– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th December 1973.
I beg to move,
That the Grenada Termination of Association Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 22nd November, be approved.
The order will be made under Section 10(2) of the West Indies Act 1967. It will terminate the status of association of Grenada with the United Kingdom. Grenada will then be an independent sovereign State. It is proposed that the order should come into effect on 7th February 1974. The Act requires that any order made under this section must be laid in draft before Parliament and approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
Grenada is the first of the associated States to propose to move to complete independence. I believe that the House will wish the Government and people of Grenada well at this important moment in their history.
As this is the first of the associated States to move towards complete independence it is perhaps right that I should underline the fact that the constitutional position of Grenada is not that of a normal dependent territory advancing towards independence. She already has full internal self-government, covering every aspect of her internal affairs. Our responsibility is confined to the fields of defence and foreign affairs. This has been the constitutional position since 1967 when Grenada became an associated State as defined in the West Indies Act 1967.
In moving the Second Reading of the West Indies Bill on 31st January 1967 the then Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs said that its purpose was to give effect to the conclusions of conferences held with certain Caribbean countries which decided
that the present colonial relationship with Britain should cease, and should be replaced by a new pattern of association with us. This would be free and voluntary; it could be
ended by either country at any time, and under it the associated State would be fully self-governing in all its internal affairs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January 1967; Vol. 740, c. 335.]
Each associated State was given the power to terminate association with Britain unilaterally in two ways, either in association with another Caribbean Commonwealth country by a vote of two-thirds of the elected members of the legislature, or, alternatively, on its own, unilaterally, by a similar vote followed by a two-thirds majority in a referendum. This is the procedure provided for in Section 10(1) of the West Indies Act 1967.
Her Majesty's Government were also empowered to terminate association, but they undertook not to do so unilaterally without giving six months' notice of their intention. The whole intention of that Act was that it should become easier for an associated State to achieve independence. It could achieve independence unilaterally, Her Majesty's Government could give independence by acting unilaterally, or an associated State could move to independence by mutual agreement, for it was not intended that Her Majesty's Government should be inhibited from using their powers to grant independence in circumstances in which they would regard it as proper to grant independence to a colony.
Those circumstances are well known to the House—that the Government of a colony should request independence and Her Majesty's Government should be satisfied that there is adequate support locally for the request, and that the independence constitution adequately protected the rights of minorities.
The background to Grenada's request is that a General Election was held in Grenada on 28th February 1972, and the Premier, Mr. Gairy, made his intention of seeking early independence the first item on his programme. His party won 13 out of the 15 seats in the House of Representatives. He then asked the British Government to grant independence to Grenada under the procedure laid down in Section 10(2) of the West Indies Act 1967. Talks were held in London in October 1972, attended both by the Premier and by the Leader of the Opposition in Grenada, at which it was agreed that there should be a constitutional conference in May 1973. The constitutional conference, again attended by the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in Grenada, was held in London from 14th to 18th May 1973.
At the conference there was general agreement on the terms of a constitution for an independent Grenada. The text followed very' closely the text of the present constitution. This was largely because the present constitution was drafted with eventual independence in mind. In particular, the constitution for independent Grenada contains all the safeguards for human rights and for minorities which are embodied in the present constitution.
The Leader of the Opposition, however, in a letter dated 17th May 1973, withdrew his agreement on the ground that the people of Grenada objected to the proposed method of granting independence to Grenada. The report of the constitutional conference, which was signed by all the delegates, was published in Command Paper 5379. This paper also contained Her Majesty's Government's subsequent undertaking which was conveyed to the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in a message dated 29th May and delivered on 31st May. That undertaking was that, subject to the approval of Parliament, Her Majesty's Government would be prepared in due course to recommend to the Queen that an Order in Council should be made under Section 10(2) of the Act to terminate the status of association of Grenada with the United Kingdom as from a date to be specified in the order.
Is it known why the Premier of Grenada, in the face of the resistance of the Opposition to the proposal, decided to leave—I shall not use the word "odium"—the responsibility for the granting of independence to Her Majesty's Government under Section 10(2), instead of facing the challenge of seeking the support of his own people by a referendum under Section 10(1)?
I do not think it is for me to speak for the Premier of Grenada. He is the judge of his own actions. But I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that it was never the intention of hon. Gentlemen when they were in office that an associated State, which was designed to have a constitutional status closer to independence than any colony which had full internal self-government, should have to go over the additional hurdle of the referendum, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, under the Section 10(1) procedure, when the normal processes between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the associated State could lead to mutual agreement towards independence. I will happily elaborate on that point later if the explanation I have given does not satisfy the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
If the constitution was not so designed, what was the point of Section 10(1) providing for transition to independence?
The point was very clear. The point was to enable the associated State of Grenada to move to independence in spite of the opposition of this country. It would be able to move to independence if it obtained a two-thirds majority in its Parliament and a two-thirds majority in a referendum, irrespective of the agreement of this country. That was the purpose of the Section 10(1) procedure.
Perhaps I may conclude this short history of events by saying that at subsequent talks with the Premier in July 1973 it was agreed that the aim should be that Grenada should become independent on 7th February 1974. The matter of independence has, therefore, been the major issue at the General Election, in which the Government won 13 out of the 15 seats. It has been the subject of a constitutional conference. There has subsequently been very full discussion on the independence constitution in Grenada. Resolutions have been passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and in the Senate of Grenada on 13th and 15th October, requesting that the association with Britain should be terminated. We believe that the Government of Grenada have the general support of the Grenada people in requesting that Grenada's association with this country should be terminated, and that it would be right to meet this request and not to oppose it. I therefore seek the approval of the House of the draft Order in Council terminating association with Britain which is now laid before it.
Before my right hon. Friend sits down, may I ask him whether this order applies to the island of Grenada alone, or whether it includes all the Grenadine islands?
