Skip to main content

Seychelles Bill Hl

Volume 369: debated on Thursday 1 April 1976

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill he now read a second time.

I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of this Bill, has consented to place Her prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

The essential purpose of this Bill is very simple. It is, in the words of the Preamble, to:
"…make provision for, and in connection with, the attainment by Seychelles of fully responsible status as a Republic within the Commonwealth."
Before describing the contents of the Bill, I should like to trace briefly the constitutional developments which led up to it. Representative government emerged in Seychelles in 1948 and, in October 1970, an advanced Constitution was introduced. General elections were held under this Constitution in 1970 and in April 1974. The elections in 1974 were contested by the majority Seychelles Democratic Party and the minority Seychelles People's United Party, both on the platform of early independence. Over 80 per cent. of the electorate voted, and very much the greater part of this voted in support of either one or other of the two Parties. Indeed, of the 41,833 votes cast, only 11—not 11 per cent., but only 11 votes—went to the single candidate who opposed independence.

Following this clear mandate for early independence for Seychelles, a Constitutional Conference was held in London in March, 1975. On that occasion the Seychelles political Parties disagreed over some of the essential features of an Independence Constitution. They did, however, agree to form the present coalition Government, which was formed in June last, and which has worked very well indeed. They also agreed to an Interim Constitution providing for internal self-government, which was introduced last October.

To help towards a solution of the matters on which the Parties disagreed, an Electoral Review Commission was appointed under the chairmanship of Tun Tan Siew Sin, the distinguished former Minister of Finance in Malaysia, and its report was fully taken into account when the Constitutional Conference resumed in January. In this conference all 25 Members of the Seychelles House of Assembly took part. The leaders of the two Seychelles political Parties presented joint proposals for an Independence Constitution. These proposals, including one which provided for Seychelles to become a Republic on independence, were, with some minor changes, unanimously adopted by the conference. The report of the conference was published as a White Paper (Cmnd. 6409) and presented to Parliament in February.

The conference also agreed in principle to the return to Seychelles of the Islands of Aldabra, Desroches and Farquhar. Your Lordships may recall that these islands were, with the agreement of the Seychelles Government, detached from the colony of Seychelles in 1965 to form part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Under an Exchange of Notes with the United States in 1966, we agreed to make the islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory available for defence purposes of the two Governments. But subsequently it has become clear that neither Government have plans for the use of the islands for these purposes. Accordingly, tripartite talks between the Governments of the United Kingdom, Seychelles, and the United States, to make the necessary arrangements for the transfer, were held last month. Statutory Instruments, by which the return of the islands will be effected, are now being prepared.

Knowing of your Lordships' interest in these matters, I am glad to be able to tell you that Seychelles is to extend its policy of strict nature conservancy to the islands being returned. In respect of Aldabra, the Seychelles authorities are to maintain close consultation with the Royal Society, who already have a research station on that atoll.

My Lords, the Bill which is now before the House will make provision for Seychelles to attain fully responsible status as a Republic within the Commonwealth on 29th June 1976. It also makes provision for various connected matters. Clause 1 provides that on 29th June 1976, the United Kingdom will cease to have responsibility for the government of Seychelles. Clause 2 provides for the Constitution of Seychelles as a Republic on that day. Clauses 3 and 4 deal with nationality matters. Subject to exceptions in Clause 4, which relate to the retention of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by persons with a close connection with this country and by women married to such persons, Clause 3 provides that citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies shall lose that citizenship if they become citizens of Seychelles. Clause 3 also provides that the section of the British Nationality Act 1948 which governs citizenship by registration on account of marriage to a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, shall no longer apply to wives of persons who become in that way citizens of Seychelles.

Clause 5 makes provision for the continuation after independence of laws operating in respect of Seychelles before independence. Clause 6 provides that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council shall dispose of any appeals to Her Majesty in Council which may be pending from any court having jurisdiction for Seychelles provided that leave to appeal has been granted either by the court or by Her Majesty in Council before independence day. Clause 7 and the Schedule deal with consequential modifications of other enactments. Clauses 8 and 9 deal with interpretation and Short Title.

