Orders of the Day — Kenya Republic Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st February 1965.

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Order for Second Reading read.

8.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I should like to give a brief account of the origin and purpose of the Bill, and to explain its provisions. These, as the House will be aware, are essentially technical and follow the provisions of similar enactments passed when other member countries of the Commonwealth became republics. On 12th December, 1964, Kenya became a republic, though remaining within the Commonwealth by the common consent of all Commonwealth Governments. The present Bill is consequential upon Kenya legislation which enacted this and certain other changes in the Constitution which came into force in Kenya at the date of independence, 12th December. This present Bill is necessary in order to ensure that the operation of United Kingdom law in relation to Kenya will not be affected by Kenya's change to republican status.

Clause 1 provides that the change will have no effect on the operation of the law of the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. As regards the law of any British Dependent Territory, the Bill will only affect the operation of Acts of Parliament extending to them, and Orders in Council applying to such Acts. These provisions are made retrospective to 12th December last.

Clause 2 gives power to make by Order in Council such adaptations to any Act of Parliament as may appear necessary in consequence of Kenya's becoming a republic, and provides that such Orders, or any other Orders varying or revoking previous Orders, may be made so as to have effect from 12th December, 1964.

The Bill is drafted to have retrospective effect to the date on which Kenya became a republic in order to avoid a hiatus in the operation of our own laws such as, for example, the enforcement in this country of judgments made in the Kenya courts. I had hoped that the Bill could have been introduced and passed in time to avoid this hiatus, but it was not possible to introduce it until all Commonwealth Governments had formally agreed to Kenya's remaining within the Commonwealth and confirmation of this was not received in time for the Bill to be taken before Christmas. Under the same legislation by which Kenya became a republic, a number of other changes were made in the constitution established at independence. These changes are the domestic concern of Kenya and do not affect the law of this country.

I had the privilege of representing the British Government at the republic celebrations in Nairobi and I was glad that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was also able to be present, especially in view of the fact that he did so much in helping Kenya along the road to independence. When I was there I was very pleased to have the opportunity to convey to President Kenyatta personally Her Majesty's Government's congratulations on his inauguration.

I received a most friendly welcome and I recall with particular pleasure two of the many tributes which he paid to Britain. The first was to British troops in Kenya on the occasion of the departure of their last contingent, when Mr. Kenyatta personally said goodbye to them and remarked to me that they left in good fellowship and not in hostility. He announced on the same occasion that the Kenya Army will for the time being continue to be commanded by a British officer as will also the Air Force and the Navy.

The second tribute was paid to the "massive contribution" made by Mr. Malcolm MacDonald to the independence of Kenya. Hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that we are fortunate that Mr. MacDonald will be able as the new High Commissioner to devote to Kenya the knowledge and interest he has shown while he has been Governor-General.

Hon. Members, I am sure, will join with me in wishing Kenya well under her new President and republican Constitution and in welcoming her continued contribution in the Commonwealth.

8.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

I am glad to have an opportunity to take part in this short debate. It is of course quite clear that this is a wholly non-controversial Measure which, as the Minister has explained, is designed solely to regularise our own legislation.

I do not think that anybody can have been surprised that Kenya has followed the normal pattern of other African countries in the Commonwealth and, after a short period of monarchical constitution, has gone over to the republican form. I think we all understand that the republican form of constitution is probably the one best suited to the traditions and temperaments of emerging African countries. I hope that body anywhere in the world imagines that this change signifies any lack of respect for the Queen or any deterioration in the good relations between Kenya and Britain.

The Minister and I, who were present at the Republic Day celebrations, can vouch for it that good will and respect for the Queen and friendship for the British people were expressed in so many different ways during those very happy ceremonies. I know that some people may feel that if it is virtually certain in advance that a new Commonwealth country after a short period of monarchical constitution is going over to the republican form it might be better from the start to go over to the republican constitution and so avoid any possibility of misunderstanding as to the reasons for the subsequent change.

When I was Commonwealth Secretary I gave a great deal of thought to this question. There is no doubt that, at first sight, logically there is a great deal of strength in this argument. But as each particular case came up for consideration and as one country after another asked that the Queen should continue to be its Queen after independence, even though it was not concealed that this would not be a permanent feature of their constitution, it did not seem right to advise Her Majesty to decline this request. There are many good reasons. Perhaps the most telling of all is that nothing could prove more effectively that there is good will and that independence is being achieved in an atmosphere of continuing friendship than that the new country should ask to retain this special link with Britain through the Crown.

