HL Deb 21 April 1969 vol 301 cc342-62

4.54 p.m.

LORD BROCKWAY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a new appraisal of their policy towards Associated States and non-self-governing islands, in view of the difficulties which arose in Anguilla. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Unstarred Question which stands on the Order Paper in my name. May I begin by an explanation? On the day when it was announced that British troops were to go to Anguilla, I expressed in this House my great sense of shock at that decision, and on that day I tabled a Question dealing directly with Anguilla, intending to make a very forthright speech. The Minister who would have been responsible for replying indicated to me that he did not expect to be present on that day, and I accordingly co-operated in postponing the discussion. I want to express my appreciation of the co-operation which I had from the Chief Whip in this matter; but the first date on which one could have the opportunity for debate was today.

My Lords, I believe that criticism and protest against the policy of the Government is justified when one can influence the course of events, and I should have had no hesitation on an earlier Occasion in expressing my disapproval of the policy which the Government have pursued. On the other hand, I think that criticism and protest are not justified if the effect is likely to be to prejudice the reaching of agreement on issues of this kind; and in view of the new situation in Anguilla I propose to-day, with some restraint, not to make the criticism of Government policy which I bad previously intended to make. This new atmosphere is a result of Mr. Webster's withdrawal of his proposal for an immediate referendum and his appeal to the population to refrain from demonstrations in order to avoid division and violence. To-morrow, Mr. Webster is proceeding to New York, where he will again be meeting Lord Caradon; and, in view of the real possibility that a settlement of this unhappy situation can be secured, I do not propose to renew my criticism of the Government's policy in case that might exacerbate feelings. Therefore, my Lords, in my contribution to-night I shall try to be purely constructive.

First, may I make a series of suggestions regarding Anguilla itself? First of all, I think the time has come when Her Majesty's Government should indicate that they are prepared to withdraw the armed forces from that island, and that if the Royal Engineers are to remain they should be disarmed. I want to pay a tribute to the service which the Royal Engineers have given—their making of roads, their digging of wells and even the carrying out by their medical officers of surgical operations which were not previously possible on the island. Secondly, I want to suggest to the Government that they should co-operate in an early election of an enlarged Council, both to test opinion and to provide a reliable negotiating body regarding the future of the island.

Thirdly, my Lords—and this I want to emphasise—it is very important, if there is to be any settlement of this problem, that the Government should win the cooperation and the participation of the other Governments in the Caribbean. As I understand it, they agreed, in conference, to the retention of the territorial integrity of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, but they are divided regarding the Government's intervention with troops. They therefore have a balanced view of the situation. I suggest that the Government should at a very early point call a conference of all the Caribbean Governments to discuss this issue. The fourth suggestion which I make to the Government is that they should appoint a Caribbean as Commissioner upon the island. I could make a suggestion for such an appointment, but as it would be to the loss of this House I will not do so.

The fifth suggestion I make is that the police training establishments in the Caribbean territories should be open for the training of an Anguillan force. That police force is now reduced to the number of seven. Sixth, I want to sug- gest that at the conference with the Caribbean Governments there should be a proposal for the appointment of a Corn-mission of Caribbean representatives to assist both in negotiating and in administering a settlement.

Seventh (and this arises from the last point) the co-operation of the Caribbean Governments is absolutely essential if we are to find a solution to the problem of the relationship of Anguilla to St. Kitts. The British Government have said: It is no part of cur purpose to put them "— the Anguillans— under an administration under which they do not wish to live. The difficulty is that under the West Indies Act it is not possible for Great Britain to dissolve the union of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla without the consent of its Government; and the influence of Caribbean Governments upon the administration in St. Kitts will be necessary if agreement is to be obtained.

Eighth, the Caribbean Commission (which I have suggested should be appointed by a conference of Caribbean Governments) should be responsible not only for co-operation in negotiation but also for continuing duties. I would suggest that not only should it be made responsible for helping to plan the economic, social, educational and medical development of Anguilla but that this would be an opportunity of making it responsible for development in other Caribbean Islands as well. I suggest that economic co-operation in the case of Anguilla should extend even to islands under the administration of other Powers —islands such as St. Martin, nearby, which is under the control of France and the Netherlands; and the American Virgin Islands, as well as the Leeward and Windward Islands, which are in the British Commonwealth.

