Power to Provide for Constitution of Kiribati as Republic

Clause 2 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th June 1979.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East 12:00 am, 11th June 1979

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 12, leave out 'which shall be laid before Parliament after being made)'.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 4, in page 1, line 14, at end insert: (2) No such order shall be submitted to Her Majesty in Council unless a draft thereof has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament or has been approved with such amendments as may have been agreed to by each House.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

Perhaps I may join with others in referring to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones). It was a brave speech of a kind that we do not often hear in the House. It was modest and witty. It was a clarion call for simple justice. It did my heart a great deal of good to hear it. Those who were privileged to hear my hon. Friend will remember that speech for many years to come.

I turn to the amendment. As hon. Members know, normally when a colonial territory goes into independence with the broad agreement of all its peoples, there is no need for Parliament to concern itself with the minutiae of the proposed constitution. This would have been agreed with the parties and Her Majesty's Government at a constitutional conference. If there were political parties in the territory, they would have been consulted. Clearly, if they are agreed and if the minorities are satisfied that the proposed constitution is good and should be proceeded with, it is surely not for us to interfere.

In such circumstances, all that remains is for Parliament to recognise, in its usual warmhearted way, that in one more case tutelage has given way to partnership, and in doing so we usually pay a tribute to the way in which the decolonisation process has been conducted in that territory, and we recognise that as sovereignty passes from our hands to those who lead the new State, friendship and understanding between our two peoples is, if anything, enhanced. That is what has happened in almost every case of an independence constitution that I can remember.

Unhappily, in the case of the Bill before us the situation is very different. It is not that any one of us on either side of the Committee wishes to delay the granting of independence to the Gilbertese people. They are entitled to their independence. But for the failure of successive British Governments to solve the Banaban problem in a generous spirit, they would have received it long since.

The situation here is unique. We have established that the Banaban people have two homes, one in Fiji and one in the Gilbert Islands colony, to which they have inalienable rights. As I reminded the Committee a short time ago, those rights were affirmed by the British Government in 1947, again in 1967 and again in the constitutional conference. The rights are inalienable, and it is our submission that no British Government have the right to hand over guarantees of those rights to an independent State without the consent of the Banabans.

We have established that they are for the most part citizens of Fiji and will not qualify for full Gilbertese citizenship unless they surrender their Fijian citizenship. We have established that they are unwilling to be dragooned into the Kiribati unitary State. We have also established that they see their enforced inclusion in that State as a final act of betrayal after a long series of injustices inflicted upon them by successive British Administrations. If there are any doubts about that, I advise hon. Members to read and read again the long historic judgment of Mr. Justice Megarry as recently as 1976, when he accused successive British Administrations of breaches of the higher trust towards a small defenceless people.

I found it rather sad that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands), for whom I have great respect and, indeed, affection—we have crossed swords on a number of occasions—should use, as an illustration of the way in which the British Government are trying to make amends for all that they have done before, the fact that they have made available 10 million Australian dollars. He failed to tell the Committee that this action followed some months after the strictures of Mr. Justice Megarry, who had taken the most unusual course of drawing the Attorney-General's attention to the fact that in the case that the Banabans took against the Crown, his court was powerless to right a wrong done by the Crown.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands , Merthyr Tydfil

Negotiations with partner Governments in relation to the fund and the obtaining of the initial 10 million Australian dollars had begun even before the court case was finalised.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

There need have been no court case at all if the suggestions that Mr. Lee and I made in our report in 1975 had been accepted by the Government It is true there have been long-drawn-out negotiations, and I am sure that the hon. Member has played an honourable role in this sordid affair, but the fact is that we are talking about a small community which has been grievously wronged and there is nothing that Ministers or former Ministers can say that can deny that.

If all this is true, I submit that it is sufficient reason why a special obligation rests upon us to ensure that the safeguards which the Government and their predecessors have devised to take care of Banaban interests after our transfer of sovereignty to the Gilberts are adequate and are likely to be effective.

I cannot recollect a debate in which an important constitutional Bill has been before the House and so many hon. Members on both sides have criticised the Bill, thought it inadequate and asked for it to be amended, and a deaf ear has been turned by the Front Benches. No doubt it has happened before, but in my 29 years as an hon. Member I cannot recollect another such occasion. The reason, as my hon. Friends the Members for Barry (Sir R. Gower) and for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) made clear, is that once we have passed the Bill there is nothing more that the House, or, indeed, this country, can do about the situation. We will have washed our hands, Pontius Pilate-fashion, of the whole miserable grisly business.

