HL Deb 23 February 1965 vol 263 cc699-701

3.31 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a short and, I hope, non-contentious Bill. It is simpler than a number of predecessors simply because it does not have to deal with appeals to the Queen in Privy Council. It was anticipated when the Constitution of Kenya was being drawn up that Kenya might wish to become a Republic. Therefore, the reference to "the Queen in Privy Council" was not put into the Constitution and, instead, the reference "the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council" was put in. Therefore, no alteration was required in that respect. So, as I have said, it is a short, simple Bill and does things which I am sure we all agree should be done.

On December 12 last year, exactly twelve months after attaining independence, Kenya became a Republic under the Presidency of her former Prime Minister, Mr. Jomo Kenyatta. Before adopting this new constitutional status, Mr. Kenyatta told the British Government and other Commonwealth Governments about the proposed change, and expressed the wish of his Government and the people of Kenya to remain within the Commonwealth. All the Commonwealth Governments readily agreed to Kenya's continuing as a member of the Commonwealth. The Bill now before your Lordships is consequential on Kenya's becoming a Republic while remaining within the Commonwealth. It is purely a technical measure for the purpose of ensuring that Kenya will con- tinue to be treated by British law as a Commonwealth country, even though she no longer has Dominion status. There were other constitutional changes made in Kenya at the same time, and the legislation establishing the Republic dealt with a number of other matters; but they are domestic matters which do not concern the operation of British law in relation to Kenya.

The Bill, as your Lordships may have noticed, is drafted to have retrospective effect from December 12, 1964—that is, from the date when Kenya became a Republic. There would otherwise have been a gap in the operation of our laws in relation to Kenya which might have given rise to difficulties, for example, as regards the law concerning maintenance orders or the enforcement in this country of judgments made in the Kenya courts. This could not have been avoided by bringing the Bill forward at an earlier date since it was necessary to wait until the Commonwealth members had formally concurred in Kenya's continued membership in the Commonwealth. The Bill was introduced in another place at the first possible opportunity after confirmation of their agreement had been received. As I have already said, the Bill is consequential upon Kenya's becoming a Republic, and it follows broadly the provision of similar Acts covering such Commonwealth countries as Ghana, Tanganyika and Nigeria when they adopted republican status.

Clause 1 provides that the operation of the law of the United Kingdom (and, incidentally, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) in relation to Kenya will not be affected by the fact that Kenya is now a Republic. This clause will not apply generally to the law of British dependent territories, but only to Acts of the British Parliament and Orders in Council made under such Acts which extend to such territories. These provisions are made retrospective to December 12. 1964.

Clause 2 gives power to make, by Order in Council, such adaptations to any Act of Parliament as may be necessary as a consequence of Kenya's becoming a Republic. It provides that such Orders may be made so as to have effect again from December 12, 1964. I know that many noble Lords have watched with sympathetic interest developments in Kenya in the few short months since independence. I am sure we have all been encouraged to see the steady progress she has made towards national unity, and increased political and economic stability, under the leadership of President Kenyatta. The achievement is all the greater for having been made at a time of stress when events in the rest of Africa have added to Kenya's own difficulties.

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations and the right honourable gentleman Mr. Duncan Sandys attended the Republic celebrations in Nairobi at the invitation of the Kenya Government. They have spoken in another place of the warmth of welcome they received and the friendship towards the British shown on that occasion. It was a further demonstration of this friendship, and a gesture which I am sure was much appreciated here, that Kenya was represented by her Vice-President, Mr. Odinga, at the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. We, for our part, fully share this friendship and will do everything possible to further it. I am sure your Lordships will agree that in Mr. Malcolm MacDonald we have a High Commissioner who is uniquely qualified by his experience, and the close relations he has already established with all sections of the people in Kenya, to foster the good will and co-operation which exists between our two countries as fellow members of the Commonwealth. I am sure noble Lords will join me in extending to President Kenyatta, to the Government and to the people of Kenya our warm good wishes for their continued peaceful progress and prosperity.

Moved. That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Taylor.)