the same time, we are anxious that they should go on in an interim way for the shortest possible time. So what we are proposing here is purely a transitional and interim arrangement for efficiency purposes. During this interim period, the authority—who would be, as we visualise it, one man appointed by the Colonial Office—would run these things and, at the same time, would bend all his efforts, as we hope will the various units of the dissolving Federation, to achieving something new with the sort of common purpose which has been running as a theme through what various noble Lords have said. In time something may grow from this authority (which obviously is the anxiety of many) using its experience of the common services and with all the territories represented.
I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, who referred to the precedent of the East African Common Services Organisation. Certainly something like that is as much in our minds as it is in the minds of noble Lords opposite. We should desire it to come at some time, but this is not the time for it. When it does come, probably it will not come in the form of an Order in Council but more probably as a result of an agreement between, say, a sovereign territory—such as Jamaica, or even others, maybe, by that time—and those which still are, perhaps, in some form of Federation under our protection in one way or another. It is for that further stage, if I may say so, that this sort of Amendment would have been appropriate. I do not believe that it is appropriate now, given the conditions, and the fact that, for the short time we contemplate, it is purely for administrative purposes and administrative convenience, to make sure that these services 348 are efficiently run during the interim period.
Suppose we follow through with this clause. It is a little too awkward. A chairman is appointed, and there are persons representative of each of the territories concerned. What are to be their functions? Should they do it by vote? I do not believe that, in an interim establishment, that method is appropriate. We may get the organisation wrong and we may want to change it, which we can always do if we find it desirable. But our first thought on it is: do not let us do it by the method of this Amendment. Efficiency is the important thing, as the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said. Contact with the Islands is important. That obviously will happen, because they are very much concerned with all these common services. It is quite inconceivable in practice that the authority would not be in contact with all those who are concerned with these various services; it must be, by the very nature of things.
As I say, for reasons of efficiency, and because it has a specific task at this moment—which is purely an interim one, to run the various assets which otherwise would perhaps have no home, and to ensure there is a smooth change-over in the civil service problems which will arise—that is the job which we visualise the authority would perform. It is in no way, I assure your Lordships, a setback. It is a holding operation until such time as we can get on to the wider thing which is in your Lordships' minds and which I, for one, would fully support.
I hope that, in the light of the explanation that I have been able to give of what we have in mind, your Lordships will not in this particular instance feel it necessary to press this Amendment.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
I had not intended to say anything on this Amendment, but I am urged to ask the noble Earl what he means by an interim administration. There is nothing in the Bill about an interim administration. This is an administration which is going to be set up to administer the common services until such time as the various territories cam get together and 349 some other alternative form of government can be agreed upon. But that is not a matter of weeks or months—it may be a matter of years.
I am not blaming the Government for the situation, but the first shot at creating a Federation has not been very successful. Is there any reason to think that this Government, or any other Government, can do better within a short time. Therefore, I fail to appreciate the significance of the constant reiteration of the word "interim". In one sense, of course, everything is interim, but it depends what is meant by it. I regard this interim administration as one which may take a very long time. If I am right (and I think I am likely to be more right than the noble Earl, who seems to suggest that it is a matter of a very short time), then the question is: is it appropriate for these Islands to be administered in these very important services by one man appointed by this Government? I could understand it if it were for a very short period; but, as I have said, there is nothing to suggest that it is likely to be a short period.
I should have thought, therefore, that it would be more acceptable to the Islands themselves, and more appropriate to our conception of a democratic administration, that there should be a body of people responsible for the administration of these very large and important services. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, commented on this, and I think he rather took the same view as the Government. I fully appreciate that to-day, of all days, he feels in a triumphant mood, and feels that he is entitled to hold forth as to what should happen in these Islands. But, to me, looking at the thing without practical experience (I must confess that), it seems that, while the noble Earl might be right if this were truly an interim measure, one which might last a relatively short time, if, as appears to be the case, this is something which may administratively be necessary for a number of years, at any rate, then what is set out in the Amendment is the right way to deal with it. It will not be any more expensive to do this in this way than by any other method. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl will be prepared to give it rather more favourable consideration than he has done up to now.
