Mauritius Independence BDLL

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1967.

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Order for Second Reading read.

4.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

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

I have it in command from the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place Her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is very simple. In the words of the Preamble, it is to Make provision for, and in connection with, the attainment by Mauritius of fully responsible status within the Commonwealth. The Independence Resolution passed by the Legislative Assembly made clear the wish of the Mauritius Government that the country should remain a monarchy within the Commonwealth. I am sure that the whole House will welcome the early attainment by Mauritius of independence. As the House knows, the question of Commonwealth membership is a matter for all Commonwealth Governments, who are now being consulted.

On an occasion such as this, it is understandable, and certainly traditional, that we should look back historically at the beginnings of our connection with Mauritius, which has lasted since 1810, when the island was captured from the French during the Napoleonic wars. Mauritius is something of a special case among our dependent territories in that it has no indigenous inhabitants, and never has had any. Indeed, all Mauritians are the descendants of immigrant forebears, who arrived voluntarily or involuntarily over a period of 200 years. The result is, therefore, a great mixture of races, religions and languages, although the official language is English, and the traditions of British Parliamentary democracy are maintained.

I believe that the population of Mauritius is as mixed as any in the world. For that very reason, the people of Mauritius will have special opportunities, as well as special responsibilities, in the years ahead to prove what can be achieved by common sense, prudence, good leadership and a sense of unity in a relatively small island whose people are of very mixed origins.

The population has grown rapidly since its early settlement. By 1833 it had reached 100,000, three-quarters of whom at that time were slaves. Mainly because of the arrival of indentured Indian workers, the population increased to over 300,000 by 1861. From then on it continued to increase, but slowly. During the last decade or two, however, there has been a dramatic increase, mainly due to the eradication of malaria in the 1940s, so that the population of Mauritius has doubled since 1942 and is now over 700,000.

At the present rate of increase, the population will total about 2 million by the end of the century. These are formidable figures and undoubtedly this population explosion has been at the root of many of the economic difficulties facing Mauritius in recent years. This the people and Government of Mauritius know very well and for the last two years the Government there have officially sponsored family planning campaigns, a movement which Her Majesty's Government have encouraged by technical assistance.

Sugar has always been the backbone of the Mauritian economy. Joseph Conrad, writing towards the end of the last century, said: First-rate sugar cane is grown there. All the population lives for it and by it Sugar is their daily bread. What he said then is equally true today. In fact, no other country is so dependent on the export of a single commodity. Sugar and sugar products account for more than 95 per cent, of domestic export earnings and for more than one-third of the national income of Mauritius. The relative prosperity which Mauritius has enjoyed since the last war has been due to the increased production of sugar and to favourable prices gained under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.

Her Majesty's Government fully recognise the importance of sugar to Mauritius in the context of the Government's application to join the Common Market. Indeed, in his statement to die Council of Western European Union, on 4th July, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary singled out two Commonwealth problems for special mention. One was, of course, New Zealand, but the other was I he interests of the developing countries of the Commonwealth and the dependent territories, some of whose economies—and this applies particularly and spectacularly to Mauritius—are overwhelmingly dependent on their sugar exports.

At the same time, the Government of Mauritius are fully aware of the difficulties arising from such a heavy dependence on a single crop, and in recent years consideration has been given to ways of diversifying the country's economy by the introduction of labour intensive industries and the planting of tea and other cash crops. Tea development is going well, by the main difficulty of industrial development is the remoteness of Mauritius from its export markets and its lack of raw materials.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I was about to say that the production of sugar in the whole economy of the island is greatly affected by the relentless cyclones, of which the two in 1960 were especially severe. These are some of the greater misfortunes woven into the pattern of the island's history. To meet the cost of reconstruction following the two cyclones in 1960, Her Majesty's Government agreed to provide financial assistance of up to £7·57 million.

In Mauritius, recent constitutional development has been rapid, but it is worth noting that the first steps towards self-government were taken as far back as 1885, when an elected element was introduced into the Council of Government at the instance of that somewhat turbulent Governor, Sir John Pope-Hennessy, whose statue today sands facing the Parliament buildings in Port Louis. His approach; to his task may perhaps be best illustrated by the following minute written about him by a Downing Street official in 1884: Sir John Hennessy's policy "— the official wrote, no doubt in tones of some horror— is Mauritius for the Mauritians and he has already, from what I gather incidentally, made the Colony exceedingly unpleasant for the English members of the Civil Service". Sir John Pope-Hennessy was in the great tradition of colonial administators in be- lieving that his duty was to the people over whom he ruled, though, perhaps in tune with another English tradition, he was a great eccentric. But it was 20 years ago that a new Constitution granted a very wide measure of enfranchisement on the basis of a simple literacy requirement, and since 1958 the Constitution has provided for universal suffrage. Thus, there has been a long history and tradition of representative Government in Mauritius.

The present Bill stems directly from the Constitutional Conference held in London in September, 1965, at the end of which my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, now the Minister for Housing and Local Government, announced that it was the view of Her Majesty's Government that it was right that Mauritius should be independent and take her place among the sovereign nations of the world.

My right hon. Friend undertook, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that if, following a General Election held on a new electoral system, the new Assembly were to pass a resolution by a simple majority asking for independence, Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to fix a date and take the necessary steps to declare Mauritius independent after a period of six months' full internal self-government.

The House will know that the General Election was, in fact, held on 7th August last, when the Independence Party was returned to power under the leadership of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. A new Constitution, granting full internal self-government, was introduced on 12th August and a resolution asking for independence within the Commonwealth was passed on 22nd August. With the passage of this resolution, it was clear that the conditions attached to the undertaking given in 1965 by my right hon. Friend had been fulfilled; and, following discussion which I was able to have with the Prime Minister of Mauritius when he visited London in October, I was happy to inform the House on 24th October that I had agreed with him that Mauritius would become independent on 12th March, 1968.

I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Sir Seewoosagur—better known to his many friends on both sides of the House by his more familiar nickname of "Ram"—for the wisdom and statesmanship which, over the years, he has shown in leading his country to the goal of independence, which is now on the point of achievement.

I also take the opportunity to remind the House that both the registration of electors, which took place in Mauritius in 1966, and the General Election last August, were observed by teams of independent and impartial observers drawn from the Commonwealth. The second team included two distinguished hon. Members of this House, my hon. Friend the Member for Wands worth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark).

I express my appreciation to both these hon. Members and the other members who served on these groups of observers and to the Commonwealth Governments who so generously made the services of their observers available. The work done by hon. Members of this House and other observers was of material help in maintaining confidence in Mauritius in this difficult period and in helping it through this final stage of constitutional advance.

Mr. Peter Tapsell (Horncastle): Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point of personalities and their constribution towards this course of events, I am sure that he would wish to pay tribute to the leaders of the Opposition Party in Mauritius and particularly to Mr. Gaetan Duval.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Yes, I am glad to do so and to pay tribute to the way in which Mr. Duval, in the best traditions of Opposition, responded to the election results in Mauritius. I believe the democratic habits established in all parts of the House in Mauritius are one of the more encouraging features in facing the problems which undoubtedly lie before Mauritius as an independent sovereign State.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

Could the right hon. Gentleman give us the figures at the General Election this year? I think that many hon. Members would be very interested.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

It might be in the best interests of the House if I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State to give the exact figures when he replies to the debate, rather than my quoting them from memory.

I turn to financial matters, which I know many hon. Members on both sides of the House will be interested in because they greatly affect the future of Mauritius. The House will be already aware that a delegation from Mauritius, led by the Prime Minister, was in London in October for financial talks. The Mauritius representatives stated that for economic reasons resulting from the rapid growth in population and consequent heavy unemployment their Government would be faced with deficits in the capital and recurrent budgets for 1967·68. The Prime Minister told us that they were already taking measures designed to reduce the gap and the Mauritius delegation undertook to bring the recurrent Budget into balance by the financial year 1968·69.

They also agreed on necessary limitations in this year's capital Budget. On this basis, and subject to Parliamentary approval, Her Majesty's Government agree to give additional aid to meet the agreed residual deficits on recurrent and capital account in the Mauritius financial year, 1967·68. It was also agreed that there should be further talks early in 1968 between the British and Mauritius Governments about the question of British aid to Mauritius in the financial year 1968·69. After independence the resources of the Ministry of Overseas Development in the field of technical cooperation will, of course, continue to be available on request to the Mauritius Government, as to other independent Commonwealth countries.

I do not think that I need to trouble the House with a description of the Bill itself. It follows lines which have, I think, become familiar in recent years and is closely modelled on the Bills providing for the independence of other Commonwealth countries. The Minister of State will be happy to try to answer any detailed questions which hon. Members may ask during the debate about the contents of the Bill. I should explain that the Bill does not provide for the constitution of Mauritius as an independent country. As is usual, the Constitution will be embodied in an Order in Council to be submitted to Her Majesty in Council after the Bill has become law. The terms of this Constitution will of course be discussed and settled with the Mauritius Government.

I might, however, perhaps give a brief explanation of the citizenship provisions of the Bill. These are in standard form and provide that subject to certain exceptions any person who before independence was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies shall cease to be such a citizen if he becomes a citizen of Mauritius. The Bill also sets out in detail the categories of persons who will retain their citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies even though they become citizens of Mauritius on independence.

These are people who have particularly close links with the United Kingdom or with a remaining British Colony. The categories who under this Bill will be entitled to retain their citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, even though they also become citizens of Mauritius, are the same as in previous cases of British territories attaining independence.

The question of who will be entitled to become a citizen of Mauritius is one which will be dealt with in the Mauritius Constitution. In general, it is expected that the provisions will follow the general principles set out in the 1965 White Paper, but the details will be very much a matter for the Mauritius Government to decide and pending further consultations with the Mauritius Government is not possible for me to give details to the House at this stage. I hope to be in a position to do so at a later stage on the Bill.

In accordance with the undertaking given at the 1965 conference, we have offered to enter into a defence agreement with Mauritius. Negotiations with the Mauritius Government concerning the terms of this agreement are planned to be held in January with a view to the agreement being signed and brought into effect at independence. I am sure that the House will understand that before these negotiations take place it would be inappropriate for me to go into any detail about the terms of the agreement. But I can confirm that, in general, the agreement will make provision on the lines set out in the 1965 White Paper.

As the House will be aware, we at present enjoy certain defence facilities in Mauritius; in particular, we have an important communications centre there and also staging rights at Plaisance Airport. It is expected that the defence agreement will provide for Her Majesty's Government to continue to enjoy these rights and facilities.

I should not like this occasion to pass without recalling the long period of close friendship and co-operation between Britain and Mauritius, lasting more than 150 years. It is a long connection which the Mauritian people, I think, value as much as we do in this country. Independence does not mean cutting our ties with Mauritius; rather does it mean that our long friendship will be placed on a new basis—a basis which we trust will be the sounder in that it will be in harmony both with present-day circumstances and the wishes of the people of Mauritius.

Mauritius can be confident of our continuing good will and I know that the whole House will wish to join with me in conveying the deep and heartfelt good wishes of this House and of the people of Britain to the Legislative Assembly and people of Mauritius.

4.37 p.m.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the Commonwealth Secretary for his careful explanation of the Bill. It is grateful also for his interesting account of the events leading up to the decision that Mauritius, a British Colony since 1810, should become an independent State within the Commonwealth.

That decision having now been taken, we on this side of the House wish to associate ourselves with the right hon. Gentleman in wishing the people and Government of Mauritius success in all the difficult tasks that lie ahead. We hope that at all times the warmest friendship and understanding will prevail between our two countries.

I think that it would be wrong, however, to minimise the difficulties of the tasks that lie ahead. Mauritius, I believe, will be the twenty-third British-ruled territory to achieve full sovereign independence since the end of the Second World War. It is no mean achievement that successive British Governments have transformed the greatest empire the world has ever known into a partnership of sovereign independent States in so short a time, and to have done so with so little disturbance and bloodshed and so much evident good will.

Throughout this period, in company with a great many hon. Members, I have held the view that on balance it is better to hurry on with independence rather than to delay it. For the choice in this vale of tears has rarely been between doing what we as rulers have believed wise and prudent, and taking a leap in the dark. Usually, it has been between taking one kind of risk or another. We have to keep in balance our ideas, born of long experience of governing others, as to how our self-appointed trust should be fulfilled with the aspirations of those we govern, the rights of minorities and the critical views of the outside world, including our Commonwealth partners. It has not been an easy task. But, by and large, the risk of staying too long has been greater than that of going too soon.

I recognise that it is not always as simple as that. Our purpose has always been to leave behind tranquillity and ordered government so that the links of trade and commerce remain unbroken and the new State has a real chance of building a viable economy and a responsible society. Yet it is precisely in these last stages of ending colonialism that we see presented the greatest difficulties of all, for here we are dealing with territories too small in size and too poor in resources to be viable and where the risks of independence are very great indeed.

