HL Deb 12 March 1963 vol 247 cc723-32

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, it may be to the convenience of the House if I repeat a statement which has been made by my right honourable friend in another place. I repeat it in the Colonial Secretary's own words.

"The primary purpose of my three weeks' visit to East Africa was to finalise the text of Kenya's new Constitution, so as to enable elections to be held and internal self-government to be introduced. Two out of these three weeks I spent in Nairobi, in almost continuous discussion with Kenya Ministers and with deputations representing regional, racial or sectional interests of various kinds. I received several deputations from the European community. Among other matters, they spoke to me about the problem facing the aged and infirm, particularly those living in isolated areas. I fully understand and sympathise with their difficulties. I am obtaining further information about these cases from the Government of Kenya, and I hope to be able to make a statement shortly. During an interval in the discussions in Nairobi, I paid short visits to Zanzibar, Tanganyika and Uganda.

"Thanks to the energy of the Governor, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, and of Kenya Ministers, much the greater part of Kenya's new and complex Constitution had already been settled before I arrived. However, there remained about twenty-five issues on which KANU and KADU Ministers had not managed to agree, and which it fell to me to resolve. On one or two of these questions, the differences were eliminated in the course of our talks, and in a few other cases the area of disagreement was narrowed.

"When it was recognised that further discussion would be unfruitful, Ministers of the two Parties agreed to refer the points in dispute to me for arbitration, and to accept my decisions. I was very glad of this, since it is of the utmost importance for the future stability of Kenya that the new Constitution should be based upon the willing consent of the two main African parties. As was to be expected, the points of disagreement were mainly concerned with the balance of power between the Central Government and the Regional Authorities, and with the varied tribal aspirations and fears which are inextricably connected with it. Unhappily, the whole of political life in Kenya to-day is permeated by inter-tribal rivalry and suspicion; and any Constitution which ignored this hard fact would, from the start, be doomed to failure.

"In coming to my decisions on the points of disagreement, I was guided by three main principles. The first was to adhere faithfully to the basic constitutional framework agreed between all Parties at the Lancaster House Conference last year. The second was to create Governmental machinery which would be efficient and workable. The third was to provide a sufficient degree of regional autonomy to safeguard one tribal group from domination by another.

"In addition to these internal issues, I also had to deal with two problems of an international character. The first concerned the ten-mile deep coastal strip, including Mombasa, which is part of the territory of the Sultan of Zanzibar but which, under a Treaty of 1895, has been administered as a British Protectorate. The Government of Zanzibar might quite well have maintained that Her Majesty's Government were not entitled under the Treaty to hand over control of the coastal strip to a self-governing African administration. However, when I discussed the matter with the Sultan and his Government they at once made it clear that they warmly welcomed Kenya's constitutional progress and wished to raise no objections to the continued administration of the coastal strip as a part of Kenya, under the new Constitution. It was agreed between us that, before Kenya became fully independent, there would naturally have to be talks between Her Majesty's Government and His Highness's Government regarding the new situation which would then arise. I am publishing as a White Paper the text of a joint statement by the Chief Minister of Zanzibar and myself, and I wish to express my warm appreciation of the helpfulness and understanding shown by the Sultan and his Government over this matter.

"The other international problem was the demand for the cession to Somalia of the Northern Frontier District of Kenya. The Report of the recent Commission of Inquiry shows that the Eastern part of this area is inhabited predominantly by Somalis and other kindred people who wish to be integrated with the Somali Republic. On the other hand, the Report indicates that a majority of the inhabitants of the Western part of this area are opposed with equal vehemence to secession. The impressions I received from my meetings with secessionist and anti-secessionist deputations from the Northern Frontier District fully confirm this conclusion.

"I discussed the whole problem very frankly with Kenya Ministers. They felt strongly that, in the absence of a fully representative Government which could speak with authority for the people of Kenya, it would not be right for the British Government on its own to take an irrevocable step. In any case, it seemed reasonable to ask the Kenya Somalis to give a fair trial to the new Constitution with the wide degree of local autonomy which it will confer. However, in order to emphasise their good will, and in order to give to Kenya Somalis greater opportunity for the expression of their racial and religious identity, Kenya Ministers agreed that consideration should be given to the formation of a separate Region. They left the decision on this question to Her Majesty's Government. As the House knows, we decided to create a Seventh Region, embracing the Eastern part of the Northern Frontier District, as envisaged in the Report of the Regional Boundaries Commission We did not, of course, imagine that this would fully satisfy Somali aspirations. While not wishing to exclude future consideration of any methods of settling this problem, we did not think that at this juncture a more radical solution would be justified.

