– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1974.
There have been no reports of violence over the last eight days or so and no reports of threats to United Kingdom and other Commonwealth citizens. Full sovereignty will pass to the constitutional Government of Grenada on 7th February, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has left to represent the British Government.
Order. It is difficult for me to hear the right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts). I hope that hon. Members will try to be quieter.
Will the Minister enlarge on his statement so that he can give us a clearer picture of the situation on the island? From all accounts which are reaching hon. Members it is clear that there is a situation of great disturbance and of some danger. We are reassured about the position of United Kingdom citizens, including the Under-Secretary of State. On the other hand, the reports indicate that this Associated State is moving from its present status to independence in a situation of considerable disturbance and, indeed, of acute danger.
Does the Minister recall the profound misgivings which were expressed from both sides of the House when we debated the Termination of Association Order on 11th December, 1973? Will he assure the House that the message of the House on that occasion has been reinforced by his office in representations to the Government of Grenada—namely, that we expect that with the granting of independence there will be the full restoration of civil rights and the rule of law?
Finally, are there any plans to extend aid to the island? If so, will the Government indicate to the recipient Government that we expect in such circumstances, and when we sponsor the island before other agencies, that the Grenada Government will have restored the rights to which I have referred?
It is correct that during the past fortnight and for a longer period there has been some disturbance and some violence which, regrettably, has caused the loss of life of three persons. The situation still is to some extent tense and the strike remains in being. We have had no reports over the past eight days or so of any further violence so there has been an improvement in the situation. Reports of our debates and the expressions of view which were expressed here and in another place have been made available to the Grenada Government. I hope that they will take careful note of the expressions of view today of the right hon. Gentleman and myself.
As in the case of other Associated States, the British Government informed the Grenada Government last year of the levels of aid which they could expect for the next three years. That is normal practice, as it assists planning development. They were told that the Government planned to give aid amounting to £2·25 million over the next three years. Grenada has recently suffered a crisis of liquidity and the Grenada Government have asked for financial assistance. The British Government have allowed them to draw a limited amount on the promised loan.
Will my right hon. and noble Friend confirm or deny the report that one of the smaller offshore islands that forms part of Grenada has, prior to independence of the main island, declared its own independence? Will he tell me what will be the constitutional position of that island and its people, which have proceeded along Anguillan lines, if independence is granted on Thursday, because they have anticipated it while we still have a degree of responsibility under associated status?
I have seen Press reports about the island of Carriacou which wishes to secede. I cannot confirm that fact. It is clearly an internal affairs matter and the British Government have no responsibility for the internal affairs of Grenada. Our responsibility is confined to foreign affairs and defence.
Is the Minister aware that I have quite a few Grenadans in my constituency? They are in close touch with their relatives and friends in Grenada. They are all seriously concerned about what has happened and what they think is likely to happen in the near future. We cannot just shelve our responsibility as easily as the Government are trying to do.
I can assure the House that there is no wish to shelve our responsibilities. Equally, we must not take on responsibilities which clearly do not rest with the British Government. We are, of course, concerned about the situation, but the evidence is that a large majority of the people of Grenada want independence. That was the clear message which emerged from the elections which were held in Grenada. I have seen no evidence that those who are on strike now are against independence. Their grudge is against the Grenada Government. That is an internal matter for the Grenada Government and does not lie within the responsibilities of Her Majesty's Government.
Will the Minister confirm that not since 1967 have we had any power to deal with the internal affairs of Grenada? Further, will he confirm that our defence responsibilities lie not with the maintenance of internal law and order but with defence against external aggression? Therefore, we cannot control, and have no wish to control, Grenada's move to independence.
My hon. Friend is correct. Since Grenada became an Associated State in 1967 the Grenada Government have been solely responsible for internal affairs and the British Government have had no right or authority to intervene.
Will the Minister make it clear that the presence of a member of the British Government at the independence ceremonies does not in any way imply approval of the present Grenada Government?
It is normally a constitutional procedure whereby a member of Her Majesty's Government is present at the passing of independence to an Associated State or Colony.
As the appointed day of the Order in Council is not for another two days, and as under Section 17 of the West Indies Act 1967 we still have the power to revoke or amend the order, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the Government are accepting their full responsibilities under the West Indies Act? Does he recall that his right hon. Friend in another place, Lady Tweedsmuir, referred specifically to the circumstances of granting independence and said that one such circumstance should be that independence should properly protect the rights of the minority? Is my right hon. Friend certain that we are right to proceed with the granting of independence on the appointed day when we still have two days left to take further action?