It behoves us, therefore, to see that the entrenched clauses—the guarantees—are of such a nature that we can say with truth that we have ensured justice at long last to these people who have been our wards and who have been so ill used for three quarters of a century. How can we be sure unless we make this amendment?

9 p.m.

Had the Committee accepted the earlier amendment the difficulty that we are now seeking to overcome would not have arisen, but we must deal with the Bill as it is. That is the parliamentary way. It means that Parliament is being asked to rubber-stamp constitutional safeguards that it will not have the opportunity to examine or amend. It is true that one copy—or were there two copies?—of the proposed constitution was placed in the Library last Friday, I believe? My hon. Friend told us earlier that he was on the telephone to me almost daily, which is a slight exaggeration. In our last telephone conversation he told me with great courtesy that a copy of the constitution was in the Library. I have heard in the course of the debate that one other hon. Member, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), has had the oppor- tunity to take a cursory glance at the constitution.

Photo of Sir John Langford-Holt Sir John Langford-Holt , Shrewsbury

If at a future date the Kiribati Assembly were to withdraw the entrenched clauses, what would be the position of Her Majesty's Government? Have they any power or duty whatsoever?

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

The Government's position would be unenviable, because they would have been warned in advance that that could happen and would have chosen to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Of course, they could do nothing about that. It is no use my hon. Friend the Minister shaking his head. Once the Bill becomes law, that is the end of the matter.

I should like to know how many hon. Members here, whose presence demonstrates that they are closely interested in the matter, have been to the Library and seen the constitution. I see that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil is indicating that he has read it, but one would expect him to know it from A to Z. After all, the whole wretched business started with his Government. He told us that the new Administration had studied the matter in great detail, but in fact all that they have done is to reproduce a Bill which was considered by the late Government and which got through all its stages in another place.

Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Barry

Has my hon. Friend any information as to the approximate date on which an Order in Council is likely to be laid? What is the time element in this matter?

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

The Government are operating within a very tight timetable. They are adhering to the date of independence that they inherited from their predecessors, which I think is 16 July or 17 July. I make no complaint. It has never been part of our case that we should delay Gilbertese independence. The people of the Gilbert Islands are as entitled to their independence as anybody else in the colonial empire. In fact, they would have had it long ago if British Governments had had the courage and imagination to grasp the Banaban nettle and deal with the matter in an honourable and practical way.

The amendments would have the effect of ensuring full debate of the draft constitution in both Houses. I need not argue that aspect further. Everything that I have said in this Committee stage about the need to safeguard the interests of a grievously wronged people, so preventing unrest and disturbance after we have withdrawn from the area, argues in favour of our subjecting the proposed constitution to the closest scrutiny—and doing it now, for the reason that my hon. Friend the Member for Barry has just suggested, which is that the timetable is very short.

My complaint against my hon. Friend the Minister is that there has been lime in which these matters could have been considered. I fully accept that my hon. Friend believes what he says, but there has clearly been a misunderstanding. That must be so, for I wrote to him immediately after the Suva conference drawing his attention to it and asking that the Government should use their good offices to bring the parties together, and yet then the impression was given to the House on Second Reading that somehow or other I had sprung these ideas upon him. That is not so. I say that the least we can do is to accept the amendment.

There is one other consideration which should perhaps persuade hon. Members to vote for the amendment. It has long been the contention of the Banabans—and I supported it strongly at the constitutional conference held at Marl-borough House last year—that the British Government's statement of intention in 1947, reaffirmed in 1967, cannot in truth, justice and morality be transferred to a new Kiribati Republic unilaterally by Britain against the wishes of the Banabans.

I say with all the emphasis at my command that the course taken by the late Government and that taken by the present Government on this is one of dishonour. I can find no other word than "dishonour", because we are repudiating unilaterally an agreement made with the Banabans without their approval.

Let me remind the Committee of the three solemn promises made in the 1947 statement. The first was: The Banabans' decision to reside on Rabi Island shall in no way affect any rights to lands possessed by the Banabans on Ocean Island. So much for the assertions made in this debate that Ocean Island is worthless, anyway, and that very few Banabans could live there, even if they wanted to go.

