HC Deb 23 June 1903 vol 124 cc261-3
MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

In accordance with private notice, I beg to ask the Colonial Secretary whether he can give to the House any information with reference to the telegram in this morning's paper which states that the Constitution of Malta has been suddenly and radically altered in such a way that the official members are now in a majority instead of the elected members. Is that correct, and, if so, on what ground has the alteration been made.


Perhaps it would be more correct to say that we have reverted to the Constitution which prevailed in Malta for many years before the year 1887. That gave to the official members a bare majority of two † See (4) Debates, cxxii., 1090. over the elected members. The reason for this change will be fully explained in the Papers which I propose to lay immediately upon the Table of the House; but, as the hon. Member asks for an immediate statement, I would say that the difference between us and the elected members, which has continued for a very long while, is due to our determination to preserve the free choice of the people of Malta as regards the foreign language which they wish to have taught to their children. The option we give them is between Italian and English. As regards their own language — which might be called a taal—there is no question at all. That is the medium for the instruction of young children in Malta; and there never has been, and probably never will be, any question in regard to it. The question is what other language they should learn. We have decided that the parents themselves should choose. On the other hand, the elected members have demanded that we should make Italian compulsory, and, failing our assent to that proposition, they have again and again refused all the education estimates. It is impossible to go on in these circumstances, and we have reverted, as we warned them we should do, to the Constitution of 1887.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

How do you get the opinion of the parents except through the elected members?


By inquiry of the parents what their opinions are.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

How has this inquiry been carried out?


I do not know that the Papers I propose to lay immediately will cover that particular point; but there are other Papers which will show it very fully. But the process is explained in a sentence. We ask the parents—[An HON. MEMBER: Every parent?] — yes, every parent, when they send their children to school whether they desire that their children should be taught Italian or English.

MR. CLANCY (Dublin, N.)

Since the right hon. Gentleman has reverted to the ancient Constitution of Malta, does he contemplate a similar step in regard to the Australian colonies and Canada?

[No answer was returned.]