Retention of Citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies in Certain Cases

Clause 5 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th June 1979.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York 12:00 am, 11th June 1979

I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 3, line 8, leave out his father or his father's father and insert "or his father".

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

It will be convenient to discuss at the same time the following amendments:

No. 9, in page 3, line 10, leave out "or a relevant territory".

No. 10, in page 3, line 14, leave out "or a relevant territory".

No. 11, in page 3 line 16, leave out "or a relevant territory".

No. 12, in page 3, line 18, leave out from "Colonies" to "or" in line 20.

No. 13, in page 3, line 21, leave out paragraph (d).

No. 14, in page 3, leave out lines 23 to 28.

No. 15, in page 3, line 29, leave out subsection (2).

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

This clause raises the issue that I have just been trying to outline. It enables people who will otherwise become citizens of Kiribati to have the right to remain citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies and, with that, the prospect of migration to this country. I am anxious that this should be kept as tight as possible.

I accept that if a person was born in this country or was adopted by someone born in the United Kingdom or was registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom in the United Kingdom, he is entitled to remain a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies. However, under subsection (1), the inclusion extends not only to the person who was born here or to his father who was born here but to his father's father. That proposal is not in the nationality law of this country. One does not get citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies through one's grandfather.

In 1971, when the then Government introduced their Immigration Bill, they proposed that such a person would be a patrial for the purpose of immigration. He would not get nationality but he would become patrial. There was considerable discussion of this and, largely at the instance of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), that proposal was abandoned.

Then, after it had been abandoned and it was indicated that such a person would not have free right of access to this country, there was a debate in 1973 about the immigration rules and the prospect for people from Australia and New Zealand coming in, and the rules were changed because of a Back Bench rebellion in the Conservative Party. People who could link to this country through their grandparents were given the right to enter Britain even though they were not citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies.

10.30 p.m.

There is a reference to that relationship in the clause. By a relationship through a grandfather a person can claim citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies. This applies where the grandparent was born in the United Kingdom, was naturalised in the United Kingdom, or was in the United Kingdom registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies, or became a British subject by reason of the annexation of any territory included in a relevant territory.

That is far too wide, and it would not be allowed under the proposals, although one cannot see the proposals. I have no doubt that it is not intended that citizenship can be claimed through a grandfather. Therefore, if that right cannot be claimed under the proposals put before the House this Ssession, why are we allowing somebody to retain citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies when he can claim only through that remote link? We are doing it, apparently, because the Kiribati Government will refuse to take such people as their citizens.

This principle was described by the Minister when he replied to the last debate. He speaks as all Foreign Ministers must. It is up to the Government of the newly independent territory to decide on nationality. We have to take what is left. That is absurd. I have often argued against it. There is no reason why we should not say that since we must take responsibility for anybody whom that Government fail to take in as a citizen, we have a right to say where the line shall be drawn.

We did not do this with India in 1947. As a result, India created the stateless British subject, without citizenship. Such a person is not even a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies. It was always intended that a British subject without citizenship would become an Indian citizen in due course, but the Indians would not accept such people. Because they would not have them, and nobody else would have them, we must take the responsibility for them. As a result, many thousands of people who are British subjects without citizenship in various parts of the world have a claim upon our country as a haven.

We have the same problem with the Solomon Islands. People there are British subjects without citizenship because the independent territory did not honour the promises made in 1948.

We also have the same problem in East Africa. It is absurd that after our experience we should still negotiate settlements under which it can be said "We don't want these people but because you are the Imperial Power you must take them". But we still tell newly independent Governments that their nationality laws are up to them.

We should say clearly that we have no intention of giving our citizenship through a second generation and that we do not propose to do it under this Bill. We should say that those people who will become citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies, and not citizens of Kiribati under this Bill, in the autumn, when we pass the British citizenship Bill, will not become British citizens. They will enter a no-man's land. They will become British overseas citizens, remain citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies, but not British citizens, or we shall give them some other generic title. Because they cannot be citizens of Kiribati the position will be made even more difficult.

The same is true of all the references to which I have tabled amendments. A person will remain a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies 'if he, his father or his father's father—(a) was born in the United Kingdom or in a relevant territory". According to clause 5(2) 'relevant territory' means any territory which on Independence Day is a colony or an associated state". That means that if a person was born in Hong Kong, was living in Kiribati and was a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies, or even if his father's father was born in Hong Kong, he would remain a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies. Because of the immigration controls he would not be allowed to enter Hong Kong. Therefore, if Kiribati decided to turn that person out he would have to join the boat people and come to the United Kingdom.