Your Lordships will be aware that we have for many years operated a programme of aid and technical assistance for Seychelles. I am glad to be able to confirm that this will continue. Her Majesty's Government will provide the budgetary support amounting to £1·7 million in total over the first four years of independence; and, in addition to technical assistance, we shall provide capital aid in the first two years of independence amounting to £10 million. On behalf of Her Majesty's Government I should like to express our confidence that the friendly spirit of the conference in January and the same spirit which animated the talks last month will continue into independence, and that the harmonious relationship—indeed, the affection—between Britain and Seychelles which has existed for more than 160 years will endure. My Lords, Seychelles has already applied for membership of the Commonwealth, and I am glad that it is as fellow members of the Commonwealth that we can look forward to continuing the close ties that exist between the United Kingdom and Seychelles. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( Lord Goronwy-Roberts.)

3.32 p.m.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends I should like to express our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for the clarity and precision which he always uses and which he has again used so effectively this afternoon to explain the Bill on the acquisition of independence by Seychelles. I think the first point that it is of interest to note (and with some jealousy, I may say, by this country) is that the new Constitution is to include provisions safeguarding the fundamental freedoms and human rights of the peoples of Seychelles. Unlike many of the modem Constitutions, there is also provision to ensure that the citizen will be protected through all the courts of the land. I think this is a new departure, and is very much to be welcomed. Not only will the rights be enshrined in the Constitution, but the individual citizen of the Seychelles will have the right in the courts, extending up to the Supreme Court, to have those rights and freedoms asserted. I think this stands as an example to all new independent territories, and indeed to those territories which speak so much about human rights but consistently violate them.

With regard to the Bill itself, I will not comment in detail because, of course, this will be possible at Committee stage, but I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the clauses on nationality since they give a certain amount of cause for concern. We have already had many troubles and complex situations in the changeover from British colonial status to independence and it leaves a great deal to be desired, both from the point of view of this country and from that of the individuals concerned, if they do not know or are not sure what nationality they will be on any given date. I do not have to draw your Lordships' attention to the many examples we have had in recent years. So at a later stage, at Committee stage, I should like to raise the difficulties which are evident in Clause 4 as it is at present drafted.

I should also like to draw attention (though I realise that it is no doubt in accordance with the wishes of the people of Seychelles that this provision should accord with their own national law) to the fact that, under Clause 4(5), a woman who is the wife of a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies will cease to be such a citizen only if her husband does. This means, presumably, that the wife will have to follow the decision of her husband, and will not be free to choose either to remain a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies if her husband becomes a citizen of the Seychelles, or vice versa. This is, of course, a case of legal discrimination so far as this country is concerned, but no doubt this is in accordance with the present situation in the Seychelles and is as the people of the Seychelles would for the time being wish. I wonder whether the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, could give some indication of how many citizens who are at present citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies will in fact remain so and will not automatically become citizens of the Seychelles. I think it is a very important point that there should be some kind of registration, at the date of independence, of those who are entitled to remain citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies so that at a later stage people cannot claim that citizenship through failure to register or for some other reason.

With regard to the economy of the Seychelles, for a long time, of course, they have lived on the sale of copra and cinnamon, and we are very pleased to see the great developments that are taking place with regard to tourism. We on this side of the House particularly, I know, are very pleased to hear the generous terms of the Government to the people of Seychelles in order that they may develop their economy. We particularly welcome the announcement of the noble Lord of payment of £10 million over two years. I understand that that particular sum will be a "soft loan" rather than a grant, and presumably it will be tied to identifiable projects. Perhaps the noble Lord would comment on that in his winding-up. But certainly in principle we very much support this sum being given in aid to the people of the Seychelles. Of course, this does not imply that there will not be a considerable amount of private investment being put into the Seychelles to encourage tourism and those other industries which will no doubt develop in the coming years.

I should like to say just a few words about the principle of self-determination, because this is one which has really been behind all the changing over to independence of former dependent territories. It has always been assumed that the peoples of these countries who have been within the British Empire have wished to be apart from it and to gain their independence, but I think that in fairness it should be said that for 12 years prior to 1974 Mr. Mancham's Party had always voted to remain integrated with the United Kingdom. I think that for those of us—and I believe there are many such people in this country—who still feel that the British colonial system did a great deal for the world and the people in it, it is very refreshing to hear that there are still people in other parts of the world who recognise that to be allied and integrated with the United Kingdom has not been such a disadvantage for their peoples. If I may, I should like to quote a passage from Mr. Mancham's letter to The Times on the 23rd January of this year, when he said:
"Personally, it will be sad for me to see the lowering of the Union Jack for the last time on Seychelles soil".
I think this sentiment should be recorded in the Official Report of your Lordships' proceedings.