It includes all the territories which are within the associated State of Grenada.
As the Minister of State has told us, this order terminates the association of Grenada with the United Kingdom as from 7th February 1974, and it confers complete independence on the territory and people for whose well-being this country and its Parliament have been responsible for very many years. The people of Grenada are not directly represented in this House, and it is, therefore, our duty to put a number of points to the Minister before this order is approved, particularly as certain evidence and allegations have been brought to the attention of hon. Members on both sides of the House, especially in the last few days. I was very glad to hear the Minister of State indicate that, before the end of this debate, he may seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and, with leave, intervene again to elucidate or augment the statement that he has just made.
The order is made under Section 10(2) of the West Indies Act 1967, whereby status of association may be terminated by Order in Council unilaterally by this country. The very pertinent intervention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones) highlighted the major cause of unease on both sides of the House about the way in which the order has been generated. The Minister fairly indicated two alternative methods of proceeding to grant independence in this case. But he was not clear in telling the House why the British Government did not in the light of all the evidence available to them decide that the initiative in this case might well come from Grenada itself, so that the wholly satis- factory method of consulting the people of Grenada by referendum could have been utilised.
The first question, therefore, is why this method of unilateral action by Her Majesty's Government, although perfectly permissible under the Act, was adopted when it seemed abundantly clear that an appreciable minority of the people of Grenada had been for some time, and still were, opposed to independence at this stage in these circumstances. The Minister indicated that the General Election of February 1972 had delivered a result in which the Government party, the Grenada United Labour Party, won all but two of the seats. He did not add that the popular vote had yielded a majority for the Government party of 59 per cent., which is a substantial majority, which nevertheless fell substantially short of the two-thirds majority which a referendum would have required.
Opponents of the régime allege that the election was marked by very serious irregularities. I admit that Grenada, as a wholly self-governing State in regard to its internal affairs, could not be interfered with in the conduct of its elections. Nevertheless, we hope to hear from the Minister that he had come to the conclusion, after considering this and other matters relating to the application for independence, that on balance such irregularities were not of such a character as to thwart arguments for proceeding in the way in which the Government acted.
There have been for some time, and there continue to be, deep-seated apprehensions among a substantial body of the people of Grenada that independence will open the door to systematic suppression of human rights and civil liberties in the new State. It is asserted that even before independence, when the associated State had control over its own internal affairs, such action was prevalent, that the elections of 1972 were rigged, that the Grenada Government have resorted from time to time to the use of para-military groups to consolidate their position——
If we are to have allegations and assertions may we have their source?
My hon. Friend is well aware of the source. I am trying to save the time of the House by not giving detailed sources. He is aware that in the past week or so there have been a great many documented allegations. I have said that it is asserted in the sense that it is alleged. I am not trying to prejudge the issue. I am putting to the House that there is an undeniable amount of assertion and allegation on the lines which I have suggested. We seek an assurance before the end of the debate that Her Majesty's Government have carefully and comprehensively considered the evidence—if evidence it is—which tends to weigh the balance in favour of the decision which they took.
Apart from the formation and the use of para-military forces, which are repugnant to any democrat, it is suggested that dissidents have been brutally attacked, that the Opposition have had little or no opportunity of putting their point of view in the Press or on the radio, that the right to appeal has been denied and that the administration of justice generally has been, to say the least, irregular. Whether or not those allegations are justified, the House will wish to be assured that Her Majesty's Government gave them full consideration during and after the Marlborough House conference of last May.
The Minister of State gave such an undertaking when he made a statement in answer to a Written Question on 11th June this year:
I said that I and the United Kingdom delegation had listened very carefully to the arguments advanced by both the Grenada Government delegation and the Opposition delegation …".
He said that Her Majesty's Government would take:
carefully into acount not only everything that had been said at the conference but also all other information that was available …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th June 1973; Vol. 857, c. 248–9.]
The House would like to hear a little more about the extra information—namely, information other than the arguments presented at the conference, which weighed with the Government. I understand that the so-called British Government representative and his deputy paid a number of special visits to Grenada and brought back with them special reports to the Government. It
would be helpful if the Minister of State found it possible to give the House some idea of what the reports contained.
Since the Minister made the statement which I have quoted there have been further disturbances, including widespread strikes and attacks upon citizens by para-military formations, leading to a confrontation with Premier Gairy, when representatives of various bodies in Grenada, including trade unions, professional associations, the churches and the Chamber of Commerce, discussed the complaints. It was agreed to set up a commission of inquiry into a number of matters, including unlawful arrests, allegations of police brutality, the refusal of bail and the general administration of justice in the State, and to make specific recommendations upon breaches of the constitution as disclosed before the commission.
I understand that the police auxiliaries have now been disbanded and that the strikes have been called off. So far so good. However, the question is raised by many in Grenada whether the undertakings will survive the granting of independence. Premier Gairy's agreement to set up such a commission and to accept its recommendations, if fully implemented, will reflect wise statesmanship on his part and will contribute markedly to the essential unity of his people as they enter this important stage in their history. I hope that it goes from this House to the Government and people of Grenada that this is what the British Government, the British Parliament and the British people expect of the régime in Grenada if and when independence is granted.
There are undoubted apprehensions about the future economic viability of Grenada, especially as it moves into the testing waters of independence. The evidence drawn from OECD and United Nations sources and even from Whitaker's Almanac is that Grenada suffers from a high cost of living, high levels of unemployment and serious and continuing falls in the production of the agricultural produce on which its economy so largely depends. At the same time it is argued that little or no attempt has been made by the administration to diversify agriculture, let alone industry generally, and that tourism and the service industries have not only failed so far to solve these problems but that over-dependence upon those industries may not prove to be an unmixed blessing.