Ninth, I would propose that the conference of the Caribbean Governments in the Commonwealth should consider the proposal of confederation. Most of us regretted it when the original sugges-tion of federation of the Caribbean territories was turned down. But the problem of Anguilla and the new issues which now arise indicate the need for a wider association among the Commonwealth Caribbean Governments. It may be that the proposal of confederation, that is to say, the association of independent States with those which have not yet reached that stage, would be a solution of these problems.

My Lords, those are the constructive ideas that I submit to the Minister in regard to Anguilla. I turn now to the larger problems raised in my Question, the problems of the remaining colonial territories which are mostly small islands, the feasibility of associated status as a solution; and, particularly, the future of the small islands scattered in the different oceans. Since the end of the war the colonial revolution has been the greatest political transformation in the world. It has meant a reduction in the figure of population under the Colonial Office from 650 million people to 10 million people under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office today. An amazing transformation! The 10 million people who remain within colonial status are confined to 25 territories in all, and of the total of 10 million 8 million are in Rhodesia and Hong Kong. I do not propose to discuss Rhodesia, which is outside the terms of my Question. Except for Gibraltar, Brunei, British Honduras and Hong Kong (which has a hinterland on the mainland of China) these 25 territories are all small islands. They vary from Fiji, with a population of 483,000, to the Falkland Islands, with a population of 2,100—


My Lords, if the noble Lord is going to list them, perhaps I can give a little more accurate information. There is Pitcairn, with only 80.


My Lords, I always admire the vigilance of the Minister. My next words were to be: "and the Pitcairn Islands, with a population of 88."

I do not propose tonight to suggest any blueprint for the solution of these problems: many of these islands have quite varied problems. I shall be content with making some suggestions for consideration by Her Majesty's Government. I was present some years ago at a weekend conference called at Oxford by the then Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs, Mr. Anthony Greenwood. At that conference there were the Governors of the continuing Colonies; there were civil servants, and there were experts and those who had shown an interest in these problems. I do not know whether the Minister has examined the large file of documents which arose from that conference. But I believe that from those documents many indications could he given of the way in which these problems might be tackled. I suggest to the Minister that it might be of value if a seminar of that kind could be repeated. On that occasion it was of great value. Indeed, it might be of help to the Minister if there were a permanent unofficial advisory committee of those who have knowledge of and interest in this question which might keep in contact with his Office.

My Lords, the principle that we have to resolve when we are discussing these problems has been well put by Mr. Colin Legum, to whom all of us who are interested in these issues owe such a great debt. He has put it in these words: How to arrange for the future of relatively small groups of people in our post-colonialist world in order to make a reality of the right to self-determination and to promote world order. I am not sure that it would not be correct to say that this is the main political problem of today: how to harmonise the self-determination of groups of peoples with the wider association which is necessary in a shrinking world. This is particularly true of these small territories which are economically and politically non-viable.

May I make a passing reference to land-linked territories which may be made the subject of associated status? First, there is Hong Kong which, apart from Rhodesia, is the largest remaining Colony, with 3,785,000 population. Hong Kong is dependent upon a hinterland on the mainland of China our right to which is contained in a treaty that comes to an end in 1997. At the moment, Hong Kong is useful both to China and to Great Britain—to China, economically, to Great l3ritain not only economically but strategically as well; and any change of status immediately in Hong Kong might aggravate a conflict between this country and China. It would probably be best to leave the status of Hong Kong as it is, but with extended local govern ment, with a tremendous extension of education and a minimum living wage and standard of working conditions to save its population from the appalling circumstances in which the workers now live.

The second land-linked territory which remains within the colonial sphere, and to which associated status has been proposed, is Gibraltar. I believe that we must accept self-determination for Gibraltar and the will of its people not to be joined with Spain. Perhaps it could be established as an Associated State with British collaboration in defence. I acknowledge that I should like in the long run to see all international waterways internationalised, including the control by Gibraltar of the entry to the Mediterranean.