Finally, with the achievement of independence by the Seychelles, of course the Seychelles will become a sovereign State and will exert its responsibilities as such in the forum of the United Nations, with an equal vote with the United Kingdom and other major Powers of the world, and I am sure it will exercise this vote responsibly. We shall not, of course, lose touch with it particularly because it will, as I understand it, remain an Associated Territory within the EEC; and naturally we hope it will become a party to the Lomé Convention, which would keep a closer link between us than would otherwise exist. With the noble Lord, we on this side of the House warmly welcome the Seychelles as, I understand, the 36th Member of the British Commonwealth Association. All it remains for me to do on behalf of my noble friends is to express our warmest wishes to Mr. Mancham, who I understand will be the future President; to Mr. René, the future Prime Minister, and to all the people of the Seychelles for a peaceful and prosperous future.

3.39 p.m.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends I should like to join in wishing the Government and the people of the Seychelles a successful transition to independence on June 29th, and an equally successful future after that date. The Seychelles will be, I believe, the 36th member of the Commonwealth, and I hope that their relations with Britain will continue to be close and cordial. I would endorse, too, what has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, about our hopes that the Seychelles may be associated with the European Community through the Lomé Agreement.

The Seychelles comprise of 92 islands and a population of 60,000 people. The return of the three islands to which the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts referred, the three islands detached in 1965 to form part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, will add very considerably to the total area of the new independent State particularly if the 200-mile limit is agreed at the Conference on the Law of the Sea. One of the three islands to which the noble Lord referred, Aldabra, has unique flora and fauna. It is a bird sanctuary and, as the noble Lord said, it has been leased to the Royal Society. I am glad to learn that the protection of the environment is to receive the special attention of the Government of Seychelles.

The electoral problems which had to be solved in setting up the new Constitution are not without interest. The People's Unity Party—which is one of the two Parties, again to which the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, referred, and which are in a coalition at the moment—had a grievance because the seats they secured on the existing basis in the National Assembly did not adequately reflect the share of the vote that they secured. Under the new Constitution eight members will be elected from the present constituencies and 17 by proportional representation from Party lists. This arrangement is similar in principle to the German electoral system which some of your Lordships will recall was mentioned in another context in this House on Monday. I am glad that the British Government felt able to commend a proportional system in this case.

The Seychelles are situated in a strategic area of great importance, the Indian Ocean. I understand they will have no defence forces and that they have set their face against having foreign bases on their territory. That is understandable. I very much hope that they will be able to follow this policy through without entanglement or disasters and that they will be able to maintain a peaceful haven in a troubled world.

3.42 p.m.

My Lords, when, a long time ago, I held the Office now held by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office were nothing like so thoroughly amalgamated as they are now. I am afraid that I was shamefully ignorant of the history and the geography of the Seychelles until only two or three weeks ago when I went there with my wife on a visit which I think was the most delightful holiday I ever enjoyed anywhere. My only reason for speaking very briefly on this Bill is to express my grateful thanks to all the people whom I met for their kindness and their hospitality and to express the hope that they will enjoy great success when they become independent on 29th June.

The native inhabitants of the Seychelles are very delightful people with a fairly high average standard of education which is largely due to the educational work of the Roman Catholic Church there. A very large number of the islanders can talk fluently all three indigenous languages, French, English and Creole. They are a people who have a great love for their native country. They like interest being taken in them by people from abroad; they like showing off things. They take the greatest pleasure in showing visitors the great palace on the brink of a huge precipice, the palace some 300 feet or 400 feet in sheer height above the sea, where Archbishop Makarios was interned for several years by the British Government.

If you go to see this palace, you will very likely be asked by some guide whether he would be allowed to take you down the long funicular road to the seashore, several hundred feet below, where it is asserted that you may see the remains of 12,00 empty champagne bottles which were hurled over the edge of the precipice—sometimes from a window in the palace but more often from over the balustrade of a terrace in front of it—after their contents had been consumed by the Archbishop and his friends. I am afraid I did not take the trouble to verify the accuracy of this statement; but I hope that while the Archbishop was interned there he was well looked after. Anyway, it is asserted that his chief recreation—he was not allowed to go out very much—consisted in hurling these empty champagne bottles over the balustrade of the terrace and watching them fall 300 feet on to the seashore.

There is only one further thing I want to say. This Bill is, of course, similar in principle to all the other legislation by which we have, over the last 20 years or so given independence to nearly all of our former dependencies and colonies. There are still, I am glad to say, some of them—I think the majority—who have kept and worked the free Constitutions for the protection of individual liberty which we bestowed upon them. But, alas! there are others who have not done so. Some of those whom we most hoped would be strong, developing countries have overthrown the democratic Constitutions which they inherited from us and have established dictatorships, and indeed tyrannies, sometimes of the most bloodthirsty and cruel nature; to that the happiness and condition of the people is not better but worse than it was before.