The service industries tend to accentuate the dependence of territories such as these on external interests, with land and property being increasingly taken over by outside speculators, and profits being largely remitted to North America and Western Europe. There are anxious overtones to these economic apprehensions—the fear of racial resentments emerging in the new State, giving a fillip to black power extremists and the opportunity for Mafia-like take-over of the country. These are real apprehensions. One hopes that they are greatly exaggerated, but the facts of the economic position are not exaggerated; they are provable from dependable sources.
To sum up, there are two questions on which the House, and certainly the Opposition, will wish to have further assurance when the Minister of State again intervenes. First, are the Government satisfied that the people of Grenada have been properly consulted on this development and its timing? Secondly, in all the political and economic circumstances, are the Government satisfied that the new State moves into independence in a politically and economically viable condition?
I have one or two additional points. First, the transfer of power must be the result of extremely careful consideration and preparation, especially of timing, before it is granted. It should not be rushed as a matter of convenience to this country but introduced as a well-prepared opportunity for the people concerned.
There is an impression in Grenada—I put it no higher than that—that the speed with which this transfer has been brought forward betrays a certain impatience or hurry on the part of Her Majesty's Government to be rid of a small but difficult problem. I hope that we can assure the people of Grenada, with whom we have ties of long-standing friendship and affection, in such a way that they will be disabused of any such impression.
Secondly, there arises the question whether the creation of micro-States is the best, or even the inevitable, policy in respect of tiny dependencies still in care. Nobody in this House will minimise the difficulties or benefits. I have some experience of the difficulties of persuading small States to come together in a meaningful association, but surely it is time for a reappraisal of this method of launching small islands and doubtfully viable territories into full independence.
Thirdly, there is the question of aid. Within our capacity this country will provide economic and financial assistance to the new State. A much more important source of aid will be the centralised agency of the EEC, which is linked to a form of association between individual State recipients. There is also the aid available through the various agencies of the United Nations. We all hope that such aid will be generous. The new State will need all the help it can get. I also hope that in these cases the donors will make it clear that the recipients will observe the basic rights and freedoms. We all subscribe to the general principle that aid should be without strings. I define that phrase, as I am sure do my hon. Friends, as meaning that aid must not be linked to conditions relating to the economic sovereignty of the recipient state, but surely it is a sensible requirement on the part of donor countries or donor agencies that recipients should observe the basic rights set down by the United Nations Organisation and, indeed, as promoted by our own Commonwealth of nations.
At this point I can do better than quote Premier Gairy's words at the Marlborough House conference. They are to be found on page 11 of the White Paper on the Grenada Constitutional conference—Command 5379—and form part of his speech at that conference:
We reiterate that the ideal of free men enjoying freedom from fear and want can be best achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and political, civil and cultural rights.
That could not be better said, and in applauding those words we look forward to the deeds which will implement them. After all, the new State will become a sister-State of ours in the Commonwealth.
If the order goes through we expect and hope that the United Kingdom will sponsor Grenada's membership of the Commonwealth and, indeed, of the United Nations. Those two world-wide organisations seek to implement in deeds the very words that Premier Gairy so eloquently uttered at the Marlborough House conference.
I hope that the Minister of State will intervene before the end of the debate to reassure many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House about the way that this transfer has been prepared and the future of the new State.
I am pleased to see in his place the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine), who served with distinction as a Minister in the Commonwealth Office. He knows this area extremely well. Both he and I attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Nassau a few years ago. I think that we shall hear from both sides of the House concern whether this transfer has been done in the right way and whether the future rights of the people of Grenada are reasonably assured.
I fully share the unease expressed by the right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts), and I join him in expressing the hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will seek permission to address the House further.
As my right hon. Friend said, if this order is agreed Grenada will be the first of the associated States to achieve full sovereign independence. Therefore, what we do now is of significance to the remaining associated States.
Normally, whenever this final legislative step to independence is taken—a supremely important, historic, irrevocable step for the people concerned—an independence Bill is brought before Parliament. We then have the opportunity of discussing citizenship provisions, defence arrangements, economic prospects, and so on. Quite rightly, we in this sovereign Parliament wish to be assured that the transfer of power to people for whom we have been responsible—in this case for more than 200 years—will advance their true interests and enhance their liberties. Of course, looking back over the years, we also take the opportunity of wishing them well.
It is a matter of especial pride to members of all political parties that we have done this on a score or more of occasions in the last two decades as tutelage over our dependencies has given way to partnership within the wider Commonwealth. What is happening in this instance? The order, in cold legal language, simply states that the status of association of Grenada with the United Kingdom will be terminated as from 7th February 1974.
My hon. Friend told us that we have no option, that this debate is just a formality, because Grenada already possesses full internal self-government, and that, provided that certain provisions in the 1967 statute are complied with, what is being done here is a pure technicality. However, there seems to be some doubt about that. After all, we have, in the person of a former Attorney-General, a legal luminary of great standing, someone who has already thrown great doubt upon the matter. But my hon. Friend tells us that we have no option.
Thus, the ending of association means, if we pass this motion tonight, and the rest of the parliamentary process is completed, that Grenada becomes fully independent and the last links are severed. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Caernarvon for what he said about my association with these matters. I have some knowledge of the Caribbean. I have a deep affection for its peoples, and I suppose that, through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I have known most of its leaders for many years. I am conscious too of the way in which the Jamaicans, the Trindadians and the Barbadians in independence have adhered firmly to the concept and practice of parliamentary democracy and to the rule of law. That is why I am not at all happy with what is being done here.