The second promise was: The title to all worked-out phosphate lands which have, or may in future, come into possession of the Crown shall revert to the Banabans. It is no use talking about leases, therefore. They are the owners of the land, and that was recognised in 1947.

The third promise was: The Banabans shall be permitted, subject to the provisions of the laws of Fiji and further subject to shipping being available, to travel freely between Rabi Island and Ocean Island, and, subject to the rights of the British Phosphate Commissioners over any lands purchased or leased to them, to reside on Ocean Island. It is relevant to the Banaban story to realise that the 1947 undertakings were a bargain. I want the Committee to understand that this was no act of magnanimity or generosity on the part of the British Government of the day. On the contrary, it was part of a bargain. In effect, the British Government were saying "If you will agree to stay on Rabi, we will ensure that your rights to land on Ocean Island and your freedom to travel and live there will not be in any way affected by the decision to make Rabi your second home."

I remind the Committee that the distance between the two is 1,400 miles. The reference to shipping difficulties in 1947 indicates that in the minds of those who concluded this agreement there was very little chance that Banabans would be taking trips every weekend from Rabi to Ocean Island. It was a safe promise to make.

But what was the object of the exercise? The Committee will appreciate that in 1947 the question of citizenship did not arise. Fiji, like the Gilberts, was still a Crown colony. By 1967, when the declaration was reaffirmed, we were within three years of granting independence to Fiji.

Most of the Banabans today are subjects of Her Majesty the Queen—the Queen of Fiji. By transferring the 1947 guarantees unilaterally to a Kiribati Republic, the Government are proposing a constitutional monstrosity and, unless we here take action, we assent to it. It may be that it does not matter very much to many people nowadays to take a people who owe their ultimate allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen of Fiji and say that in future, under this wonderful constitution which we have devised for them, the like of which has never be seen again, those subjects of Her Majesty the Queen of Fiji are to have their allegiance divided between Her Majesty and the President of the Kiribati Republic, whoever he may be.

This consideration never entered the minds of Ministers, because it had never been discussed with the Fijian Government. We heard a most extraordinary winding-up speech by my hon. Friend. In the event, he won. The battalions marched. He got his vote, but he did not win a single argument. There is no doubt what has been happening in this place. This is a sad day for the House of Commons. It is a sad day for the British people. It is our reputation that is on the line. This day will not be allowed to be forgotten. The Government will rue what they have done.

We are faced with the ridiculous situation that the Bill proposes to divide a small people, who for 34 years have lived away from the Gilberts, in harmonious, friendly relationship with Fiji, between two sovereign jurisdictions. It would have been difficult enough if the Banabans agreed to this, for clearly Fijian nationality law, which, as one would expect, is not referred to in the Bill, will prevent a Banaban taking up Kiribati citizenship without renouncing his Fijian citizenship. This means that the 1947 undertakings will be void. Unless a man is free to move between one island home and another and back again, the 1947 undertakings are null and void. The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) shakes his head. But a man will not be free to move unless he renounces Fijian citizenship or alternatively there is an agreement between the Fijian Government and the Kiribati Republic to have some arrangement for dual citizenship.

One would have thought that this was precisely the sort of question that the British Government should have been discussing with the Fijian Government before putting an idiotic constitutional Bill of this kind before the House. They have not done so. We are forced, as legislators in this Committee, to take action to put the matter right.

Can my hon. Friend give an unequivocal assurance that under the safeguards that he proposes a Banaban, who is a Fijian subject, will be able not merely to live on Rabi, which is agreed, but will be able to work on Rabi and, having lived and worked on Ocean Island, will be free to go back to live and to work on Rabi? If my hon. Friend cannot give that assurance, the 1947 agreement guarantees cannot in morality or justice, or in law, be transferred to the new Kiribati Republic, and the House of Commons will be asked to sanction something that is totally dishonourable.

Photo of Mr John Roper Mr John Roper , Farnworth

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that any restriction upon a Banaban would be a matter for the Fijian Government and not for either the Kiribati Government or the British Government? The Kiribati constitution makes clear that anyone born in Banaba or whose parents or grandparents were born in Banaba would have a right to return and work on Banaba. That is ensured in the Bill. The only restriction that could exist is nothing that the House could do anything about. It could only be a restriction imposed by a sovereign Government, the Fijian Government.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I remind the Committee that we are discussing parliamentary approval of the constitution and not the merits of the constitution.