§ LORD DERWENT
Before my noble friend replies, may I say just a few words? I should have thought that an interim period was quite definitely the period between the present political setup and some future political set-up which will be able to run these services. It seems to me that if you establish too firm a board, if I may use a phrase which is not too strong, it may in the long run stop the political set-up that would be able to run these services; because the people on the board would have a vested interest in keeping that board going; whereas, if it is virtually under the control of the Colonial Office, it will be much easier to hand over these services to any new political set-up.
§ LORD SILKIN
Would that not be the case, however you set up an ad hoc organisation? If you set up a body of representatives of the different islands, who will, after all, be answerable to a certain extent, the vested interest would be in the islands themselves, not in the representatives.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
May I ask the noble Earl whether he would consider any compromise arrangement? The essential difficulty here seems to be that there is no link at the moment, under the contemplated Constitution, between the authority that will run the common services and which will be responsible to the Secretary of State in Whitehall, and the peoples and Governments of the territories which will benefit from these services. I think the noble Earl's real objection was that an executive body of which the chairman would be appointed by the Colonial Office but the members would be persons representing territories might fail to do its job because the chairman could, of course, be out-voted by the members, and there might be differences of opinion between the elected members and the administration. Could not this difficulty be overcome if there were at any rate an advisory body representing all the territories which would be able to review, consider and advise about the management of the common services? I am not suggesting that this is preferable to the present Amendment, but I am wondering whether the noble Earl would consider this, as he has stated his strong objection to the Amendment which is proposing an executive authority.
§ LORD OGMORE
Before the noble Earl replies, may I ask him to refresh our memory? Is it not a fact that prior to the formation of the Federation of the West Indies there was a body of this kind? Sir Hubert Rance, I remember, was in control of an organisation of this kind for some years, and surely what we are in fact doing is, as it were, going back to the system which was in operation there before the Federation took place.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
I am afraid I am not going to be able to help the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, whose memory, I am sure, is right on this matter, because I cannot find out in time. But I think I can deal with the various points that have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, remarked, quite rightly, that this is intended to be short lived, whereas one's experience of these things is that sometimes they are very long lived. I cannot give a guarantee, but various things make it extremely probable that this will be a short-lived affair. To begin with, in the very near future Jamaica is going to be independent, and it may be that Trinidad will follow suit about that time. Unless there has been some agreement with those two territories, whose co-operation would be most important for the maintenance of the common services, the outlook would be very gloomy. So our intention is to have a conference in July on the whole of this question of common services, with the thought that we ought to get this thing settled and new arrangements in being, if possible, before anybody becomes independent. So in that way I hope I have reassured the noble Lord that the probability that this arrangement will carry on for any length of time is unlikely—I almost used the word "impossible"—in view of what is our intention and in light of the fact that two of the main constituents may, in a short time, unless new arrangements are made, be no longer party to it. We should not be able to carry on unless they so wished.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
Would the noble Earl make one point clear? He said there will be a conference on common services in July. Are the provisions we are going to put into this Bill 352 therefore only to last until the conference, or until the results of the conference are known?
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
Certainly. I am not saying for certain that there will be one, but that is our intention at the present time. Certainly the provisions here for the authority would be purely interim. Then, as I said earlier, we should hope, with those who to-day are interested in common services, to set up some new body to run them. But that would come about almost certainly by agreement between, let us say, the United Kingdom and an independent territory, and, therefore, would not be an appropriate subject to come under this Bill, because it would be the equivalent of a treaty between one sovereign Power and another to incorporate an agreement worked out between them. What we are after, and what I have tried to bring out, is that this is essentially in relation to an interim situation; and I have tried to show why we think it is really going to be interim in this case, though I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that these things do not always work out that way.
In regard to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, I can assure him that, in fact, whoever is the authority must necessarily, and will necessarily, consult with the various islands, because one could not do otherwise. If you look at the list of services and those who are interested in them, you will see that it could not be run in any other way. I hope, in the light of what I have said about the purpose—to ensure efficient administration quickly, and to ensure that we can get on with the matter—that it will not be necessary to press the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
What the noble Earl has just told us is certainly completely new to me. I had not grasped at all from the debate we had on Second Reading that the provisions of this Bill were intended to last for only a few months. What he said about the principle of representation on a body like this I must say I found singularly unconvincing. The idea that you could not set up a representative body quickly seemed a very odd one. After all, any club or charity has its governing body set up in a matter of a few days. You 353 can appoint representatives from constituent bodies and they can meet together under the chairmanship of somebody and conduct the business. The business itself, from the list he gave us, is almost a miniature sovereign Government. You have the Supreme Court, an army, and the university, shipping and advisory bodies on agriculture and forestry, medical and postal services, and I do not know what. There must be a fairly strong organisation to conduct these.