Let us ask ourselves: what are the conditions under which the people of Grenada will move into full independence? I quote from The Guardian of 24th November—after this order had been laid before Parliament. It said:
Eric Gairy, the flamboyant strong-arm Premier of the Caribbean island of Grenada, which becomes independent from Britain in 10 weeks' time, is expected to reply today to demands from a wide cross-section of Grenadians that he disbands his régime's notorious secret police force. Over the past week a wave of strikes has begun to bring life on the island to a halt in an effort to end the shootings, beatings and house searches which have become common since Mr. Gairy recruited his 100-strong 'police aid' of armed civilian toughs three years ago.
This is a leading, respected, liberal newspaper.
Would the hon. Gentleman care to explain to the House why The Guardian, which is such a liberal and respected newspaper having written an article in terms which can only be described as inflammatory, failed even to comment on the fact that within three days the strike was over and Mr. Gairy had promised to set up a commission of inquiry?
The hon. Gentleman can make his own speech in his own way, in accordance with the brief which he has received.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. "A brief which the hon. Member has received"—that is a rather curious statement to make. I do not know whether the hon. Member would care to elaborate upon it.
It was quite clear, when the hon. Gentleman interrupted his right hon. Friend, that he was ready to rush into making statements before he had heard the whole of the case. He is repeating this tactic in what is only the third speech in the debate. I am purporting to deal with the sequence of events, and the hon. Member is merely prolonging my speech.
May I intervene to maintain the calm temperature? It may well be that what my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Jeffrey Thomas) has in mind, as he is a distinguished member of the Bar, is that the use of the expression by the hon. Member that he had received a brief might be thought to connote that he was receiving some sort of consideration. If the hon. Gentleman makes it clear that no such idea entered his normally fair-minded and clear mind I am sure that the debate can resume on the reasonable basis upon which a great constitutional debate should proceed.
I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that no such thought entered my mind. It was the amateur way in which the intervention was made that disturbed me.
It is open to all hon. Members to make their points. I intend making mine. In my own way and with regard to the proper sequence of events.
The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Jeffrey Thomas) interrupted me. I do not know whether he knew what I was about to quote from The Guardian. The report continues:
Mr. Gairy has openly said the force, which the islanders compare to Haiti's Tontons Macoutes, is to crush his political opponents. … The latest crisis, which is more serious than the strikes and protests staged last May while Mr. Gairy was away in London negotiating independence, was sparked by the savage beating by the secret police last Sunday of three leaders of the popular radical 'new jewel' movement, whose non-violent, nationalist, self-help ideas have gained wide support in the island over the past year.The Guardian names three men, who were treated brutally, saying
Maurice Bishop, Unison Whiteman and Selwyn Strachan were thrown in gaol for 25 hours, with serious head injuries, broken jaws and teeth left untended before being taken to hospital.
I have in my possession photographs showing the injuries of some of the men concerned. At the end of the debate, I shall hand them to my right hon. Friend so that they may be forwarded to the commission of inquiry to which the right hon. Member for Caernarvon referred.
I may add that the situation has not gone unnoticed in the rest of the Carribbean. Let me quote from a widely read and much respected West Indian newspaper, the Barbados Advocate. It reported on 25th November:
Grenada, on the threshold of independence, continues to show a lack of the goodwill that is essential to nation-building in a democracy. Recent developments there involving the arrest of members of the New Jewel Movement; beatings of people who have been known to be critical of the policy of the Gairy government; and far from satisfactory performances by certain sections of the Court, especially where the recently arrested Jewel Movement members were concerned, all provide a disheartening picture of the future of this picturesque island.
The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified in raising this matter.
As the Barbados Advocate report says:
Grenada is far from being a happy island and the signing of documents to bring independence will be no panacea, nor any guarantee that such happiness as is desired will automatically surface. The fears might well grow that in independence the situation is likely to grow worse. And in Grenada the signs of the times are that this could be a real fear.
What are the signs of the times? Mr. Eric Pierre, the General Secretary of the Grenada Seamen's and Waterfront Workers' Union, sent a telegram to me and to the right hon. Gentleman in which he said:
Grenada Government recruited and armed ex-convicted thugs into special secret police force which has gone on a wave of beating up and terrorising suspected opposition elements. Many persons seriously wounded and hospitalised. Citizens Committee organised representing 22 organisations including heads of churches, trade unions, commercial, civil and others staged total shutdown of island in protest against police brutality and deprivation of basic human rights … Committee to meet December 11th"—
that is today—
to review Government implementation of agreement reserving right to take further action if necessary.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Abertillery wishes to intervene on that point to suggest that this communication from an important trade union leader in Grenada should be disregarded.
Are these exaggerations? The truth must be established. I have mentioned the photographs which have been handed to me. No doubt all this will be investigated by the commission of inquiry which the Premier has been obliged to set up because of public feeling in Grenada. The commission has been set up under the chairmanship of an eminent former Chief Justice of Jamaica, and it is composed of distinguished jurists drawn from all over the Caribbean. I do not doubt that such a body will do its duty and do much to restore confidence and calm in Grenada.
But this situation as I have described it was known to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when it decided to present the order. Mention has been made of a General Election. Elections take place and situations change. How can the Government proceed with an order of this kind at a time when it is manifestly clear that the people of Grenada have grown distrustful of their Government and are terrified of its brutality. The order should not have been brought forward at this time. It should not be approved tonight. Better to have waited until the commission of inquiry has completed its investigations and after confidence had been restored in Grenada. Better still to have provided a referendum on the whole issue of ending association at this time.
Let me make it plain that I believe firmly in granting independence wherever possible. I glory in the free association which the Commonwealth of self-governing nations implies and which Grenada, I feel sure, in the fullness of time will join. There is no question of anyone here clinging on to old-fashioned notions of empire. But independence must be true independence for all the people concerned, and not a carte blanche for a brutal régime which happens to occupy the seat of power for the moment to do what it will.
I ask my right hon. Friend to take this order back, to think again and not to bring it back until the news coming from Grenada is that the people there are breathing again in freedom from fear.