I say this not because I wish to cast any doubt on the future of Mauritius— like the Secretary of State and so many hon. Members on both sides, I am an admirer of its wise Prime Minister; I number among my friends a good many Mauritians; they are a people of great charm and character—but because it is only right that we should think deeply about the future of a people who have long been associated with us and who by virtue of the Bill are now to chart their own course and have the responsibility of solving their own problems.

After all, reservations about the wisdom of independence have been expressed in Mauritius itself. They were expressed at the Constitutional Conference held in 1965. Indeed, the main issue at that con- ference was whether the island should receive full independence or whether there should be some form of continuing association with Britain. In the event, Her Majesty's Government decided upon independence, provided that a resolution calling for this was passed by a simple majority in an assembly to be elected by popular vote.

Photo of Dr David Kerr Dr David Kerr , Wandsworth Central

This cannot go by without correction. What Her Majesty's Government decided was that the Mauritians themselves, as a result of their election, should convey to Her Majesty's Government their wishes, which Her Majesty's Government would abide by and have abided by.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I was going on to say something like that. When the election was held, 90 per cent, of the registered electors—this is proof of a lively and virile democracy—voted but over 43 per cent, of the votes cast were for a party opposing independence.

However, the will of the majority prevails. The die is now cast. Mauritius will get her independence early next year and it must clearly be the earnest desire of all of us that it is made to work for the benefit of all her people. Nevertheless, for reasons which I shall give, I do not think that the passage of the Bill necessarily heralds a new dawn for Mauritius, or that we in Britain can now gaily shuffle off our responsibilities. There are a number of questions which are causing anxiety to my right hon. and hon. Friends and, I have no doubt, to hon. Members opposite who know the island well. I feel bound to put these questions to the Government. They touch on economic aid, defence, citizenship, and constitutional safeguards.

First, I think that we should be less than frank if we did not recognise that independence comes to Mauritius at a time of acute and increasing economic difficulty. I am glad to hear the Secretary of State refer to this. Consider the stark facts. Mauritius has an area of 720 square miles. On this tiny island, one-tenth the size of the Principality of Wales, there were crammed, in 1962, 681,000 people. Three years later there were 751,000. The Secretary of State mentioned a figure of about 700,000. I would hazard a guess that the population of Mauritius today, or by the time independence arrives, will be nearly 800,000. The increase has been at the rate of about 3 per cent, per year. If this trend continues, there will be about 1 million people on this tiny island in 20 years and there could well be 3 million by the end of the century.

The budget this year is balanced only by virtue of British aid. I understand that the financial reserves of the territory are now reduced to nil. The staple food of the people—rice—has to be imported. In fact, nearly all the food, clothing and simple needs of the people have to be imported. The sugar industry, which provides about 98 per cent, or 99 per cent, of the value of the island's exports, is experiencing the gravest of difficulties. If it were not for the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, the island would face stark ruin.

I was very glad to hear from the Secretary of State this afternoon a clear recognition that, if Britain enters the European Economic Community, there must be some special arrangement for a people, who have been closely associated with us, in good times and in bad, for so long. Although the Mauritius Government have undertaken to balance the budget next year, on the most objective view their prospects of success are not encouraging.

Thus—I do not say this with any degree of joy or satisfaction—it would be highly irresponsible for us to wave farewell to Mauritius after 150 years of close association without ensuring that the situation there does not immediately slide into economic chaos. I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State say that talks between the two Governments about budgetary aid for 1968 –69—I hope that I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly—are going ahead. This is what we would expect. I wonder what will be the position about long-term development aid after independence. I note that it totalled £681,000 in 1965. It was increased to £1·4 million in 1966. Surely this will not be cut off immediately after independence.

There is one aspect of this situation which should be stated here and now. If long-term aid is to be continued for a country with no reserves, which is having the greatest possible difficulty in balanc- ing its budget and is faced with acute and increasing economic difficulties, it is imperative that that aid should be closely tied to definite projects expressly designed to strengthen the economy.

Surely these are matters which should be discussed now and not left until Mauritius is on her own. It is particularly necessary to make this point now at a time when our own capacity to provide aid is clearly under strain. I hope that the Minister of State will, in winding up, be able to give us, if not in detail, some indication of the Government's thinking on these matters.

I turn to the question of defence. At the Constitutional Conference in 1965 Her Majesty's Government agreed in principle to negotiate with the Mauritius Government before independence the terms of a defence agreement which would be signed and come into effect immediately after independence. The British Government envisaged that such an agreement might provide that, in the event of an external threat to either country, the two Governments would consult together to decide what action was necessary for mutual defence. It was also agreed—hon. Members will find it in the White Paper—that there would be joint consultation on any request from the Mauritius Government in the event of a threat to the internal security of Mauritius. Such an agreement would contain provisions under which on the one hand the British Government would help with the training of the Mauritius police and the security forces— and, on the other hand, the Mauritius Government would agree to the continued enjoyment by Britain of existing rights and facilities … The right hon. Gentleman made a brief reference to a continuation of those rights and facilities.

A great deal of water has flowed around the Indian Ocean since 1965. We have withdrawn from Aden. We are proposing, I understand, to withdraw from Singapore. Yet the commitment to Mauritius is there in black and white, specifically laying down that there will be negotiations over a defence agreement before independence. Are these negotiations taking place now? If not, when will they take place?

More to the point, with the withdrawal from Aden and, later, from Singapore, how do the Government propose to make any defence guarantee credible? Is it intended to implement the undertaking to consult the Mauritius Government in the event of a threat to internal security? What does consultation mean in this context? It is the essence of the whole Commonwealth relationship that consultation is a continuing process between Governments. What matters is what Her Majesty's Government are prepared to do.

In this connection—I ask it in all innocence and would like a reaction from the Minister of State—is it altogether wise for Britain to involve herself in matters affecting internal security? In any event, what are the rights and facilities which are to be preserved for our use? There may well be a balance of advantage here, with Britain enjoying certain rights and facilities which may bring much needed revenue to Mauritius, while, on the other hand, we assist in making the island feel more secure. But let us hear what that balance of advantage is.

All these matters are directly linked with the Act of Independence. The House is entitled to know what action the Government are taking about them now. Equally, if it is not intended to honour the defence undertakings given in 1965, the House should be told now so that there is no misunderstanding either here or in Mauritius.

Photo of Mr James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West

The hon. Gentleman is not quite as innocent as he pretends. He will not have lost his memory. Perhaps he will cast his mind back to events in East Africa. Her Majesty's Government —this would be the will of both sides, whichever party were in power—will keep their pledges and guarantees. I expect it, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, though he may appear innocent, would expect the same.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

I do not quarrel with that for a moment. It is a fact that this will be the last occasion when we can discuss the new arrangements for Mauritius. I should fail in my duty if I did not put questions of this kind to the right hon. Gentleman. On the other hand, I do not doubt that we shall have a clear answer.

I turn now to the citizenship provisions in the Bill. It is supremely important that the House should be clear about what it is asked to approve here. Clauses 2 and 3 are drafted in a form which has been used in most of the independence statutes enacted in recent years. Their effect is that anyone who was a citizen of the Colony of Mauritius before independence automatically ceases to be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies on the appointed day, if—I emphasise "if"—he becomes a citizen of the new State, under its own citizenship law.

As it was agreed at the Constitutional Conference that all persons born in Mauritius either before or after the appointed day and all persons born outside Mauritius with a father born in the territory will automatically be Mauritian citizens, it seems that almost the whole population is covered. However, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, the Bill provides for four categories of persons to retain their United Kingdom citizenship. Presumably, these people will have dual citizenship.

I can understand that persons who themselves were born, or whose fathers or grandfathers were born, in the United Kingdom should be allowed to retain their United Kingdom citizenship, but it is essential that we should understand the reasoning behind the other exceptions and the principles involved. Clause 3(1,b) and (l,c) cover persons who are naturalised or registered as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Under subsection (5), however, these do not appear to be people who were naturalised or registered in Mauritius itself.

If that is so—I shall be grateful if the Minister of State will confirm it—I am at a loss to understand who are the people to be covered by subsections (1,b) and (l,c). If a person was naturalised or registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies outside Mauritius and then went to Mauritius, he will not, according to Annex E of the Report of the Constitutional Conference obtain Mauritius citizenship at all. So he will not lose his citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. It is most important for the House to understand exactly what is intended by Clause 3(1) and, even more important, how many people are involved.

This brings me to the question of the Order in Council which will grant Mauritius its Constitution. Annex E of the Report of the Constitutional Conference lays down guide lines to be followed as regards citizenship when the Constitution is drawn up. The Annex is brief. Hon. Members will find it on page 31 of the White Paper. Is it an exhaustive summary of what will be contained in the Constitution, or are there Likely to be additions or omissions?

I realise that the right hon. Gentleman did not wish to go into detail about a Constitution which may be in process of drafting but which is not yet available and which, of course, is substantially a matter for the Mauritius Government. But the question I have just put is important. Until we know the answer, Parliament will have to take on trust what is to happen to a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies on the appointed day.

Clause 2(2) provides that any person who immediately before the appointed day is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies shall on that day cease to be such a citizen if he becomes on that day a citizen of Mauritius ". That has little meaning unless we can be told exactly who will become a citizen of Mauritius on the appointed day. I hope that the Secretary of State grasps the point that, if the Constitution is to vary from Annex E, we cannot possibly know what the position will be. We must have an assurance about this.

Moreover, Annex E lays down that The Constitution should automatically confer either citizenship or a right of registration en the following classes of persons: —All persons naturalized or registered in Mauritius as citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies, and all persons born outside Mauritius of fathers in this category, provided that in both cases they were still citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies on Independence Day. The point here is that Annex E provides that the Constitution should automatically confer either citizenship or a right of registration on these two classes of persons. Will it confer citizenship automatically or will it give merely a tight of registration? If it gives citizenship automatically, we on this side shall be satisfied. If it does not, what happens if such persons do not apply for registration? They will presumably then not become Mauritian citizens, and so will not lose their citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

This is a difficult matter to grasp, but an important principle is at stake. If these persons do not lose their citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies will not they be able to claim a United Kingdom passport from the High Commissioner in Mauritius after independence? Does not it follow that we shall then be giving free access into Britain to a particular category of persons who have no more claim to it than has any other category now living in Mauritius? Is that intended? If so, how many such people are likely to be involved?

I have dealt with this point at some length, because unless it is cleared up we can have the anomalous situation after independence that no person of Mauritian birth and ancestry could enter Britain freely but someone who came to Mauritius from another part of the world, possibily a foreign country, and acquired naturalisation, or registration if he came from another Commonwealth country, and holds a British passport, will be able to enter the United Kingdom freely. I cannot think that that would be fair or equitable. Therefore, we should like a full explanation before the Bill goes to Committee, and when it is there we shall want to consider the whole matter very carefully.

Finally, I come to the Constitution. As the right hon. Gentleman told us, it will appear in due course as an Order in Council, but if I am not mistaken the Order will not be debatable in Parliament, and once the Bill is passed there will be no further opportunity of discussing the matter before the appointed day —of course, after the appointed day we have no power to discuss it. The reason apparently is that since Mauritius was acquired by conquest and cession Her Majesty has the prerogative power to make a constitution which does not have to be approved by the British Parliament. That is not unusual; it is a well-established practice.

One might think that it is, nevertheless, a somewhat odd practice, since the Constitution of a new State is the principal key to the use that may be made of independence. But that is the situation, and in a sense it is a mark of the mutual trust and confidence between ourselves and peoples and Governments long associated with us.

Nevertheless, we would expect the Constitution to follow the guide lines laid down in Annex D of the Report of the Constitutional Conference. The right hon. Gentleman said something to that effect. Neither my hon. Friends nor I have any quarrel with the guidelines. They seem very satisfactory. There is an elaborate code of fundamental rights which all of us would consider essential in any society, let alone a multi-racial one. We would therefore expect that the Government will ensure that all these safeguards are embodied in the Constitution.

Since the appointed day is only about three months away we assume that the Constitution is already in draft, and we expect that the Government would approve a departure from what is laid down in the Annex only if there were full agreement by all the parties to the conference. I hope that we can have an assurance from the Minister on that.

I have spoken a little longer than I originally intended, mainly because the citizenship provisions call for careful explanation. Moreover, I have thought it right to make these points and to ask a number of searching questions in order to demonstrate our feeling that the Act of Independence does not mark the end of the concern we feel for a small people long bound to us by ties of history and mutual advantage, but rather a renewal of interest in their wellbeing. One chapter in our relationship has ended; a new chapter begins. What matters is that the relationship continues.