"Even if we had wanted to do so, it was clear that in these circumstances a decision by the British Government to cede this territory without the consent of Kenya Ministers would have provoked violent reactions throughout the country, and would certainly have led both KANU and KADU to leave the Government. As it was, both Parties accepted as fair and reasonable my decision on this and all the other points of disagreement. The way was thus clear to fix the dates for the elections for the Regional and National Assemblies. These will be staggered over a period of ten days and will be completed on the 26th May, after which the new Constitution will come into force and Kenya will have full internal self-government."

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the Minister for having passed on to us the statement made by the Secretary of State. I think this statement falls into three parts. There is the report of the decisions taken with regard to the date and time of the election in Kenya, and I think that all your Lordships will be agreed that this has been such a long matter of discussion and debate that the fact that this date has arrived is a matter for pleasure. There are, of course, the hints in the first part of the statement that there are still some problems which the Government are looking into and in which perhaps they can still give help. I think that we shall all join with the Secretary of State in paying our tribute to the Sultan of Zanzibar for the manner in which he has dealt with the question of the Coastal Strip and which has clearly avoided the possibility of future discussions of an unpleasant nature. We ought to express our thanks to the Sultan for that decision.

It is a pity that at this juncture the difficulty should have arisen with regard to the Strip for the North, where a good many Somalis live and in the Eastern section of which there has been a strong expression of opinion that they ought to be allowed to join the general State of Somalia. It is difficult to comment on this matter, I think, at the present moment. It is obvious that the Government have tried to reach a settlement before announcing the General Election in Kenya, and that they have had some success in getting consent from the leaders of the KANU and KADU to the "hiving-off", as it were, of additional territory to cover the area in which the Somalis desire to join Somalia and for this matter to be settled after the set-up of the new Government subsequent to the election. I wish very much that it could have been settled before, but I understand the difficulties which have occurred. All I can say is that I hope that the settlement in Kenya at large will leave a spirit of generous feeling in those who are attaining this self-government so that, having received freedom, they will be prepared to give a sense of freedom to those in the territory that has been made a separate Region.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, we on this side of the House are also grateful for the full and clear statement that has been made, and I think the Secretary of State is greatly to be congratulated on having secured such a wide measure of agreement. Perhaps still more is it a mark of the confidence which he must have inspired in KANU and KADU, who were very much at arm's length on a large number of matters, that they have both accepted the Secretary of State as the arbiter on outstanding questions. That is most satisfactory. I am sure that both KANU and KADU and also Her Majesty's Government are wise to have accepted a federal regional solution in this matter. It is all very well to say that there ought not to be so many tribal animosities and jealousies, but that is the nature of the animal, and nothing could be more futile than to ignore these mutual suspicions and hostilities, which are matters of fact.

It is very fortunate that this regional solution has been adopted. It may well be, indeed I think it will be, that the fact that both KANU and KADU have accepted this regional solution, and will work together to get effective organisation in the regions as well as at the centre, will make it much more likely that they will get unity and co-operation in Kenya. I wonder whether it is too late for the United Nations in the Congo to learn a little from this wise federal regional solution for application in the Congo.

I share the wish of the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition that we could have settled this running sore of Somalia. Not having been there for a number of years, I hesitate to express a firm opinion; only the man on the spot can do that. But I am sure that it is wise to create a separate region for the east of Somalia, and that the Secretary of State is wise to leave the ultimate solution to the time when domestic self-government will be a reality. Though I would venture to express the belief that when the new Kenya Government take over the responsibility they will find it is not wise to keep people attached to them very much against their will. There is a pretty clear cleavage in this vast area between East and West, and it may well be wise for them, and may well lead to much happier relations with the whole of Somalia, if they let the Somalis go where obviously the great majority of those in the East want to go.

The Minister of State made a very full statement. I was glad to hear what he said about the old people and that we may look for some further statement about them, because their plight is really unhappy. But nothing was said about land settlement. I would venture to hope that, when the Minister of State comes to reply, he will be able to assure the House that nothing is going to hold up the full progress of land settlement, that it will be accepted in the Constitution as a plain duty for the Kenya Government, and that certainly, in the meantime, so far from being held up, it will, if possible, be accelerated.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Earl who leads the Opposition expressed a generous tribute to His Highness the Sultan of Zanzibar. I am sure that we all owe His Highness, a good and faithful friend of this country, a very sincere debt of gratitude for the statesmanlike way in which he has approached the problem of the Coastal Strip. Indeed, as the noble Earl said, things could have been much more difficult had His Highness not appreciated that this was the solution most likely to be in the best interests of his people on the mainland.