9.15 p.m.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

I will, of course, accept your guidance in the matter, Mr. Weatherill, but in order that there shall be parliamentary approval, which is not provided for at the moment, I have to show why the constitutional arrangements are defective. The hon. Member for Farnworth, with his usual sagacity, put his finger on a good point. Of course this is a matter that common sense and constitutional propriety suggest should be discussed between the Gilbertese and the Fijian Government. No one argues about that.

What I criticise is the disposition of the previous Government and this one to rush into a Bill of this kind and to bring forward a constitution that has not, in all its implications, been discussed with the principal Government concerned other than the Gilbertese—namely, Fiji. We are being asked to take on trust a constitution which, without my amendment, will never be discussed in this House. No one has seen it, apart from the hon. Member for Heeley, who went to the Library and looked at it.

Hon. Members should ask themselves why Parliament should not be able to debate a constitutional instrument, to be made by Her Majesty in our name, and why we cannot agree that the matter should be subject to an affirmative resolution. What is the reason for this? The Government have argued throughout that there is insufficient time before the agreed date for Gilbertese independence. But this is Parliament. There is no excuse for Parliament mutely to acquiesce in dubious proposals of this kind.

What are we? Every now and again a bold spirit gets up and says that the Executive has become too powerful for the legislature. It is about time that we started to assert ourselves. Why not start with this iniquitous proposal? We have the opportunity tonight to strike a blow for Parliament as well as for the Banabans. Will the Government say that to give Parliament the right to amend an Order in Council has not been done before? It has; there are precedents.

Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Barry

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that we have to cope with an unholy alliance between the two Front Benches?

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

We always have to cope with that. Indeed, when the two Front Benches are seen to be in alliance, democracy had better watch out. This is one of the most unsatisfactory features of this unhappy business—although I am beginning to detect in the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil a slight detachment.

It is a fact that many of those Ministers who have had to handle this matter from time to time and have been able to study the papers put before them by their Foreign Office advisers have after a time concluded that perhaps something was wrong.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), who is not with us today, is nevertheless a strong supporter of the Justice for the Banabans Campaign, and no doubt voted in the Lobby a few moments ago. She became convinced after she had studied these matters—I do not think I am saying anything out of turn—that there was something in the case. She was shifted. There is no doubt that the former Member for Oxford, a delightful man of personal integrity, became more unhappy the more he probed the matter. My complaint is that present Ministers have not studied the matter in the depth required.

Ministers do not dare to expose the fatuity of what they are proposing for the hapless Banabans to the scrutiny of Parliament. Is that why we are not being given the opportunity to discuss the constitution? We hear much these days about the way in which the executive lords it over the legislature. As legislators we must assert ourselves, or we deserve to see a further decline in our influence and power in relation to government.

I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

The amendment deals with parliamentary scrutiny of legislation. It is an important general issue, apart from its great importance to the Bill. What we are being asked to do is pass an enabling Bill. Much of the substance of what will happen in terms of the constitution of the new Gilbertese State will be included in the details of the constitution. No one can claim that Parliament has had the opportunity to scrutinise those details.

The Minister was courteous and sent me a note, which I picked up by accident at midday today, saying that the constitution was available in the Library. Out of curiosity I asked for it, but the Librarian did not know whether it was available. After a few inquiries, it was found under the counter. I examined briefly that section relating to the Banabans.

The document runs to 60 or 70 closely printed pages. I have seen the document, but it would be untrue to say that I have read it. I am sure that, apart from the Minister—and I am not so sure about him—no one else has really read the document. It is an indictment of our procedures that we should purport to legislate on constitutional matters in this fashion when the details of a complex and lengthy document such as the constitution of a new State are not subjected to scrutiny by Parliament.

The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) said that normally no great scrutiny is required when the two Governments involved are in broad agreement about the nature of the constitution. Usually there is no great controversy in the country or in the House of Commons about the terms of an independence arrangement. But on this occasion there is considerable controversy. There is disquiet in the country and in the House. That the Minister has secured a vote ratifying his view with the customary help of the Whips does not dispose of the disquiet or of the argument. There is still a duty on the House of Commons, if it wishes to legislate sensibly, to arrange for a careful scrutiny of the constitution to ensure that it is fair not only to the Gilbertese but to the Banabans.