It is good to know that Mauritius is likely to apply for full membership of the Commonwealth. May that association bring her strength and confidence in the years ahead. Subject to our receiving clear and satisfactory answers to the questions I have asked, I commend the Bill to my right hon. and hon. Friends.

5.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

I am glad to have this opportunity of supporting my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs in commending the Bill to the House.

I must begin on a personal note. I have had the great privilege of enjoying the personal friendship of the Prime Minister of Mauritius, whom we all know affectionately as Dr. Ram, for many years. He has led his people with courage, dignity and a degree of tolerance which I hope and believe are appreciated by all those in the island who do not share his racial background. I can think of no one more fitted in temperament and character to lead into independence a country of that size, with its many problems. I join in wishing Dr. Ram and the Mauritian people well when they become independent, and in saying how much we look forward to their becoming full members of the Commonwealth and continuing their association with us.

I should like to take up one point made by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine). I shall leave the detailed points to my hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman said that Mauritius is the 23rd country which has attained independence in the Commonwealth since 1945. Let us give ourselves a pat on the back. This is indeed a record to be proud of. In a changing world we should be proud that we have—not without mistake, sometimes not without stumbling, and sometimes not without conflict, but by and large in a remarkably peaceful way—brought about something never attempted before, voluntarily to transform an empire into a commonwealth.

I had the privilege of serving for a very short, interesting and pleasurable time as Secretary of State for the Colonies. I am very glad to have had a small part in that great transformation, as many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have had in the past 20 years or so. I remember standing at the Dispatch Box to declare Mauritius's case. If my memory is correct, and I think that it is sound on this, I said, as many others have said, that the objective of Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the dependent territories was to guide them towards democratic independence within the Commonwealth. I emphasise the word "democratic". We added the important proviso that we should work with them to enable them by our joint efforts to establish the economic and social foundations upon which, and upon which alone, democratic independence can not only be won but can be sustained.

Perhaps it was rather impudent of us to think that we could transplant our Westminster model to Asia, Africa, the West Indies and elsewhere. I have sometimes been told that it was. But I think that it was psychologically right for us to seek to transplant its basic principles; the structure can be adjusted. I think that we have had a degree of success. All of us who have had the privilege of attending conferences of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association are pleased to see how they have been organised and conducted along the lines on which we conduct our debates here.

I believe that we have sown the seeds of democracy in many of these countries even if, in the meantime, there have been disappointments. I know that many right hon. and hon. Members have had their disappointments and, in particular, I myself hope that Nigeria will find peace and unity in the near future. I leave it at that. I have many great personal friends out there.

Since 1945, we have had the winding up of the old European colonial empires all over the world. I claim for Britain that, on the whole, we have made as good a job as any other country and I feel very proud of that. Thinking about these problems and how to implement our policy of bringing democratic independence to these countries, one of my principal worries as Colonial Secretary was what was to happen to the small territories.

In 1951, I ceased to be Colonial Secretary because the country, as it sometimes will, went awry and threw out the Labour Government. With my right hon. and hon. Friends, however, I went on considering what should be done about the problem of the small territories. It is a long time ago now but at the time we did develop a concept for them. The word "dominion" was going out of fashion, although, of course, it had been a very apt concept, and we thought that there was a case for the smaller territories being in, as it were, a halfway house, enjoying some kind of dominion status, independent in internal affairs but with many of their external affairs conducted in association with us.

We were particularly concerned with what would happen after these territories became independent. I thought then, and still do, that federation would have been the answer in many cases. I certainly believe that, in the West Indies, the best solution was federation and I am sorry that the West Indies Federation unfortunately came to an end.

My thinking was dictated by the fact that so many of these small territories were sparsely populated, with the result that it would be difficult for them to man in full a democratic government. Secondly, in many cases, the economies of these countries had been in our hands —they would say that they had been in our grip—for centuries. We decided their economies, and they were built not for the purpose of creating and sustaining strongly based, viable economies for their own people but for our purposes. This is a moral responsibility of ours that we must face.

One example of this is, indeed, Mauritius. It depends on sugar. Who determined that the whole economy of Mauritius should be geared to sugar? Indeed, who determined that the economy of the West Indies should be geared to sugar? We did. That is true of the old colonial territories all over the world. Many of them have economies dependent upon one commodity. This is because it was the most profitable and the easiest thing to do when we were in control.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

Would not the right hon. Gentleman admit that, in Mauritius, a number of other crops were tried but it was found that the one most climatically suited to the weather was sugar and sugar cane?

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

That is true. All I am saying is that, while some efforts have been made, not enough has been done to create in these territories strongly based and diversified economies to enable them to make something worthwhile out of their political independence. Sometimes we tried to diversify economies. I am casting back my memory but I recall that we tried to diversify the Gambia's economy by the production of eggs. That scheme came unstuck and, of course, we had great fun in the House. However, it is very important that every effort should be made to make Mauritius less dependent than it is now on one commodity. I know the difficulties. I know that there may have to be experiments and that there may be failures. But this is one of the things we owe Mauritius.

The second great problem of Mauritius is that of population. I hope that some day we shall have an opportunity to debate the subject of world population, which we have not debated for some time. Hon. Members will have noted the United Nations reports on population and the forecasts made in them about the population explosion. I have a feeling that this is going to be the world's most dangerous problem. If present trends continue, by the end of the century the population of the world will be double what it is now—and the population is increasing most in the poor parts of the world.

I believe that out of every 100 human beings in the world 56 live in Asia—the continent of poverty. The poverty is such that only those who have seen it can appreciate what it means. Mauritius is a small island whose population has doubled since 1942, according to my right hon. Friend, and by the end of the century, on that small island, one-tenth the size of Wales, there will be a population of 2 million.

I introduced my good friend the Prime Minister of Mauritius to some other good friends in this country who went out to study the problems of Mauritius, including those of social security and of population. I know how courageous he has been in all these things. But population is going to be his biggest problem and it is clear that one of the essentials— we can only mention it for it is not for us to give orders or instructions, since all sorts of human and religious problems are raised—is to encourage the people of Mauritius to take steps themselves to seek to control this growth of population by family planning.

Beyond that, we must still continue to help and aid them. I wish all good luck to the Prime Minister. I hope that he gets the health and strength to go on leading his country after independence, but if the population continues to grow at the present rate then economic development will not only not exceed the growth of population but will not keep pace with it. Mauritius will have an overwhelming problem of unemployment if that happens, which will be a very great tragedy to a small island venturing into independence.

There are many calls on us and these are difficult days for Britain. But let us be frank—is anyone going to say that we could not do more for the poorer people of the world than we are doing? I say this to my constituents and to everyone else in the country. Here we are on the eve of Christmas, which we shall enjoy, but let us think of our own children and grandchildren who are going to live in the world in future—the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish, and all the children of Europe—for they will live in a world in which the white people will be a tiny minority. We have to learn to live in equality and dignity with all these people and to help them to overcome their problems. I have said before that the future of the world may well be determined not by what we have come to regard as die great power centres, but in the jungles of Africa and the paddy fields of Asia. Here we have the opportunity not only to wish the people of Mauritius well, but to give our good wishes tangible form.

I have not had the pleasure of visiting Mauritius, but I hope that I shall some day. I came to speak here today because of my great interest in it and because of my great regard for its Prime Minister. But we all know its history, and more than one European country has had something to do with Mauritius. Next week or the week after there is to be an important meeting concerned with the future of Europe and our relationship with it. Every European country has its responsibilities to what used to be the old colonial empires. Most European countries have had colonial empires which are now standing independent, some struggling and some doing well and some not so well. I hope that if there is a United Europe, as I hope there will be, it will benefit not only the countries within its ambit, but those outside, remembering that some of its industrial strength was built from resources from those countries which Europe now has a responsibility to help.

I give a warm welcome to the Bill and I wish Mauritius well, hoping that our good wishes will not end with the Bill's passing, but will continue into the days when Mauritius is independent.

5.22 p.m

Photo of Mr John Hunt Mr John Hunt , Bromley

I want briefly but warmly to echo the good wishes to Mauritius on this exciting moment in her history. Last year, in company with three other hon. Members, I had the good fortune to go on a Parliamentary delegation to Mauritius, when I was able to see at first hand the charm of both the island and the people there. In common with my colleagues, I was able to experience the hospitality and friendship of the people of Mauritius and to sense the very close ties which exist, and which we hope will always exist, between that tiny island and Britain.

Perhaps one of the most tangible illustrations of those ties is the almost fanatical following which our game of football has throughout that country. Even in the tiniest village one finds a football pitch. As the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) will remember, our visit last year coincided with the World Cup. I remember very well that on the night of the England-West Germany final we had been invited to a municipal dinner by Mr. Gaetan Duval; having arrived, we were astonished to find that our hosts had their transistor radios with them and that nobody sat down to dinner until extra time had been played and the result of the match finally known.

Although that sort of experience typified the wonderful sense of fun and gaiety in the country, there were many problems, too. No doubt they will be spotlighted even more vividly in the days following the final achievement of independence. There is, first, the problem mentioned by every hon. Member who has spoken so far, the population explosion, 700,000 people crammed into an island 38 miles long and 29 miles wide, with the prospect of a population of at least 2 million and possibly 3 million by the end of the century.

The recent appointment of a family planning administrator in Mauritius is a recognition, however belated, of the importance and urgency of such work, and I hope that Britain will continue to give every possible encouragement and assistance in this respect in the years ahead, for this work is of crucial importance to the future of the island.

Another problem already mentioned is that of the dependence of Mauritius on sugar, 90 per cent, of the available arable land being planted with sugar cane, making the island terribly vulnerable to fluctuations in the world price of sugar. I stress again that the need in Mauritius is for greater diversification, both industrial and agricultural, and I share the surprise expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) when he reminded us that, although rice is the staple diet of most Mauritians, most of it has to be imported. I hope that in this respect, too, the advice and experience of British experts will continue to be made freely and readily available to the newly independent Mauritius and that at the same time we shall do everything we can to encourage the new investment finance which will be so urgently needed in the years ahead.

A third problem has been mentioned only briefly. It is that which arises from the multi-racial society in Mauritius, with those of Indian descent making 60 per cent, of the total population and living side by side with Creoles, Chinese and those of European descent. Mauritius is an island of volcanic origin, and some of us there last year feared that the island was then on the verge of an eruption, not volcanic, but racial. The fact that that has been happily averted so far is a tribute to the statesmanship and wisdom of the Prime Minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, to whom tribute has already been rightly paid, a man who is widely respected and, indeed, loved by all those within the Mauritian community. If the standards of tolerance and humanity which Dr. Ramgoolam has set in recent years can be maintained in the new independent Mauritius, the country can go forward to a happy and prosperous future.

I warmly welcome the Bill. I am delighted to be associated with the congratulations and good wishes which will go out today from Westminster to a tiny island in the Indian Ocean about to stand on its own feet, and I am sure that we all wish it well.

5.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West

This is a joyful day for all the peoples of Mauritius and for all die well-wishers of that country. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llannelly (Mr. James Griffiths), a former Colonial Secretary, said that this was the 23rd State to attain its full independence and dignity as a national entity in the Commonwealth. As each former colony becomes independent, so the next in line is smaller—let us hope also viable. The result is that increasingly the well-wishers in this Chamber tend to be intimately versed in the affairs of the territory and to know many of the leading politicians and participators in the future independent society.

I look about me and see many who know the island well and have worked long with the people in it. If there is one man whose name can be identified with Mauritius it is Sir—or Dr. as we knew him—Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. One cannot say in too emotional terms what he has done and meant for the island. We heard earlier that the colony's history began in association with us in 1810. One can talk of an early Governor, the fabulous Labourdonnais, who almost built the city of Port Louis, the capital in less than six years, and the equally fabulous and even more eccentric Governor Sir John Pope Hennessey, who was also mentioned. If one looks at the island over the last few years the one man who has been so closely identified with it is Dr. Ramgoolan. Much will depend upon him, his behaviour and leadership in the coming months, let alone years.

He is cautious, tolerant, balanced, he has all the virtues of leadership which are so vital in this polyglot population. More often he will have to guide these diverse peoples. I have been personally connected with many of these leaders in this colony for the last two decades. If one was to mention names then one must mention his. No overseas association has given me more pleasure than that with the Mauritius Labour Party and the larger Independence Party, now merged with the Muslim Party of Mr. Razak Mohammed and the Independent bloc of Mr. Bissoondoyal. This is a fine team.

It would be invidious to name more on the island, but one should mention earlier founders of the Mauritius Labour movement, such as Anquetil in the early days. I should be failing in my duty, having worked with them in the past, if I did not mention two other men whose names will always be linked with this movement towards independence and emancipation: the trade union leader Guy Rougemont, whose name is now commemmorated with the square near the harbour, and also that gifted young barrister whom we lost so early in his political life Mr. Seenevassen.