During the year since independence much has happened which gives satisfaction to all friends of Kenya. Most important of all, undoubtedly, is the way in which the people of Kenya have come together under the leadership of Jomo Kenyatta. Looking back at the Independence Conference that we had here in London in the autumn of 1963, I must say that what has happened is little short of a miracle. I remember that as Chairman of the Conference I was faced with two groups, K.A.N.U. and K.A.D.U., each representing a different lot of tribes, occupying different geographical areas in Kenya, neither right up to the very end prepared to make any concessions to the other. At one stage in the Conference K.A.N.U. representatives said that they would organise a rebellion if they did not get their way, and K.A.D.U. representatives said that they would forcibly partition the country if they did not get theirs. In the end we came to a settlement which, thought it was not agreed, did enable Kenya to go forward with some degree of unity to independence.

What has happened in the year since then is quite remarkable. These two deeply divided groups of tribes have come together and now have actually formed a single party. We may have different views about whether a one-party State is a good idea; but it must be emphasised that in the case of Kenya the one-party State has been achieved, not by suppressing the opposition, but by winning it over. That is a very important point.

Nobody thought that in a poor country like Kenya a constitution which embodied the principle of regionalism, something halfway between a unitary State and a federation, was a very efficient form of Government. On the other hand, it was at that time the only form which would have enabled these two mutually suspicious groups of tribes to come together and form a nation. But the reconciliation of the two groups and the formation now of a single united party in the Parliament in Nairobi has enabled them by agreement to dispense with the more cumbersome elements in the regional system. About that I am sure we can all be well pleased.

At the same time we can feel pleased that, although they have radically altered the Constitution which we gave them at independence, they have maintained some of the most important safeguards for human rights, land and other very vital matters.

This transformation which has taken place during this year is, we must recognise, due largely to one man and that is President Jomo Kenyatta, by his strong paternal leadership and his remarkable eloquence. We who have listened to him have seen how he plays on the vast crowds almost like playing on a piano, drawing out their applause, making them laugh and arousing their enthusiasm. He has undoubtedly won the hearts of the peoples of all tribes in Kenya and has made them feel that they belong together.

There are two striking phrases, which occurred again and again in his speeches both at the Independence celebrations and again at the Republic Day celebrations. He referred frequently to what he described as "nation building", and to the slogan "Harambee" which means "Pull together". Mr. Kenyatta has not only united the African peoples but I am glad to say he has also given a certain measure of new hope and confidence to the British settlers in Kenya. I say "a certain measure" because there are still very grave doubts and anxieties in the minds of the British farmers and others in Kenya. With the improvement in the internal situation and the growing strength of the Kenya Government, I hope that Mr. Kenyatta and his Government will be able soon to give to the European residents a much clearer indication of where they stand and what their prospects are if they decide to stay in Kenya and make their home there.

Our relations with Kenya are important for many reasons. We are, therefore, as the Minister of State said, particularly fortunate to be represented by such an outstanding man as our British High Commissioner, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald. It is, I should think, almost a unique event for a man who was Governor-General to become High Commissioner representing Britain in that country after it has become a Republic. But, as anyone who has been there has seen, Mr. MacDonald's relations with Kenya people of all kinds and at all levels are, indeed, quite exceptional. He is not only a wise and able administrator but is also a man possessed of exceptional understanding and human feeling for peoples of all races, and, above all, a man who has won the confidence of everyone in Kenya. Therefore, I am sure that in him we have somebody who will not only represent our views to Kenya but will also faithfully represent the views of the people of Kenya to the British Government.

In giving this Bill a Second Reading I am sure we all rejoice in the increased stability and progress which has been achieved by Kenya during this past year, and we send forth to all who live in that lovely country our best wishes for the future.

8.48 p.m.

Photo of Sir John Fletcher-Cooke Sir John Fletcher-Cooke , Southampton, Test

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) has said, it is perhaps not surprising that Kenya has decided to adopt a republican form of constitution. Kenya is not the first African member of the Commonwealth to do this, and I do not think it will be the last. Africans have always found it very difficult to comprehend a system in which "he who wears the plumes does not wield the power." Indeed, the whole idea of a constitutional monarch or a constitutional head of tribe is one which evokes no response in the African mind.

However, this trend is one which carries with it other implications. It has been a noticable feature of some of the African States which have adopted a republican form of constitution to interfere at times with the workings and the independence of the judiciary. This is a projection, in the African mind, on to the national canvas of the idea of an all-embracing chief. It is sincerely to be hoped that this is not a practice, although it has been followed elsewhere, which will be followed in Kenya.

I would certainly wish to associate myself with the remarks which have been made already in conveying to Kenya our best wishes on this happy occasion, but I do not think that it would do Commonwealth relations, or our relations with Kenya, a great deal of good if we ignored certain factors in the Kenya situation which must be of concern to all those who are friends of Kenya. To pretend that everything is well when it is not will not help to lead the peoples of both countries to appreciate the problems of each other.