Her Majesty's Government do not intend to revoke the Termination of Association Order. I ask my hon. Friend to remember that there was an election on the issue of independence, which was won overwhelmingly, and that regulations for independence have passed through both Houses in Grenada. I do not think that the grounds exist for revoking the Termination of Association Order.
I recognise that ever since Grenada became an Associated State we have not had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Grenada, and we should not attempt to acquire it. Nevertheless, will the Minister make it clear that if after independence the rule of law and decent civilised standards are not adhered to we shall have to take account of that in deciding whether to go on with the provision of a high level of aid?
That is a consideration which I am sure will be borne in mind both by Her Majesty's Government and by the Grenada Government.
In view of this latest example of granting premature independence, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that none of the hard-pressed taxpayers' money will be spent on the Civil Service in Grenada, which he has assured us is a local matter as we have no hand in Grenada's internal affairs?
The recent loan to which I have referred was designed to solve a temporary cash crisis which might have interfered with development for which development funds are available.
While the House regrets the disturbance and the troubles in Granada, may I ask whether the Minister would agree that to some extent those troubles have been prolonged as a result of the activities and promises held out by certain politicians and newspapers in Britain that there was a possibility that independence would not be granted on Thursday? Does the Minister agree that the Government would be in the gravest constitutional difficulties if they held up independence? Does he agree that, whether they use it well or otherwise, independence is something to which the people of Grenada are entitled, and that it is no part of the job of an ex-colonial Power to decide who is bad and who is good in the island? As Grenada will shortly, we hope, become a full member of the Commonwealth, docs the right hon. Gentleman agree that the matter of paramount importance now, from a practical point of view, is for Her Majesty's Government to use all their powers to help resolve the conflicts and restore peace in Grenada?
I agree that in the circumstances the people of Grenada are entitled to independence, and it is not the wish of Her Majesty's Government to stand in the way of it. I also agree that if independence were to be postponed it would produce yet more uncertainty, which would be quite counter to the intentions of hon. Members who have raised the matter.
It is not often that I find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who yesterday suggested in another place that independence should be postponed. I prefer the words of my noble Friend Lady Tweedsmuir, quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), to those who have just been quoted from the Opposition benches. Are the Government satisfied that they are not creating, or being party to the creation of, another Haiti?
The evidence is that a large majority of the people of Grenada wish to move to independence. That was made absolutely clear in the election. When one looks into the future, one is obviously concerned, but since 1967 we have had no responsibility for the internal affairs of Grenada, and we shall not have responsibility for its internal affairs after independence.
The Minister is aware of the profound concern on both sides of the House. What are the prospects of mediation between the Government of Grenada and the undoubted widespread opposition to their present policies, mediation preferably by Commonwealth members in the Caribbean, with or without the helpful intervention of our own Government? Are there any prospects that in the next few days such a move might take place and be helpful in the present distressing and dangerous situation?
There have been two moves to mediate, one by the Caribbean Congress of Labour and one by the Caribbean Congress of Churches. I have seen reports that the efforts to mediate by the Caribbean Congress of Churches did not make much progress. I am waiting for further reports about the other attempt at mediation.
On the question of the other Caribbean Governments mediating, the decision must be for them, but I do not believe that they disagree with the views and the action of Her Majesty's Government in the matter.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that anybody who has read the reports in The Guardian and other papers must be profoundly disturbed by the situation? Although none of us is suggesting that Grenada should be denied its independence, it is a positive abdication of Her Majesty's Government's responsibility to allow a Minister of the Crown to be there now to allow independence to be transferred to a Government which would seem—I choose my words carefully —to be hell-bent on dictatorship. Can we not, even at this late stage, have a stay of execution for at least a week?
I have said on several occasions that it is not the Government's intention to postpone independence, which has been agreed after an election, after the unanimous request of the Grenada Government, after a constitutional conference, and after the agreement of both Houses of this Parliament.
Are not the constituents to whom the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) referred very fortunate to be in Brixton now and not in Grenada? My right hon. and noble Friend referred to an election as endorsing independence, but is it not true that the election was concerned with other matters besides that of independence? Should there not now be a stay of execution for a referendum to be held on the question of independence in the present situation in Grenada?
No, Sir. The prime issue in the election was that of independence. I am informed that the election procedures were generally well observed. In those circumstances, it seems right to grant the request of the Grenada Government to move to independence.