I am putting this point so that the Government can recognise what we are doing. I have been blamed in the past for allowing in too many people from the new Commonwealth. I am saying only that I recognised the responsibilities that came to us because of the decisions of Governments in the past, and I thought that we ought to honour those obligations. If the Government tonight want to take on further obligations, they will pass this Bill in this form.

There is also the question of registration. In certain circumstances one can register as a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies in a colony or in a high commission of an independent Commonwealth territory. According to this clause, people who live in Kiribati, or their fathers, or their fathers' fathers who were registered by a high commissioner under these powers in, say, India, the West Indies, Australia or New Zealand, will all be excluded from being citizens of Kiribati but will remain citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies. That is a bit barmy, and I do not think that we really intended that that should happen.

We then go on to the even wider matter which is contained in the rest of subsection (1), which continues: or if his father or his father's father would, if living immediately before the commencement of the 1948 Act, have become a person naturalised in the United Kingdom and Colonies under section 32(6) of that Act (previous local naturalisation in a colony or protectorate) by virtue of having enjoyed the privileges of naturalisation in a relevant territory. So the fellow did not even have to have lived in an independent Commonwealth country; he could have lived in any colony or relevant territory. He or his father or his father's father could have been naturalised and he would then have been made a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies.

This is the time to draw the line. I said that at the time of the Bill dealing with the Solomon Islands. I accept that there has been some tightening up in this draft, but I do not think that it is good enough for the Minister to say that Ministers from Kiribati would not accept a tighter provision. They should be told that it is we who will not accept their point of view. We were part of the negotiation, and I accept that it was a Labour Minister who was involved.

I hardly dare say this, in view of what my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) said to me. He was given the same brief as the Minister who now holds that position, which was that we should accept whatever the independent territory wants to define as its nationality law. I say "Not on your life." We have the right to say that we will not take any more, that these people are that territory's responsibility. That is where these people were born, where their fathers were born and their fathers before them. We should say that we will give a territory independence because we want it to be independent—but independence for all the people who live there. If we had said that in the late 1950s and early 1960s we would never had had the problem of the East African Asians. It is time we said it now.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

Perhaps even more on this set of amendments I express my respect for the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), who, at the Home Office, has had the experience of dealing with immigration problems. Like other hon. Members, he is deeply anxious to seek clarification of the laws of nationality.

The fact remains, however, that many of the amendments tabled by the hon. Gentleman conflict with the British Nationality Act 1948. It is important that Parliament should discuss the nationality laws as a whole. If Parliament determines that they need rationalizing—as many Members of Parliament and the Government feel—that is surely the time to scrutinise the proposals carefully and determine what course we should follow in the future on nationality laws.

The purpose of subsection (1) is enable a person who becomes a citizen of Kiribati on independence to retain his citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies if he has a close connection with the United Kingdom or a remaining dependency by virtue of birth, naturalisation, registration, annexation, or descent from a father or paternal grandfather with such a connection. Similar saving provisions for such people are customarily made in independence Acts. Subsection (1) enables a person with such a connection to retain citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies who would otherwise lose that citizenship under the special provisions of clause 4(3).

The purpose of amendment No. 8 is to restrict the retention of citizenship of the United Kingdom to the first generation born outside the United Kingdom or a remaining dependency. The provisions of the clause do not differ from those in previous independence Bills. It has been established policy since the Nigeria Act 1960 to provide that those whose paternal grandfathers were born in this country, or remaining dependency, retain their citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies.

This raises the broader aspect of our nationality policies. It indicates the urgency of giving Parliament an opportunity to debate the proposed legislation.

In presenting amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 11, the hon. Gentleman referred to "relevant territory". A relevant territory is any territory which, on independence day, is a colony or an associated State. Persons born in the United Kingdom or a relevant territory are, by virtue of section 4 of the British Nationality Act 1948, citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies by birth. Some of the amendments conflict with the 1948 Act.

A child born abroad to a father who is such a citizen is a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies by descent. A person who derives a status from a connection with the United Kingdom has no more claim to citizenship than a person born in a dependency. The substance of subsection (1) follows the policy consistently adopted in previous independence Bills.