The third territory in this category is Brunei, on the large island of Borneo, separating Sabah and Sarawak. It has declined to enter Malaysia. I hope that in this case there may be a reversion to the idea of a confederation, which was proposed before Malaysia was established and which would include Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. The changes which have taken place in Indonesia make that proposal more realistic. Lastly, there is British Honduras, in Central America. I suggest that it might be made an Associated State with some direct contact with the Caribbean Council which I have already proposed.

My Lords, I turn now to the small islands. The majority of the small islands which are still within the British Colonial sphere do not claim independence: they are too small, and they are economically and politically non-viable. There are five which look forward to independence. They are the Bahamas, Bermuda, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Tonga. Some of these, such as Fiji, have internal problems. I only express the hope that the racial conflict there will be solved by extending an inter-racial franchise to that territory.

But, my Lords, a very grave issue arises over the claim of these small territories to independence. It is their relationship to the United Nations. The populations vary in size from Fiji, with its 483,000, to Bermuda, with its popula tion of only 45,900. Are they to have the same voting rights within the General Assembly of the United Nations as the United States and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics? U Thant has suggested that there should be a distinction between the right to independence and full membership of the United Nations. He raised this issue on the case of the grant of independence to Naura, which is only 8½ square miles in extent and the population of which numbers only 3,000. It is not merely that the small nations becoming independent would reflect an inequality within the General Assembly; membership of the United Nations would be a burden on them financially and in other ways.

U Thant has suggested a survey of the position of what he calls these micro-States by an appropriate organ of the United Nations. He has suggested that membership of the United Nations Special Agencies should be open to them, and the right to have observers at both the United Nations and its Office in Geneva. The Government of the United States has proposed that this problem should be referred to the Committee on the Admission of New Members. I should like to ask—because although I have tried to follow these documents I do not know—whether the British Government have sent a reply to this proposal made by U Thant. I want to make one further suggestion in this respect. It might be possible to establish a Council of the new micro-States, not only from the British Commonwealth but from other areas as well, which would have the right to appoint one of its delegates to the General Assembly.

I turn from the problem of the small islands which are claiming independence to those to which associated status has been extended. This solution arose from the precedent established by New Zealand in the case of the mandated territories of Samoa and Cook Islands. The definition of associated status is internal self-government, with defense and foreign affairs in the hands of the preceding colonial Power, but with the right to declare for independence if desired. I want to suggest to this House that what has happened in Anguilla indicates that we have no right to impose association on a territory which was an administrative unit under colonial rule if such integration is opposed by a member of that unit. It is necessary that every part should agree to membership of such a union.

Nevertheless, we should encourage federation, or perhaps confederation, of the small islands which are non-viable, both in the Pacific and in the Caribbean. It might be that confederation—that is, the association of independent States—might prove more acceptable than federation. If wider confederation is established, I suggest that associated status may be with areas wider than just Great Britain. For example, the islands in the Pacific could become Associated States of Australia and New Zealand. In the Atlantic there might be a Caribbean Confederation, as I have suggested. Even in the case of Africa, the Islands of Seychelles might be associated with a confederation of East and Central Africa and Mauritius. The islands of Ascension, St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha, off the West Coast of Africa, might he associated in time with the West African Confederation.

I agree that these are distant prospects, but we should be forward looking in our thoughts. There are two alternatives that I want to mention before I conclude. Most of the proposals I have made have related to States in geographical proximity, to each other, but in the world today distances are of little importance and we can reach any part of the world by air in two days. Therefore, technically, there is no reason why associated status should not be with world-wide centres rather than between neighbouring countries.

There are two possibilities. The first is the Commonwealth itself. If these territories are to become associated with it, the Commonwealth would have to be more closely knit and the Commonwealth Secretariat would have to be strengthened. It would be helpful if a Commonwealth Conference could be called to consider this possibility and also some of the previous suggestions which I have made. The second alternative is the United Nations. The advantage of this would be that it would include small communities from other empires. A modernisation of the functions of the Trusteeship Council would be necessary. The United Nations would have to be responsible for security, which at least would exclude these small islands from the strategy of the cold war, and from a possible confrontation in the future with China. But I recognise that the United Nations would have to become a much more efficient instrument.

