HL Deb 14 June 1966 vol 275 cc7-17

3.8 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. The Bill is a short one, and I think it will be generally agreed that it is non-controversial. The Malawi Government have announced their intention that Malawi shall become a Republic within the Commonwealth on July 6, 1966, exactly two years after attaining independence. The change of status will not come as a surprise to your Lordships, as the Malawi Government's intentions were made known in the Press in July, 1965, and the change to a Republican State follows the pattern set by other African countries who made similar changes after a short period of monarchical constitution. As a matter of interest, the new Republic of Malawi will be the twelfth State to become a Republic within the Commonwealth.

In consequence of Malawi's forthcoming change of status, she will cease to be part of Her Majesty's Dominions, and as in previous cases it is necessary to secure that the operation of our law in relation to the Republic will not be affected by Malawi's change of status. As convention requires, Malawi sought the agreement of other Commonwealth Governments to her remaining in the Commonwealth, despite the proposed change to a Republican Constitution. All replies have now been received and all are favourable. The change of status is, of course, a matter entirely for the Malawi Government to decide. But your Lordships will appreciate that, as Malawi will cease to be part of Her Majesty's Dominions, it is necessary to enact this Bill to ensure that Malawi will continue to be treated bye British law' as a Commonwealth country. Thus this Bill is really a technical measure, designed to regularise British legislation.

Your Lordships will have noticed that the Bill has been drafted to be effective retrospectively. This is because, although it is hoped that the Bill will pass through all its stages before July 6, 1966, I believe it is—my noble friend the Chief Whip will correct me if I am wrong here—the only Bill which will have reached that stage by that date, and the provision for retrospective effect means that it will be unnecessary to convene a Royal Commission for this Bill alone, and that consent will be able to be given to it, along with other Bills, towards the end of July. I hope that will meet the general convenience of all concerned.

Clause 1 provides that the operation of the law of the United Kingdom as it applies to Malawi—and, incidentally, the law of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man—will not be affected by the fact that Malawi 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. This is the common-form provision in such cases. At the Malawi Congress Party Conference held in October, 1965, the proposals for a Republican Constitution were unanimously adopted and Dr. Banda was unanimously nominated as the Party's candidate for President. Last month Dr. Banda was elected by Parliament as the first President-designate of Malawi under the Republican Constitution, and I am sure that all noble Lords will join me in extending to Dr. Banda, representing the Government and people of Malawi, our sincere wishes for their continued progress along the path of peace and economic development. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

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

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we all join with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in wishing Malawi every success in her new constitutional set-up. As the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has said, this is no new departure for Commonwealth countries. It follows on a pattern set by India after that tremendous Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference held in April1949, as a result of which India became a Republic and yet remained within the Commonwealth. Perhaps it is too obvious a thing to say, but this set the whole pattern for the modern Commonwealth. As the noble Lord has said, Malawi is now the twelfth country to follow India's example.

All political Parties in this country fully understand the motives which make Dr. Banda and Malawi desire to take this step, and we appreciate that in doing so they intend no disloyalty to Her Majesty the Queen or to this country. Indeed, during the debates in the Malawi Parliament when the legislation necessary to turn Malawi into a Republic was being debated, Dr. Banda went out of his way to pay a tribute to Malawi's days as a Monarchy, and said: During that time, our ties of friendship with Britain have been cemented and strengthened. So we may take it that in taking this step no disloyalty or lack of friendship to this country is being shown.