There is no finer statesman in the Commonwealth than Dr. Ramgoolan, who has been so long in the leadership of this movement. His leadership of the majority party in the Chamber goes back at least to 1949. On an occasion like this I must mention, speaking as Chairman of the Anglo-Mauritius Society, the work that has been done at the Mauritius Commission here by Dr. Teelock and his charming wife. Dr. Teelock is a medical specialist and his wife has a law degree. I cannot imagine a more charming and gifted couple to be at the High Commission. They have been unceasing in their courtesy and help to all of us who have wished to contact people of Mauritius. They give a fine image of their people.

It will be stupid not to accept the words of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine). There are of course snags and difficulties ahead for here is the classic example of monoculture. This is an island dependent upon one crop, sugar. When I was there some months ago an almost unfailing topic in all conversations was whether the United Kingdom would join the Common Market, the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement and what aid Her Majesty's Government would continue to give after independence.

We have an island of 720 square miles and a population of 75,000, which will go up to about 1 million in the coming years. Other than Barbados there is no other island comparable to Mauritius, and Barbados unlike Mauritius is near the wealthy populated lands of the United States and Canada, which can help to remedy her potential instability.

Mauritius has always been financially viable, except in extraordinary times of cyclonic damage. Other than this it has never had to ask for help from our Government, which is a wonderful thing in view of its population density, its import of food, its monoculture and the like. It is making, and has made valiant efforts. There is no other example of peoples of such diverse faiths, languages, origins and creeds living in such close proximity, and in such harmony—unless they are incited, and I use the word advisedly, by fluent demagogues.

One must be very canny about this, and if it is not presumptuous of me. I should like to say a few words over the ocean to my friends in the island. I have worked with them in political campaigns, and I make my own personal appeal to them to exercise a little caution and discretion in the coming months, when moving into independence.

I want to comment too upon the behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition after the results were declared. I have spoken before about Gaetan Duval, and hard things have been said of him at one time or another in this Chamber. However, he has been helpful and has democratically accepted the decision at the polls. If we can see this harmonious relationship continue after independence there is much hope. I speak feelingly when I say that I wish with all my heart that the young dominion gets off to a good start.

There is the delicate question of internal security. There have been difficulties here in the past, but I am convinced that any Government of this country will keep whatever pledges are given. I am certain that, as happened in East Africa, with Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and Milton Obote, should the future leaders of this young dominion find themselves in difficulties due to internal disorder, our Government would do their best to help.

There will be difficult financial times ahead too. I hope that the civil servants will fully co-operate. If politicians are in difficulties because of the diversity of races, so too are the civil servants. The situation is similar to that in Kenya where there were Asians, Africans and whites which led to difficulties over promotion, pensions, privileges and pay. There is a need for self-discipline here. I do not know of any other colonial territory where as in Mauritius after, I think, two years, civil servants are allowed as part of their working contracts, to have overseas leave in the United Kingdom. This did not happen elsewhere. It will be an enormous burden on the Mauritius Exchequer if all civil servants wish this to happen. There will be changes in the internal economy and perhaps disappointments, but that is their business. Politicians are often asked to exercise self-discipline, but there is a need for the machine behind the politicians to exercise self-discipline, whether it be in finance or in loyalty to their lawfully elected Government; the Independence Party, which is now a coalition of the three main parties.

The British Government have been generous in economic aid. A short while ago the aid to be given to Mauritius amounted to about £4½ million. After the coming of independence, international agencies and, I hope, many nations like Germany, France, the United States and Canada will help Mauritius. I was there a short while ago and I found that the Japanese were in. The Japanese have a big part to play in developing the deep-sea fishing fleet of Mauritius. Fish can be an enormous source of protein as an addition to the normal foodstuffs. Mauritius wants fewer imports and decidedly more self-sufficiency.

There are challenging times ahead. In my view, Mauritius has in Dr. Ramgoolam possibly the most statesmanlike leader I know of any young society. I place him on a par with Jomo Kenyatta. I hope that Dr. Ramgoolam will play in his society the same part which President Kenyatta is playing in Kenya and for which he is getting the adulation of many Members of the House who never thought that he would act in such a way as he has done.

I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be generous to this young dominion. I end with the words of Aneurin Bevan, who said to politicians: The only fear that there is is fear itself. I say to the people in the island of Mauritius that they have nothing to fear but fear itself. They have a bright future before them. There is no reason why Mauritius should not take its lawful place in the long line of emancipated colonies. At Commonwealth Conferences and in the United Nations, it will be alongside many other dominions, and I am sure that it will play as worthy a part as the others which have gone before.

5.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wolrige-Gordon Mr Patrick Wolrige-Gordon , Aberdeenshire East

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) speaks with great knowledge and experience of Mauritius. I speak with very great diffidence because, unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to go to Mauritius, although I have read everything I could about the island and I have heard from many how beautiful it is and what great opportunities lie before it.

As I have no specific knowledge about Mauritius, there are only two points which I wish to raise. First, I hope, like every hon. and right hon. Member, that Mauritius will find its future path easy. Independence has always meant responsibilities and problems as well as freedom. I was glad to hear from both sides of the House the promise that, although we shall no longer be in control, our friendship will be solid and that the right arm and hand of our fellowship will never be withdrawn. I think that people who say that because Britain has relinquished an empire she must find another role speak only a half truth. To continue to serve without retaining control is, in a sense, a higher destiny altogether. It certainly demands great qualities of forbearance and self-sacrifice.

However, Mauritius and many other countries like her still expect, and have a right to expect, a special contribution from Britain. I know that when one says that many people instantly think of money. Money certainly is needed. Diversification of the economy is clearly essential; many hon. Members have borne witness to that. Tourism may have a big future. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West said, the fishing industry is being developed and can be developed still further. Many of us are very interested in that matter. But, even more than money. I believe that what the people expect and want from Britain is that she should not only care about them now but should go on caring about them in future.

My other point is this. At the moment, nationalism and racialism are world movements. The colour of a man's skin or the language which he speaks are often held to be crucially important and are often the focus of wild emotion. The utter irrelevance of these issues to what the man is like is largely forgotten. Mauritius can help to bring about a cure. She is a small community, potentially rich in the amazing diversity of the origins of her people—from India, China, Africa and Europe. I understand that five, if not six, languages are in fairly common use. There is the possibility of great difficulties and differences arising, but there is also the possibility that she can help to show the world how free men can live together in harmony regardless of issues like race and colour. It will obviously help her enormously in her independence and many others in the world if she can do that. I should like to add my voice in wishing her well.

5.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

After some of the acrimony which has attended debates on other parts of the Commonwealth, it is pleasant to be able to turn to a matter which is being settled peaceably and amicably and in a bipartisan spirit.

I find myself in almost total agreement with what the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) said in his thoughtful and helpful speech. Naturally, we all wish to give our felicitations to this country coming to independence. We probably feel rather more confident about the future of Mauritius than we were about the future of some of the territories which have become independent in the last few years, notwithstanding the many difficulties ahead of it.

I very much agreed with the hon. Member for Essex, South-East when he touched, albeit delicately and tactfully, on the question whether a community as small as Mauritius, with the economic difficulties which it has, can be a viable economic institution. There is no doubt that we shall have to face this problem in connection with a great many more territories. There is still a remarkably large number of small island communities for which we have responsibility and for whom it will be extremely difficult to decide what is best.

Hon. Members have touched on the cruel dependence of Mauritius on one commodity. That matter hardly needs to be further emphasised. I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) when he intervened in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), but, while we have a right to congratulate ourselves on a great deal of yeoman work done in this territory, as in many other parts of the Commonwealth, we must bear a measure of blame for the fact that there are many territories, of which this is an extreme example, which are overwhelmingly dependent on one product.

It has always struck me, both while I was in the Overseas Civil Service and since, that while we have done a great deal of work in providing law and order, and a great deal of work in other fields of activity—we have brought in the plumber and the doctor and the policeman and we have also provided, through the aegis of the Colonial Forestry Service, an excellent service in providing defence against erosion—I do not think that we can say quite honestly, that the service provided by the Colonial Agricultural Department has been as good as it should have been. Part of the reason why, in Mauritius and elsewhere, the territories concerned are left at independence in this singularly vulnerable state is that there was nothing like enough long-term planning about diversification. Agricultural diversification is obviously one of the most difficult things to accomplish in that there are so many variables, so many factors which the most efficient administration in the world cannot control because of conditions of climate and soil;' and the latter, conditions of soil, can be remedied only after a long period of time. Nevertheless, I feel that we are bound to accept some responsibility for that.

I want to say one other controversial thing. I hope it will not be taken amiss when the report of the debate is read in Mauritius, as, obviously, it will be, but I cannot help wishing that before the decision to opt for independence was taken some consideration had been given to the idea of association with some of the other territories in that part of the world—and I do not necessarily mean British Commonwealth territories. Mauritius, as has more than once been mentioned, is a country with a French culture as much as any other, and it would not have been wholly inappropriate if some move had been made for association with, say, Réunion or Malagasy. Of course, it is by no means impossible that something of that kind will take place in the future after independence is achieved, but I am bound to say that I feel sorry that it was not attempted before.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

The hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that Réunion is a departement of France, will he not?

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

I said, not necessarily territories which are British Commonwealth territories, and Reunion is, as the hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, not yet independent. Malagasy is, and there the task of accomplishing association would be much easier. I understand that there are other thoughts in the minds of the Mauritian Government of, perhaps, association with East Africa, but clearly this is further away. The administrative tasks involved are always formidable in trying to gather up a federation, and this would be difficult, indeed.

I would add my voice of apprehension about the economic future of that country in the light of these misguided negotiations with the Common Market. I am one of the Members on this side of the House who have opposed British entry into the Common Market from the start —indeed, I would say to the finish, because it looks as though it has been finished in everybody's mind except that of the British Government. But the fact is that as long as we try to knock at the door, the longer shall we go on creating apprehension in the minds of these new Governments—in Barbados, Mauritius and the like—who will suffer catastrophically unless we get the kind of terms which everybody in this House knows perfectly well the Common Market countries are not in the least minded to provide.

It is worth remembering that under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement about half the crop brought in £41 per long ton, that of the remaining part, part goes to Canada, but that a great deal has to be sold at barely economic terms at all. If anything happened to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, which has been extended year by year over the last few years, and it were not to be replaced by something of comparable generosity, then the consequences would be absolutely catastrophic for this country. I mention that not only as a plea to my right hon. Friend but as, I hope, another blow against the Common Market itself.

I turn now to one other matter. I cannot refrain entirely from being controversial in this matter. On the question of the defence agreement my right hon. Friend was understandably reticent, and indeed, anybody, unless he has no sense of humour at all, will be extremely reticent on the subject of a defence agreement. I content myself with saying this, that if we are there to pursue, after independence, as we have in some other parts of the world, the farce of trying to continue what I suppose we may call a posthumous imperial military réle, do not let us get ourselves in the position, as we have in Malta and to a lesser extent in Singapore, of having to extricate ourselves, having made the countries concerned that much more dependent on us so that the argument against withdrawal is then pleaded, "We cannot withdraw because it will damage the economy of the country." Everybody in this House knows that that argument was advanced with great force over Malta last year. I only hope that a defence agreement does not come about at all, and that we provide economic assistance in a more reasonable and sensible form.

My final observations are about the constitution. I think it is a pity, in a way, that we have this debate—here again, I agree with an hon. Gentleman opposite—without the final constitution of the new country in front of us. There is no doubt that this is a most important responsibility, because it is the final responsibility which we have to discharge, the provision of a constitution which provides, amongst other things, for safeguards for minority interests. The history of Commonwealth constitution-making over the last 10 years has not been a very happy one, and, indeed, as I have said in debates before, the Commonwealth is littered with paper constitutions which have been torn up by the Governments soon after independence has been granted. I do not suppose for one moment that this sort of thing will happen this time, but I hope that the constitutional safeguards will provide quite seriously for the kind of safeguards which we would expect even, perhaps, at some risk of causing offence to the Government concerned. I do not think there is much risk, because I share the views of hon. Members on both sides that Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam is a man of sufficient political maturity that he is unlikely to be piqued by provisions in a constitution which provide for the rights of opposition.

Constitution making is, of course, to some extent a bluff. If we make it too restrictive, we provoke the Government into tearing it up altogether. There is nothing, of course, that the ex-imperial Power can do about that after independence. If, on the other hand, it is too loose, then, if the Government are so minded, they can negotiate a way round the constitution and rip out the entrenched clauses. I have reason to reflect ruefully on this because I had a small part in the drafting of the Ghana constitution some 10 years ago. I thought that the constitutional safeguards were sufficient, but ingenuity was applied and the entrenched clauses were excised from it with remarkable speed.