My Lords, I do not apologise for raising this issue. These 2 million people are human beings, and they are our responsibility. They are very liable to exploitation, to be cheated of their rights to land, to the appropriation of hidden minerals, to the expropriation of their coasts for tourists' hotels or for casinos and gambling, or to their use for strategic purposes and nuclear explosions. Many of the peoples of these islands live without the mechanism and materialism of modern industrial societies. Many of these small islands are the last retreats of nature, of rare and beautiful birds, animals and plants. It may be that we should leave them and the humans of these islands to enjoy their easy sunlit retreats. But we certainly have the duty, in co-operation with them, to contribute to their place and their protection in the world of to-day.

5.28 p.m


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Brockway was very right to raise this important question, and even more right to turn his back on the temptation to make an inquest into what has happened in Anguilla but rather to help us, with his great experience in and thought on these matters, to look forward to a more distant future when we may shape events instead of being the victim of them. I will not attempt to follow him round the world to all our small remaining colonial possessions but will concentrate my remarks on the Caribbean, with which I have more personal connection and of which I have had some experience.

We gave independence to our smaller Colonies because we considered that it was right that they should have it and because they wanted to become independent. Those, I believe, were our main reasons for that action. By giving those former Colonies independence, we relieved ourselves of a large measure of responsibility, but by no means of all responsibility, for what goes on now in those territories. Certainly we no longer have the same sort of responsibility that we used to have in the days when they were dependent Colonies of the British Empire.

I would suggest that our responsibilities to these former Colonies, and in particular to those which are now associated territories, fall under three headings. First of all—and I am not ashamed to say this—our responsibility is towards our own people in this country. However we may be affected by what happens in those overseas territories, associated or independent, we are responsible for the safeguarding of our own people here, in the military sense and, in so far as we can, for safeguarding our economic interests. Secondly, we have the responsibility to fulfil such treaty obligations as we have entered into with those territories. Thirdly, we have the overriding moral obligation of helping, so far as we can, those areas of the world which are less fortunate than we are, and, in particular, those areas with which we have been associated as a Colonial Power for a very long time.

My Lords, what we have done in Anguilla (and I am not going to dwell to any extent on the past) fulfils none of those three criteria. Our own interests were in no way threatened in Anguilla. We had had no specific treaty obligations other than those contained in the West Indies Act 1967; and, incidentally, I must say that I think it is straining the interpretation of that Act to have entered Anguilla in the way that we did, on the ground that it was essential to fulfill our obligations for defence of those territories. Thirdly, it was not done primarily in order to help the less fortunate people living there. I mention that not to cast blame or to criticise, but to prevent our embarking on a similar course in the future.

The people in the Caribbean area—and this, as I have said, is the only area that I will concern myself with to-day—have many interests in common. They have largely a common history; they have an economy which is very similar one with the other; they have a similar language and culture. As your Lordships know, when independence for them was first talked about we felt that federation was the right answer: that they were too small to stand on their own feet and that it would be to their benefit if they were granted independence as a federation. The attempt was, I believe, right one, but unfortunately it failed. Whether its implementation was right is not to be discussed here.

But although federation failed, that is no reason why we should not use all our endeavors to bring all the islands of this area closer together, so that in the not too distant future, I should hope, they will accept the fact that their destiny lies one with the other, and will, of their own accord, co-ordinate their efforts and eventually even co-ordinate their systems of government. They have made an admirable start with CARIFTA. Perhaps some of us would like to see it going faster; perhaps some of us have a certain amount of doubt as to how well it is going to work. We know that it will have many teething troubles. But, for all that, it is an important move in the right direction. To this venture we are giving encouragement and help. And I hope that we shall continue to give increasing encouragement to the economic getting together of all the territories in the whole of the Caribbean area