Under Dr. Banda Malawi has been a staunch and understanding friend of this country. Indeed, it has been a loyal member of the Commonwealth. Its role, and Dr. Banda's role, has not been an easy one to pursue, but certainly he has earned the friendship of this country by his pragmatic and realistic attitude to the problems facing his peoples. He has set an example which might well be followed all over the Continent of Africa. Certainly we on this side of the House accept this Bill. We greet it with complete understanding, and we wish Malawi and Dr. Banda every success in the difficult and troublesome years they may have ahead.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, in wishing the State of Malawi well and in hoping that Dr. Banda will be spared for a long time to lead his country in the undoubtedly difficult times ahead. On these occasions we usually say a word or two beyond the strict contents of the Bill, because we are conscious of the important problems facing countries like Malawi. So far as many of us are concerned, we have a soft spot for Malawi, partly because it was discovered, so far as the Western World is concerned, by Dr. Livingstone—although, as the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, once pointed out, so far as the people of Malawi were concerned it was not in fact discovered, because it was known to be there all the time. But so far as the outside world is concerned, Dr. Livingstone—that great man—was our first contact.

Then it was developed in a very interesting way by the Church of Scotland, which for many years ran not only the religious life but also the economic life of the country. If anyone comes to me with ideas about development, I always put to them the case of Malawi—or, as it used to be called, Nyasaland—because Nyasaland has faced just about the most difficult task one can possibly imagine. The noble Duke mentioned that the role of Malawi has been no easy one. That is an understatement. Until quite recently, its only export was the export of men, who went to the mines in the Rand, in Rhodesia or to the Copper Belt in what is now Zambia. Just lately, the cash crops in Malawi have been extended. They now grow and try to sell tobacco, cotton, sugar and vipyatung. Unhappily, however, the tobacco crop, although a good one last year, was subject to the low prices of tobacco; and vipyatung, like so many other commodities from developing countries, is always at the mercy of artificial substitutes produced with the aid of a high subsidy by the developed nations.

The effect of U.D.I. (or I.D.I., as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, usually likes to call it) has, of course, been great on Malawi. Previously, as I have explained, the economy of Malawi was tied in with that of Rhodesia, and now that there has been a break I can sympathise very fully both with Dr. Banda and with Malawi. If we could get a word from Lord Beswick as to the present position it would be very interesting. For instance, we know that there are common services. The airways and the railways are common services: they were jointly owned by the three territories. Now, of course, they are to some extent separated, which must mean considerable problems for those who own them. We ourselves have some interest in all this because we make to Malawi a subsidy of £5 million a year. That is to help that country balance its budget; so we are not uninterested in its economic development.

A country like Malawi is one of those countries for which the United Nations Development Decade was particularly intended. Your Lordships will remember that a few years ago we had debates on the United Nations Development Decade, and that great things were said to be going to come of it. This Decade was going to help places like Malawi to balance their budgets, and to produce economic development on a great scale. Unhappily, half-way through the Decade, as we now are, far from the United Nations Development Decade having produced great resources for places like Malawi, the average rate of growth of the developing countries is even less for the five years than it was before. I am not in any way implying anything against the United Nations or against those who are running the Development Decade. We know that Mr. David Owen is one of the Joint Secretaries and is an admirable man. He is one of the few senior British officials in the United Nations and is an admirable international secretary. If there were no Development Decade, the situation would be worse than it is now. But it is disturbing when we think of places like Malawi. In fact, the rate of growth in this half-decade is less than it was before. In the world at large the situation in the developing countries is not good: two-thirds of humanity are still living below the poverty line. The populations are multiplying before economic development is catching up.

Unhappily, to some extent the measures that are taken by the developed countries work to the detriment of the undeveloped countries. The fact is that nearly all our plans, the technological plans in the developed parts of the world, are intended to do away with employment. We see masses of statistics in which we are told that 2.75 of a man is necessary to produce, say, dolls-eyes or some other product in this country, as compared with, say, 1.95 of a man needed to do the same in France or somewhere else. The whole gearing of the technological development in the developed countries is intended to reduce the number of men performing actions, whereas in the undeveloped countries they want more work for more men. There has been very little application or effort or thought applied to this problem.

Further, as I have so often said in your Lordships' House, it is extremely unfair on these countries when from time to time the developed countries compete with them by producing artificially, and with high subsidies, goods that arc in competition with their primary products: for example, beet for sugar, and, from Africa, substitutes for rubber, sisal, pyrethrum and vipyatung. And whenever there is any balance-of-payments problem, the first thing the developed countries do is to clamp on tariffs and barriers of one sort or another to prevent the goods of the undeveloped countries from coming in. In other words, very often what little effort is applied by the developed countries, is applied in the way of aid; and that aid is more often than not aid for the manufacturers, for the industries of the developed countries, and is not really applied to the needs of the poor people of the undeveloped countries.