Amendment No. 12 is designed to omit reference to registration as a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies effected by a British high commissioner in another Commonwealth country. A high commissioner who effects a registration does so on behalf of the Home Secretary. Consequently the registration has the same effect as the registration effected by the Home Secretary himself in the United Kingdom. That is the present position.

Amendment No. 13 is designed to exclude from those who retain their citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies those whose status derives from annexation. There can be very few, if any, such persons. It has not been possible to identify any individual who possesses citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies by virtue of his or an ancestor's connection with a territory that was annexed. Nevertheless, there may be such persons. Provision needs to be made for them to retain their present citizenship. Again, this follows the precedents of previous independence Bills.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

How many people would be affected by my amendments?

10.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

As I understand it, having checked on this, there is no indication that anyone is likely to be affected in this particular provision.

I propose, unless the hon. Gentleman wishes it otherwise, to give him a proper answer on amendment No. 14, which is important. The amendment seeks to exclude from the saving provisions those who acquired citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies and who derive their citizenship from naturalisation in a colony or protectorate before the commencement of the British Nationality Act 1948. The last six lines of subsection (1) include in the saving provisions the special case of a person whose father or grandfather was locally naturalised in a remaining dependency which had, prior to the British Nationality Act 1948, local naturalisation laws and where that ancestor died before the Act came into force.

I am sorry that this is so complex but I am trying to give the hon. Gentleman a proper answer. Before the 1948 Act, aliens in certain colonies could become naturalised British subjects under local law having effect only in that colony. This was local naturalisation as opposed to Imperial naturalisation which was of general effect. Both forms were superseded in the 1948 Act by naturalisation as a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies.

The present position preserves the position of descendants of those who died before the 1948 Act came into force but who would have become citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies had they lived. It is standard practice again to include it in the independence Acts.

In dealing with all these amendments, I reiterate to the hon. Gentleman that I entirely respect the point that he is seeking to raise, but, as I have said, if any of these amendments were to be accepted, we would be conflicting with existing laws, and in particular the British Nationality Act 1948. He is raising, in my view, perfectly legitimate and very important issues, but surely the time at which to debate these is when the Green Paper is discussed and when the legislation is proposed by our Government this Session.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

If I understood the assurance that the hon. Gentleman gave to me a moment ago, nobody is affected by these amendments—the totality of them. Is that right?

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

I cannot say that in the case of every amendment. The one the hon. Gentleman asked me about was with regard to annexation of territory. As far as I am concerned, no one in that context is affected.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

I understand that perfectly well, but on the others there could be substantial numbers involved, certainly hundreds. I am not suggesting that thousands are involved. That it what seems to me to have escaped the hon. Gentleman's understanding. If we were to pass the Bill unamended, those people would retain their citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies, they would not become citizens of Kiribati, and then in the autumn, when we had the great discussion, the hon. Gentleman or his Government would have to deal with these very people. He would have to say what kinds of citizens these people were to be.

That will be a big enough problem for those who are living in Malaysia. Why should we add to that problem by including this group? There may not be as many as are living in Malaysia but they still form a group. Why not deal with it now? Why not say "All right, they are your citizens, they are citizens of Kiribati", and get rid of the matter in that way? All these included in my amendment are people who would not become British citizens under any new law introduced either by the hon. Gentleman's Government or by the Labour Government.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

In answer to the specific amendment on annexation, I have explained that, as I understand the position, not a single person is concerned, but if we take it wider, as the hon. Gentleman wishes me to do, I understand the position to be that there are literally only a very few people. It is not like the case of the Solomons when there was quite a sizeable number of people involved. I do not think it was 7,000, as suggested earlier, but more like 2,500. I am subject to correction on this. We were talking then about British protected persons as opposed to United Kingdom and colonies citizenship. Here we are talking of only 10 or possibly 20 people.

I have had this question examined and I find that there are very few people involved. Indeed, those who come into that category, as I understand it, are more than likely to qualify for citizenship of some other country, possibly the United Kingdom, possibly Australia or New Zealand. There are very few Chinese involved. There were far more in the case of the Solomon Islands. We are talking about a tiny number of people in this case.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

I accept that assurance. In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 6 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

10.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I recognise that some hon. Members on both sides of the House, having shown strong feelings in our debates on the Banaban issue, are still reluctant to accept that we have reached Third Reading and with the prospect, I hope, that the Bill will go through the House and rapidly go to another place.