My Lords, I would beg the people of the Seychelles when they get their independence on 29th June to resolve very firmly and deeply that they will not allow their free Constitution which is provided in this Bill ever to be replaced by a dictatorship. I am afraid that vigilance in any country which is given freedom may be required for this purpose. I hope that the people in the Seychelles will be determined to observe and to perpetuate human freedom, and particularly the Four Freedoms which were so well defined by the late President Roosevelt during the war, but which have so often since been discarded and destroyed by what I am afraid is now a growing number of countries in this world.

3.50 p.m.

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I warmly welcome this Bill providing the Seychelles with independence within the Commonwealth. As a footnote to what the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has said, I believe I am right in saying that Archbishop Makarios fell so much in love with Mahé when he was there that he has now purchased a house there. I have known the Seychelles for a number of years, and I have formed a great affection for their warm hearted and friendly people. I have a small interest to declare: in partnership with two English friends and two Seychellois friends, I am the owner of a very small property on the charming little island of La Digue. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, I have often hoped that some integration might be possible. This is certainly what the Seychelles Government wanted after the 1970 elections. Perhaps, looking back to the experience that Malta had, this was not on, and therefore we have a different arrangement which we can welcome today. Out of the disagreement there was between the two main Parties in 1970 to 1974, something good has arisen in that, in spite of the natural and healthy clash of opinion between the People's United Party, under Mr. Albert Rene, and the Democratic Party, under Mr. Jimmy Mancham, there has been a reconciliation of views, and they have come together to agree on this new Constitution. That is something very much to be welcomed.

There is one particular aspect of the Seychelles to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. That is the ecological aspect which has been touched upon very lightly. I do not know any other part of the world where the people themselves have taken more interest in the natural history of the area in which they live. I see opposite me the President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge; and I am a past-president. The Seychelles Islands have at least five species of birds which are unknown anywhere else in the whole world. That is remarkable. It is because of that that many people from other parts of the world, particularly from this country, have assisted the leaders in the Seychelles to declare some of these islands as nature reserves. For example, Cousin Island, which is run by the International Committee for Bird Protection, is a wonderful place for bird watching. There is also Aride Island, which the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves is running as a bird reserve.

There is no island in the world which is more interesting than Praslin, and some people take the view that the Vallée de Mai was the original Garden of Eden, which it could well have been. Mention has been made in this short debate about Aldabra Island. Aldabra is a very long way from the main group of the Seychelles Islands. I think there are 85 islands, although the noble Lord, Lord Banks, made it 92. Only a small number of the islands are populated. Aldabra is unique. I was extremely worried when I read in the newspapers that there was the possibility of a hotel being built on it. I believe this report to have been false, and I hope that this is the case. When the noble Lord replies perhaps he can confirm that the arrangements that the Royal Society have made with the right to renew the lease on Aldabra until the year 2005 holds good. I believe talks are going on at this very moment. I have in my hand an extract from the Official Gazette of 20th February headed, "Protection and Preservation of Wild Life, Aldabra Strict Nature Reserve Regulations 1976". It would be encouraging to know that the important work the Royal Society are doing there will be able to continue, and I have every reason to suppose that this is the case. Perhaps, also, when the noble Lord replies he will tell us what is happening to the remainder of the British Indian Ocean territories, now that four islands have been removed. I believe this is a Second Reading point.

I was very pleased indeed to hear that generous financial help will be given to the Seychelles Islands over a considerable period, and there are two particular aspects of the economy of the island which need special attention. Where their economic future is concerned, they have been so dependent, as has been mentioned already, on copra and cinnamon and one or two other minor products such as vanilla and tea, that there is every reason now why they should do their utmost to make the maximum possible use of what little land they have that can be cultivated. They are strange islands. They are mostly granite islands surrounded by coral reefs. Aldabra is an exception, for it is a coral atoll. Because of this, on the little flat plain-lands that one gets on Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue and so on, there is very little soil which can be cultivated, and the maximum possible use must be made of land. I am told that a recent survey by a great expert has shown it is possible to breed cattle, both for beef and milk, and intensive vegetable and fruit production, citrus fruits in particular—they grow wonderful limes there—is another possibility. I hope that this point will be looked at very carefully. I know it is very much in the minds of the Government of the Seychelles.