What, then, are the points which I think my right hon. Friend should bear in mind? First of all, if there are to be entrenched clauses, then most of the human rights embodied as part of the 1966 constitution should be incorporated in them. Secondly, the appointment and constitution of the Public Service Commission should be treated as being of comparable importance. Thirdly, the Judicial Service Commission obviously must be on a par. Fourthly, I should have thought that careful consideration should be given to the electoral franchise and the constituency arrangements, though in this instance perhaps they are not so important since we are not bedevilled with the problems of a communal electoral division. Next, there should come the status of the Ombudsman, which is at present enshrined in the 1966 Constitution. Finally, if it is intended, as I presume it is, the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council should be included.

That sounds like a formidable list of provisos. I hope that it will not be thought insultingly suspicious if one says that they ought to be included.

I am one of the few hon. Members who regret that this country does not have a written constitution. The least that we can do as a final act is to provide a written constitution for Mauritius. Even though it may provide irritating legal problems from time to time, I am sure that it will be understood that we do it in the best possible spirit.

I wish the Bill well, and I hope that Mauritius will have a long and happy future as an independent country,

6.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ian MacArthur Mr Ian MacArthur , Perth and East Perthshire

I join with all other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have welcomed the Bill and expressed their good wishes for the future to the people of Mauritius, but I am very glad that the debate has not glossed over the challenges and problems which lie ahead of the island.

I suppose that the greatest challenge is that of the multi-racial society which now makes up the population of the island— a society, as hon. Members have said, which grows so fast from year to year. I hope that there is an opportunity in that challenge, and the opportunity for Mauritius is to provide a model of racial tolerance and harmony for the rest of the Commonwealth and the world to follow.

The problems are there, too. Undoubtedly the greatest of them is the economy, and one wonders how Mauritius will fare, dependent as the island is on the sugar crop. Hon. Members have reminded us that the sugar crop is particularly vulnerable to world conditions. It is vulnerable in Mauritius to local conditions, too. The climate of the island which, in one way, is one of its charms, in another way can threaten the whole crop for a year with the occurrence of a single cyclone, as has happened in the past.

I hope that the Minister of State will be able to answer some of the questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) about the nature of the economic aid to the island in the years ahead. I recognise that there are difficulties about being precise at this stage, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be in a position to make some reference to it. I want to underline the importance of the questions about citizenship which were raised by my hon. Friend when he opened from the Opposition Front Bench. I should say at once that my cry of "Oh" was an exclamation of emphasis and agreement and not one of discord or doubt about what he was saying. I am very concerned about the inclusion of subsection (5) in Clause 3, which has the effect of making a most important and significant qualification to the meaning of the word "colony" in Clause 3(l,a). If one reads that part of the Clause in isolation, it appears to be fair and reasonable. However, when one comes to subsection (5), a shock is ad- ministered because one finds that the one colony not covered by subsection (1,a) is Mauritius itself. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will explain precisely what is to be the position after the appointed day of those citizens of the island whose roots are deeply planted in the soil of the island. I have in mind particularly the Mauritians of French descent, whom I know well, but I include the people of other races who share with the French Mauritians a long heritage of life in the island, with many generations before them. It would be monstrous if the effects of this Clause were to treat them less generously than those who have come more recently to make their homes in the island.

I would remind the House that this is not simply the ending of a chapter of 150 years, though that is an elegant phrase from which I do not dissent. There are many families in Mauritius whose forefathers have been in the island for 150 years and more, who brought with them from France their language, culture and traditions and who have become some of the most loyal subjects of the Crown.

The House will remember, too, the enormous contribution which these people have made to the defence of freedom in the world, and particularly the gallant record of the Mauritians during the last war. One has only to look at the record of operations of the S.O.E. to see the long list of Mauritians who sacrificed their health if not their lives in the service of this country. I trust that these fine people and these close friends of ours over so many years will not be treated harshly by the terms of the Clause.

Unlike other hon. Members who have spoken, I have not been to Mauritius. I have many Mauritians among my family and friends, and I am proud of that. My link with the island is now distant in time, but it is close in affection, and I, too, wish the people of Mauritius every happiness and prosperity in their new independence within the Commonwealth.

6.7 p.m.

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

I, too, would like to join hon. Members who have welcomed the Bill. It is perhaps one of the last of a long series of similar pieces of legislation which have given independence to countries that previously were Colonies of Britain.

However, I do not entirely share the self-congratulatory feelings which some hon. Gentlemen have expressed, and it is interesting to note that the quotation from Sir John Pope Hennessy that Mauritius should be for the Mauritians was first said some 80 years ago. That is a very long time, but it gives us all pleasure that, at long last, the time has elapsed and Mauritius will be for the Mauritians.

It is a beautiful island and a very small and isolated one. Like the hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt), I had the pleasure of being part of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Group which visited the island last year. If for no other reason, I am bound to express good wishes to a new State which has we wisdom to choose a medical practitioner as its Prime Minister and another as its High Commissioner in London.

What I want to do in the few minutes for which I intend to speak is not to enlarge upon the hospitable and friendly nature of the people or the country, but to outline the three key aspects about which the new State will face real problems, and to outline some of the steps which we should be taking to try to help. These three aspects are: first, the problem of over-population; secondly, the problems that inevitably result from the racial kaleidoscope that this island represents; and, thirdly, the problem of an economy that is almost totally dependent on one crop—sugar.

Over-population has been touched on by many hon. Members. The population of this island haw now risen to some 750,000 and, with a density of population of about 1,000 to the square mile, it must be the most densely populated agricultural State in the whole world. The problem is exascerbated by the rapid increase in population. The increase mentioned was about 3 per cent, per year. The birth rate is about five times the death rate, so the population is rising very rapidly indeed.

We have in this racial kaleidoscope people of differing races and colours, people of differing origins, people whose ancestry goes back to the Asian countries of India and China, and people whose ancestry goes back to the European countries of England and France. There are many, of course, whose ancestry is linked with the nearer nations of the African sub-continent. Most of these people and their ancestors have lived for decades—in some cases for centuries— on the island. We should remind ourselves that Mauritius is one of the few parts of the world where one cannot talk of immigrants, because, before its discovery, it was totally unpopulated by the human race.

Together with the problems arising from this kaleidoscope of race, there are the different languages that have been mentioned and the differing religions that are inseparable from a community with such complex origins. For some considerable time it looked all too often as though the political differences in the community were becoming too closely identified with some of these racial and religious differences. One of the features of Mauritian politics—and this shows a most encouraging sense of maturity for such a new nation—is that over the last few years this tendency to identify race, origin and language with a political position is gradually being lost. One is seeing a most encouraging spread of political parties between the various racial groups.

The problems of the economy are linked primarily to this one single crop, sugar, which at the moment represents about 96 per cent, of the island's exports. This crop virtually covers the whole of the arable land. Despite efforts to diversify agriculture, by the introduction of tea and tobacco, the combination of climatic conditions, the type of soil and the risk of cyclones every few years, means that it is exceedingly difficult to introduce other crops that have the same assurance of profitability that sugar has had in recent years.

The economy of the island faces a difficult and critical time, not only because of uncertainty about the future of sugar, but also because of the fall in the price of world sugar over the last few years. This is affecting the whole economy. It has resulted in a tragically high rate of unemployment which has given rise in the fairly recent past to civil disorders in one or two places. The tragically high rate of unemployment is all the more serious, because this is a community of high educational standards. Compared with Afro-Asian standards, they are the highest in this part of the world.

Our responsibilities are real not only from the colonial link, the link of history, or, as has been said, because a certain proportion of the wealth and affluence that we enjoy has derived from exploitation in years gone by of countries like this, but also because we see in this small island a microscosm of so many of the problems that we are facing throughout the world. I suggest that there is no other one place in the world where so many of these problems are concentrated together. When one considers it, there is strong reason to regard Mauritius in some ways almost as a laboratory for the rest of the world in solving some of the most difficult problems which will face us in years to come.

We have seriously to consider the question of population control by one means or another. This difficult problem, inseparable from family planning, is for the Mauritians to solve, but they need all the help, encouragement, aid and assistance that we can give them. Do not let us delude ourselves. Over half the community is now aged under 20, and if we were able overnight to introduce most effective methods of population control, it would still go up very rapidly.

This makes one think of the question of emigration from the island. This is not the time or the place—indeed, I would be ruled out of order—to discuss the Commonwealth Immigrants Act at any length, but the problems of Mauritius show some of the adverse effects of this legislation. They are particularly marked in Mauritius, because Mauritius was late in the queue of countries from whence immigrants came to us in large numbers. Its quota is very low. This is a pity, because Mauritians are far more readily absorbed into our community than are the large numbers of immigrants who have come to us from many other countries. One hopes that it will be possible for some of these Mauritians of ability, with training and qualifications, who want to go places, to use their qualifications to find places to which they can go.

I have mentioned the racial problem. Despite the encouraging tendencies for changes in the political parties, despite the increasing understanding of racial and linked problems in the island, this is still a difficult situation. It is still fragile, almost brittle, and it would take little for explosions to occur. I support hon. Members on both sides of the House who did all they could to advise restraint to all those involved in these spheres on the island.

Concerning the economy, I think that perhaps we could look further into tropical agriculture to see if there are solutions to the one crop economy, of which this island is probably the most classic example in the world. One would like to see agricultural diversification, and development of the fishing industry. We should realise that if we and the other countries traditionally linked with Mauritius are not prepared to play any part in this, Japan certainly will play a very big part in it. It would be a pity if we were not able to share in the development of deep sea fishing in this part of the Indian Ocean.

The tourist industry has a real future. Mauritius is a beautiful place and I see no reason why tourists, if they go, as they do, to the West Indian Islands from Britain and North America, should not go in equal numbers to Mauritius in the not too distant future.

Mauritius is an island of high standards. Although we may regard it as a developing nation, it is not comparable in most senses to other colonies that have gained independence in recent years. It has high standards, particularly in education. By Afro-Asian standards it compares remarkably well. It is possible to envisage a time when this little island, situated in the sea between Africa and Asia, could become a catalyst, a leader of example to the many nations of Africa and Asia that face the economic and racial problems that I have outlined. In Mauritius we find the cultures of Asia, Africa and Europe and the peoples of those three Continents blended together.

This Bill will not only forge a link between two independent sovereign States, but its passage through the House of Commons will give us an opportunity of wishing well to the Government of Mauritius and all the people of this island.

6.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

Before I go any further, I would like to express the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), who, as the House will remember, with some distinction led a Parliamentary delegation to Mauritius in 1963. He has asked me to say that he has unavoidably been drawn away by a family bereavement, otherwise he would have been here to express his good wishes to the country on the new road on which it has embarked.

Probably the only contention which has been raised during the debate is whether the British Government were fair in the past in leaving the country entirely on what has been described as a monoculture basis. Several hon. Gentlemen opposite referred to the fact that possibly we were responsible for not trying to diversify an agricultural economy more than we did. The answer is simply that not only are the climatic conditions supreme for the country's main crop, but that even if one can find something else which will grow in this volcanic and peculiar climate, one has to find a market for it, and Mauritius is thousands of miles from any mass markets. Before the war refrigerator ships were few and far between, and it was only sugar—and one or two specialised crops of that nature— which could be transported in bulk with a certain amount of economy.

The last time that I had the pleasure of being in Mauritius was earlier this year. I had the privilege, too, of getting to know Dr. Ramgoolam, the Prime Minister. Both he and Mr. Duval fought a very fair election, and, having fought it, are playing the result even more fairly. I feel that in Dr. Ramgoolam Mauritius has a sound, steady and experienced leader, He is, after all, implementing one of his election promises. One of his platform promises during the recent election was that if his party were elected to office he would seek early independence within the Commonwealth. This is the democratic way in which things work in our Commonwealth. He is now seeking that independence, and we must wish him good luck.

In opening the debate, the Minister referred to the amount of economic aid which had been agreed for Mauritius for 1967–68. He referred also to the fact that we initially started giving economic aid to this country in 1965. It is worth drawing the attention of the House to the fact that this tiny island, grossly over-populated though it is, succeeded in paying its way until 1965. It is not a question of not having given aid before then. The country never even asked for it. I think that the example of the Mauritians in endeavouring to plough their independent furrow is worthy of recognition by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

The fact that they have been able to carry on in such a noble way has been due almost entirely to the protection afforded by the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. When I was there a few months ago, I learned that 98 per cent, of the island's economy is still dependent on sugar. I learned, too, of the efforts which have been made in recent years to diversify the economy. Today, they are trying to grow sunflower seeds and potatoes, and they have a small, but thriving and hopeful tea industry. But these things take time. It is not just a question of growing something. A market has to be found for it, and when I was there I learned from the highest authority that the estimate of the time needed for adequate diversification of the economy is 40 years, which is a considerable time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) referred to the population explosion on the island. This is a problem, and perhaps it can be rather graphically described by saying that half the population is under the age of 20. The country is desperately short of land, and the people there are pioneers in their attempts to help themselves. They are pioneers in the unique method of cultivating sugar, whereby, between the rows of sugar cane, so desperately short of land are they, they plant another crop. This is called inter-row cultivation, and they take this crop off at the right time of the year before the surrounding sugar cane comes up to engulf it. They are doing this quite successfully with sunflowers, from which they can extract sunflower oil.