There is one other point and it is one concerning Dr. Banda. Dr. Banda has his feet very much on the ground. He has tried very hard to see the whole problem of Central Africa in a realistic light and, as he is right on the doorstep of the problem, I think his views of the situation should be taken far more to heart than those of others many thousands of miles away. Lately, however, Dr. Banda is said to have been considering making a new capital, at a cost of some £20 million, 200 miles from Zomba. This has been widely alleged in the Press and it was mentioned in one of this week's Sunday papers. Knowing Dr. Banda, I feel that there is probably some exaggeration in these reports. He is a realistic man who knows very well the problems before his country. He is alleged to be engaged in this way with some financiers from London.

So far he has avoided many of the worst follies, the ambassadorial Cadillacs and the "Odeon" Embassies of which some of these new countries have been guilty. In many cases I am afraid that we in the West do not set them a very good example in this respect; and this applies not only to ourselves but to other countries who flaunt increased public expenditure at overseas stations and in the United Nations. But Dr. Banda has avoided that. From these Benches, may I say that we wish him and his country every possible happiness and success in the days to come.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, if I say, as I do, that I welcome this Bill, I cannot avoid the rather uneasy feeling that I am expressing sentiments which might appear to be derogatory of the Sovereign or, at any rate, of the institution of Monarchy. I can assure your Lordships that that is not the case. But I must confess, having done my best to study these problems of the transference of power over a number of years, that it is my view that there are great advantages, both from the point of view of this country and from the point of view of the Commonwealth country becoming independent, that, except in the case of an Anglo-Saxon country, the transition should be from dependence to a republic.

We in this country are very familiar with the constitutional forms employing the authority of the Sovereign, the Queen. They are understood by public opinion here, whether they are used in relation to Parliament, in relation to the legal system or in regard to the general official relationships in this country. But they are not so easily understood in an African, or, for that matter, an Asian, country. A good many misunderstandings and a good deal of antagonism, so far as Great Britain is concerned, has continued after independence because of a misunderstanding of the constitutional position of the Sovereign, of the Queen, in relation to the post-independence Constitution of the country concerned. I think it has been a disadvantage, as I have stated, both to Britain and to the newly-independent country that transition direct to a republic has not taken place.

Your Lordships may think, perhaps, that it is late in the day to be making this point, but I believe I am not misrepresenting him, or anyone else who has had practical experience of these matters, when I say that my noble friend, Lord Head, after his period as High Commissioner in Nigeria, stated that he had come to the same conclusion. I think that, on the whole, the most natural and effective process of transference of power took place in the case of Malaya. It will be remembered that on that occasion the Governor, or High Commissioner as he then was, Sir Donald MacGillivray, left the country on the day before independence was declared. Immediately subsequent to that day the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was enthroned as the Constitutional Monarch of Malaya. The transition was natural, straight and direct. I think the same thing is true of the transition in the case of Zambia.

There may be other occasions for the transference of power that lie ahead of us. We know there are still a few small Commonwealth countries that will choose to become independent. I think that the noble Lords responsible for the constitutional discussions which may be undertaken with regard to their independence should consider whether in fact they should not incorporate in those discussions arrangements whereby the symbol of sovereignty immediately after independence should not continue to be the Monarchy here. These, as I say, would not be understood in a country like, for instance, Basutoland, although indeed the circumstances there, in view of the Paramount Chiefs, may be different from those in other countries where we have been negotiating independence.