Our debates have shown the care that the House traditionally takes and, I am proud to say, has taken again today in defending the interests of the people who need protection.

The Banabans have had a troubled history. Some hon. Members may have misgivings about the prospects that face us. Indeed, some hon. Members do not have confidence about the future. I do not share those misgivings. I look to the future with confidence.

I believe that the Government of Kiribati intend to fulfil the undertakings which have been given, which are exceptional in their generosity. I believe that they are people of honour and that they will be prepared—as I hope the Banabans will be prepared—to pursue the negotiations, which were foreseen in the Suva communique, and will bring them to fruition. It is too facile to look on these matters with Western assumptions, because, in what has been constantly described to me as the Pacific way, the two sides will be able to reach a consensus over the coming weeks and months.

I pay tribute again to the work which the Prune Minister of Fiji, Ratu Mara, has done to help solve this problem. I welcome the fact that he took the chair at the recent Suva conference and that in the communique he has expressed his willingness to help again if his help should be required.

I think that if Kiribati proceeds to independence on the basis proposed in the Bill, it will have a stabilising, not, as some hon. Members have feared, a destabilising effect in the Pacific.

At all events, we must now look to the future. We must remember that Her Majesty's Government may be called upon to accept certain obligations and we must be prepared to accept them.

What has struck me as significant in the last few weeks, since I have been concerned with this matter, is that all the countries of the Pacific want Britain to retain its presence there. We must recognise that universal view and do our best to meet it.

I hope that hon. Members who have taken the Banaban cause today will put their differences behind them. The question we now face is whether we approve the proposition that Kiribati should proceed to independence as a member of the Commonwealth. I hope that the House will approve the Bill on its Third Reading, and thus give confidence to all the people of Kiribati that they will soon be able to proceed to independent status as a nation.

10.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands , Merthyr Tydfil

I add my words to those of the Minister of State in wishing the Gilbertese and Banaban people well in proceding to independence. I hope that the Bill will now receive its Third Reading and go to the other place where it will likewise be approved.

This has been the sixth or seventh measure during the past few years designed to bring to independence small communities that were once part of a great empire. Each act of decolonisation throws up its special problems. Each one in which I have been involved has had its special problem, but none has been more excruciating and difficult than the one we have faced in dealing with the emotional, genuine and historic feelings and grievances associated with the Banaban cause.

I, too, pay tribute not just to the Prime Minister of Fiji but to other Ministers who have been involved. There are absent friends of the cause, particularly Mr. Evan Luard, who during his years as Minister in the Foreign Office devoted a great deal of time to this matter, as did Lord Goronwy-Roberts, who chaired the constitutional conference.

It is rather sad that in some ways the arguments advanced in this House and in the media have, genuinely and under standably, given the impression that this is the Gilbertese versus the Banabans. Generally speaking, there is nothing further from the truth. Leaving aside the argument about the Gilbertese and Banabans being ethnically the same or different, the Banabans and Gilbertese, as individuals and communities, have, can, and, I am sure, will work together to make a united community in the Pacific. We must now ensure that the safeguards and responsibilities that have been accepted in the understandings and undertakings that have been made are fulfilled.

Above all, as a result of the Bill's passing, we should bear constantly in mind not just the constitutional aspects but the social and economic well-being of a small number of people who live far away on small islands. Anyone who has the privilege to go to Tarawa or any of the other islands will be shaken not by the marvellous, beautiful Pacific views and scenery but by the incredible difficulty of trying to scratch a living from a group of little atolls—the term "islands" is a misnomer—of coral which stick out a couple of inches above the Pacific swell. He will be struck by the resilience of these island and atoll people.

Leaving aside the constitutional arguments, the past and the emotions that have been expressed during our discussions on the Bill, and whatever the arguments about how wealthy or poor we are, let us ensure that in future we do not forget—financially, socially, economically and personally—the peoples for whom we have had responsibility for so long. With those comments. I give full support to the Third Reading of the Bill.

11 p.m.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

I echo the closing words of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands). Certainly this should be a moment of rejoicing for the peoples of the Gilberts, and there cannot be any hon. Member who has either taken part in the debate or listened to it who does not wish them a fair wind and good fortune in the years that lie ahead.