But the problems of Anguilla have brought to light something else; that is to say, not only the economic aspects but the security aspects of the problem. I hope that we can give the strongest possible lead to the independent countries and the associated territories of the Caribbean to set up some form of joint security organisation among themselves. It should be something which is run by them, manned by them and directed by them: but I hope that we shall feel prepared, at any rate in the initial stages, to get it on its feet and give actual physical help in the way of training, manning and resources, and possibly in the way of aircraft, frigates or whatever it may be. I do not think we should provide this help in the way of independent units of the British Army, Navy and police force, but as units seconded to the Caribbean security forces. It is a force of this kind which should be looked on as being the guardian of the peace in the whole of this area, rather than a force coming from some entirely outside Power, whether it be the Canadians, the United States, ourselves, one of the larger countries of Latin America, or elsewhere. That is something we do not want. We want the Caribbean area increasingly responsible for its own security.

The second point I wish to make is that while we should give as much help as we can in this respect to encourage their own independence, we should not lose sight of the fact that the obligations we have entered into under the West Indies Act 1967 arc two-way obligations. We have undertaken obligations to look after the defence and the foreign affairs of those territories. But Section 10(2) of the Act lays down that: Her Majesty may at any time, by Order in Council made in respect of any associated state, terminate the status of association of that state with the United Kingdom as from such date as may be specified in the Order. In other words (and this was one of the points brought out at the time when the Bill was debated and which recommended itself strongly to me) we were not entering into, as, for instance, in the case of Rhodesia, an obligation from which we could not escape, to represent them in the United Nations and to look after their external affairs while they had complete freedom to run their internal affairs in any way that they wished. We quite rightly reserved the right to say in effect: "If you do something that we do not like, we are perfectly free to leave you to carry on with it. We are not going to help you in the world at large to perpetuate policies that you are embarking on in your own territories of which we do not approve—or not necessarily because we disapprove, but for any other reason." I think that is something that must be borne in mind. If certain actions take place in some of these associated territories of which we disapprove and in respect of which we do not feel it right to use British forces to implement them, then we should have no hesitation in making it very clear that under Section 10 of the West Indies Act we will abrogate our responsibilities in due manner as has been prescribed.

The third point I want to suggest is a purely domestic one, in that it is something solely within the purview of Her Majesty's Government, and specifically of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is extremely important for us here, and for Her Majesty's Government in particular, to have the best possible relations with the associated territories and the whole of the Caribbean area, and also to have the best possible information, not only as to what is hap pening in one specific territory but as to what is happening in the area as a whole.

As things are at present arranged, we have the High Commissioner in Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica, we have a Governor in the Bahama s, and we have a British Government representative in the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. I am sure that all these gentlemen are admirable in their own particular ways, and I am not in any way criticising them as individuals. But if each of them reports individually for his own particular area back to the Foreign arid Commonwealth Office, all this information has to be correlated and weighed up there. That is putting a very great strain on the individuals responsible for doing that, because they have not the whole picture; and it depends on the personalities, the timing and all, the rest, how these reports come in and what weight is given to them. It is just as if Her Majesty's Ambassador in Washington were responsible solely for Washington and the District of Columba and reported on that District only, while the Consul General in Chicago and in San Francisco and in New York, and the Consuls in Dallas and other places, wherever they may be, made their reports independently to the Foreign Office. We know that that system does not work and is not a good way of getting the right information and making the right decisions.

I believe that what we need for the Caribbean is to have somebody who might be designated "Commissioner General " or whatever one likes—we have had a Commissioner General in South-East Asia if a precedent is wanted—and the reports of the various British Government representatives, High Commissioners and so on, should all go to him. There would be direct personal contact, because communications there are relatively easy, and the information then would go as a combined Caribbean information to Whitehall, with each different territory, each different island, having the appropriate weight given to its point of view. I believe that it would be very much easier for the people in Whitehall who are responsible for assessing information and for deciding upon the correct policy for the Caribbean if they were able to obtain information in that way, rather than in the present way.