Order. Before I call the next speaker, I remind the House that time is not unlimited and that it would be helpful if hon. Members, in their wisdom, decided to keep their speeches fairly short.
I particularly welcome this debate, not only because of its subject matter but because it affords one of our rare opportunities to focus attention on the Caribbean, if only on a comparatively small part of it. We have not given the area the kind of attention in foreign affairs debates that it deserves, which is perhaps surprising because it is of increasing importance. It is significant strategically and as a source of important natural resources.
The Caribbean is the scene today of rapid change and also common obstacles. The strongest movement in the Caribbean, as the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine) must know because of his experience there, is towards identity and nationhood. I hold no brief, either paid or unpaid, for any Prime Minister or any country, Caribbean or otherwise, but I want to try to pour a little oil on the troubled waters.
I am not suggesting that the hon. Member for Essex, South-East was becoming aerated or excited about this matter, but it is important to look at it in perspective and with knowledge of the realities of the situation, both in Grenada and in the Caribbean generally.
My reason for intervening is my sincere anxiety that newspapers of the standing of The Guardian and The Times should have seen fit to publish the most extraordinary reports, which caused many of us a great deal of anxiety, about the situation in Grenada. In particular, they published sensational accounts about its Prime Minister. The whole House will welcome the fact that after three days the general strike came to an end and that agreement on many measures was reached between the Prime Minister and the Technical and Allied Workers' Union. But when the time came, although that had happened, there was no report of that in either The Guardian or The Times. That is the kind of thing which concerns me.
We would all welcome and echo what my right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) has said about the general principles of the granting of independence to Grenada, subject to the safeguards that he indicated. But what is the source of the propaganda which has been fed to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Times during the last six months, during which time Her Majesty's Government have been considering the whole question of independence? This is a serious and urgent matter. I believe that a small but vociferous group of propagandists is at large in the Caribbean, particularly in the eastern Caribbean, and propagandists who are in the control of those who are not without financial power. I shall come to the general situation shortly, but that minority of persons has created a very effective propaganda machine.
If the hon. Gentleman is really asking the question, may I say that the information has come to me from the following bodies: two major unions, the Grenada Civil Service Asso- ciation and the Grenada Union of Teachers, the Grenada Employers' Federation, the Grenada Medical Association, the Grenada Law Society, the Rotary Club and the Progressive Labour and General Workers' Union. It has come from the whole range of professional, business and commercial organisations in Grenada. I have quoted a telegram from a leading trade union secretary.
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. But that is not directly concerned with the question of independence. It is, as the hon. Gentleman knows, directed at the case of the two men who were detained by the auxiliary police.
Three men. That does not have a direct bearing upon the views of those organisations about the issue of independence.
These islands, especially the smaller islands in the Caribbean such as Grenada, realise only too well that they cannot completely go it alone. For that reason they have formed economic alliances, through the Caribbean Free Trade Association and the newly formed Caricom—the Caribbean Economic Community and the Common Market. It is against that background that we are debating the order.
It is an important and historical debate when we are granting sovereignty to a country. It is important in the sense that it highlights the problems of Grenada, and Grenada's problems and opportunities reflect those of other countries not only in the eastern Caribbean and the associated States but in the Caribbean community as a whole.
Before the hon. Gentleman moves too widely over the Caribbean associated States in the vicinity, may I ask whether he agrees that we are basically assessing Grenada? Will he also accept that the Prime Minister of Grenada, with whom my right hon. Friend the Minister entered into certain negotiations, was known previously in high office in Grenada six or seven years ago, and had to retreat most rapidly from that office by virtue of certain actions and defalcations in which he was involved? I believe that he was, to use the vernacular, run out of office.
To my knowledge that is not the case. Let me refute it in this way. If the House wishes to look at the matter in perspective I shall give it the facts. In 1951 the Grenada Labour Party won six out of eight seats; in 1954 seven out of eight; in 1957 it won 49 per cent. of the votes cast. In the last 22 years it has lost only one election. In 1967 it won seven out of 10 seats on the independence issue, and in 1972, again on the independence platform, it won 13 out of 15 seats. Those are the facts which the House cannot ignore. Difficulties may have to be overcome but we must first and foremost consider the principle of independence in this country and consider it dispassionately and not in the light of sensational propaganda provided, in my view, by a well-heeled few.
We understand the difficulties and we know the problems. It is a challenge to Grenada to be granted independence but it is a challenge for us, too. It would be morally indefensible and politically imprudent if we were to give the impression to Grenada that we wanted simply to shuffle it off or wash our hands of it. That would be completely the wrong message to go out from this House on an issue such as this. We have a plain and clear duty to assist countries like Grenada as they in their own right join the Commonwealth. The signs are not particularly encouraging. The ODA has agreed to help only to a tune of £100,000. It is crucial in these circumstances, and perhaps for reasons already indicated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon, that money should come from the right sources. We want no allegations, suggestion or assertions to stand in the way of that.
I have no doubt that over the next 10 years or so Grenada will be making further applications to the ODA for financial help by way of grants and loans. The country needs financial help to boost its tourist industry. It needs it for the building of its new international airport, the plans of which are now being examined. It needs financial and technical aid for the construction of infrastructure, such as roads, and for the development of its agriculture. I hope that the Government and their successors will not shed their responsibilities in these matters, because we have a duty particularly in circumstances of this kind.
The last two General Elections were fought on the independence ticket. My right hon. Friend mentioned the difficulties about finance and the economic situation. His anxieties were not altogether shared by the Financial Times report on Grenada in 1972, which said:
Grenada's economy has a sound base in a well-diversified agricultural industry and a small light industrial sector. It is in a strong position for economic growth and development. … In the last year they have taken a number of steps to improve the economic situation. They have recently introduced a Development Incentives Ordinance which offers tax and other relief to investors and firms both from inside and outside the island.