My hon. Friend the Minister expressed confidence in the future. I wish that I could share that. Alas, the reality of the position is that this House has now decided to force the Banaban community into a unitary Gilbert State. For the first time in history, the Banaban people will be governed by the Gilbertese. Against the strenuous will and determined opposition of her people, Banaba is, by legislative act of this House, to be made an integral part of the new Kiribati Republic.

I think that I may be permitted to say that I have warned the Government—first the previous Labour Administration and now the present Administration—that if they ride roughshod over the innermost desires and aspirations of a people—true, a small people—they will, after the transfer of sovereignty, leave behind in the Western Pacific a source of unhappiness, a cause of friction and the possibility of continuing unrest in the future.

That is an act of crass and mulish stupidity which could open the door to those outside influences which our friends in the region fear most. It is inexpedient to the point of folly as well as being a moral outrage.

All the arguments against pursuing this course have been put. They have been put here in this House with force and eloquence from every side. They have been put in the Pacific. The overwhelming weight of the argument in this debate tonight and on Second Reading was against what the Government propose. Let there be no mistake about that. Yet those arguments have been totally and wantonly ignored.

The Labour Administration was deaf to our pleas, and now the present Government have followed faithfully and mutely in their footsteps. I say with great regret that this has been a sad day for Parliament.

The present Government will have no excuse later. They will not be able to say "We did not know. We were too new to these complex problems to understand them fully." The Conservative Front Bench received from my hands the full and undeniable case as early as September last year. The undeniable case has now been denied. It has been denied with little or no argument or reason by this, as by the previous, Administration.

I would simply say that in time the full picture will be revealed. If things go badly those who follow us here will more clearly see the mean nature of the policy, the sordid and greedy reasons, which succeeded in achieving, at one and the same time, the inexpedient and the immoral.

Let me make it quite plain that in all this the Gilbertese people and their Council of Minisers are not in one whit to blame. They have been told by the present Government and by their predecessors, and by their expatriate advisers, that all that they should do is to resist steadfastly and they would not need to concede a thing. In the report that Mr. John Lee and I made to the previous Government in 1975, we did not argue for Banaban against Gilbertese or Gilbertese against Banaban. It was clear to us that both peoples had suffered neglect from British administration. Our report—I wonder whether it was read in the Foreign Office at all—made quite clear that there was a case for generous and timely assistance to be given to both peoples. As I said earlier, it was totally ignored.

If it had not been for the strictures of Mr. Justice Megarry in the High Court, over a very limited field of grievance—not over the political grievances, because the High Court was not concerned with them; it was concerned only with certain economic matters—we would not have had the previous Foreign Secretary offering A$10 million in part compensation on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. The Banabans did not take it on those terms. If it had not been for the High Court case, I doubt whether the offer would have been made.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

With his experience of overseas development, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that in absolute terms, whatever may be due to the Banabans, the moral responsibility for the area from this House may be greater for the Gilbertese than for the Banabans?

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

I do not deny that. The hon. Gentleman speaks with some knowledge of the problem. I fully accept the description of the Gilbert atolls given by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil. I have been there. I have seen land that rises a few inches above the Pacific swell where the ocean is constantly encroaching on one side and building up on the other. Heaven knows how these people live. If they are to survive as an independent State, they will need generous and continuing aid, and why should they not expect it? After all, the former Prime Minister of Australia has admitted to his own Parliament that Australia and New Zealand have ridden on the backs of the Pacific and Indian Ocean phosphate islands. We, too, have been the beneficiaries. Not only the Australian and New Zealand farmers have had subsidies with phosphates being sold at below world prices, while the Banabans were denied knowledge of the price at which their phosphates had been sold. We had the benefit of cheap food.

I am not prepared to go over the sordid story again. The House has pronounced its judgment. The power passes from our hands and the sceptre falls from our grasp. We no longer have any responsibility. I only hope that those hon. Members who blithely trooped into the Government Lobby, whether they listened to the debate or—more likely—did not, know what they have done.

Had the Gilbertese been given the opposite advice, they would, albeit with reluctance, have accepted it and let Banaba go. Of course, that is mere speculation now. The Suva proposals, which I suggested might be a basis for a solution, have been rejected by the House. They would have meant that, if Banaba were allowed to go, it could then come together with the Gilberts in a free association of equals. Our Government had not the wit, the imagination or the energy to seize the initiative provided by the distinguished Prime Minister of Fiji.