Moreover, why should it be necessary to link such a body as we have in mind with the Federation? The East African body was in being and functioning highly successfully for years when there was no other form of association between the East African Colonies. In fact that was the only close association that existed or was thought possible and it was only recently that one of the Colonies, Tanganyika, became independent. That did not alter the essential structure; it altered the name and some of the detail. But we had one independent country and two territories not yet independent, and they appear to be perfectly happily associated for the practical purposes of their common services in this organisation. I have never heard that it is inefficient because it is run by a legislature with a chairman. We all know that things can be more efficient if they are done in a military way by a person in sole charge, in fact a dictator. We all heard that the Italian trains ran to time under Mussolini. But we do not happen to think that that is the way in which the Caribbean, parts of our Commonwealth, ought to be run.
However, what the noble Lord has said about the change of conditions in the immediate future has rather altered the situation and I would not propose to ask my friends to divide on this at present. I think we need some time to think about it, but I must reserve the right to put down something else at the next stage of this Bill. After all, we have not much time; it is going through very quickly. We may feel at a later stage that we must put down something to assert the principle that we believe in. Meanwhile I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
If I may make one comment to the noble Earl which may help him on this, I am glad that 354 the fact that this is interim makes a difference and I would assure him that I did say all of that on the Second Reading debate. I do not want to hash it all over once more, but it is the fact that what we are proposing is something which is interim and not permanent. Quite frankly, I should be afraid of something in this form, or something even like it, for the future for the reason that I think one is then trying to dictate what is going to come out of the conference or consultations one proposes to have. This is my main difficulty. If this were permanent I would accept something like the noble Earl's Amendment as appropriate, but as it is interim I think to try to dictate something to the islands which is their business would be a little awkward.
§ LORD SILKIN
I have read the clause again and there is not a word about its being interim. If it were intended it should be a permanent measure of administration you would put it in exactly the same language. If only something could be incorporated to give a clue to the fact that this is merely intended to operate pending the discussions, I myself should be perfectly happy.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3.
§ Compensation scheme for officers of Federal public service
§ (2) An Order in Council under this section may provide for the raising of the moneys necessary to make payments falling to be made under the Order by either or both of the following means, namely,—
§ (b) the making of contributions by all or any of the governments of the colonies included in the Federation at the passing of this Act.
THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved to add to subsection (2):
Provided that no such order shall be made until after consultation with the governments concerned.
§ The noble Earl said: The object of this Amendment is very simple and I hope it will be acceptable to the Government. It is merely to make sure that the Governments of these territories are consulted before any decision is taken to dispose of the funds, either of the Federal Government or of the territorial governments, to pay pensions or compensation to existing officers or retired officers of the Federal Government. This, surely, is based on the simple principle of the right to be consulted before your money is spent. This money will come from the pockets of the West Indian taxpayers, and it seems only right and proper that their Governments should at least be consulted before the money is spent in this way. I am not satisfied with the drafting of the Amendment and I would certainly redraft it before the next stage of the Bill if the Government were able to accept the principle.
§ The only other thing I should like to do is to ask the noble Earl a question arising out of this clause. Will the compensation paid to officers of the Federal Government after the Federation is dissolved be shared between Her Majesty's Government and the West Indies? That is, of course, what happens in the case of Colonies that become independent, and I am wondering whether that principle will be applied. I beg- to move.