What we must do in the Caribbean, my Lords, is to have a policy which is based on complete respect for the independence of these territories; which enables them, encourages them, as much as possible to settle their own disputes between themselves without interference from the former Colonial Power. We should intervene, with all the assistance we are able to give, only when requested by the Caribbean as a whole. At the same time, our policy must of course be aimed at helping them towards a higher standard of living, because without that it will be impossible for them to enjoy the full fruits of their new independence.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, in an age when great Powers get greater there is a tendency on the part of many to overlook the smaller territories and their problems, until, I suspect, as in the case of Anguilla, something goes wrong. I am therefore very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brockway for having raised this subject, and to have had it raised in the manner in which he spoke and in the way my noble friend Lord Walston spoke—full of constructive thoughts and ideas, to which I will certainly undertake to give most serious consideration after to-day's debate.

The formal Question is whether Her Majesty's Government: will make a new appraisal of their policy towards Associated States and non-selfgoverning islands in view of the difficulties which arose in Anguilla". The short answer is that all these matters are kept under constant review, not only in the West Indies but wherever we have a direct responsibility; and not only in the political field, but in what I believe is in many cases of even greater importance, the economic field, the social and economic developments of those territories. It is often forgotten that scattered all over the world are a large number of small territories. Many are islands. Some are small enclaves carved out of a large country or continent, usually by the previous Colonial Power. Several remain Colonies. Others, despite their smallness, and on some occasions despite their economic weakness, are now independent nations. Since the end of the Second World War many of the islands (Mauritius was the most recent) and enclaves—for example, the British High Commission territories in South Africa—have become politically independent. Who would have predicted this in 1945—or ten years later, for that matter? To-day their independence is a fact. Will they be followed by others? What sort of independence can such territories have? How can they defend themselves? How can they survive economically? How can they administer themselves? Can they hope to improve or even maintain their present standard of living? What political forms can they develop?

Over the past twenty to twenty-five years many experts in the Colonial field have given considerable thought to these and similar problems. But, such has been the complexity of many of these problems, and such is human nature, that it has been seldom possible to produce solutions which have satisfied everyone. As the decolonisation of the British Colonial Empire began to gain momentum it seemed possible—even until about ten years ago—that the number of Colonies which could gain full independence was limited to those which could fulfil fairly restricted criteria. Ideally there had to be some political expertise, an adequate administration and, above all. I think, a feeling of national unity to survive beyond the enthusiasms of the first few months after independence, and a reasonable economic framework. Therefore, it seemed that only the larger territories would qualify for independence. But those who thought that way failed to take into account one; important consideration; namely, that the demand for sovereignty or freedom could be as strong among the politically conscious in the smaller territories as in the larger. So we found that from 1959 many of the smaller territories were to achieve full independence: Sierra Leone, Cyprus, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, Nyasaland, Malta, The Gambia, Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Mauritius and, last, Swaziland.

Yet while it was generally accepted in Britain that it was not for us to deny self-government and independent status for a viable and definable community against the declared wishes of that community, there remained in many minds the question: Where was all this leading to? On how small a community of peoples can be set all the expensive trappings of government? Also, what would be the consequences of a small insecure State if it were created? Would its creation make a security problem for the whole region?

This particular question exercised the mind of my right honourable friend the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, who was then the last but one Colonial Secretary. He began to look for a new status for the smaller territories, with particular reference to the small island territories of the Caribbean whose future was in doubt following the break-up of the proposed Federation of the West Indies. The approach he proposed is, I think, well known to your Lordships. In 1965 he invited a small number of people who had expert knowledge of the smaller territories and the Colonies generally to a weekend conference at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford. I know that my noble friend Lord Brockway played a significant role in that conference. It included private individuals, as well as officials from the territories and from Government Departments. No report was published, and no recommendations were made about the future of any one territory, and I can assure my noble friend that during the past week-end I went through the formidable number of papers that were prepared for that conference. Shortly afterwards Her Majesty's Government proposed that the islands of the Wind-wards and the Leewards, with the exception of Monserrat, should become States in association with Britain. Each should have control of its internal affairs and the right to amend its own Constitution, including the power to end unilaterally the association with Britain. The British Government, for their part, would accept responsibility for their external relations and defence.