When I was there I saw, too, how volcanic hillsides were being transformed by the use of heavy caterpillar bulldozers, to extract, after months of hard work, an acre or two of real volcanic soil. Between the high piles of boulders, between 15 and 20 feet high, they plant two or three extra rows of sugar cane, and think that many months of hard labour have been worthwhile. Mauritius is making great efforts to help itself, and I know that the House will wish her well en her new course.

It would not be right to sit down without paying a small tribute, perhaps a personal one, in which I think the House will join me, to the way in which the Governor, His Excellency Sir John Rennie, has maintained delicate and skilful control of a tricky situation during the past few years. Sir John has been in a very difficult position, as indeed any Governor must be at this time and state of any new nation, and to him we owe a vote of thanks.

Good wishes can be voiced by hon. Members on either side of the House, and by both Front Benches, without any obligation or any cost. There is one tiling that I know Mauritius would like us to do for her. If we are going to do anything that means something for Mauritius, we ought to give her a firm undertaking in relation to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. This is absolutely vital to the country, and I deeply regret that this year, for the first time, it was not extended for another year to 1975.

The Commonwealth Sugar Agreement works on an eight-year cycle. Because a sugar cane plant enjoys an eight-year cycle, it is essential to have a guaranteed market eight years ahead, and this year, for the first time, due to the approaches made to the Common Market, we were unable to give the negotiating countries at the Conference held in London recently, a guarantee for 1975. If we really want to help Mauritius, let us renew in perpetuity an Agreement which is valuable not only for Mauritius, but for those in the United Kingdom who consume, and enjoy, sugar.

6.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

I warmly welcome the Bill and join other right hon. and hon. Members in expressing good wishes to the Legislative Assembly and the people of Mauritius for their future. We have ties of history, sentiment and mutual interest with the people of Mauritius. Happily, these links will continue and prosper, since we have the expectation of working very closely with the people of Mauritius in the Commonwealth. Some of us sometimes forget that there are about 87 branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association throughout the world.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) emphasised, we have a great deal of which to be proud, in that over the past 20 years we have decolonised more than 700 million people. It might be noticed in this debate that our failures have received far more publicity than the much larger number of our successes. As anyone who has visited any overseas branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association knows, Bills similar to this have been carried through in the past by the people who have won their independence, and this reflects very well on the policies of successive Governments since the war.

I am very glad that the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) emphasised the importance for Mauritius of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. I was with the hon. Gentleman when we were told that diversifying its economy fully would take 40 years. I was also told by a very eminent authority that the decline of the negotiated price quota under that Agreement is of crucial importance to the whole development of Mauritius and that its removal would cause disruptions "too disastrous even to be worth detailed analysis".

Other statements, no less alarming, have also been made. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, who has a most distinguished record in helping the poorer Commonwealth countries, has spoken of the disaster, economically, socially and politically, which would ensue were we to cancel or even phase out the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.

There is an illusion that we could enter the European Economic Community and guarantee the protection of places like Mauritius which are dependent on the Agreement. It is argued that Mauritius may be given associated overseas territory status. Under the Yaounde Convention, sugar is presently excluded from the schedule of commodities covered by the E.E.C.'s Convention of Association, so for Mauritius to have associate membership of the E.E.C. would in no way help it in its problem.

Reference has been made to the fact that Mauritius is almost entirely dependent upon one crop, and we all appreciate the reasons for this. The most important is its latitude and the fact that it is subjected to the cyclone. Sugar is one of the few crops which can withstand the cyclone, at least to some extent.

The six members of the E.E.C. are all producers of beet sugar. The sugar regime of the E.E.C. which will come into operation in July 1968 has now been determined. Great fear was expressed to me in Mauritius that the E.E.C. is now a net exporter of sugar. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister for State will express his deep concern about this. Joseph Conrad was right to say that sugar is the daily bread of the people of Mauritius. It is a very poor country.

I was greatly impressed while I was there with the friendship of the people to visitors and their desire to make their country a going concern after independence, but I hope that it will not be forgotten that there would be a certain immorality in giving them freedom but at the same time denying them the possibility of thriving in circumstances of freedom.

If there is any question of phasing out the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement because of our application to join the Common Market, this would be a serious possible threat to the people of Mauritius. The Prime Minister has said that he regards it as his bounden duty to protect the interests of the poorer Commonwealth countries in this matter, and I hope that all parties and all hon. Members will join me in emphasising our determination that we shall not seek what some would regard as our economic advantage to the detriment of the poorer countries of the Commonwealth. I warmly welcome the Bill.

6.37 p.m.

Photo of Dr David Kerr Dr David Kerr , Wandsworth Central

This debate has been characterised by a charming friendliness and consensus on both sides and by commendably brief oratory. This is therefore unique in many respects, which is highly proper in dealing with a case like Mauritius. I have no intention of spoiling a splendid record, but I cannot forbear paying a few tributes. No one has paid a tribute yet to the Commonwealth Office. I refer not to the Ministers, who inevitably and invariably do a good job, but to the people in the Department who have for many months faced difficulties in Mauritius and whose handling of its problems we should heed.

My right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary was kind enough to say some nice things about the two hon. Members, of whom I was one, who were in the team which recently observed the Mauritius elections. I am grateful, but I want to emphasise one aspect of the fact that a Commonwealth observer team was sent there. I am a devotee of the Commonwealth, but on the day that the six of us came together to go to Mauritius, and from then on, the Commonwealth was made a new and live reality for me.

I must emphasise the extraordinary improbability of bringing together from the most scattered parts of the earth-Trinidad, India, Canada, Britain and Malta—six men who have never met before and then setting them a task which certainly three of us had never embarked upon before, and then getting the result from us all working together, imbued with this same spirit of service to the Commonwealth. This should not be overlooked. I want to emphasise how happy if hard-worked those few weeks with my overseas colleagues were.

I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) and, I am sure, others to say how pleasant it has been to have Dr. and Mrs. Teelock with us here in London. They rightly enjoy the esteem and affection of hon. Members, and it is a matter of great regret that, perhaps, the excitement of approaching independence has led to a recent illness which has deprived us of happy communications with Dr. Teelock. We look forward to his being translated from a limbo existence as a sort of High Commissioner for a territory which has no right to one to a real High Commissioner in the next few months.

The recent election in Mauritius was a testimony to its political maturity, and I hope that when the constitution is discussed and agreed upon some heed will be paid to the minor comments of the observer team about the shortcomings of the electoral system which we thought we saw. These were minor shortcomings which did not in any way modify the reality of the vote, which was very striking.

There is a lesson for us to learn in respect of the way in which the election campaigns were run in Mauritius. It would be quite something if one could win elections on the basis of the quality of one's campaign. The campaign conducted by the defeated Opposition in Mauritius was remarkable for its imagination. It was remarkable not merely in terms of the money expended, but for the energy and electoral skill which was deployed—in contrast to the campaign conducted by the Independence Party, which was elected, which organised a thorough-going, honest, forthright and energetic campaign, but which lacked that spark of what one can only describe as the joyousness which was true of the cither side. Nevertheless, the Independence Party won a victory of dimensions which surprised not only that party but some observers who know the country well.

One must ask not only why this happened, but a number of questions on other aspects of the country's internal politics which have not been mentioned today. The Indian population of Mauritius, about 60 per cent., differs enormously from the Indian population of other African countries. They were brought to Mauritius following the abolition of the slave trade as indentured labourers. The distinction, as it turned out, was a legalistic one which made little difference to the kind of squalid existence which was imposed on these Indian labourers until recent times. So recent was this that today many Indians in Mauritius have genuine memories of being treated in no way different from the worst kind of treatment received by slaves on American sugar plantations. Their attitude towards imperialism, colonialism and, indeed—I must admit this—to people with white skins, underlies a great deal of the thinking of Mauritians today.

I do not mean to convey the impression that there is constant hostility. Indeed, one of the humbling things which we should face is the foregiveness which the people of Africa and elsewhere are prepared to adopt towards us for the sins of the past. There is no doubt, however, that politically, this resentment at the most recent ill-treatment which they received underlies the demand for independence—the need to feel that the people of Mauritius are free to determine their future, untrammelled by the interference of those whose grandparents and great grandparents interfered in an unforgiveable and inhuman way.

There exists a hostility there to the French. When the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Mac-Arthur) talked about the need to preserve the ancient historical traditions of the French, I wanted to assure him that my concern is much more to preserve the ancient and historical traditions and culture of the Indians, the Chinese and of the general population of Mauritius. The French have shown themselves well able to take care of themselves—so well, indeed, that when reference was made to our failure to develop an economy with a multiplicity of resources, I could not help but feel that the responsibility for that should be laid not at the feet of any British Government but, rather, at the feet of the French planters who have been determined to maintain this highly profitable cropping system. The difficulty is that people who want to diversify the crops are obstructed because such large tracts of land are owned by the French planters that the introduction of alternative crops on an economic basis cannot be undertaken on relatively small areas of land.

A number of hon. Members have referred to the fact that sugar is the one crop that is suitable, that exists and that is the whole basis of the Mauritian economy. I cannot help feeling that, as we identify the problem, we grope towards a solution. We are infants in this matter. We may be brilliant economists —though I suggest that no hon. Member who has spoken today is a brilliant economist—but Mauritius has had the benefit of some of these gentlemen, including Professor Meade of Cambridge and agricultural economists sent by the United Nations.

The fact remains that none of them are able to come up with an answer to this one-crop economy problem. Of course, if someone could devise a method of converting volcanic rock into face powder, cement or building material, this might be a solution because volcanic rock is about the only natural resource Mauritius has had since the last dodo was destroyed a hundred years ago or more. Mauritius has an unwelcome sort of habitat and, in some respects, an unwelcoming climate. It rains a great deal, and when it rains it makes a wet weekend in Manchester look quite attractive.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) referred hopefully to the tourist trade, I agreed with him in a way. A sunny day in Mauritius, as against a wet day there, is like living in a travel brochure presented by B.O.A.C. It is wonderful. I appreciate, too, that British catering interests have begun to show increasing attention in the potential of Mauritius, but this is not something that will develop rapidly—say, over the next five or even 10 years—because the problems of building in Mauritius and of obtaining adequate sites for catering and so on are extremely great.

We are, therefore, thrown back to the other problem which has run like a thread through today's debate; the problem of over-population. This dilemma is not unique in Mauritius. It is worldwide, although it is unique, as my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne pointed out, in terms of the youth of the present population.

My hon. Friend did not identify the problems of promoting an adequate family planning and birth control system. When in Mauritius a couple of months ago, I took the opportunity to look at the country's family planning programme. The people there had the benefit of active, thoughtful and competent family planning advice from an adviser who had gone out from Britain. While I was there Professor de Silva arrived from Ceylon. He had been brought in under the auspices of U.N.E.S.C.O. and the International Planned Parenthood Federation to advise on this programme.

However, working in the field, the difficulties of getting wives to accept a limitation of family has nothing to do with the aesthetic attractions of using a birth control appliance. It has a great deal to do with the cultural need of a community to have large families. It is a recognition, which is felt by many primitive peoples, that the only way to accumulate capital is to have children, and lots of them. It is felt that children are necessary to preserve the race and because the death rate among children is so high. This underlies a great deal of the reason why people in Mauritius and elsewhere resist the idea of controlling the number of children they have.

Even a woman with seven or eight children is anxious to have more and often such women cannot be persuaded that to have more would be bad for those she already has. Religion does not come into this. I am referring to Hindu women and not Catholics. The Catholic population in Mauritius is participating in the family planning programme and, on the basis of projected estimates, it is thought that a dent will be made in this population explosion within a measurable time; say, within five years.

We are, then, faced with the problem of food supplies in a country with a rapidly rising population. This is, of course, allied to the problem of family planning in the sense that the people of Mauritius are rice eating and that Mauritius is a place where rice cannot be grown, however hard one tries. It is as much a problem of changing people's food habits as it is of changing their family habits.

These are the sort of problems which face all concerned in Mauritius, and they are not easily solved. They have not been answered either in this debate or by people outside. Is independence the right answer to these problems?