That is my charge against the Government and it has not been answered. I have never known another debate in which questions have been put and charges have been made but no answers have been given. All we have had is a Minister reading a Foreign Office brief—the same script as that read by those on the Opposition Front Bench when they were in office.

The Government's coercion of the Banabans is Britain's decision and Britain's alone. In the long run, it will be as unfair to the Gilbertese as to the Banabans. The new Kiribati Republic will have little enough to help it in a hard future. Its resources are minimal. It will have to receive, and deserves to receive, the most generous help from Britain and its larger Pacific neighbours to face the challenge of the future. Yet this House has today decided that the new State will be launched into independence with a minority that is bitterly opposed to inclusion, and with all the dangers that flow from that. What is more, it has decided to guarantee Banaban rights on Ocean Island in a way that is calculated in the long run to stir up the maximum trouble among the Gilbertese as a whole.

References have been made to over-generous safeguard provisions. Why in a democratic State is it necessary to have entrenched safeguards? I have some sympathy with the Gilberteese point of view on this. Lord Goronwy-Roberts had to explain in another place that he was in the middle of the road. He was leaning over backwards to try to help the Banabans, and was being accused by the Gilbertese of putting interfering restrictions on their sovereignty.

The reality is that no service has been done to the Gilbertese people. How long will a provision in a constitution remain when it gives special privileges to a minority, where a veto can be exercised by a nominated member, who as far as I can see need not even be a citizen of Kiribati? The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil can help us if we are in any difficulty about the constitution, which is not before us. He has seen it, but hon. Members who have not been to the Library will not have seen it.

I understand that there will be one member elected to the legislature from Banaba, who will presumably be a citizen of Kiribati, while another is nominated by the Rabi Council of Leaders in Fiji. We have had no answer from the Front Bench as to whether a Banaban who is a Fijian subject can not only live in the new State but can work there. No answer has been given, because those on the Front Bench do not know the answer. They have not consulted the Fijian Government on the matter. They have the infernal gall to bring to the House a statute of this kind, which is fraught with the gravest difficulty for the future.

It is no use my hon. Friend the Minister shaking his head. As soon as the Bill becomes law, responsibility passes from his hands. He will never need to worry his head again about Banaba and the Gilbertese.

Therefore, I cannot conceal my sadness that the Bill has not been amended. It would be arrogant to assume that those of us who have sought justice for the Banabans, over a long period now, had the best of the argument in the debate, that we were morally right but unable to prevail against the big battalions marshalled by the Whips. Others will judge the matter. But I say this in all seriousness: if aught goes wrong in this area of the Pacific, history itself will pronounce the verdict.

11.13 p.m.

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

I certainly wish all good fortune to the Gilbertese people and the Banabans, and to the Fijians, who are caught up in the present situation. It may well be that the good sense and civilised attitudes of the Gilbertese and the Banaban and Fijian people will contrive a solution to this matter which will be satisfactory and enduring. What I regret is the record of successive British Governments and, unfortunately, the record of failure of this House to sort this problem out in a civilised and reasonable manner.

I have been involved in the argument for 10 or 11 years, since my fellow Methodists in London drew my attention to the problem and introduced me to Tebuke Rotan. Since then I have had many conversations with Ministers—with Lord Shepherd, Evan Luard, Lord Goronwy-Roberts and others—in which I have tried to explain what I thought was wrong and looked into the various documents and facts presented by many people, including the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) and the former Member for Birmingham, Handsworth, Mr. Lee.

I have studied these matters with great care, and I remain convinced that gross injustice has been done to the Banabans and that some remedy at least might have been provided in the constitutional sense had this House been willing now to separate that community from the Gilbertese State.

The House has decided otherwise, and I am sure that we have not heard the end of this argument. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office seems to be totally unable to learn from its past mistakes of forcing peoples together who do not want to be together. In the Caribbean, in Central Africa, in the Far East and elsewhere we have railroaded groups of peoples together who had no desire to be united constitutionally and who proceeded, as soon as they had the opportunity to do so, to break up the arrangements which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said had been devised for their benefit.

In this case, it may be that the more civilised attitudes of the Fijians, the Banabans and the Gilbertese will lead to a more harmonious development over the next few years which will deal with the resentments and solve the problems that British Governments and this House of Commons have signally failed to do. But, although I wish all good fortune to the Gilbertese, Banabans, Fijians and other people in the Pacific, I cannot regard with any sense of satisfaction the decision of the House on this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.