A development corporation has been formed to carry out research with a view to providing information of value to those who wish to play their part in introducing new industries and expanding existing industries. To stimulate further hotel development the Grenada Government have introduced an hotel aids ordinance. The situation has been described in black terms, but since 1967 the number of tourists to Grenada has increased by 93 per cent.
Finally, it is not insignificant that since 1967 the Government's annual expenditure rose from 14 million East Caribbean dollars to 36 million East Caribbean dollars in 1972.
On 12th October in the House of Representatives Mr. Gairy made a speech which, in view of the wild allegations that have been made, we should consider carefully. He was at pains to emphasise that the new constitution included provisions to ensure a right to work, a right to privacy, freedom of the Press and freedom of the individual. If that were not the case, I would be the last to support independence for Grenada. As an indication of the Government's intentions and bona fides they appointed a wholly independent commission whose members include Sir Herbet Duffus, the ex-Chief Justice of Jamaica and the Director of Legal Studies of the University of the West Indies——
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Earlier in the debate the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Jeffrey Thomas) went to great lengths to explain that he had not received a brief, but the contents of his speech indicate clearly that he has received a brief, whether or not he is being paid for it.
I will ignore the hon. Gentleman's last comment which is wholly improper, and I am sure that on reflection he will regret it. If he does not want to know what is being done in Grenada perhaps he had better leave the Chamber. I am simply trying to redress the balance, as allegations have been made. I have a deep affection for the people of Grenada and for that country, which I know quite well, and I am anxious that a balanced picture should be given.
The setting up of the commission is an indication of the Government's bona fides. It has wholly independent, distinguished membership and wide-ranging terms of reference. It will look into all aspects of the cases of the three men whose detention gave rise to the recent troubles, scrutinise the whole question of the administration of justice in Grenada and in due course make recommendations.
Since the Premier returned from the Marlborough House talks, the Government have agreed to several amendments to the constitution as a result of receiving representations from various organisations and people in Grenada. These are the facts. They show a wholly different situation from the one that a small minority has sought to portray.
When Jim Griffiths was Colonial Secretary in the second Labour administration he said:
We regard our trust not only as guides to self-government but as partners in the task of establishing those conditions, economic, social and political, which are the pre-requisite of a virile and successful democracy.
It would ill become us if we failed in that trust. I hope that the United Kingdom Government, the European Community and the United Nations agencies will pledge themselves to help Grenada to bring new life to her people, not only for their sake but to enable Grenada to play its full part in the new, emerging Caribbean.
I have serious misgivings about this draft order and, in particular, about the procedure which the Government have adopted for the purpose of giving independence to Grenada.
When, unfortunately, the experiment of a Federation of the West Indies was found to be a failure, it was seen that our big problem was how to deal with the very small nation States, which were perhaps too small to be viable in the world as sovereign States. One of the solutions propounded, and indeed enacted by the West Indies Act 1967, was this form of associated State status, and that was granted to Grenada. But it is very important to remember that within the constitutions of associated States were provisions with regard to development towards independent status.
Section 10 of the West Indies Act provided for two methods; first, that a State might itself, by amendment of its law, proceed to independent status; and, secondly that Her Majesty, by Order in Council, might terminate the status of association. The difference was very important indeed, because under subsection (1) of Section 10—that is to say, the development of Grenada itself towards independence—it was provided that certain procedures should be followed. Those procedures were laid down in Schedule 2 of the Act, and the most important of them was that the State concerned should obtain a two-thirds vote of approval in a referendum on independence.
The Government have not adopted that method for the moving to independence of Grenada. What they have done, in a situation where, if the island State wanted independence, they should comply with a certain procedure, or, if Britain wanted it for Grenada, they might proceed unilaterally, is to say "Britain wants it. Britain wants to give independence to Grenada." The Government are not really saying that this is being done at the request of the Grenadine State, because if the Grenadine State wanted this development it could itself have obtained it under the Act. So why does Britain have to take the initiative in throwing off the allegiance of these people who have been Her Majesty's subjects for more than 200 years?
The answer that I have been given by my right hon. Friend is that those procedures laid down by the Act exist only to meet occasions when it is necessary for a State to obtain independence against the will of Britain. So written into a British Act is a provision whereby independence might be obtained despite our wishes. That may be so. It certainly does not appear to have been expressed in the Act, nor does one understand from what one has read that it was the purpose or the spirit of the Act. One is, therefore, bound to say that it seems contrary to the spirit of the age and to our imperial traditions to cast away the preferred allegiance of so many of Her Majesty's subjects unilaterally and without even requiring ally and without even requiring——
Will my hon. Friend consider this point? Does he really think that an associated State, whose constitution goes beyond that of a normal colony, should have to go through an obstacle which no normal colony moving towards independence has had to go through? Why should this traditional obstacle to independence be placed in front of an associated State which has greater freedom in its constitution?
The reason is that there is represented a special kind of problem. We are talking about a small island with a small population with leaders who are perhaps susceptible to dictatorship tendencies. We laid down a procedure for a type of State which we called an associated State. Such a State has a status in international law which is perhaps without precedent but one which British legal draftsmen were able to devise. It is a State with special status and with special provisions. However, we are not following the provisions which we laid down. Not for 100 years, not since Gladstone, has a British Parliament so wantonly cast away the allegiance of so many of Her Majesty's subjects.
The Opposition, and, generally speaking, the House as a whole, have welcomed the movement towards the independence and self-government of colonial subjects. It has been the proud privilege of Parliament to have granted independence over the last quarter of a century to previous dependent territories. The last observations of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) are contrary, if he will permit me to say so, to responsible opinion. My right hon. and hon. Friends welcome the trend towards independence. We would have been much happier if it had been possible to raise questions, to coin a phrase, fullheartedly.