There is no right answer to the problems of Mauritius. Independence is right because the peoples of Mauritius have voted it right. That is the only relevance of independence to the situation which faces Mauritius today. The responsibility of the new Government is immense. My right hon. Friend, when introducing this Bill, recalled that the Prime Minister is known affectionately throughout the island as Ram. He is also known as Cha-Cha, which, I understand, means Uncle. His avuncular attitude extends not only to his party but to Mr. Gaetan Duval, who is now leader of the Opposition but was once a member of his Government and his party. Between these two, there is a very great bond of friendship.

I am anxious that the conflict between the slave labour of yesterday and the French planter tyranny of yesterday should now pass and the Government should proceed with all speed to a constructive; attitude by bringing in as much aid as possible to the island. It badly needs that aid. My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne referred to high educational standards. This brings out the difference in Mauritius from many other countries. It does not reed administrative aid; it has all the administrators and more than it can make use of, but it needs technical aid.

I hope that I do not introduce an unnecessary note of criticism. In the north of the island, near the most beautiful gardens of Pamplemousse, a new hospital is being built. It is a most expensive hospital. This seems to be the thing for developing countries just because a hospital is the thing to have. I also saw the hospital in Port Louis. It has inadequate drains and kitchens and poor resources. First-class medical and nursing staff, doctors with higher qualifications from London and Glasgow are doing remarkably good work there, yet money is being spent on a new hospital in the north of the island. This is a mistake. Many problems could be better solved without a new hospital being brought into being in that part of the world. It is not administration that we should send to Mauritius, but technical aid. Doctors complain about how cut-off they feel. When a visiting professor goes from Britain to Kenya he does not hop over to Mauritius. He should do so because they need that kind of contact.

I endorse what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) about defence aid. I do not go with him all the way. It is reasonable that an island which seeks and asks for aid should certainly expect to get it from Britain. I go with him all the way in urging that we should not use pressure on Mauritians to accept from us a defence agreement, which seems to be a growing likelihood now that we have abandoned Aldabra and are thinking of pulling out of Singapore. The possibility of a defence agreement being, not exactly imposed on Mauritius but being asked of Mauritians is, I think, a reality. I urge that we should not make that mistake.

One of the great facts about Mauritius which has not been mentioned this after- noon is its remoteness. Even during the last war when Mauritius was virtually indefensible I am told people on the island were in constant daily dread of attack by Japanese submarines, but it was never taken over by the Japanese. Its remoteness underlies some of its more economic problems. It underlies the tourist problem because one would have great difficulty to persuade people to go over long ocean wastes even to a delightful tropical paradise. Let us not make the mistake of creating a new Malta situation whereby H.M.S. "Mauritius"— our present establishment there—is built up into a new defence establishment in the Indian Ocean from which perhaps we might want to withdraw in ten years or so leaving the Mauritians with a still more unbalanced economy. We must be honest about the kind of corruption which a defence agreement can carry with it economic as well as social. I hope that we shall spare Mauritius the pain of that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading also referred to association status. This was never an issue except that of association with Britain which was a fighting plank for the Opposition party. That party wanted association with Britain as an alternative to independence. I have grave misgivings—again on grounds of remoteness—about possibilities of a fruitful federation with any neighbouring territory. The island of Rodrigues is two steamer days away from Mauritius and is part of the administration of the island. This has thrown into relief the administration problem which would face Mauritius if it tried to federate with Reunion, which is politically possible, or even with Malagasy.

I have dwelt at some little length on the problems of Mauritius and I have done so with the utmost sympathy and deepest concern for an island which, despite all the rain, I learned to love within a matter of two or three days. It is an enchanted island not least for the warm hospitality, the almost literally overwhelming hospitality, of the people there and the exquisite charm of the children. They seem to derive their charms from so many different races and are the final answer to racialists who advocate apartheid. It is a very garden of children and it was a source of great delight to me.

Like others, I welcome this Bill, not because it solves the problems of Mauritius, but because it gives Mauritius a chance to start solving her own problems and making her own mistakes in her own way. So long as I have the privilege of remaining in this House, with hon. Members who sit on either side of the House, Mauritius will be certain of having advocates of aid and friendship for the island.

6.58 p.m.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

The number and warmth of the speeches made from both sides of the House this afternoon will demonstrate, I hope very clearly, to the people of Mauritius in what affection they are held by hon. Members in all parts of the House. Some of the speeches have expressed underlying anxieties. I do not think we could be considered true friends of Mauritius unless we expressed those anxieties. Part of the anxieties are as a result of the racial composition of Mauritius and others derive from her economic condition. We hope that these problems will lessen with the coming of independence, but we have certain doubts.

It is right to express anxiety about these dangers which could lie ahead for Mauritius as it moves to independence. Mauritius is one of the most multiracial societies in the world. This was said by the Secretary of State at the beginning of the debate. It was repeated by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson), and my hon. Friends the hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt) and the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon). One of the dangers of a multiracial society which has been illustrated in so many other parts of the world in and out of the Commonwealth is the particular stresses set up when racialism gets involved in politics.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), who was present earlier but who has had to leave the Chamber, asked the Secretary of State what was the composition of the Parliament in Mauritius after the 1967 General Election. The composition is, I believe, 39 in the Government and 23 in the Opposition. What is perhaps more significant is that the percentage of votes cast was 54 per cent, for the Government and 43 per cent, for the Opposition. What is worrying is that these votes were cast on racial lines. This is always a potential danger for the future. As has been said, now that the political battle is over, the races have settled down to their usual friendly relations in Mauritius, and we hope this racial division will not occur again.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Just to prevent any misunderstanding on either side of the House about the balance of parties in the Mauritian Assembly, my figures are different from those given by the hon. Gentleman. I believe that the correct figures are 43 and 27.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

I thank the Secretary of State for that correction. Obviously his figures are more likely to be correct than mine. I think that he will agree, however, with the point I made, that the percentages of votes were not, as often happens in Britain and in other countries, clearly represented in the number of seats gained by the two parties and that there was to some extent a racial division.

The fact that race relations in Mauritius have been so good is due largely to the personality of the Prime Minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, to whom so many tributes have been paid today. He is a man who has always set a splendid example of moderation and friendliness. I do not think that a Conservative could pay a higher tribute to a leader of a Labour Party. He is a friend of longstanding, and Mauritius and her people owe him very much indeed.

I want also to join in the tribute which has been paid from both sides to his representative in this country, Dr. Tee-lock and his charming wife. We are very glad indeed to learn that he has now recovered from his very serious illness and we hope that he will be with us for a long time representing his country as a sovereign independent member of the Commonwealth.

Returning to the racial composition of Mauritius, it must be borne in mind that these strains could be increased by independence. This is why we on this side attach great importance to the minority safeguards which are laid down in Annex E of the White Paper published after the 1965 Constitutional Conference, Cmnd. 2797.

I would like here to pay tribute to the oldest and, excepting the British, the smallest community in Mauritius. I refer to the Franco-Mauritian section of the population. They showed great wisdom in sinking their identity in the general population. They are not represented in any way politically as a separate section or as a racial section of the population. They come under the heading of general population. They have done much for their country in the past. Even though they are very small in numbers, I believe that they have a very important part to play, both politically and certainly economically in the future of the Island and of her people. Here I think that I would share the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) rather than the views of the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr).

As has been said, Mauritius can set an excellent example to the Commonwealth and to the world in harmonious race relations. This will be much easier provided that all of her people of all races can have a reasonable standard of living, because with a low standard of living racial tensions tend to increase. I therefore think, as has been said in so many speeches this afternoon, that the basic problem of Mauritius is economic.

Mauritius has an increasing population, as the Secretary of State said. It has doubled in the last 25 years. This population is naturally demanding increasing standards that are common in the world today. On the other side of the ledger, the islands is dependent virtually wholly on sugar. Sugar represents 98 per cent, of the value of the whole of her export trade. This obviously renders her economy pretty perilous in the future should anything go wrong with the price of sugar.

Getting down to some concrete questions about economic facts in Mauritius, she received for the first time this year budget support from the British Government of, I believe, £2·8 million in all. I understand that the reason for the budget deficit was threefold. The first reason was that the world sugar price has decreased. As has been pointed out, 38 per cent, of Mauritian sugar is sold at world prices—I think £24 a long ton now —and only the balance—admittedly the majority, but not the total crop—under the provisions of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. As world prices have decreased, so has Mauritius's receipts. I would add that I hope that the Government of Mauritius will not try to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. I know that there was anxiety about the additional 5 per cent, capital tax recently imposed on the sugar industry. Obviously it is fair to do this up to a point, but it is not wise, as I hope that we have learned in this country, to over-tax industry. The wrong economic results are produced if this is done and the whole country suffers.

The second reason seems to me to be the continuation of the rice subsidy for quite a long period. Will that subsidy continue or has it now ended?

The third reason was that in 1966 –67 no less than £½million was spent on relief works. This was probably necessary, and I do not question it. What I am asking the Minister of State is: is this rather large sum for relief works likely to continue into the future when Mauritius becomes independent and therefore largely responsible for her own economic development?

The Secretary of State has said that early next year there will be further financial discussions, presumably on budgetary support for 1968–69. I imagine that he can confirm that these will be held before independence, which is fixed for March? I take it the talks will take place before Mauritius actually becomes independent.

Quite apart from budgetary support, there is the whole question of development support, on which the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) made important points. He said that tourism must be developed. I understand that Mauritius is now the only stop on the Southern Indian Ocean air route from the Continent of Africa to the Continent of Australia. Therefore, if she has good hotel accommodation and all the other things that go with a developed tourist industry, she should be able to attract quite a large number of visitors, quite apart from a fair number of charter flights now going to Mauritius from both Britain and France.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West mentioned the future of the fishing industry. Mauritius has had, I think, some rather unfortunate experiences in the past over fishing. It has started off fairly satisfactorily and then something has gone wrong. The Japanese are now forming a consortium with the Mauritians. I hope that this will have real success. Incidentally, I hope that they will also order their ships in this country and make use of the expertise that we have so well developed in ports such as Hull and Grimsby. What is obviously needed is a canning industry to preserve the fish caught by Mauritians so that this can be turned into an export industry.

I hope that the Minister of State will be able to confirm that our development aid as well as our budgetary aid will continue. I presume that Mauritius will receive what has been colloquially called a golden handshake on independence, and I hope that this will not be less than countries of comparable size say—Botswana, Lesotho, or whatever it may be—received, in spite of the unfortunate economic conditions prevailing in this country today.

Mauritius has also received foreign aid in the past—from France, Israel and West Germany—largely for cultural purposes. We hope that this will become development aid once Mauritius becomes independent. However, I hope that the Mauritian Government will not count on this too much, because experience has shown that when a country is a colony it receives quite a lot of money in aid, quite rightly, from the mother country and it expects that when it becomes independent it will receive further help all round. We know that overseas aid is becoming more and more difficult to extract from taxpayers, be it in this country, in the United States, in Western Germany, or elsewhere. Therefore, I do not think that Mauritius should rely too much on this expectation.

I turn rapidly to the subject of defence. I am pleased to see that there is provision for a defence agreement to be signed after independence, which illustrates that no pressure was put on by either partner. I believe that Mauritius is in an extremely important strategic position in the Indian Ocean. H.M.S. "Mauritius" at the moment is a vitally important communications centre for the Royal Navy and for the Royal Air Force. The rights of Britain to maintain H.M.S. "Mauritius ", and certainly staging rights over Plaisance Airfield, are referred to in the White Paper, paragraph 23. The Secretary of State has already confirmed that these will continue as between two equals. If this agreement is made between two equals, it helps the defence of Mauritius as much as it helps the defence of Britain or of the Commonwealth. It is an agreement made between two equals, so I cannot really agree with some of the points made by the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central.

Photo of Dr David Kerr Dr David Kerr , Wandsworth Central

I have in mind that, although Mauritius and Britain may be politically equal after independence, it will be a long time before they are economically equal.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Yes, but the hon. Gentleman will have in mind also that Mauritius will not be able to defend herself for many years, and I am sure that he would not want her to waste money setting up her own navy or armed forces. There is, therefore, mutual benefit to both countries in a defence agreement. Mauritius may be much more important now that we are not going ahead with airstrips on Aldabra. As far as mutual defence is concerned, one wonders where the defence forces are coming from once we have quit Aden and Singapore. The nearest British territory to Mauritius is a very long way away. However, I shall not labour that matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) spoke about the problems of internal security, a matter which causes a little concern. Obviously, there should be discussions and agreement about it, but I think that the Minister of State will agree that the position must be made clear before independence. These things can be dangerous if both sides—I mean not only Governments but the people of both countries—are not absolutely clear on the commitments.

Now, the question of citizenship. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East asked a lot of questions on citizenship, and I imagine that most of them are more suitable for the Committee stage and are not susceptible of immediate answer now. I find the position most complicated for a non-lawyer to understand, so I shall not go into it in detail. I have but two points to put.