Page 3, line 31, at end insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ LORD OGMORE
I have no objection at all to the Amendment. In fact, I think it is only right and proper that this Amendment should be accepted. It is obviously a very desirable Amendment. But I must say that I am a little worried about the whole situation here with regard to the overseas pensioners, the Colonial pensioners. Whether or not the Governments of the particular Colonies are consulted, as I think they should be, the fact may remain that the unfortunate pensioners find themselves in the position that so many existing pensioners from other Colonial territories are in. Your Lordships may remember that on February 20 last I moved a Motion in this House calling attention to the very serious plight or 356 these unfortunate people. We received a reply from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, which was singularly unhelpful, as everyone who took part in the debate felt; it was no fault of his, but the brief put up for him was certainly a most unhelpful one from the point of view of the unfortunate pensioners
The situation is quite clear. It is in fact stated in the Colonial Paper of 1954 called Organisation of the Colonial Service, paragraph 3, which says that the officers are servants of the Crown and the conditions of their employment are embodied in Colonial regulations. Those regulations constitute the Secretary of State as the ultimate authority for appointments, discipline and promotion and general conditions of employment. I should like to know whether even if this clause is amended in the way proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, there is any derogation whatsoever of the Secretary of State's responsibility for the pensions of the officers, because if there is, I should wish to move the deletion of the whole clause. I believe that after people have served the British Crown for many years in these territories it is their right to have their pensions treated in the same way as those of home civil servants are treated. At present that is not done, and people who have served the Crown faithfully over many years in the colonial territories are living in this country in destitution or near-destitution. I feel that this is a matter which the Government might take in hand.
The Government's argument is that these unfortunate people are not their servants. In spite of the clear statement which was made in 1954, the Government say that these unfortunate people are the servants of the territories concerned and tell them: "We are not going to pay you any more. If you can get the extra pension from whichever country you happen to have been serving in at the time of your retirement, you go and get it. It has nothing to do with us." That is a most despicable attitude on the part of the Government. Your Lordships in all parts of the House supported me in that view, and I am perfectly certain that if we had taken it to a Division the Government would have been defeated. But as it was an 357 ordinary Motion to call attention to this subject, I did not take it to a Division.
We are entitled to know, here and now, from the noble Earl, Lord Perth, whether the same trick is going to be played on these unfortunate people as has been played by the Government on the other colonial civil servants. I am worried lest the effect of this Amendment will give the Government a loophole whereby they can say, "Of course we consulted the colonial Government concerned about these pensions, and as we did so that was an admission on everybody's part that these people were the servants of the colonial Government; because if they were our servants there was no need to consult with them." As I see it that is the danger of this Amendment. I hope that my fears are groundless. From a democratic principle I approve the Amendment, but, as I say, I am most suspicious of it from the point of view of the treatment of our old and faithful colonial servants. I hope that this Amendment will not give the Government a loophole to get out of their responsibilities in this respect.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
In many ways I wish I could accept this Amendment. I can certainly give noble Lords an assurance that we have every intention of consulting, and will consult, with the Government concerned about the operation of a compensation scheme. Having given that assurance, I hope that the noble Earl will not press me on the Amendment, for several reasons. First, I am advised that, legally, "consultation" is a difficult word, and we want to get on with the schemes for these people. If it is stated in the Bill that there must be consultation, when we work out the various schemes for the officers somebody who is disgruntled might well take action at law, saying that the consultation had not been adequate. I do not know what that means, but it might hold everything up. From the practical angle we are anxious not to have it in the Bill as a statutory obligation. But, as I say, I give an assurance to noble Lords that we will consult with the Governments concerned about the operation of the schemes.
The noble Earl asked me whether Her Majesty's Government are going to play a part. Quite frankly, I do not know the answer to that question. The 358 reason why I do not know the answer is exactly the same as that which I gave in the Second Reading debate—namely, that we just do not know what the circumstances are; whether the assets are going to be more than the liabilities, or whether there will be sufficient assets to pay all contributions to the civil servants. After all, it must be remembered that Her Majesty's Government have already made a large contribution to these assets, so we have already, in a sense, taken a large share in this matter. I also recollect that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said that there are several of these territories which are at present directly or indirectly grant-aided. Perhaps I may leave it at that without giving any firm answer.
On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I am afraid therefore that I am unable to give him more comfort than is usually given in regard to colonial territories. I hope, however, that in the light of the assurance that I have given the noble Earl will find it possible to withdraw the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am most grateful to the noble Earl for answering my question about the clause, which was not altogether relevant to the Amendment, and for replying to my noble friend Lord Ogmore at the same time. I appreciate his argument but I hope that Her Majesty's Government, in assessing the contribution of the West Indies and the United Kingdom, will keep the proportions at 50–50, as has been the case in regard to independent countries, whether it has been paid already to the West Indies or whether it is fresh money that is paid. That is the principle that we work on at the moment. Otherwise, I think that most of us would feel that the West Indies was being given a raw deal as compared with the other parts of the Commonwealth and Africa, which are sometimes better off than the West Indies.