I do not withdraw the remarks that I made earlier about the weakness and insufficiency of entrenched clauses. I stand by what I said. This is not a satisfactory device by which to secure the rights of minorities or, indeed, of majorities. The notion that rights can be safeguarded by one man standing up in a sovereign Parliament and saying "No, I do not agree with that" and the rest of that Parliament saying that if that one man does not agree the thing cannot be done is political nonsense. It may make sense to Foreign Office lawyers and to the colonial mentality of the men who write these things down, but to any practising politicians the suggestion that such an arrangement will defend the rights of minorities is political nonsense. It is the sort of nonsense that everyone would accept as such in this place if a proposition were ever put concerning our own affairs that one hon. Member—on a matter concerning the constitution of the United Kingdom—should be able to veto a two-thirds, or even a simpler, majority wish of the House of Commons. The place would echo with laughter.

Yet here we are solemnly writing into the constitution of a new State, for which we have had responsibility for a long time, this absolutely ridiculous proposition. On that ground alone, I think that the Committee would be entitled to have a look at this lengthy and complicated document and possibly suggest amendments to it. Certainly this is a very weak and insufficient second best. The main proposition which the Committee has now defeated was a much better arrangement and I am sorry that we lost that vote, though I hardly think that we lost the argument.

If we are now going ahead on the basis of incorporating the Banabans into the Gilbertese State, whether they like it or not, the least that the Committee can do is to scrutinise with some care the small print of the arrangement. It is always possible—though, as I say, I do not withdraw my previous argument—that, if that small print is carefully devised and sensibly arranged, there will be some safeguards which international opinion, or opinion in this country, or in Fiji and the Gilberts, will make stick over a reasonable period of time so that the Banabans and the Gilbertese and the Fijians can come to some amicable, pacific arrangement. I believe that they would have done so long ago but for the meddling interference of the Foreign and Colonial Office over the years.

I am quite clear that not only does the Committee have a duty, which it is discharging tonight, to scrutinise the Bill—which is in effect an enabling Bill—but it also has a very specific and precise duty to scrutinise the constitution and possibly to amend it, though I am not sure that this is procedurally possible. At least the Committee has the duty to approve or reject it as an adequate instrument to safeguard the rights of the Gilbertese and the Banabans. It is more particularly necessary because of the point made by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East about what I think he called the "constitutional monstrosity" in which citizens of one Commonwealth country will be lumped in as citizens of a newly emerging Commonwealth country.

This will cause difficulties and problems and I am sure that the Committee ought to look very carefully at this curious constitutional instrument that we are, apparently, expected to accept on the nod. The House should look at it with very great care, if possible amend any fault or failing which may be found in it, and certainly have the right to reject it if it feels that, as an instrument, it is improper, unsatisfactory or incomplete.

Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Barry

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) suggested that we are to be asked to pass this clause on the nod. As I read it, it is even worse than that, because the clause says: Her Majesty may by Order in Council (which shall be laid before Parliament after being made) … That is much worse than on the nod. In other words, we are being asked to look at it after the evil deed has been done. That is the situation, and if there is anything defective it will be too late for us to do anything about it. That is why this is vital. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is a second best. This is indeed such a modest amendment that I would have hoped that the Government—indeed, the two Front Benches, if I may so describe them—would be prepared to accept it.

We are asking only that Parliament shall have some means and right to examine these proposals in detail and, if necessary, to amend them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) said on the first amendment, the agreement of 1947, which was called a covenant, was entered into in response to certain undertakings that were given by the British Government of the day. Those undertakings guaranteed the right of these people to return to their ancestral homeland if they so desired. I appreciate that this is the difficulty of this kind of legislation, in that nothing that we can write into the Bill can preserve that right against a decision of the Gilbertese, as they will be a sovereign State. I may be wrong on that, but that is the way that I read it.

9.30 p.m.

As my hon. Friend has pointed out, however, it may be possible, after we have had an opportunity to examine the provisions in detail—they have been put in the Library, but so far few hon. Members have had an opportunity to see them—to frame safeguards that will be so prominent that they will become established in people's minds and in that way, over a period of time, stabilise the position.