My Lords, what I have said in the case of Malawi does not in any way detract from the great services which have been rendered to it, both before and after independence, by the present Governor-General, Sir Glyn Jones. I know very well that when he leaves he and his wife will leave behind them not only a great reputation but also part of their hearts. When this transference takes place as is signified in the Bill before us, I hope that it will not be regarded, either by the Government or by public opinion here, as being more than what it really is—a formality. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, the country will continue to be dependent to a very large extent upon help from outside of a financial form and probably of a budgetary character for a good many years to come. I hope therefore that so far as is possible, and so far as our resources permit, Her Majesty's Government here will continue to give that assistance to Malawi.

It is true that the country is small, and I suppose in the scheme of things would be regarded as not a very important country. But it is so sited in Africa as to be a link covering the whole of East, Central and South Africa and is therefore of the greatest importance to those parts of Africa where we still retain a close interest. The security and stability which Dr. Banda has been able to maintain during these last years is of the utmost importance in that part of that troubled continent, and we can assist the people of Malawi in maintaining that stability and a progress which undoubtedly also has been made by continuing the generous support which has characterised our relationship since independence took place. I therefore welcome this Bill, my Lords, and I hope that in doing so I have made my reasons clear.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I must first thank the noble Lords who have spoken for the unqualified way in which they have been able to welcome this Bill. It is most gratifying that in each case the noble Lords were able to pay tribute to Dr. Banda, and I am sure that the kindly and sympathetic words which they used will be appreciated by the new President of Malawi, not least because they come from such informed sources.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made reference, as did the noble Lord, Lord Alport, to the difficult economic situation which faces Malawi. I was asked if I had anything to add to what has been said on this point. I should just say, of course, that the Bill is to make provision as to the operation of the law in relation to Malawi as a Republic in the Commonwealth, and therefore, strictly speaking, any consideration of the economic situation there is not in order, or at least it would not be in order in another place. But I would say that I agree with what has been said about the difficulties which are to be found in this small and comparatively poor country. I think that nothing emphasises the difficulties which face this Republic more than the paragraph to be found in the Monckton Commission Report in which it was said that, since the proclamation of the Protectorate in 1891, twenty-eight Nyasaland Africans have completed courses of higher education. We have left that country with only twenty-eight Africans having completed courses of higher education. It is true to say that, of those twenty-eight, only two were qualified as medical practitioners and half that number of qualified medical practitioners is now represented by the President of the new Republic. That is a sobering thought which should lead us on to consider deeply the responsibility which we must still have towards this country.

The difficulties so far as material resources are concerned have been exaggerated by this break-up of the Federation. The whole economy was orientated around Rhodesia and in 1964 40 per cent. of its imports came from Rhodesia. There has been the problem of trying to build up new sources of supply, especially of course since I.D.I. to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made reference. Dr. Banda has loyally supported the policy of the United Kingdom Government in relation to Rhodesia, but we have realised that it has been quite impossible for him to embark on a policy of total sanctions in view of his dependence upon Rhodesia. However, I understand that he is trying to find new sources and gradually to change the pattern of trade. This is being done, but it presents difficulties. These difficulties, stemming from the break-up of the Federation and arising from the illegal declaration of independence in Rhodesia, have meant that expansion and development has not taken place as rapidly as one would wish. I am given to understand, although I have not the figures at my disposal, and have not been able to check the statements made by the noble Lord in his speech, that the revenue is now buoyant and that progress is taking place.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked about the proposal for a new capital in Malawi. I have no information about the contact between Dr. Banda and the finance institutions in the City, but as the noble Lord himself said, Dr. Banda has his feet firmly on the ground and I think that in this matter it is his judgment which may be relied upon. It is not for us in this country to pretend to say what is best so far as this project is concerned. If there are two viewpoints on the matter, the decision on the course to be taken must be left to Dr. Banda.

The noble Lord, Lord Alport, if I may say so, made some very sensible and wise remarks about the merits of one constitutional form and another as they relate to the Heads of States. I am sure that what he said will be studied carefully and given the weight it deserves. I am grateful for the manner in which he gave us the benefit of his knowledge and experience in these matters. With all that, I hope it will be possible for us to agree to a Second Reading for this Bill.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.