Having said that, I must make one point clear. In any suggestions we make, and in any action which we may find it desirable to take, we must always remember that Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are all now sovereign independent States. Anything that we may do or say must be against that background. It is up to the peoples and Governments of those States to work out their own salvation.

It has struck me very forcibly that a large number of the correspondents who write to me about East African affairs still think that Her Majesty's Government have a large measure of direct control in that part of the world and lack only the will to enforce it. This not only betrays an abysmal ignorance, but it does no good at all to our relations with the East African States. The truth is, I hope, that we have a considerable amount of influence in that part of the world, for many of the African leaders are known to us personally. Many of us have worked closely with them. Nevertheless, there are four points in particular—trouble spots in Kenya—to which I must draw attention on this occasion, which may be one of the last occasions on which we shall have a debate on Kenya.

During 1962, it was my privilege to be a member of the Commission which went out to Kenya to divide the country into some 100 parliamentary constituencies prior to the elections which were to precede independence. We spent several months in Kenya and we visited nearly every district. I and my colleagues detected a number of disturbing trends which I am bound to say I still think are fundamental features of the Kenya scene. To acknowledge that these trends have been largely held in check during the past two years is not to concede that they have disappeared altogether.

I entirely agree with the observations made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham that we must pay tribute to the statesmanlike leadership of President Jomo Kenyatta in achieving this measure of stability which could hardly have been foreseen two or three years ago. To that, I would add another measure which also, I believe, has contributed greatly to stability, that is, the scheme, largely financed by this country, whereby European mixed farmers have progressively been bought out and Africans resettled on their land. I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue with this scheme. Neither of these developments, of course, has been without imperfections, but both have undoubtedly been factors making for stability.

I turn now to the four particular sources from which trouble may come. First, there has, without doubt, been a growth of Communist penetration and influence in Kenya in recent years, probably in recent months, and, while there is no reason to suppose that it has as yet reached the stage which, alas, it has reached or appears to have reached in Tanzania, and while there is no reason to suppose that it is beyond the control of the present Government of Kenya, there are disturbing signs that this influence is increasing.

During the last nine months of 1964, a new Lumumba Institute was built, in conditions of secrecy, on the outskirts of Nairobi, largely, so it is reported, with Russian aid. At the opening ceremony, President Jomo Kenyatta expressed the hope that the Institute would become an African centre for academic studies in culture and anthropology. But the chairman of the board of management, Mr. Bildad Kaggia, who is a staunch supporter of Mr. Oginga Odinga and who himself had left the Government earlier after a difference of opinion with President Kenyatta, said that the purpose of the Institute was to be a "party militants' school."

Also, there are apparently well founded reports of the smuggling of arms through Nairobi airport, by night, from Communist countries and from Egypt and Algeria, most of the arms, no doubt, being destined for the rebels in the Congo.

But, quite apart from this evidence of increasing Communist pressure, and despite the fact to which my right hon. Friend referred when he said that the leaders of the former parties, K.A.N.U. and K.A.D.U., had now got together and formed a single organisation, there is, unfortunately, plenty of evidence that, at the lower levels, there is still considerable animosity prevailing between the various tribes of Kenya, each contending that, in terms of jobs, grants and assistance of all kinds, particular tribes are being favoured. It is not difficult to imagine circumstances in which this situation of tribal differences might well deteriorate.

I say again, as regards these two particular sources of difficulty, that it is the responsibility of the Government of Kenya to deal with these matters which are essentially within the purview of their control, although, no doubt, Her Majesty's Government would always be ready with help, guidance and advice if called upon by the Government of Kenya to give it. But let there be no mistake. They are not matters in which it would be appropriate for Her Majesty's Government to interfere at all. They are essentially matters within the scope of influence of the sovereign State of Kenya.

There are, however, two other potential sources of trouble in which, I believe, Her Majesty's Government should be willing to play a more positive rôle. As to the first, I understand that in Mombasa, and, indeed, at various other places along the East Coast of Kenya, and in Tanzania, there is a large number of persons of Asian and Arab origin, many of them refugees from Zanzibar, who formerly enjoyed British protection. I am informed that these persons, who are now stateless are living in very miserable conditions. As they have no passports, even those who might be able to move elsewhere are unable to do so.

I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that he will cause inquiries to be made about the existence of this problem and see whether there is anything that can be done to alleviate the condition of these unfortunate people who for generations have looked to this country as their protector.