The noble Earl also referred to the new Seventh Region. I think that he fully appreciates the difficulties with which my right honourable friend was confronted. I think I am right in saying that the population of this Eastern part of the Northern Frontier District, which is to become a separate Region, comprises people who are predominantly of Somali race or who are partly Somali, but predominantly of Somali blood, the Somali way of life and of the Islamic faith. They number some 130,000. As my right honourable friend said in his statement, which I have read, he felt that it would have been wrong for the British Government alone, without the consent of the Kenya Ministers, to take any irrevocable step. The formation of the new Seventh Region does not prejudge a final decision and does not exclude further consideration of other possible solutions which may commend themselves to all concerned. Furthermore, before any final decision is taken, the Governments of the other interested countries will also be given the opportunity to state their views. Her Majesty's Government were determined to approach this problem in as rational and as sensible way as possible, in the hope that the ultimate solution will be one which will lead to the peace and happiness of all those in that area.

I must say that I was particularly glad to hear congratulations coming from a noble Lord with such experience as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. I feel certain that in all parts of your Lordships' House it will be agreed that these congratulations to my right honourable friend are richly deserved; and I will, of course, convey to my right honourable friend the sentiments expressed by the noble Earl. The whole success of these negotiations—and they were successful, indeed—is due to the fact that a sense of confidence was created, which made it possible for the two leading political Parties in Kenya, when they found that agreement was not possible, to ask the representative of Her Majesty's Government to act as arbiter. So there was no question of any solutions being imposed. Where no agreement could be reached a request was made to the representative of Her Majesty's Government to find the best answer possible. I think that if your Lordships will study the newspapers you will realise with what wisdom these solutions were thought out. For it appears that both the principal Parties are satisfied that each has won a number of victories.

I was glad that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, referred to the observation made by my right honourable friend about the aged and the infirm in Kenya. This is, of course, a matter which Her Majesty's Government have had in mind all along, and we have the greatest sympathy with the difficulties of these people. We are now seeking more detailed information from the Government of Kenya, and my right honourable friend hopes that before long he will be able to make some statement on this question.

As regards the Land Settlement, to which the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, referred, let me assure him that there is no question of any slackening off taking place—rather the reverse. When he was in Nairobi my right honourable friend was pressed by many different people on the question of the Land Bank. The question of increasing the funds for the Land Bank is a matter to which he is now applying his mind, and this will be discussed with the Kenya Ministers when they come to this country at the end of this month to discuss their development plans.

It will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that, due to the revision in the arangements over the Central Land Board, it was unfortunately the case that the post which General Sir Geoffrey Bourne had agreed to accept lapsed. My right honourable friend was very grateful to General Bourne for accepting what would have been an arduous task, and naturally he, and all of us in the Government, express our sincere regret to General Bourne for the inconvenience caused to him through the lapsing of this post, due to a revision in the plans. I think everyone would agree that once it became clear that friction and overlapping would have ensued, no useful purpose would have been served had we gone ahead with the original Lancaster House plan exactly in the form then worked out. I apologise to your Lordships for having spoken at some considerable length, but I thought that these were points your Lordships would wish me to amplify. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and to the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, for their observations.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Marquess for his sympathetic reply, both to the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition and to myself. He has raised the question of General Bourne and his appointment, and I have no doubt that, with a new situation developing it was impossible to go on with the appointment, so that it lapsed. But this very able and distinguished man has, I understand, thrown up an important and lucrative position in order to take this appointment. I am not one of those people who go about asking for "golden bowlers" for everybody; but since this was obviously—I will not say the fault of Her Majesty's Government, but due to an entire change in circumstances for which the Government of Kenya and Her Majesty's Government are responsible, I think we shall probably all agree that compensation should properly be made to the General, who threw up this appointment at the express request of Her Majesty's Government, if he has suffered financial loss through his public spirited action. In saying that, I am sure I express the general feeling of the House, and I mention it only as the noble Marquess raised the point.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl. I hasten to reassure the House at once that the Government are fully aware of the debt that is owed to General Sir Geoffrey Bourne. I may tell your Lordships that it was I who had to break the news personally to the General, and I feel that your Lordships should know the generosity of his reaction to this change of circumstance, which he realised full well was a change beyond our control. His reaction was not that of a man considering himself, but that of a man disappointed that he was not being given the opportunity—and he has, after all, had a very distinguished career—of giving even more service to his country than he has done already.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess (I missed what he said) whether he said that the Government do recognise the responsibility for compensating General Bourne?


I said we realised the debt that we owe to General Bourne.


Is that the same as saying that you mean to pay it, or not?


I think the noble Earl can draw his own conclusions.


I hope that this is not, as was once said of another British debt in history, a debt which the British Government can never repay.