I have had the privilege of enjoying the hospitality of the beautiful island of Grenada. It is about the loveliest island I have ever visited. The people are delightful, friendly and warm. It is a paradise of a place. I have nothing but feelings of good will and affection for its people in the observations which I make.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) has said, it is right that on this occasion of apparently saying farewell we should express concern about the circumstances in which the farewell is being expressed. We do so in the hope that what is said here will be taken seriously in Grenada. There is no doubt that this act of independence is being considered at a time where there is considerable disquiet in Grenada. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Jeffrey Thomas) has questioned my right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon on his sources which lead him to suggest that there is disquiet. That is always a difficulty when we are discussing the events of a place thousands of miles away. We must take a certain amount for granted.
The observations which I make are based on conversations which I had in the Central Lobby not more than two or three hours ago with two leading lawyers in Grenada, one of whom—and it does not seem to have done him any great harm—I had the pleasure of proposing for call to the Bar. Both gentlemen are responsible people. One is a senator in Grenada. He has told me that I can mention that fact. They told me of their grave concern and disquiet about what has been going on. There have been complaints and anxious messages to hon. Members from professional associations on the island—for example, the trade unions, the Churches, and the Chamber of Commerce. I do not know whether they are well-heeled, but they are responsible elements. These are the sources that have been expressing anxieties to us.
It is an excellent thing that now apparently a commission is to be appointed consisting of a chairman and two members, the chairman being no less a person than a former Chief Justice of Jamaica. That is greatly welcome.
What is disturbing is that this state of affairs should come to pass and that these measures have become necessary. The information that I have received from my two informants is that Grenada has been passing through a phase in which the kind of activities for which Haiti's Tonton Macoutes established a certain fame and notoriety have been bedevilling the island for some time. I am appalled to hear these allegations made. It would be even more appalling if they are wholly and absolutely true. That we shall learn in due course from the inquiry.
My information from one of the two gentlemen to whom I have referred is that he saw the bloodstained head and face of one of the two victims of the matters to be investigated. One of the victims was a schoolteacher graduate and the other was a member of the Bar.
We are dealing with serious matters of concern. Therefore, it is the duty of the House of Commons to raise these matters so that, whatever the future may hold, it can at least be said that the Mother of Parliaments raised these matters and asked important questions. We shall be looking upon what happens in the island hereafter with anxious care. Indeed, it may be that we shall be looking upon the island as a place that is entitled to look to us for further assistance, which I trust we shall be able to give.
I am not suggesting any kind of economic blackmail. We would be disregarding our duties if, in the face of the information that I have received, we were to fail to bring it to the attention of the House of Commons and have it reported back, as no doubt it will be, in Grenada itself.
What has happened so far is, technically and constitutionally, in accordance with the provisions of Section 10 of the West Indies Act 1967. There is no doubt that there were two alternative ways in which the status of association could have been terminated. The first was what I might call the democratic way of indicating that what was about to take place received the support of the majority of the people of Grenada.
One of my hon. Friends asked: why should that obstacle be placed in the way of the grant of independence? It is indeed a curious obstacle. What is sought is some evidence for the world at large that a two-thirds majority of the people of Grenada want independence. It would, at the very least, have been more reassuring to us in the House of Commons if, in the face of the disturbing reports we have had, that had been the way of independence.
It is right to point out that it was not open to the Government to initiate the procedures under Section 10(1). That is perfectly accurate as a statement of the law. But what has come to pass is that the Government have sought the procedures in Section 10(2). I do not think that I should plague the Minister by pressing him too hard to answer the delicate question: why has Section 10(2) been proceeded with? But the House is entitled to know whether, in making the decision, full consideration was given to the state of affairs that has existed in the island in recent months.
I appreciate that this is an area where the Government, for various reasons—I sympathise with their difficulties—hope to find a way of resolving the intricate problems of the West Indies in the way calculated to reach the best solution for the territory. But we are bound to feel a sense of disquiet about the method of dissociation which has been used, and we greatly hope that due warning will be taken of our concern. We shall watch the future carefully.
As an independent State, Grenada will, no doubt, be seeking membership of the United Nations, and it will, no doubt, be seeking continuance as a member of the Commonwealth. In considering its right to enjoy those two aspects of status we shall be watching most carefully hereafter how things go on, in the hope that the warnings that have been uttered on both sides of the House of Commons will be taken very seriously to heart.
With the permission of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think it would be right that I should intervene briefly to reply to some of the more important questions which have been asked and charges which have been made during the debate.
I think the fact that a number of hon. Members have spoken in the debate is indicative of the very deep interest and, indeed, affection which we in the House have for one of the smallest islands of the Commonwealth. Their speeches of both praise and criticism will undoubtedly be read with care and interest in Grenada because, as the right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones) said, the Mother of Parliaments has raised certain questions in the debate and the knowledgeable speeches will be considered with great care.
It has put me in some difficulty because I wish to reply briefly. Questions which have been raised, rightly, have revolved around the matter of moving towards independence, about the degree of consultation which has taken place within Grenada, about the future constitution, about the internal situation which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine), about the economy of the island and about the prospects of an independent sovereign Grenada. I will try to answer these questions. It is right that hon. Members should be satisfied about the wisdom of assisting the associated State of Grenada on this next step towards full sovereign independence.
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts), my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stan-brook) and the right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South asked why it was decided to grant independence by Order in Council under Section 10(2) of the West Indies Act 1967 instead of the alternative procedure of Section 10(1), which requires legislation in the local legislature, followed by a referendum.