Secondly, under the heading of economic aid there is education. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, mentioned this. With great respect, I am not sure he was entirely right after his recent visit to speak in the way he did about the standard of education there. One does meet soma: highly educated people and I am sure they are well able to run their own affairs. There is a thirst for education there; a number of Seychellois come to this country to attend university for higher education. There are no real higher education facilities on the islands. If we were able to provide them with more help regarding teacher training—perhaps we could consider setting up a technical college on the main island—this would be helpful to them in their new status of independence.

I see the Seychelles with an exciting future. The size of the population is probably smaller than the smallest constituency in this country, and with an electorate of something in the region of 25,000 people, the electorate is a lot smaller than the average constituency. We are talking about a group of islands with a small population which in future will be terrifically dependent on tourism. They have this enormous attraction of their unique ecology and the natural history of the islands. It will readily be agreed by noble Lords that the absolute essence of a successful tourist industry is the maintenance of political stability and the ability to gain the confidence of the foreign investor. It seems to me that the leaders of both Parties have shown an extraordinary sensible attitude to this matter and a full appreciation of the questions I have touched on.

The islands are blessed with many advantages; one is a marvellous climate. Temperatures are in the 'eighties most of the year. It is wet from November to February, but for the rest of the year it is a remarkable climate, particularly bearing in mind that they are practically on the Equator. The islands are cooled by the South-East trade winds. So they have many natural advantages. They are lucky in their leadership; they are lucky in the character of their people. Mention has been made of the fact that they are bent on what Mr. Mancham called a Switzerland-type non-aligned neutrality. This makes a great deal of sense, particularly bearing in mind that they occupy a strategic position which is of obvious importance. I feel sure that the new Government of an independent Seychelles can rely on Britain to give them any help they may ask for towards the end they have in mind, where this Switzerland-type neutrality, which makes good sense, is concerned.

There is no question of our abandoning our friends from whom we happily are not parting either in anger or haste, but after the most careful consideration. They are leaving us of their own free will, grown up and full of confidence in the future. They can be sure that there is a great deal of affection here for the Seychellois people, which I believe is reciprocated. They have one major advantage of which mention has been made; that is, that they have successfully lived together in harmony despite the multiracial community that one finds there. Speaking French and English and a curious Creole-French patois gives them quite a natural advantage there. In conclusion, may I say that I feel the Seychelles might well be called the "Happy Islands": may they be just that, my Lords.

My Lords, may I add a further word of welcome to this Bill. I think this is one of the most curious and interesting developments taking place in the Commonwealth. Seychelles is a very remarkable place for a number of reasons. As has been said, it is extremely attractive—I believe it was General Gordon who called it, "the Garden of Eden". Among the ecology, I feel compelled to mention the "cocoa de mer". Anyone who has seen that has seen something quite different from anything he might have seen anywhere else. Secondly, it is extremely inaccessible. Thirdly, it is of enormous strategic importance. I cannot help feeling that, at some time, the Government of Seychelles will be under enormous pressure for some strategic reason to give facilities to other Powers. I should like our Government to let us know their attitude towards this problem. I see the Bill uses the phrase "fully responsible status". Is not the normal terminology, "an inde- pendent republic within the Commonwealth"? Is there anything special about the phrase which has been used in the Bill? Is it not just "member of the Commonwealth", as other countries are? As the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, said, it is an associated Member of the EEC. There are many curious terminologies connected with the EEC but, referring to the original meaning of the word, I should not have thought it fell within the "associated" status.

Finally, I should like to ask this: I see that in paragraph 8 of the Schedule reference is made to a withdrawal of whaling industry regulations. Does that mean that our restriction on whaling will no longer apply in respect of ships registered in the Seychelles? If that is the case, then I hope that in the negotiations which follow the Government will press the Seychelles to impose the same kind of regulations as we do in this country. In general terms, I welcome this Bill, although I think it does raise rather specialised problems.

4.2 p.m.

My Lords, I am delighted that there should have been this general welcome for the Bill. It is in accordance with the unanimity with which the people of Seychelles themselves have indicated their desires and the way they have gone about preparing their country for the experience of independence in the last few months, during a not very easy transitional period. This brings me to the essential point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. Whatever the phraseology used in the Bill, it means that Seychelles now becomes an independent country within the Commonwealth. The noble Earl also raised one or two questions of detail which I hope he will see fit to raise on the Committee stage, very much as the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, indicated she would be doing concerning a number of nationality points. One could go into these matters today but, as the noble Baroness herself suggested, I think it would be more useful to do that at the Committee stage. Of course, we have experience of nationality problems, including access to this country, in other parts of the former Empire, particularly in East Africa. It is perfectly natural and proper to raise the question of whether we may not be creating difficulties for them and for us, even on a small scale, in a transfer of power and of status of this kind. I am strongly advised that this is not so in the case of the Seychelles, but any problem which might arise is really so small that it does not confront us with any serious difficulty. There will be a further opportunity of looking at this and other nationality points during the Committee stage.