We are asking only that we shall not be requested tonight to pass this objectionable clause as it stands. What is the use of the order being laid before Parliament after it has been made? What could Parliament do about it then? Is it designed just to give Parliament information? The order should be tabled in such a way as to give Parliament a genuine opportunity to debate it. When it is passed it cannot be revoked, and so there will be nothing that Parliament can do about it.

I hope that the Minister will consider this minor and reasonable proposal to be one to which he cannot object, and I hope that he will agree to its incorporation in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

The object of the amendments is to ensure that there are proper constitutional safeguards for the Banabans. Reference has been made to the fact that I arranged for two copies of the draft constitution to be placed in the Library. As one of my hon. Friends has conceded, I stated last week that this was being done. I sent messages to all the hon. Members whose names appear on the amendment, and I am sorry if my message reached the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) only at lunch-time today.

If hon. Members had had the time to look at the draft constitution, which has been in the Library since last week—and I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) has not done so—they would have seen that all the safeguards for the Banabans that are listed in the relevant paragraphs of the report of the constitutional conference are included in the draft constitution. There is one change. It is that the provision for a review by an independent commission is now to take place after three years instead of five. All hon. Members will welcome that change.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt) asked what was to prevent the Kiribati Government from reneging on the safeguards in the constitution. That was a regrettable question. It reflected adversely on people who went out of their way to be as generous as they conceivably could have been to offer safeguards to the Banabans. Those safeguards are unprecedented. That was said by Lord Brockway, who has had much experience of these matters over 16 years. He said that the safeguards were unprecedented in their generosity.

There is the safeguard of the independent inquiry after three years. That factor prevents any reneging on the undertakings, if the Kiribati Government had it in mind to renege, which I am convinced they do not. There is also the provision for the United Kingdom or other independent Commonwealth Government to use their good offices to see that if there are problems about the implementation of the constitution they are resolved.

My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East referred to the 1947 covenant. He referred to three provisions: the right to the land, the fact that the land reverts to the Banabans after the end of phosphate mining, and the right to travel freely and reside on Ocean Island. Those provisions are contained in the safeguards in the draft constitution and in the report of the constitutional conference, which was published over six months ago.

My hon. Friend raised the question of the Fiji Government and their nationality law. Whatever Fiji law may say, the Fiji Government allow Banabans to move freely to and from Banaba. They treat all Banabans as if they were Fiji citizens, and draw no distinction between those who were or were not citizens. I see no reason to expect the Fiji Government to change their practice in that respect. It is for the Fiji Government to decide, but I can see no reason to expect a change.

My hon. Friend appeared to complain that the safeguards were being transferred to the Kiribati Government. He has great experience of Commonwealth history. It is normal for a Government on becoming independent to inherit obligations from the colonial Government. Here we have the extra safeguards to which I referred. In 1947 we gave safeguards to the Banabans in relation to Fiji, which was then a colony. Those obligations were accepted by Fiji without any safeguards of the kind proposed in relation to Kiribati. Here we have a stronger position for Banaba than we had for Fiji.

Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Barry

In 1947 Fiji was still a Crown colony.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

Indeed. However, I do not think that that detracts from the point I made. The safeguards were given in 1947 by the British Government to the Banabans in relation to the Gilbert Islands and Fiji. There were two sets of safeguards. They were inherited by Fiji when it became independent. It is now proposed that the other set of safeguards should be inherited by the Gilbert Islands. The situation is parallel, except that now we have extra safeguards for the Banabans which did not exist before.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

I do not quarrel with what the Minister said. However, the situation will change when this matter is controlled by two independent sovereign Governments. I agree that the undertakings were given at a time when the Gilbert Island and Fiji were Crown colonies and ultimate sovereignty rested with the United Kingdom. What one wants to know is whether there is any assurance that the Banabans, in order to enjoy these rights, will have dual citizenship, and I have not heard my hon. Friend say anything about that. If there are no arrangements for dual citizenship, how can he tell the Committee that there will be complete freedom of movement?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

Perhaps my hon. Friend was not listening to me. I have dealt with that question exhaustively in the last five minutes. There is no reason to expect that the Fijian Government will change the practice they have followed over past years, but it is in any case a matter which rests with the Fijian Government.