I appreciate the assurance of the noble Earl in regard to this Amendment. This is now a matter of good faith, and naturally I accept the promise of the Government to consult. In view of the noble Earl's promise, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.359
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clauses 4 to 6 agreed.
§ Clause 7:
§ Supplementary provisions as to Orders in Council
§ (3) A statutory instrument containing an Order in Council under this Act which adapts or modifies any Act shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament, and a statutory instrument containing an Order in Council under this Act which does not adapt or modify any Act shall be laid before Parliament after being made.
§ 5.37 p.m.
THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved to leave out subsection (3) and to insert instead:
(3) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament the draft of any Order which it is proposed to recommend Her Majesty to make in Council under any provision of this Act and no further proceedings shall be taken in relation thereto except in pursuance of an address presented to Her Majesty by both Houses of Parliament praying that the Order may be made either in the form of the draft or with such amendments as may have been agreed to by resolution of both Houses.
§ The noble Earl said: The object of this Amendment is to give Parliament more control of Orders that will be made under this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament. This particular provision goes rather further than the normal procedure of Parliamentary approval of Orders that are made under Acts of Parliament. It is taken out of the India Act, 1935, which, as your Lordships will remember, is a massive Statute of over 300 sections and forms the basis of the present Indian Constitution. If Orders made under that immensely elaborate Statute were subject to this procedure, it would seem not unreasonable to suppose that Orders made under this Bill could be subject to the same procedure. It is a procedure for enabling Parliament to approve the draft Orders, and indeed, to amend draft Orders before they are approved. That, of course, is in conflict with normal practice, because normal practice is that an Order has to be rejected or accepted, and cannot be amended. It seems to me that, in the case of Orders made under certain clauses of the Bill, that would be of such importance, from the paint of view of policy, that Parliament should have this further measure of control. I beg to move this Amendment.360
Page 6, line 26, leave out subsection (3) and insert the said new subsection.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
Here again, I am not able to accept the Amendment as it is drafted, although in one important respect I hope to be able to give comfort to the noble Earl who has moved it. My reasons are these. If you look at this proposed Amendment, you will see that we are being asked to agree that all Orders in Council under this Bill shall be subject to this procedure of being laid before Parliament, debated and the rest of it. Our first objective, as I said earlier on, is that we must move quickly.
The second problem is the fact that, in any event, we are going to have a great deal of West Indies legislation in the coming months, and, quite frankly, I do not believe there is the possibility of finding Parliamentary time for it. If it was of sufficient importance, Parliamentary time would, of course, have to be found, but I hope that I shall be able to satisfy your Lordships that in all cases, save one, there is really no need for anxiety about what we are going to do under this Bill.
I think the way that I can best show this is by looking at each of the clauses, to see what we are going to be empowered to do. Under Clause 1 we are given power to have an Order in Council to provide for secession or dissolution. We all accept—I do not say we like it—that that is a necessary thing to do. Then Clause 2 gives us powers to have an authority to ensure the care and co-ordination of the common services. I think there is no argument about that. Then under Clause 3 the purpose of any Order in Council will be to provide compensation. We have discussed that, and there is no new issue of policy involved. Clause 4 is not something that is controversial, nor I think would Parliament wish to be concerned with it.
There is one very important point on Clause 5, and I recall having given an assurance—which I should like to repeat—in regard to it: namely, that it would not be the intention of Her Majesty's Government to use any of the powers under this clause to derogate in any way from the constitutional status of those territories already enjoying full internal self-government. That I hope will remove 361 any anxieties any one may have in relation to that clause. Then we come to Clause 6: Power of Her Majesty's Government to establish new forms of government in place of the West Indies. This I recognise as something of general concern. If we are going to set up a new Federation of the eight, or possibly in association with the Virgin Islands, this would be of general Parliamentary interest. For that particular purpose I would myself be very ready to introduce at the next stage an Amendment which would ensure what the noble Lords wished when they moved this Amendment—namely, that there is an opportunity for Parliament to debate the matter before the Order in Council is made. I recognise that this is something of general concern and interest. So, in the light of what I have said about the first part of my undertaking in regard to Clause 6—which is the key thing—I hope your Lordships will be satisfied on your Amendment.