The noble Baroness also raised the question of integration—a point which was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood. I agree with both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord. In more than one case, of this kind in the late 'fifties and the early 'sixties, the question of integration with the United Kingdom was raised. It was not "on" then in any case, and it certainly would not be "on" now, in the middle of the 'seventies. Whatever some of us may have thought in earlier days in certain connections, it did not prove feasible then and certainly would not prove feasible today.

I join with those who have taken the opportunity of saying that the British Colonial system, certainly as administered by the old Colonial Office and by those who served it, did a great deal of good in the countries concerned. I have been in many of those countries myself and have seen and heard from the indigenous population tributes to the efficiency and devotion of the Colonial Service—for instance, the so-called "political service" in the Sudan. There was nothing political about that: the officers concerned were highly intelligent social welfare officers, whose contribution to the progress of the Sudan is celebrated to this day. There are dinners and other occasions when the Sudanese recall, individually and as a group, the services of these excellent officers.

The noble Baroness asked one or two very important questions, apart from those I have mentioned. She asked about the position of Seychelles under the Lomé. Convention. As she said, Seychelles will become a member of the Lomé Convention, and thereby will have associative status and associative relations with the EEC. The noble Lord, Lord Banks, and the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, both pointed out that we all hope the Seychelles will follow what their leadership has described as a policy of pacific non-alignment of not allowing their coun- try to be used by any other country for military purposes, and certainly not for aggressive purposes. We have every confidence that this will be so. Mr. Mancham and M. René have both spoken very strongly along these lines, and indeed those who took part in the conference came away much fortified by the intentions of the new Government in this matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Banks, also referred to the election system—perhaps inevitably, since he spoke from the Liberal Benches, although the concern for electoral processes is not solely and entirely a Liberal concern. I would only say to him that the election system will be as he described. It is one which is acceptable to the Seychelles and one which they say suits them. There are almost as many election systems as there are electors these days, and the people of the Seychelles, we think, have chosen the right system for them.

We listened to a fascinating speech from the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, who filled this office with great distinction and dedication some years ago. I agree with him that all the more interesting countries have more than one language and also have colourful archbishops. I am not saying that every interesting country necessarily disposes of 12,000 champagne bottles, as he seemed to suggest. But more seriously, we can all agree with him that many of our former dependencies—more of them than is generally realised—have indeed retained the democratic system which was part of the dowry that Britain bestowed upon them, and have maintained, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, a respect for human rights. There is every sign that this new country within the Commonwealth, and presumably as a member of the United Nations, will retain its hold on the democratic virtues and pursue a system of human rights.

The noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, asked about the administration of the rest of the BIOT. This will, in fact, be administered residually. It is an administration, as we say now. With the detachment of the three islands, there will be a residuum which will, at least in the interim, be administered as the original BIOT was administered. If the noble Lord would like to raise this point in more detail during the Committee stage, I shall be delighted to give more information about it. There is no difficulty about continuing to administer what is left of the BIOT as it was administered previously.

The noble Lord also raised one or two other very important points; for example, education. I am not sure whether he said that there is no higher education in Seychelles. I can say that there is, although there may not be enough. I believe that there is a teacher-training college which is a higher education institute, and four, if not five, vocational colleges which I suppose may be termed further education establishments. The House may have noticed that I rather stressed our intention to extend to them technical assistance, and it is for this reason, that they may well need help to develop their education, especially at the technical level which brings them into the higher education sphere, that we regard technical assistance in this case as very important.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, is of course quite right in thinking that the £10 million capital aid over the first two years is in the form of a soft loan. The budgetary aid of £1·7 million over a period of four years is just that. One hopes that private capital will continue to enter Seychelles. There is great scope to develop indigenous industry there. One is tempted to go into the possibilities which are raised by the imminent agreement about the 200-mile limit, which should of course expand their fisheries and the cognate industry of tourism—already a fairly flourishing industry in the country. All in all, we, like the people of Seychelles, look forward with confidence to the future, and certainly this country will continue to do everything it can to help this new member of the Commonwealth.

On Question, Bill read 2a , and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.