Hon. Members have spoken as if the Government were doing something underhand and unusual by saying, as we do, that the Order in Council would be laid before Parliament after being made. This is not at all unusual. My hon. Friend must know this. He must have followed the process towards independence of the many tens of Commonwealth countries which have achieved independence since the war. The practice is the standard practice. The only unusual thing that has happened, and for which I have been criticised, is that I have put the draft constitution in the Library. That has never been done before, as far as I know. I did it because I thought, when I saw these amendments tabled, that it would help hon. Members. I thought it would be an advantage for hon. Members, and that if they had time they could consult it. There is no departure from practice in the relevant clause in the Bill. I give way, for a change, to the hon. Member for Heeley.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

The point that I was making was not that the procedure in itself was unusual but that it is unusual for there to be a serious dispute within the House of Commons—and, indeed, within the country—when a former colonial territory becomes independent. Hitherto, on nearly all occasions, there has been no dispute at all in the House. What I am saying is that where there is a very serious difference of opinion—and a perfectly honest difference of opinion—about these matters in the House, some extra parliamentary scrutiny should be allowed.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I hope that my hon. Friend will not mind if I answer that intervention. He intervened seven times in my speech on Second Reading, and I hope that he is not trying to beat that record. Perhaps I can deal with the point that the hon. Member for Heeley made.

The safeguards which it was intended to provide for the Banabans in the constitution have been known to the House of Commons and the country since the publication of the report of the constitutional conference, so it is not a question of sneaking up on the House suddenly and springing something unknown on it. All the constitution does is to set out the safeguards for the Banabans, with the one small change to which I have referred, plus all the other provisions. The document is a very long one but the Banaban section is quite small and easy to find. I will now give way to my hon. Friend.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but he will persist in making statements that do not reflect correctly what I or others have said. I said that this was a unique situation. There never has been a constitutional Bill brought before ths House dealing with the subjects of a colony and at the same time making special provision for the subjects of an independent State. When will my hon. Friend realise that this is a unique Bill? It is a unique situation and it requires unique safeguards.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

The safeguards, as I have said several times, are indeed unique.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

They were described by Lord Brockway as unprecedented.

It is not the usual practice for the House of Commons to debate the con- stitution of a territory which is about to become independent. I know that hon. Members will not be satisfied with that bald statement and, therefore, I will attempt to say why it is not the usual practice. There is a very good reason for it.

The text of a constitution of a territory which is about to become independent is agreed between the British Government and the Government of that territory. It must be, for practical reasons, a constitution which is accepted by the territory which is about to become independent, for otherwise it will not last. Our practice, as my hon. Friend will know well, is that the principles of a constitution are agreed at a constitutional conference before independence, and then points of detail—very seldom points of substance—are settled between that constitutional conference and independence day.

As I have said, in the case of the Gilbert Islands the report of the conference was written with great care and in great detail, so that it could be incorporated in the constitution more or less as it stood. That was done so that all who were interested in the matter should know precisely what had been agreed and what would appear in the constitution. That was why it was all set out in the report of the constitutional conference.

9.45 p.m.

As I have said, the provisions of the conference report are faithfully incorporated in the constitution. A draft has been approved by the Government and House of Assembly in the Gilbert Islands. The document is 65 pages long. It would be an impossible situation if we were now to propose amendments to a constitution which has been worked out over a long period and accepted by the House of Assembly and Government of the Gilbert Islands and to have a ding-dong process between the Parliaments of the two countries over changes to the constitution.

I hope that what I have said has made clear why it is not and never has been the practice for the House of Commons to approve a constitutional document or to propose amendments to it. There is no precedent for that. Therefore, I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

Question accordingly negatived.

The Committee divided: Ayes 50, Noes 143.

Amendment proposed: No. 5, in page 1, line 14, at end insert— (2) The constitution of Kiribati to be made under subsection (1) above shall make provision for a compact of free association between the Gilbert Islands (other than Banaba) and Banaba which grants self-government for the Banabans on Banaba under the overall sovereignty of the Government of Kiribati.

(3) Such constitution shall include provision that— (a) the Kiribati Government's authority over and responsibility for Banaba shall be confined to matters relating to external security, defence and citizenship, the special citizenship rights of the Banabans being

entrenched in the Kiribati Constitution; and (b) the Government of Banaba shall have sole authority and responsibility for conducting their foreign affairs and sole jurisdiction over Banaban marine resources; and(c) the compact of free association between the Gilbert Islands and Banaba may be terminated unilaterally by either party after a period of three years.'.—[Sir Bernard Braine.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 45, Noes 142.