§ LORD SILKIN
In view of what the noble Earl has just said, I think my noble friend will probably feel disposed to accept that assurance, but, in carrying out this assurance, would the noble Earl also consider putting forward something which would cover the point we made on Clause 2? I accept that it is the intention of the Government that the arrangements which they contemplate should be provisional and temporary, but I should like to have something in the Bill which would provide for the contingency of no agreement being arrived at, which may involve a different form of administration from the one the noble Earl has described as an interim one. If he could consider that as well, I think it would be acceptable to all of us.
§ LORD OGMORE
When the Labour Government was in office this sort of problem came up, and the Conservative Party who were then in Opposition used to say, "Put it in the Bill". I have heard that on many occasions. When we used to tell them, "We will give you this assurance", or "We intend to do this", they always said that to us. We are quite happy to accept the assurance of the noble Earl, but man is mortal—as are Administrations. Therefore, put it in the Bill. I am sure the noble Earl will have regard to that salutary advice.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
I think there is some slight misunderstanding. I will put in the Bill an Amendment which will ensure that in so far as Clause 6 is concerned the matter is subject to debate. On Clause 2 I cannot at this moment give any promise. I will certainly think about it. But as regards Clause 6 I will put it in the Bill at the next stage.
§ LORD SILKIN
If the noble Lord finds that he himself is not prepared to do something, could he let us know in good time in order to enable us to put something down?
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
Again, I must express my gratitude to the noble Earl for going such a long way to meet the purpose of my Amendment. I agree with him that Clause 6 is the clause which raises the most important new issue of policy. The clause might easily provide—we hope it will—the opportunity for a regrouping of West Indian territories in a new Federation. We have all heard that certain of the territories are already discussing the possibility of regrouping on these lines. This is, of course, a matter of the utmost importance, which might give rise to a new and independent country in the Commonwealth, and should be subject to the approval of Parliament, as well as subject to the consent of the territories concerned in the West Indies. I am most grateful to the noble Earl for saying that he will include a proviso which will make sure that this matter is brought before Parliament and made subject to its approval before any legislative action is taken by the Government.
The only question I would ask the noble Earl is this. It would appear from what he has said that the compensation schemes are not agreed or definite at the present time. Parliament has expressed a great deal of anxiety about the fair and equitable treatment of Colonial Service officers, and it would at least be desirable if any Orders that are made regarding compensation payments should be subject to the positive procedure of approval by Parliament. I am not sure whether the Bill covers this at the moment. I should like to know whether he could make sure that Orders under this Clause 3 are made subject to the positive procedure.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
I do not believe I shall be able to help the noble Earl on his last point. I do not think it has ever happened before. The compensation agreements, which are extremely technical and complicated, are worked out between the Colonial Office and the territory which is about to become independent. I do not think these agreements have ever been the subject of Parliamentary approval. They are, I think, administrative acts between those two bodies. Of course, it is always open to Parliament at some time to question them, because they are generally made public in one way or another. Therefore I do not believe I could help in that respect. However, on the one point which does seem to me to be important, I will see that something is put in the Bill to give effect to the need for consultation with Parliament.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am quite satisfied with what the noble Earl has said just now about some form of public statement, whether in Parliament or by the publication of a White Paper, when the general system of compensation has been agreed between Her Majesty's Government and the West Indian territories. I am sure we should like to know more about it before the thing is actually done. But I am quite agreeable to that way of dealing with the matter, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
I do not want there to be any misunderstanding. I am not undertaking that there will be a White Paper on compensation. What I said was that these questions of compensation are essentially matters between the Governments concerned, and that that has always been the practice. So far as I know, it has never been the practice that these things are submitted to Parliament. I can think of great complication and delay ensuing, which no one wants to incur in cases like this, where our great anxiety is to have people compensated quickly and happily.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I quite agree with the noble Earl, and I apologise. I am wrong in suggesting this procedure: it would be out of line with what is usually done. Nevertheless, I think we ought to have information, and 364 I hope the noble Earl will make it possible for us to have information about any compensation scheme which is agreed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses and Schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed:
§ Bill reported without amendment: Report received.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, it would perhaps be convenient that the House do now adjourn until the Royal Commission at six o'clock.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.