First, it seems to me that almost everyone becomes a Mauritian citizen after independence under Clause 3(5). As the Secretary of State said, there are some exceptions under Clause 3(1), and I understand that these people are to be allowed dual nationality. In the past, people in these categories have sometimes been given the option of either British citizenship or the nationality of the newly independent country. The option was generally given when the Government of the new State concerned said that its citizens were not to have dual nationality. I think that this rather forced this country's hand and we had to say, in effect, "All right; you can have our citizenship if you want it".

I imagine that the Mauritius Government do not intend to enact this form of legislation and they will allow certain of their citizens to have dual nationality. I hope that this matter will be gone into carefully and spelt out in Committee because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) said, it causes severe anxiety to certain people. Admittedly, their number is small, but the House should recognise the question as an important one calling for careful discussion.

My other question on citizenship concerns non-residents, those Mauritians who are no longer permanently resident on the island. There are not many, but the number is not negligible. Some have come to live in this country. In their case, I imagine that they can have British nationality under the British Nationality Act, 1964. Some have gone to live in France, some have gone to live in various parts of Africa. Will they be given the option of citizenship, Mauritian or British, or will they be given dual citizenship? This is a matter of importance. I emphasise that I am referring specically to people no longer resident on the island. People whose families have been British su0bjects for generations. Can they maintain that link either by having British citizenship or by having dual nationality?

Some of these people have a further problem. Some have had their passports renewed abroad and certain British Embassies have given them a passport issued "on behalf of the Government of Mauritius". Will that passport be maintained, or will it have to be exchanged for a Mauritian passport or, alternatively, a British passport? Others, perhaps because of clerical error or for some other reason —I do not know—have been given a full British passport on applying to a British Embassy abroad. I imagine that in these cases they will be able to keep it?

Hon. Members on both sides have agreed that the problem of Mauritius is basically economic, an economic problem intensified by the growth of population, the so-called population explosion which is referred to so often. The economic position of Mauritius is the more precarious, as we all know, because it has a virtually one-shot economy based on sugar. No one can control the price of sugar, although, as hon. Members have said, the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement does a great deal in that direction, and is, on that account, vital for the island.

There is, therefore, a precarious future for any country which depends as does Mauritius wholly on one crop, if the price fluctuates at all drastically. On the other hand, Mauritius has certain clear advantages. She has a strong two-party system which has stood the test of time and the test of pretty severe parliamentary political battles. She has an able and respected Prime Minister. I pay my tribute, also, to Mr. Gaetan Duval, the Leader of the Opposition, and, because he has been Leader of the Opposition for only a few years, to his predecessor Mr. Jules Koenig, the man who really built up the present opposition parties. The island has, moreover, the advantage of a Prime Minister who is very well known not only in this country but throughout the Commonwealth. I think that Dr. Ramgoolam is probably better known in other Commonwealth countries than the Prime Minister of any of the other countries of the new Commonwealth. She has the further advantage of a very well organised and directed sugar industry.

In sum, the island's needs are understanding and help from this country, above all, continued economic help and the knowledge that she will have this economic help some years ahead. Mauritius must be able to plan her development programme over a period of years.

Mauritius wants independence. Many of us, I think, believe in the back of our minds that it might have been safer for her to remain associated with this country, perhaps in some such associated status such as is found in the West Indian islands. We must all however salute the courage of the Mauritius Government in taking the risks inherent in going for independence. They want full independence, and the Government have been supported by the people. We shall do all we can to make their independence a success.

In conclusion, I express my personal good wishes as one who knows Mauritius and counts both die Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition as friends of long standing. Hon. and right hon. Members on both sides have made perfectly clear today that they appreciate the problems lying ahead for Mauritius, and they have made clear, also, that they intend to do their best to see that Mauritius can proceed into independence with a happy and prosperous future for all her people.

7.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

It has been my privilege in the post-war years to be present at every independence debate which has taken place. Sometimes, I have had the further privilege of catching Mr. Speaker's eye. Sometimes, I have listened to right hon. and hon. Members who knew the countries concerned so much better than I. But I may fairly say that I have never heard an independence debate in which there has been greater goodwill expressed or a more constructive awareness of the problems concerned. The House has recognised today that we are not shaking off responsibility but are beginning a new era in our relationships with the people of Mauritius.

In opening the debate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State covered a wide field, and it was clear that he spoke for both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) who opened for the Opposition, made—I hope that he will not be embarrassed by a kind word from me—an excellent and constructive contribution to our debate—we have had such contributions from both sides today—and, in the course of it, he addressed many questions to me. It has been manifest throughout that hon. Members with great knowledge of Mauritius are worried by the rapid growth of population there. It is interesting that two of my hon. Friends who spoke, the Members for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) and for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody), are doctors of medicine. The world is in debt to doctors of medicine who have made—not personally, of course—a greater contribution to the population explosion, if I may put it in that way, than anyone else. Medicine, by conquering malaria, has, in a decade, increased the population of Asia and Africa on an enormous scale. When I was in India just a week ago I learned that its population is increasing at the rate of 1 million a month. That means mouths to be fed, personalities to be fostered, minds to be educated, and jobs to be found. Right hon. and hon. Members are right to draw to our attention that the roblem of population is a major one facing the new Administration that will take over in Mauritius. But they will not take over without help and advice in plenty. There has been plenty of advice tonight from both sides of the House.

I have been asked a number of questions, in which the hon. Member for Essex, South-East took the lead, and I shall try to do justice to them. The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) also asked many questions when he wound up for the Opposition. One question concerned help as Mauritius becomes independent. As with other newly independent members of the Commonwealth, we envisage a continuing flow of capital aid and technical assistance to Mauritius, the form of which will be subject to minor adjustment to take account of the island's independent status. Aid for the immediate post-independence period will be discussed in the next few months, and this will be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development. The budgetary support is not, £2·8 million, as the hon. Member for Haltemprice believed. It is only £1·3 million this year.

We accept that difficult problems face the Administration, and that economic diversification will demand a major economic and social effort on their part. One Member said—I think that it may have been my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths)—that it will take 40 years to diversify the economy. Even if it takes 100 years, one must begin somewhere, and the longer die delay in beginning, the longer the attainment of the target will take.

In 1967 –68 Her Majesty's Government are contributing 70 per cent, of the total public sector investment in Mauritius. Our aid is concentrated on those projects which will increase production opportunities, and thus employment, particularly the tea industry, the agricultural development of Rodrigues, the fishing industry and other industries which we help through the Development Bank. Speaking from memory—but it is not very long since the knowledge came to me, I think that £113,000 is being invested in the fishing industry.

On the question of defence, my right hon. Friend made it clear that the draft of the defence agreement is in harmony with the proposals already known to the House. The proposed agreement has been sent to Mauritius and we await their comments. Early next month a small official team will visit Mauritius and will continue discussion on the defence programme.

Considerable anxiety was expressed about immigration and nationality. I shall answer the hon. Member for Haltamprice first. The question of Franco-Mauritians, people who have left Mauritius —

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

I mentioned non-residents, but I did not specify their race. My question would apply to all races.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. Those who have left Mauritius would still be entitled to citizenship of Mauritius under the proposed constitution if they were born there. If they have gone to live in a foreign country and no longer have anything to do with Mauritius, they will be entitled to citizenship of Mauritius if that is where they were born, but they will have no claim on us if they are not living here.

Let us suppose that they go to live in China, if we might choose an unlikely destination. They might be there for 20 years. Because they were born in Mauritius, why should they be entitled to have a passport to come to the United Kingdom? After all, entitlement to British citizenship is not a prize that we give away lightly. It is something to be valued.

I hope to explain to the satisfaction of the House who will be entitled to British citizenship and who will not. Whilst the Bill—[Interruption] I will find it. I have discovered that when the House is in a mood like this time can be taken. I want to do justice to the point, and unless I find a copy of the Bill I will not. The constitution will in general follow proposals set out in the 1965 Report. The Bill sets out in detail the categories of persons who will retain their citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, despite becoming citizens of Mauritius on its attainment of independence.

The hon. Member for Haltemprice and the hon. Member for Essex, South-East, were quite right in saying that it looks as if dual nationality will be acceptable in this case. The constitution will provide for certain categories of persons automatically to become citizens of Mauritius on independence if they were born there or their fathers were born there. Local citizenship law in Mauritius will, however, elaborate the provisions of the independence constitution, in particular providing for the manner in which applications for registration under the provisions of the constitution can be made.

It may be that those who have obtained naturalisation or registration in Mauritius will be automatically counted as citizens of Mauritius, but it may be that they will still have to apply. That is not yet decided. I therefore cannot give a clear definite statement as to whether this will take place, but I can say that the number of people who will be affected, even if they have to claim registration and are not automatically citizens of Mauritius, and who will be able to have entry to this country which is not open to them now because, under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, they hold passports issued by Mauritius and are, therefore, not free to enter Britain except within the terms of the Act, is no more than about 2,000. Perhaps it is wiser for me not to go into the details of that because negotiations are still going on.

Mr. Mac Arthur:

Will the hon. Gentleman elaborate the question of citizenship a little? I understand him to say, in effect, that, under Clause 3, someone whose family has lived in Mauritius for two generations may have dual nationality but that someone whose family has lived in the island for three generations or more will be denied that nationality. My point was that it is those who have lived there a large number of generations who have often been of greater service to the Crown and to Mauritius than those who have arrived more recently.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

It may well be that those whose families have been there a long time will be automatically entitled to Mauritian citizenship. Already, in another part of the world, we have a difficulty in which people who have never seen these shores, who have no more affection for us than the Mace has, are fully entitled to British passports to come here. I do not believe that either side of the House is anxious to increase the number of people who come under that heading.

Clause 3(5) is simply to ensure that, while a connection with the United Kingdom and Colonies, such as specified in subsection (1), should be a ground for saving a person from the loss of United Kingdom citizenship on acquisition of Mauritian citizenship, Mauritius itself should not be included in the United Kingdom and Colonies for this purpose. People whose connection with the United Kingdom and Colonies derives solely from Mauritius ought to be citizens of Mauritius and not of the United Kingdom and Colonies. That, I believe, is in accordance with what the House would wish.

The hon. Member for Haltemprice was good enough to say that, in Committee, we will have an opportunity of going into this matter in greater detail and I take that as a very welcome statement from him—welcome at least tonight.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

With the greatest respect to the Minister of State, I would not wish my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) to let the hon. Gentleman off the hook. There is a vital principle here. All persons, including the people my hon. Friend has in mind, who were born in Mauritius, will automatically be Mauritian citizens and will cease to be United Kingdom citizens. What we are concerned about is that, because no decision has yet been taken as to whether there shall be automatic citizenship for those naturalised in Mauritius or merely a right of registration, some might elect not to become Mauritian citizens. We want to know how many there will be, because it would be wrong in our view to give a preference to people like that who have come to Mauritius to make their homes over those who have lived there for generations.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

There are not more than 2,000 people under that heading. That is what the hon. Member for Haltemprice wanted to know. It ill becomes hon. Members opposite to talk of 2,000 people under that heading when their legacy to us was 250,000 in East Africa who carry British passports who have never been here and many of whom cannot speak English, but who are entitled to come here under the independence constitution negotiated by the last Government. We have to realise that, if hon. Members want to stop these people coming here, then, in Committee, they must put down an Amendment to declare them stateless. We cannot make Mauritius take them if she does not want to. All we can do is take away from them their United Kingdom passports, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has too much compassion in him to want to make 2,000 people stateless, not having a claim on any Government in the world. Of course, it is an involved question.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

hon. Gentleman is most generous in giving way. I would be the last to suggest that any innocent human being should be stateless, but the question can easily be resolved if we know whether, under the constitution, there will be automatic registration. If that were so, the position would be covered. I realise that it may be difficult for the hon. Gentleman to say anything about it tonight, but my sole purpose in raising the issue is to get clarification not only for the House but for the individuals concerned.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I deeply appreciate that, and I hope that, by the time we reach the Committee stage, I shall be in a position to know whether there has been agreement on this question. I am not in a position tonight, as the hon. Gentleman will understand, to be able to give him a categorical assurance. I think that it may well turn out to be the way we hope but I cannot give him an assurance until agreement is firm and definite.

Many other questions have been raised and I will communicate with hon. Members on any matter I have not answered. Suffice it for me to say now that I esteem it a great privilege to be linked with this independence debate. It so happens that, as the House knows, I love being at the Commonwealth Office and I recommend it as a job to any ambitious hon. Member on this side of the House. After that time, I recommend it to anyone.

It is a great Department because it is the Department that touches the lives of people right across the Commonwealth, and tonight, if the House gives a Second Reading to the Bill, as I trust it will, we shall again be touching the lives of many people to whom the House of Commons is a sacred and honoured name. I hope that the House will, without further delay, give a Second Reading to this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

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

Committee Tomorrow.