Kenyas Independence Constitution: Constitution-Making and End of Empire

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My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl for giving way.

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The fact is that the Lord Chancellor in this House stated to us that the Constitution which was agreed upon last year as a result of the conference, was the final Constitution for independence. The final Constitution for independence is going to be discussed at this conference. I cannot believe that that was the basis 20 of the undertaking; but perhaps the noble and learned Lord, when he comes to reply to the debate, will give us the precise terms of the undertaking.

However, I hope that the Government will allow discussion of every aspect of the Constitution, and that they will pay serious attention to any change in the Constitution that is required by the delegates. I am quite certain that if they try to limit the terms of reference or to prevent certain methods from being discussed, there will be serious danger that the conference will break down. As the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, pointed out, there has been a great improvement in relations between the communities in Kenya during the past year, and the great weight of fear and uncertainty under which they laboured during the approach to self-government has been removed by the responsible attitude of Ministers in the new Government.

Some Europeans were afraid, for example, that they would pay exorbitant and crushing taxes to meet the cost of independence. But the last budget did not increase income tax at all, and was intended, as the Finance Minister pointed out, to help the farmer. The budget is being worked out without the assistance of a subsidy from the United Kingdom, which it has been having for quite a long time, and a 5 per cent.

That may or may not be over-optimistic. We are forecasting a 4 per cent. That, again, may or may not be unduly optimistic. However that may be, the economic future of Kenya will depend on the willingness of Governments and private companies to bring more capital into the country. The Government here are already making a generous contribution to financial aid in grants and loans. But it should not be forgotten that a country's need of financial assistance is greater immediately after independence than it was at any time before.

This is a temporary need, but it is a need that is experienced by all the British Colonies on attaining independence. If we could increase our contribution by the relatively small amount required to cover the whole of the compensation required for expatriate civil servants instead of only half, which 21 is what we are paying at the present time, this would have a great political effect as well as releasing the Kenya Government from a heavy liability. I have not asked this question because I do not think it is necessary, although if I should have asked it I hope that one of the Ministers replying for the Government will give me an answer.

I am assuming that the arrangements for the retirement and compensation of expatriate officers and for the payment of their pensions will be completed before independence. That is another of the matters that will have to be dealt with before independence. As the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, said, the European farmers deserve a great deal of praise for their willingness to take the risk of remaining on their farms. I believe there are about 1, of them who are doing so, and I think we ought to be prepared to help in cases of genuine hardship where farmers are living outside the resettlement areas.

I think that in these hardship cases, without having to spend a lot of money, we could offer to buy out the owners.

Kenya's Independence Constitution: Constitution-Making and End of Empire

This will be the last debate before the Constitution Conference in September, and I think we should all wish to express our strong desire that this Conference may have a happy outcome for Kenya, and that it may result in the framing of a Constitution in which all the communities and tribes of Kenya will live in amity for many years to come.

My Lords, we have listened to two most constructive and helpful speeches, and I should like to add my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, for the most constructive tone of his speech and the generosity with which he has spoken of the African leaders, who so richly deserve his praise. I know how much at will be appreciated by your Lordships that he called particular attention to the services which have been given by the Governor of Kenya.

Two Facets Of Freedom (1960)

This debate will give us an opportunity to survey the situation in Kenya as it is to-day, and this afternoon we shall hear further speeches from noble Lords who have great experience and great knowledge of Kenya, and also great 22 affection for Kenya as a country. The statement which I made on July 2 made it clear that the decision to name a date for Kenya's independence arose directly from the information we had received about the plans now going forward with such great energy and enthusiasm in East Africa for the creation of a Federation of Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda, and, we hope, also Zanzibar.

Your Lordships are aware that the British Government wholeheartedly welcome this great enterprise. If we have been reticent about it in the past, it is because we did not wish African leaders to feel that we were in any way trying to influence a matter which must be their concern.

The will to federate is East African, but, of course, if we are called upon for help we will most certainly give it. The East African leaders are confident that they can bring their plans to a successful fruition, and I believe that one of the reasons for their confidence is the fact that they have a sound basis upon which to work. Your Lordships will remember—and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has just referred to this—that the East Africa High Commission, which the British Government helped to construct in , by co-operation over a wide range of services has provided the economic framework for a Federation.

There was also a non-self-financing group dealing with income tax and customs and excise, civil aviation, meteorology, statistics, and a wide range of other scientific and research services. The Commission not only brought about a wide measure of co-operation: it also helped in the creation of an "East African approach", particularly through the Central Legislative Assembly. The value of this organisation was amply demonstrated by the Tanganyika Government's decision to continue to use it after that country became independent.

In the light of that decision, however, modifications were necessary, with the result that the Commission was transformed into the present East African Common Services Organisation.

Kenya's Independence Constitution

This 23 Organisation has its own independent sources of income from taxes on certain company profits and from a share of customs and excise revenue raised in the area. The Organisation has not only preserved the links established by the High Commission but has also developed them. In the political field this is particularly apparent; the three leaders of Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda are now the central policy-making authority of the Organisation itself.

So that out of inter-territorial economic co-operation has come, first, more frequent administrative contact, and secondly, closer political identity. For these reasons there is justification to hope that a sound Federation will be born, and one which will contribute to the prosperity and stability of the area as a whole. From the economic point of view, Kenya's transition to independence presents more problems than most other former colonial territories, and the reason is obvious. The wealth of Kenya has in a very large measure been built up by the European community, and your Lordships on many occasions have paid tribute to the impressive contribution which that community has made in Kenya.

In the new Kenya, this economy will in due course become quite different in character, because it will be based primarily on the economic activities of the African population. It is of fundamental importance that the transition to this newly based economy should be as smooth as possible, and this has been the underlying principle of the large-scale settlement schemes for which we are providing the bulk of the money. These schemes have been designed to help produce in a substantial part of the Highlands an orderly and progressive change from European to African farming.