Early in 1967, five of the six islands concerned—Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, Granada, and St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla— became Associated States. Because of electoral difficulties the sixth, St. Vincent, has not yet followed the others into Statehood, but provision for this remains under the West Indies Act 1967.

When my noble friend Lord Beswick introduced the Second Reading of the West Indies Bill in your Lordships' House in February 1967, he made three important observations. First, he made it clear that associated Statehood marked the end of the colonial era for these islands. Sometimes when I have heard criticisms of Her Majesty's Government in regard to Anguilla it has seemed that many of them have come from persons who have failed to remember—if they ever knew—that this granting of association was decolonisation and that it removed the responsibility of this country for its internal affairs. Secondly, Lord Beswick confirmed that we should be prepared to continue to provide budgetary aid, where the need for this was established, as well as to provide development capital. Thirdly, he emphasised that in setting these territories on their own feet we were not trying to shift our former responsibilities.

The internal problems, and a consequent implication in the field of defence and foreign relations within St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, have focused attention on the West Indian Associated States. The problems facing these States are formidable. Weak economies not only create internal pressures but also limit the capability of the Government of each State to maintain its own police force at a level where it is able to cope with internal security situations should they arise.

I will certainly look into the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Walston about a Caribbean regional police force. I think there is something in this. Certainly we shall have to get the co-operation of the Associated States, and I hope that if such a force were to be brought into being other independent Caribbean countries would participate because, as my noble friend knows, Barbados provides much of the manpower for the police forces in this area. However, I will look at this point with great care.

I think it would be wrong to suggest, because of the problems of Anguilla, that the Associated State experiment has failed. I do not think we need to consider the point made by my noble friend Lord Walston as to possible action under Section 10. The States have been in existence only a little more than two years, and in my view it is too soon to judge. It will remain our policy to help these States in all possible ways.

I will not say a great deal about Anguilla at the present moment. I thought that my noble friend Lord Brockway put his finger on something that is a problem when we create a State that is made up of two, three or four different islands or peoples. We know from many past experiences that this is one of the great dangers in creating federations. But I think it would be wrong to say that the Government had any reason to believe, until the very last stages of the constitutional procedure, that there would be any difficulty. Anguilla-Nevis-St. Kitts had been an administrative unit for some 85 years, and during all the constitutional conferences in London the elected Member of Parliament for Anguilla attended. On no occasion, to the best of my knowledge, did he raise any question or doubt, or even reservation as to the proposals within the Constitution. It was only at the last moment that there were doubts in Anguilla. When one creates States like this there are naturally risks. I do not think we had any reason to believe that this State could not, with good will on all sides, remain in unity.

We will give most careful consideration to the eight or nine suggestions made by my noble friend Lord Brockway. I will only say to him, so far as the armed forces are concerned—and I am grateful to him for his kind references to the work that the Royal Engineers are now doing in Anguilla—that it is our desire that the armed forces should be withdrawn from Anguilla as soon as possible; but until there has been created a situation of calm, and a willingness to cooperate, clearly the forces must remain there. But I hope they will remain in a constructive role, such as building the road and hospitals and schools which they are now undertaking. It is our desire that the armed forces in a military role shall be withdrawn from Anguilla as soon as possible.

I agree with my noble friend that what we wish to see here is Caribbean consultation and participation. That is what I sought to obtain when I want out in 1967 for the first Barbados conference which was held as a result of the Anguilla dispute. Then I thought that we had achieved Caribbean participation, but, as the House will know, in the end it failed to materialise. I believe my noble friend Lord Walston also amplified the need for Caribbean participation.

I agree that we should work towards greater economic co-operation between the States in the Caribbean. I know of one particular case where there are some three islands which have no ports whatsoever. Ail the goods have to be manhandled on to lighters and then out to the ships. Each island by itself is too small to obtain assistance from the major World Bank in New York. In some respects it is too rich to receive special grants from this country. But if these three islands were to come together and produce an agreed scheme, I believe they would then meet the criteria for going to the World Bank for assistance and would stand a good chance of getting that assistance. That is an indication of what can be done with co-operation. But if there is not that co-operation it is clearly going to delay the economic development of the Associated States and the smaller islands.