Finally, I come to the fourth point of difficulty which, I think, mars the Kenya scene and, indeed, the whole of the East African scene, and it is one in which I suggest the Government might be able to take a rather more positive line than they have done hitherto. During the past two or three years I have been asked on a very large number of occasions to address groups of British nationals going out from this country to serve in various capacities in East Africa. I hasten to add that these invitations have been continued under the new Government here. I have addressed several hundred teachers, missionaries, businessmen and others going out to Government posts in Kenya and the two other East African territories, and I have constantly stressed the urgent need for their services there, the challenging and rewarding tasks which await them, and the warmth of the welcome which I believe they will receive.

But in the last few months there have been a number of expulsions of British nationals from Kenya and other parts of East Africa. Some of these have been Government officers. It has recently been reported that an expulsion order from one of the three States will now be regarded as an expulsion order from all of them. There have also been in that area a number of revocations of leasehold rights of occupancy held by British nationals. I have gone into a number of these cases in some detail myself, and in many cases I can find no justification for this abrupt deprivation of liberty, property or means of livelihood.

The Government are, I know, seriously concerned to encourage qualified people from this country to go to East Africa and make their contribution to the solution of the problems of progress and development there. If they wish this flow to continue, I suggest they must be more forthcoming than they have been in safeguarding the interests of British nationals who work there, and particularly those who fall within the categories of "designated officers" or "entitled officers" under the various agreements which have been entered into with the East African countries.

This is a matter in which, it seems to me, unlike the other matters to which I have referred, Her Majesty's Government have a direct responsibility. These British nationals, whether they be Government officers, farmers, journalists or businessmen, rightly look to the Government here for their protection.

I have never believed that aid should be used to dictate to Africans or to anyone else what form of government they should establish, what type of institutions they should set up, or what policies they should follow in tackling the many problems besetting them. These are matters for them to decide since they are sovereign independent States and must be treated as such. But once Her Majesty's Government have reason to believe that British nationals have been harshly or unjustly treated—and, in my view, a number of them have been—I think that the Government should not hesitate to remind the East African Government concerned that the British taxpayer is not prepared to go on financing aid to Governments who mistreat British nationals.

The Government of Kenya, like the other East African States, looks to this country for substantial aid. British nationals serving in East Africa look to this country for protection. There is an obvious equation here and I trust that the Government will make this clear to the leaders and Governments of the East African States in their dealings with them in future, for if this is not done I fear that it will not be long before the flow of those of all ages and all classes who are ready and willing to go out and help in East Africa will dry up completely—and that is something which I, as a friend of East Africa and as one who is not unacquainted with its problems, would deplore.

9.7 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Sir J. Fletcher-Cooke) has raised a number of interesting points and the only one with which I wish to deal briefly, by leave of the House, is the point he made about deportation, because this is a question which it is important to get into perspective. The hon. and learned Member rightly said that Kenya and the other East African countries are sovereign States and we cannot dispute the right of any independent country to decide who shall live within its borders.

I would agree with him that deportation is a drastic step and one which we consider should be resorted to only in exceptional cases and after full investigation and weighing of the facts. We feel that we are entitled to expect no less than this from any other Commonwealth Government, especially when we remember that a Commonwealth citizen cannot not be deported from this country unless he has lived here less than five years and his deportation has been recommended by a court after conviction for a serious offence punishable by imprisonment.

In addition to making representations on individual cases, wherever appropriate we have strongly urged our views at the highest level on the Commonwealth Government concerned. When I was in Nairobi I took the opportunity to speak personally to President Kenyatta on this matter and I carne away much reassured.

I think it is also important that we should recall the figures. These show that nine British citizens have been expelled from Kenya since independence, and seven of these cases occurred when the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. When one considers the population of Kenya, although we deprecate deportations unless we are completely satisfied that they are fully justified, I think that the record is not a bad one.

The House must remember, taking the long-term view, that it has taken many hundreds of years for this country to evolve into a Parliamentary democracy, and the remarkable thing is the progress being made by these African countries in a matter of months. If one looks objectively and with tolerance at what they are doing, one cannot but be impressed by the work of their Governments and the success of those Governments in a comparatively short period. Obviously they will have their teething troubles and their difficulties but we must look at them with sympathy and understanding. I con-fess that when I recollect how the English treated the Welsh centuries ago—

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

And how the Scots treated the English.

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

—and how the Scots treated the English, I recognise that these countries in Africa are making the most laudable and remarkable progress. What they want from this country is not aid alone but a sympathetic understanding of their problems and a desire to work side by side with them within the Commonwealth until they achieve the goal, which is stability, peace and tranquility within their boundaries.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second lime.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Gourlay.]

Committee Tomorrow.