In this process, they are helping to remove much of the former emotion and controversy which has always been associated with Kenya land problems, they are helping to restore a market in land, and they are providing opportunities for those European farmers who wish to make their homes elsewhere. Side by side with these land schemes, we are increasing to a very large degree the resources of the Kenya Land Bank, about which I shall say something in a moment, so that we can also deal with the situation 24 of farmers in areas not allocated for African settlement in the immediate future.

We are spending large sums of money on other development in Kenya. British aid for development in Kenya for their financial year —64 was announced, as your Lordships will remember, by my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary on May I should like, for the record, to give your Lordships the main items. These farms will be bought as an addition to the land settlement programme in the current financial year. This will enable some European farmers who wish to leave to sell their farms either to Africans or to other Europeans, including those who have been bought out under the settlement schemes but who wish to continue farming in Kenya.

The arrangements for reception at this end are being co-ordinated by the Women's Voluntary Services, and I should like here to say that in this connection we owe a great debt of gratitude to my noble friend Baroness Swan-borough. These arrangements, as I have explained, include proposals for dealing with the various categories of hardship cases for 25 which we have recognised that special help is justified.

But, my Lords, we realise that the problem alas! There are a number of persons—perhaps about in all—who, because of the nature of their property, cannot be satisfactorily fitted into the resettlement programme. We have been in consultation with the Governor about these to see whether we can devise a scheme of assistance which will meet their case also. Both the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, who introduced this Motion, referred to the Land Bank, and I would make a specific mention of it myself.

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It is not possible to forecast what the eventual requirement may be. Both the Kenya Government, in putting forward their request for assistance, and the British Government, in accepting it, have deliberately confined their attention to the more immediate future.

The Atlantic Crossword

The Bank's requirement of funds is, how ever, less than this. In the second place, some applications are withdrawn and others are either rejected by the Land Bank or scaled down because either the borrower has insufficient credit or the land is too highly valued. I am sure your Lordships will agree it is essential that the Land Bank should maintain ordinary business standards, and it should therefore satisfy itself that each individual transaction is sound.

Other Services

If, in due course, the Kenya Government find that more money is needed for the Land Bank, the British Government will examine any request from them in the light of their other contributions to Kenya's economy. My Lords, in his speech, the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, laid, quite naturally, great stress upon the question of the Lancaster House Agreement, and indeed he addressed a Question to me on this sub- 26 ject a few days ago. I will remind your Lordships that it was stated in paragraph 19 of the framework of the Kenya Constitution, which was agreed at the Lancaster House Conference last year, that changes in the Constitution would require a majority of 75 per cent.

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  • With only a few exceptions—and this the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, referred to, also—all who took part in the Conference subscribed to this Agreement, including, of course, the British Government. The parties to the Agreement will be represented at the forthcoming Independence Conference. The reason for devising this amendment procedure is perfectly clear. We had between us carefully worked out the principles which underlie the new Constitution, in the knowledge that it would foreshadow the Constitution under which Kenya would enter into independence.

    It will thus foreshadow as closely as may be the Constitution with which Kenya embarks on independence". Those were the words to which my noble friend Lord Colyton referred. At Lancaster House, arrangements were agreed with the object of providing a strong and effective central Government, while at the same time ensuring decentralisation of the powers of government to effective authorities capable—and I quote from the White Paper—"of a life and significance of their own".

    All groups agreed that the Constitution which would finally emerge as the Independence 27 Constitution for Kenya should not be subject to easy alteration. If amendments were to be made they would have to be supported by a very considerable body of opinion in the Kenya Parliament. The percentages agreed were devised in order to make it unlikely for the Government of the day, even with a large majority, to be able to carry amendments without significant support from Opposition groups. This principle, my Lords, is of cardinal importance. At the Independence Conference the British Government will not suggest departures from agreements to which they are a party.

    Although the proportions agreed for amending the Constitution were not questioned at Lancaster House, we now know that they are considered by some to be unduly restrictive, and we must therefore expect that this matter will be raised at the Independence Conference. My Lords, while we shall not depart from our position that there must be effective safeguards to ensure the basic and fundamental principles of the Constitution, and and this is most important that the proper balance between the centre and the regions shall be maintained, we shall nevertheless be prepared to discuss such reasonable arguments as may be put forward which are consistent with our position.

    Reference was also made in the speeches of both the previous speakers to the question of citizenship. I am well aware of the anxieties that many people feel on this score—as to what the status of the European population of Kenya will be when Kenya becomes independent. Now if, as we all hope, the independence of Kenya is closely followed by the establishment of a Federation with Tanganyika and Uganda, citizenship is likely to become a Federal responsibility. For the present, however, we should perhaps consider this question in relation only to Kenya's forthcoming independdence. Those Europeans who plan to remain permanently in Kenya after independence will no doubt be ready to assume the obligations of Kenya citizenship.

    At the same time, there may well be people of United Kingdom origin who, while wishing to identify themselves with Kenya, would be reluctant to renounce their United Kingdom citizenship and thereby sever completely their links with this country. While I cannot anticipate 28 the decisions which may be reached at the Independence Conference, I wish to make it quite clear that if such people are obliged to renounce their United Kingdom citizenship and wish at some future date to return permanently to this country, the British Government will ensure that they will not find any unnecessary difficulty put in their way, and the Home Secretary will be prepared to consider using the discretion given to him by the British Nationality Act, , to enable them to regain United Kingdom citizenship after a shorter period of residence than the five years normally required of Commonwealth citizens.

    Does the noble Lord wish to say something?