In regard to dependent territories, as my noble friend has said, we have some 20 to 23 (I think it is), but each has a variety of problems, and many of them are enormous. The largest, both in size and, I think, in challenge, is Hong Kong, with a population of some 4½million, and the smallest is Pitcairn, with a population of 80. I do not know what will be the future of Pitcairn. The indications are that the people are now leaving the island, and we must surely reach a stage clearly when to keep it in any way economically viable is going to be very difficult. Some of these territories consist of plural and multi-racial societies composed of people of different origins, cultures, religions, languages and traditions. That gives rise from time to time to tensions, where certain occupations become the exclusive province of one particular national origin.

With few exceptions their economies are weak. Reliance is on a single product or on a few primary products for export. This makes them particularly vulnerable to fluctuations of the world market. Another feature of their economies is the small internal markets forcing them to rely largely on imports. One sees the effect of the tourist industry in the Caribbean; the failure to meet the natural requirements of the tourist industry, the vegetables and other forms of commodities, means that with American tourists coming in more and more has to be imported. Clearly the advantages of the tourist trade are not fully gained because of the inability of the countries to meet the demands.

A considerable part of the national income is eaten up by administrative costs. Often difficult and politically delicate decisions have to be taken over education, whether to stress universal primary education or technical and higher education for a few. Many territories, I fear, which send their best students abroad for further education find great difficulty in inducing them to return. These are just some of the general problems which have to be faced by the remaining dependent territories. I stress this because the problem of dependent territories is not purely one of political development; one needs to see how one can create an administrative machine and also develop the internal economy and welfare of the people.

For many it is far too early to see how their political future will work out. How many will yet achieve independence, either alone or in association with other States, is, I fear, mere conjecture at this stage. As my right honourable friend the Minister without Portfolio, when he was Commonwealth Secretary, said in London at the opening of the Bahamas Constitutional Conference in. September, 1968: There still remains a number of British dependent territories around the globe. We do not know what their ultimate constitutional future will be. We have not—and never have had—any detailed blueprint. A few of these territories may wish to proceed with independence. Others may not. It is always difficult to forecast. But whatever the future holds, we in Britain will adhere closely to the cardinal principle to which we have adhered in the past—that the wishes of the people concerned must be the main guide to action. It is not and has never been our desire or intention either to delay independence for those dependencies who want it or to force it upon those who do not. I expressed those particular words the other day when I visited Montserrat.

We must recognise that people in many of the smaller dependent territories are themselves anxious that there should be no hasty decision about their future; and it is unlikely that developments in future years can be or should be as rapid as they have been in the past. But this does not mean that we should not give attention and thought to the problems. As I have said, I will look at the suggestions my noble friend has given us this afternoon. Our concern will be to continue where necessary to deveop their political institutions to the point where they, the people, are in a position to make a genuine and meaningful decision about their own futures.

This is a continuing process, often attracting little or no publicity. Since I joined the Commonwealth Office (and subsequently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Mauritius and Swaziland have become independent. The Bahamas and Bermuda have seen significant advances in their constitutions. In addition, we are constantly in touch with the political leaders of the dependent territories by correspondence through the Governors or Administrators, by visits to the territories by British Ministers and officials, or visits to Britain by local political leaders. And two or three times a year, through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, we are able to meet Back Bench members of these countries. So there is continued contact and process of discussion between ourselves and the smaller territories.

We shall, as we have in the past, continue to keep the changing circumstances of each territory under review, ready to respond when further constitutional developments are required. Each territory has, as I have said—and I think my noble friend Lord Brockway agreed with this—its own character and its own special needs. There is therefore no one solution, no one blueprint, but each of them from now on will call for its own particular solution.


My Lords, be fore the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he would be good enough to let the House have an Answer to the Written Question I put down on March 27 on this subject? It is quite relevant.


My Lords, the noble Lord rather shakes me. I do not know why it has not been printed. I well remember signing it, as I was required to do. Therefore an Answer is on the way. I will find out why it has not been printed.