Division No. 6]AYES[9.58 p.m.
Beith, A. J.Grimond, Rt Hon J.Rooker, J. W.
Braine, Sir BernardHamilton, James (Bothwell)Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Bray, Dr JeremyHolland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)Skinner, Dennis
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Howells, GeraintSpearing, Nigel
Cadbury, JocelynLangford-Holt, Sir JohnStallard, A. W.
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Leighton, RonaldStewart, Rt Hon Donald (W. Isles)
Campbell-Savours, DaleLyon, Alexander (York)Taylor, Mrs. Ann (Bolton West)
Canavan, DennisMcKelvey, WilliamThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Cranborne, ViscountMaynard, Miss JoanTorney, Tom
Cryer, BobNeubert, MichaelWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Dobson, FrankPenhaligon, DavidWright, Miss Sheila
Dubs, AlfredPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
English, MichaelPrice, Christopher (Lewisham West)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Foulkes, GeorgeRace, RegMr. Frank Hooley and
Garel-Jones, TristanRhodes James, RobertMr. Clement Freud.
Gower, Sir RaymondRichardson, Miss Jo
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Alexander, RichardFookes, Miss JanetMawhinney, Dr. Brian
Ancram, MichaelForman, NigelMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Aspinwall, JackFraser, Peter (South Angus)Meyer, Sir Anthony
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Gardiner, George (Reigate)Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)George, BruceMills, Iain (Meriden)
Baker, N. (North Dorset)Goodhew, VictorMoate, Roger
Banks, RobertGow, IanMorrison, Hon. Charles (Devizes)
Berry, Hon AnthonyGraham, TedMorrison, Hon. Peter (City of Chester)
Best, KeithGreenway, HarryMurphy, Christopher
Bevan, David GilroyGrist, IanMyles, David
Biggs-Davison, JohnGummer, John SelwynNeale, Gerrard
Blackburn, JohnHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Needham, Richard
Blaker, PeterHawksley, WarrenNewton, Tony
Bright, GrahamHeddle, JohnPage, Rt. Hon. R. Graham (Crosby)
Brinton, TimothyHenderson, BarryParris, Matthew
Brooke, Hon. PeterHill, JamesPatten, John (Oxford)
Budgen, NickHogg, Hon. Douglas (Grantham)Pollock, Alexander
Butcher, JohnHooson, TomPorter, George
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Hordern, PeterPrentice, Rt Hon Reg
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hunt, David (Wirral)Proctor, K. Harvey
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaJopling, Rt Hon MichaelRidley, Hon Nicholas
Channon, PaulLang, IanRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Chapman, SydneyLawrence, IvanRoper, John
Cockeram, EricLee, JohnRossi, Hugh
Colvin, MichaelLe Marchant, SpencerRowlands, Ted
Cope, JohnLennox-Boyd, Hon MarkShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Corrie, JohnLester, Jim (Beeston)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Costain, A. P.Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Silvester, Fred
Dickens, GeoffreyLuce, RichardSims, Roger
Dodsworth, GeoffreyLyell, NicholasSkeet, T. H. H.
Dormand, J. D.McCrindle, RobertSpeed, Keith
Dorrell, StephenMacfarlane, NeilSpeller, Tony
Dover, DenshoreMacGregor, JohnSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Dunn, RobertMcQuarrie, AlbertSpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Eggar, TimothyMajor, JohnStanbrook, Ivor
Eyre, ReginaldMarlow, AntonyStevens, Martin
Fairgrieve, RussellMarten, Neil (Banbury)Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Faith, Mrs SheilaMates, MichaelStradling Thomas, J.
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMather, CarolTapsell, Peter
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMaude, Rt Hon AngusThomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Thompson, DonaldWaldegrave, Hon WilliamWinterton, Nicholas
Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)Walter, GaryWolfson, Mark
Thornton, GeorgeWard, JohnYounger, Rt Hon George
Townend, John (Bridlington)Watson, John
Trippier, DavidWells P. Bowen (Hert'rd&Stev'nage)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Viggers, PeterWheeler, JohnLord James Douglas-Hamilton and
Waddington, DavidWickenden, KeithMr. Robert Boscawen.
Wakeham, JohnWilliams, Delwyn (Montgomery)

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Ten o'clock, The Chairman left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.