There were a number of reasons for this. First, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman clearly agreed, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever of our legal right to proceed in this way. Secondly, when the West Indies Act was passed, power was given to the associated States to terminate their association unilaterally; it was open to them to move towards independence under Section 10(1) without the consent of the United Kingdom. But it was never intended to suggest—I am sure that hon. Members who were in office at the time will confirm this—that association could not be terminated properly by mutual agreement between the two Governments. It was never the intention to put an additional step on the road to independence in the way of an associated State, over and above the normal step which would be taken by a colony. It is by this process of mutual agreement that Grenada is moving to independence.
The other reason is that the Premier, Mr. Gairy, made it clear in his election campaign in February last that, in the event of victory, he intended to seek early independence; and he won an overwhelming victory.
I will try to explain how we have been anxious to secure consultation in Grenada, but, in broad terms, surely it is preferable that this important constitutional step—taken after the General Election, after a constitutional conference and after a unanimous resolution by both Houses in the legislature of Grenada—should be taken by mutual agreement rather than by asking Grenada, which had obtained the constitutional status of an associated State, a greater degree of internal self-government than is ever obtained by a colony, to take an additional step over and above taking the normal road to independence of a colony.
The right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South referred to alleged irregularities in the 1972 election. A British representative was present in Grenada at the time of the 1972 General Election. He reported that it was fairly held and was as well organised as could reasonably be expected in the general circumstances of the Caribbean. I am advised that there were no petitions against the election procedures.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about the question of consultation. Hon. Members have asked about the degree of public support for the move to independence and whether the people were properly consulted. The Prime Minister, Mr. Gairy, won the election on the issue of independence; he won 13 out of the 15 seats. Grenada's wish to terminate its association with this country was emphasised by the unanimous resolutions passed by both Houses in October this year.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there were abstentions rather than a clear vote?
There might well have been an abstention, but, in fact, there was a unanimous vote. There was no vote cast against the proposal to terminate the association with this country. The draft Order in Council embodying the new constitution had been available to their legislature as from 24th August.
But consultation and debate has not been confined to the legislature. One hundred copies of the constitution were distributed to interested organisations by 25th September, and a further 150 were made available for distribution on 26th September. More than 50 organisations were sent copies of the new constitution. The Grenada Government authorised the Chamber of Commerce to print an additional 1,000 copies for sale so as to assist the public in its understanding of the situation. In addition, the Grenada Solicitor-General began in the last week of September a regular series of broadcasts on Radio Grenada in which he analysed the new draft constitution and compared it with existing ones. As a result of that public consultation, 27 amendments to the draft order which were proposed by various organisations were accepted by the Grenada Government. Then the unanimous resolution was passed in both Houses.
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon quoted what Prime Minister Gairy said in his speech about the importance of human rights. Such rights for individuals and minorities are firmly incorporated in the independence constitution, as they are in the exsting constitution.
I must refer briefly to the internal situation, which was raised particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East. I must emphasise that we have had no responsibility whatsoever for the internal affairs of Grenada since 1967.
I understand that on 4th November a public meeting was held by the New Jewel Movement—Jewel stands for Joint Endeavour for Welfare Education and Liberation. But that is not the official Opposition in Grenada. The official Opposition is the National Party, which is led by Mr. Blaize. He is now the only participating member of the Opposition. There is nothing wrong in being in a minority of one, but that is what he is.
At the meeting to which I am referring held by Jewel, the Premier, Mr. Gairy, was called upon to resign or face a general strike. The strike was not widely supported, but on 18th November six leaders of the New Jewel Movement were arrested for illegal possession of arms and for obstructing the police, and it was about that time that in Grenada various allegations were made about brutality by the police. The six men who were arrested were later released on bail. In response to public opinion, the Premier announced that a commission of inquiry would be appointed and the police aides disbanded.
After meetings in November, representatives of various organisations issued statements that they would advise their members to withdraw their labour and services until certain measures were implemented. That was followed by some strike action, but I have seen no evidence to suggest that the strike was a protest against the granting of independence to Grenada. Indeed, that would not be the objective of the New Jewel Movement, and the House will be glad to know that the latest reports indicate that the situation has greatly improved. The strike was called off on 30th November.
It is important to note—this was referred to in the debate—that Mr. Gairy has appointed a commission of inquiry which will have wide terms of reference, and the status and calibre of those who have been appointed is a guarantee of its independence. The chairman of the commission will be Sir Herbet Duffus, a former Chief Justice of Jamaica, and Mr. Aubrey Fraser, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago, and the Most Rev. Samuel Carter, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston, Jamaica, have also agreed to serve. I emphasise that the personal integrity and standing of those members cannot be questioned. They are of the highest calibre, and the commission expects to begin its hearings very shortly.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the economic and general political situation in Grenada. I find it impossible, as I think the House must, to predict the future but, in general, one can say that if the people work together, if they can build up a sense of national cohesion, if people of all political persuasions are encouraged to play a full rôle in the nation's life, then the prospects are reasonably good for Grenada. I think that the questions that have been asked and the points that have been made in this debate will be read with the greatest of care in Grenada.
The care, interest and affection shown by Members of this House dates back—it will most certainly continue into the future—to 1763, when the Treaty of Paris ceded the island to the British Crown. The link between us has continued ever since, and, although our constitutional links will now end, hon. Members of this House will continue to maintain a friendly and close interest in the island in the years ahead.
Grenada is the most southerly of the Windward Islands. We wish here a fair wind and her people a contented future as they move on towards independence.
I shall be brief, but I seek the indulgence of the House to express an outlook which I believe is widely held amongst the electorate but has not been mentioned in the speeches tonight.
Time and again this House has heard this kind of "graduation ceremony" which has resulted in chaos, mayhem, disaster and bankruptcy in almost every part of the world in respect of which it has been carried out. It is my contention that we are being premature in granting this independence and expressing pious hopes such as we have heard this evening.